Why should you step into a fictional world?
Originally conceived by Dorothy Heathcote, Mantle of the Expert has been brought into fruition through the careful thought and personal experience of Tim Taylor. I had the great fortune to meet Tim at Primary Rocks Live this year and I can safely say that it was the most rewarding workshop that I have ever attended.
Needless to say, I tried it out as soon as I could.
Mantle of the Expert is a brilliant way of teaching and learning through creative eyes.
By creating a fictional world wherein the students have real-life responsibilities, we allow them to explore the curriculum with adult eyes. Both the children and teacher are aware that they are in a fictional world, no one actually believes that they are ‘real’ experts. It is through this that the depth of the tasks shines through.
1) The Team of Experts: these Experts are the children, given jobs and decision-making abilities.
2) The Client: the Client is the point behind the Experts. The Client asks the children to do specific tasks, it gives them a real sense of tension and urgency within their work – we must please the client.
3) The Commission: true to its name, the Commission gives the children the ability to explore real-world contexts within their fictional world, safe from the perils of the true world.
Sounds confusing, right?
I went into Taylor’s workshop with both an open, and slightly bemused mind. We sat in a circle on chairs as Taylor slowly allowed us to build a world around a picture on the whiteboard.
Through careful questioning, we turned a picture of Tutenkahmun’s tomb into an archaeological expedition where we discussed moral issues with opening the tomb, logistics of getting into it and envisioning how the tomb was left at the time. This was incredibly powerful, and the reason for this is because we oversaw the making of our picture.
Around 40 adults were hooked into the same picture, seeing the same things, all whilst staring at a blank spot on the floor!
From Reading to Reality:
Naturally, being a book-worm, I started reading Taylor’s Guide to Mantle of the Expert the next day and then instinctively started planning for my Mantle day. We’re studying Extreme Environments at the moment so I decided to create a fictional world where the children would become Mountain Park Rangers (Experts).
After an accident on Snowdon, a girl is left seriously injured. The children are then commissioned by the Department for Travel and Tourism (Client) to complete various tasks on encouraging climbers to be safe and prepared.
I started the day with building our picture, very similar to Taylor. I informed them of the accident, and then we started to build up every element of her story, what she looked like, where she was, how she felt – and all of a sudden, we found ourselves in this world that was our own. The children were enthralled.
They were shown an email from the Client detailing what she wanted from them. They were given files and that was almost the final interaction that I had with them. They felt the urgency of the work that they were doing. We stopped every now and then to look at moral issues, and the children still found themselves in the world.
When needed, we would step out of the fictional world so that I could become teacher again and discuss things like how we need to structure different forms of writing, how to draw a graph and how architects work.
I can honestly say that this was the best day I’ve had yet in my career. I’ve never seen children so independent, so willing to share their own ideas, so engaged in a task. It also helped that the work that came from the Commission was incredible.
I wanted to give a small insight into what I’ve seen about Mantle of the Expert. I would implore you to read Tim Taylor’s book – it has revolutionised my teaching already!