This new book by Viv Aitken, is available from NZCER from 14th April 2021

Drawing on a decade of classroom practice, research and professional development, the book will be of interest to teachers and researchers around the world. However, it is written specifically with the local education context in mind, with references to the New Zealand curriculum, and familiar metaphors of weaving used throughout.

Viv explains that the book’s title emerged from a classroom conversation:

‘A few years ago I was teaching a Mantle of the Expert experience to a class of 9-year olds. One of the children asked whether what we were doing was real or made up and I replied, “we’re creating a story together using imagination”. The child seemed satisfied with this clarification. Just then another boy in the class spoke up:  “It’s real” he said quietly and emphatically, “in all the ways that matter.” His words capture the depth and complexity of Mantle of the Expert so perfectly I could think of no better title for this book.’

The text is wide ranging, including chapters on the history and development of Mantle of the Expert, the steps required to plan and implement a Mantle of the Expert experience, tools for enhancing teaching, tips and advice for getting started, and a section on why Mantle of the Expert is such a good fit for the goals of twenty-first century education.

Real in all the ways that matter has received very positive comments from reviewers, including this from Prof Brian Edmiston (Ohio State)

“Open this book to discover why and how you can transform your classroom with the Mantle of the Expert approach to dramatic inquiry. The theoretical sections and the descriptions of practice are as carefully created, presented, and engaging as Viv’s masterful teaching. Inquire, savor, and then share this gem with your teaching colleagues.”

Copies of Real in all the ways that matter can be ordered from NZCER at this link. Cost is $55.00 NZ

This year’s Drama NZ conference is being held at Sacred Heart College, Tamaki Makaurau from the 16th to the 19th of April 2021. The theme is Arts at the Heart, chosen to reflect “the importance of how the Arts, in all its different facets, is helping us navigate this new normal.”

The conference is always a wonderful event for New Zealand teachers with an interest for drama in the classroom. This year the schedule includes quite a few presentations related to Mantle of the Expert and process drama alongside keynotes, workshops and papers on arts education and specialist drama teaching. Lots to inspire! Check out the DNZ conference page for full details and enrolment information.

New Zealand colleagues may be interested in this event on 13th March. It’s scheduled for UK time but available internationally. Worth staying up all night for…!

Here’s the blurb from the UK site. More details at THIS LINK

Designed for an international audience this event will provide attendees with practical and imaginative ideas to use Mantle of the Expert in the classroom. The emphasis will be on teaching and learning, and how Mantle of the Expert can bring the curriculum alive for children between the ages of 5 and 11.

Attendees can choose from a range of workshops designed to introduce, develop, and expand their understanding of the approach.

Workshop themes will include:

  • Getting started with Mantle of the Expert
  • Intermediate development of Mantle of the Expert
  • Mantle of the Expert for advanced users – the use of framing and frame distance
  • Using Mantle of the Expert: developing a context and what to do if you get stuck!
  • Developing empathy and making ethical choices using Mantle of the Expert
  • The use of questioning techniques and inquiry in Mantle of the Expert
  • Where do your ideas come from? Getting started and finding inspiration.
  • The development of a curriculum of Hope – how can Mantle of the Expert empower children to change the world?
  • Tension, the magic ingredient of Mantle of the Expert
  • Concern and the Continuum of Engagement – making learning matter

Workshop leaders:

Debra Kidd – is an author and teacher who has been working in Education for 26 years across all age groups. She has a doctorate in education and is the author of four books, the latest of which is Curriculum of Hope.

Louise Ryan – is an international educator and Mantle of the Expert coach who has been using Mantle of the Expert in classrooms across the world for the past 5 years.

Tim Taylor – is the author of A Beginner’s Guide to Mantle of the Expert, editor of, and a lead trainer in the approach.

Luke Abbott – is an internationally renowned expert on the use and development of the Mantle of the Expert. A student of Dorothy Heathcote’s in the 1980s, Luke has been promoting Mantle of the Expert ever since and has taught hundreds of teachers across the world how to use the approach.

Richard Kieran – is the headteacher of Woodrow First School, Redditch UK. Richard introduced Mantle of the Expert eleven years ago and the approach is now used in every classroom. In 2012 Woodrow became a Mantle of the Expert Training School.

