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Mantle of the Expert

Mantle of the Expert is based on the premise that treating children as responsible experts increases their engagement and confidence. They can perceive a real purpose for learning and discovering together in an interactive and proactive way – providing them with skills and knowledge they can apply to their everyday lives. Mantle of the Expert encourages creativity, improves teamwork, communication skills, critical thought and decision-making. 

The children are not putting on a play or running a business. They are simply being asked to agree, for a time, to imagine themselves as a group of scientists, archaeologists or librarians with jobs and responsibilities. Through activities and tasks, the children gradually take on the same kinds of responsibilities, problems and challenges that real archaeologists, scientists and librarians might do in the real world.

The approach was devised and developed by British drama guru Dorothy Heathcote from the 1960's onwards. A problem or task is established and the pupils are contracted as an enterprise team of experts using imaginative role-play to explore the issue. Usually an imaginary client such as a museum commissions the team – for example as a team of archaeologists to excavate a newly discovered tomb in Egypt. The children might be scientists in a laboratory or archaeologists excavating a tomb, or a rescue team at the scene of a disaster. They might be running a removal company, or a factory, or a shop, or a space station or a French resistance group. Because the children behave 'as if they are experts', they are working from a specific point of view as they explore their learning and this brings special responsibilities, language needs and social behaviours.

The children may be involved in mimed activities, improvisation, research or discussion. While the focus is on the enquiry process, it can often lead to real outcomes such as writing letters, printing leaflets or selling products. The teacher's role is to guide the drama, stepping in and out of role as necessary, providing encouragement and motivation to the experts. The children are not putting on a play or running a business. They are simply being asked to agree, for a time, to imagine themselves as a group of scientists, archaeologists or librarians with jobs and responsibilities. Through activities and tasks, the children gradually take on the same kinds of responsibilities, problems and challenges that real archaeologists, scientists and librarians might do in the real world.
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