Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Part 4: The internal structure of Mantle

In this section, Heathcote offers an attempt to identify the key elements (here she calls them 'internal structures') that make Mantle, well.... mantle...!  It is interesting to compare the list she offers here to the checklist of seven core elements provided on the UK website - here and the list of 10 core elements I suggest in my chapter - here. The discussion about elements is likely to be ongoing as different commentators go about explaining Mantle in their own way. Here, though, Heathcote offers seven aspects to consider: This post will discuss just the first three points ... 4-7 will be expanded on in my next post...

So what is the internal structure of Mantle?
1. All participants will function in the now-immediate time of social engagement - as does theatre / drama. "I do"

2. All behaviour arises from tasks not the generation of emotional demonstration of behaviour, before it can be authentic. (see chart 4 a, b, c, d)

3. All agree by contracts to a context, from which all behaviour will spring. These contexts create the domain boundaries which enable attention to be paid to specific explorations of curriculum and society. Just as theatre does.

There is so much in these few sentences - it's worth taking each one at a time and pulling it apart for meaning...  I hope some colleagues will expand further in the comments, too...

1. Here Heathcote reminds the teacher of one of the fundamentals of all drama - that it uses imagination to bring something to our immediate experience by playing about with time. In drama, when we take on a role, we agree to pretend as if something is happening NOW, (and often - though not always - TO US....) This is important because it makes what is happening 'feel' real and immediate. It also requires the teacher to adjust language and instructions accordingly: For example, in discussing a historical event instead of "how do you think the people felt about the King?", the teacher says, "let's see the moment when the King's fate is decided" - or even "Very well... People of the kingdom, what do you wish to do about your King?" 

2. Here Heathcote makes another key point about how drama is used within Mantle of the Expert. She reminds us it is not about 'acting' in the sense of 'showing an emotion in an authentic way' (which is a very narrow and limiting definition of acting anyway - but one many people assume is what's meant). What matters most in Mantle is the authentic sense of commitment to the tasks that arise in building the worlds and working on the commission ... This is what the teacher should look to build first and foremost... from there everything else (including authentic emotion) will follow.

3. Heathcote reminds us here of the importance of participant buy-in to the fictional contexts of a Mantle inquiry. She underlines the words 'contract' and 'context', emphasising that the fictional worlds and the ways they are set up must be mutually agreed and clear to participants - avoiding any kind of deception. She also reminds us that the 'givens' of the fictional world provide useful boundaries for the inquiry so that rather than exploring an curriculum area arbitrarily, there's a focus provided by the commission.

[As an aside, I've found that this notion of 'domain boundaries' is an aspect of teaching in Mantle that really appeals to teachers with experience in inquiry ... They appreciate how working with the commission provides an authentic reason for narrowing the curriculum focus and 'going deep' instead of giving the learner free reign to study any particular topic. Open ended inquiry, while it comes with a welcome sense of agency can result in rather 'shallow' investigation, unless the teacher has skills to narrow and focus to enduring understandings or big questions. Mantle provides a way to get around this issue. Another aspect of this that teachers appreciate is the messages it gives about curriculum learning areas. Learning in 'boundaried domains' allows us to 'pay attention' to what curriculum learning is required for the task at hand, without implying that the bits we are not paying attention to are less necessary or less important. In this sense, curriculum is democratised].