Juliet Cottrell has been in touch with information about this workshop for primary / intermediate teachers in Hawke’s Bay. Juliet is an experienced drama practitioner with great skills in using classroom drama for supporting literacy and other curriculum areas. This is definitely recommended.

After many years of informal networking, and more than a year of careful planning, I’m excited to announce that a group of colleagues from around Aotearoa has formed a Trust dedicated to supporting the future of Dramatic Inquiry in this country. The Dramatic Inquiry Network Aotearoa Trust is a holding name. We intend to review this over time as we form an identity and processes more aligned with te āo Māori.

For more on what Dramatic Inquiry involves – click here!

The Trust has developed a governance structure based on the metaphor of the harekeke. There’s a Board of four (Te Awhi Rito) which includes two chairpersons, with one identifying as tangata whenua. The idea is that this group supports and upholds individuals or groups (Rito) who wish to lead projects, networking and professional development around the country. In turn, the Board is supported by and accountable to our advisors / mentors and other inspirational people within our field, present and past (Kaumatua / Tupuna).

The Trust has been formed with no formal membership model. This means anyone from the wide community of educators around Aotearoa with an interest in Dramatic Inquiry and a passion for sustaining and growing it in future, is welcome to attend meetings, feed in ideas, lead and contribute to projects. The goal is to work together maintaining a fertile soil so that the flowers and fruit of the harekeke can emerge from our projects for the benefit of all tamariki. A key premise of the Trust is that it is run on a not-for-profit charitable basis, with resources freely available to all. Another core focus is on culturally sustaining practices and processes that will help Dramatic Inquiry evolve within the unique context of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Trust hui and other events will be advertised on the ‘Events’ calendar on the front page of this website. The first of these will be held on Thursday 17th December at 3pm over zoom. We will keep subscribers to this website informed on key developments, but are also creating a dedicated mailing list for anyone who would like to be notified directly of Trust matters, including hui. To be included on the Trust mailing list – or for any other information about our activities please email

Please also let us know if you are interested in offering workshops, mentoring or training. We are keen to strengthen our existing networks of expertise and are looking for leaders in this mahi from across all sectors of school and kura.

UPDATE April 2021 – Our Trust’s application for funding under the Ministry of Education’s Networks of Expertise scheme was SUCCESSFUL!

This means we have funding to allow us to extend and strengthen our mahi

Heartfelt thanks are due to Whakarongo Tauranga, Renee Downey, and Carrie Swanson who have agreed to take roles alongside me (Viv Aitken) in the first iteration of the Board. And to Viv Smith, Michelle Hall, Annette Thomson, Gaenor Brown, Priya Gain, Sue Bleaken, Angela Hodgkinson, and mentors Tim Taylor and Rawiri Hindle. All these good folk have put many hours of selfless effort, thought and aroha into the formation of this entity. It’s very humbling and exciting to have reached this point and we look forward to watching the Trust grow from strength to strength in future.

Kotahi te aho ka whati;
ki te kāpuia e kore e whati
One strand of flax is easy to break, but many strands together will stand strong

  • Viv Aitken December 2020

Here’s an exciting professional development opportunity coming up in the new year. On Tuesday 26th January, join Sue Bleaken and Viv Aitken in Hamilton to explore how process drama can be used to teach principles of restorative practice. The one-day workshop is based on Sue’s successful school-wide programme at Melville Intermediate, which ran for several years and was the subject of her Master’s research. Suitable for teachers at senior primary / intermediate / junior secondary level. Note – the links in the image below are not live. Full flyer can be downloaded below – or for registration click on THIS LINK. Places are limited so sign up now!

Teaching Artist Training Workshop 2 – The Art of Questioning
Wednesday 11 November 9.30am-4pm
ATC Studios, Lower Ground floor, Mt Eden War Memorial Hall, Mt Eden
When we watch a performance (or look at a work of art) what do we see and notice? What questions do we have and what does it mean? And when we teach others how can we ask questions to deepen response, engage critical thinking and celebrate creativity?
Join us to discover more about using questioning strategies to encourage ourselves and our students to wonder and make meaning.
ATC Creative Learning supports the training and development of teaching artists with this free workshop facilitated by Dr Viv Aitken and Lynne Cardy.
In this workshop, Viv and Lynne will support teaching artists to deepen their knowledge, skills, and understandings of using questioning strategies. In part one of the workshop we will explore ‘guided noticing’ – a technique to stimulate ideas, discussion and make meaning. In part two we will explore teaching tools that can be used to create rich questions and inspire deep reflection. We will cover a range of topics including: the aesthetic education model, inquiry-based teaching and learning processes, power and positioning and refection through multiple modalities.

The workshop will be safe, active and hands on with lots of practical suggestions to take away and include in your creative and teaching practice.
ATC employs artists from all stages of their careers in our exciting and rewarding in-school programs, including Acts of Imagination workshops, Mythmakers touring theatre and Storyworlds creative residencies. This workshop will be useful to all practising and aspiring teaching artists.
Free of charge. Places are limited.
To apply contact Lynne Cardy 093090390 X267

Dr Viv Aitken is programme advisor for ATC Creative Learning and an accredited facilitator with the Ministry of Education. She is a specialist in classroom drama with over twenty years’ experience supporting cross-curricular learning through dramatic inquiry.

Lynne Cardy is the Associate Director at Auckland Theatre Company, where she is the driving force behind ATC’s education and outreach programs and the creative director of Storyworlds. An experienced teaching artist, Lynne studied aesthetic education at Lincoln Center Education in New York.

PDF flyer for Teaching-Artist-Training-WorkshopDownload

The Centre for Arts and Social Transformation is hosting a free public lecture, Te Rito Toi: The Twice Born Seed on the role and place of the arts in education. The lecture will be held at the University of Auckland on November 4th from 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm.
The lecture will open with the findings of a 3 year study into the state of creativity in New Zealand schools presented by Professor Peter O’Connor, Director of the Centre. The research paints a compelling picture of the state of New Zealand schools’ creativity.

Click here to visit the Te Rito Toi site for more information and registration

If you subscribe to the UK Mantle of the Expert website, you will have received information about an online training event coming up on 21st November 2020.

Looks like an exciting opportunity. Of course the time difference means it will run in the middle-of-the-night NZ time, but given how many NZ teachers attended the recent ‘Commission model’ talk at 5am, that may not be too much of an issue!

For further information including cost, check out the link below

I know a number of teachers in NZ have an interest in Heathcote’s “Commission Model” so I’m reposting this from the UK Mantle of the Expert website about a free event hosted by London Drama coming up next week (Wednesday 30th September) Dorothy Heathcote’s Commission Model of teaching: a discussion led by David Allen. The discussion starts very early NZ time (5am!) but it is free of charge. I’m going to attend (probably in my PJs) as it sounds very interesting… If you want to join me, the enrolment page is here


About this Event

Dorothy Heathcote stated: “I have a dream that has not yet been realized; I would like students, not to learn what their teachers teach them, but to be people who solve problems in the outside world that their teachers bring to them. … This is actually a radical way of learning. I want students to be citizens of the world. The Commission Model brings Mantle of the Expert to the real world.”

The Commission Model may seem, in fact, to be a logical development from Mantle of the Expert. After all, in Mantle, a fictional client is introduced, with a fictional commission. In the Commission Model, there is a real client, and a real commission. But lots of implications follow from this. For one thing: if it is all real, where is the drama?

Dorothy insisted, in fact, that is a drama mode. This may seem paradoxical. The system works, however, through drama “episodes,” and utilises Dorothy’s “conventions” for dramatic action.

The Commission Model occupies, then, a grey area between real and fiction. This is what makes it so interesting, important and revealing in terms of Dorothy’s work as a whole.

This session will be led by David Allen (Midland Actors Theatre). David is currently leading an Erasmus Plus project on the Commission Model, with partners across Europe. The session will introduce participants to the system; provide examples of the system in practice; and highlight some of the practical drama strategies which the system employs.

Information on the Erasmus+ project can be found on the website; and the Facebook group,

David Allen is Artistic Director of Midland Actors Theatre. He undertakes regular schools projects with a particular focus on drama and history. He has been team leader on three Erasmus+ Plus KA201 projects, looking at innovation in education: “Mantle of the Expert”; “Breaking Down Barriers” and “The Commission Model.” He has published numerous articles and books on drama including ‘Performing Chekhov’and ‘Stanislavksi for Beginners’.