The mantle of the expert

Last night there was a big debate on Twitter about the usefulness (or otherwise) of the Mantle of the Expert. If you’re unfamiliar with this idea / theory / technique, there’s a lot of information on the website Mantle of the Expert.com.

A number of those in favour of the technique, claimed the reason for their support was because it worked for them. I’m not sure if that means they really believe all the claims made about it, or simply that because their pupils liked doing the activities, they feel that it was a successful (ie: not a riotous) lesson.

On the NFER blog there’s an exploration of the idea of ‘It worked for me‘, worth reading, and I’m not going to delve into the issues raised.

But I’m left wondering just how many teachers really use this? How many believe in it? How many think it’s mad? How many are utterly baffled by the whole thing?

I can’t find anything that gives me a clearer picture how widespread support is for this (or not, as the case may be), so please take a moment and complete the poll below. I’m aware that won’t give a definitive answer, but it seems like a good place to start.

I’m also interested in your thoughts about it, be they supportive or dismissive, so please add a comment too.

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11 Responses to The mantle of the expert

  1. MoE. I don’t usually get involved at all in debates about pedagogy, because I don’t know very much about it. In this case, though…….

    I’ve explored the information on this and seen it in operation. My view is mixed. I haven’t seen enough evidence to tell if all the claims made for it are true. However, some things are clear to me:

    – young kids (I haven’t seen older kids engaged in it) readily take to the approach. [it appears, by the way, that a very thin veneer of pretend does seem to allow kids to approach work in a more determined way (vague, I agree)].
    – a vast amount of knowledge (both scope and depth) can be accessed using the approach.
    – running a MoE is challenging and won’t suit all teachers. Careful and rapid moving (and light touch) control/shaping is required to make sure learning objectives are met.
    – the approach can enthuse some teachers and passion always goes down well with kids.

    As with all approaches, I think none should be compulsory (well……..) and any individual teacher should be free to bring any approach to their SLT for evaluation. The key question is, is this effective (does it achieve what is locally agreed should be achieved)?

    • Thanks for your comment, chemistrypoet.

      There are certain elements which I think are easy to agree with, others which are perhaps a little harder to justify, with regard to general support for MoE.

      Young pupils probably will take to it quite readily, but could that be because they see it as a game? I know that there are studies into the learning benefits of play, and I’m not disputing those. But if the children see this as a game, is it something that they will remember? Do they remember joining in with the game itself, or some of the things they learned?

      I’m puzzled by the idea that a vast amount of knowledge can be accessed by using this approach. Much of what I have read about MoE seems to indicate that in many ways it a child-directed activity. If this is the case, how is the knowledge gained, or more accurately, how do you ensure that the relevant knowledge is gained? How much prior work (lessons, homework etc.) is needed to equip the pupils with the right knowledge before they start?

      I haven’t seen it being used, which is why I asked for comments. Could you explain the context in which you saw MoE in action?

  2. Alice says:

    I think Mantle of the Expert, like all techniques, works well in some people’s hands and for some learners. I do think you need to be a highly skilled teacher to use is well and badly done is totally disastorous. I agree with the previous responder that the key question is how effective is it? I do think that forcing a teacher to take a particular approach is never a good idea. Much better to increase opportunities to evaluate and reflect on what is working and what needs further refinement. As a rule I never believe that any technique is what makes the difference; it is always how that technique is utilised by great teachers.

  3. Pingback: Arguing over the Ridiculous: Brain Gym and Mantle of the Expert | Scenes From The Battleground

  4. Kris Boulton says:

    Obviously not going to be a representative sample, alas!

    What worries me most about this when I read people’s descriptions of why they love it, or how well it ‘works’, is that those people might not be functioning with an accurate definition or set of criteria for what it means for a technique to ‘work.’

    The discussion must begin at that point – what does success look like? Any consulting brief I’ve been a part of begins with that question!

    For me, teaching ‘works’ if it builds long-term memory.

    • “For me, teaching ‘works’ if it builds long-term memory.”

      I think that’s the main point – is the MoE actually doing that, or is it seen as working for a different definition of ‘working’?

      Manayanaed has posed a good question – “whether the engagement is with the learning that we want or with the appealing activity”. I’ve yet to see anything which conclusively settles this, in fairness, I don’t even think that would be possible. But if it is revisited months after the activity, I’d like to know whether the pupils remember the activity or the content.

      Sadly I know the sample size makes this poll almost worthless in terms of validity, but although I’ve read claims about MoE being very popular, I can’t find anything which gives an idea of how many teachers use and value it, and how many are not convinced…

  5. manyanaed says:

    I can’t vote because there is not a button I want to click. I want to say it seems to me mostly nonsense. It does seem to be a great deal of effort and, more importantly, a lot of distracting material to do something that is appealing but unsound. It ignores working memory in favour of engagement. But I would question whether the engagement is with the learning that we want or with the appealing activity. I bet many children say they really enjoyed being an expert. I bet the teacher does not then properly assess the amount and the quality of the learning that relates to the topic they were trying to teach. But it might have value when children know a lot about he topic/thing being taught.

    • You’ve made a very valid point – what exactly is the ‘successful’ part of this? Is it in being engaged, or is it in learning?

      I know that many lessons are deemed successful when all the children are on-task, and MoE may well deliver this. However, if as an example, it’s a history lesson, will the children leave knowing more about the topic they are meant to be learning about, or more about acting in role?

  6. Heather F says:

    I like the point about how these activities may work if the children already know a lot about the topic. I think a big problem with many imaginative activities is that they only really work with those kids that already have some understanding. The legwork is done by the teacher before the activity is even started. My other concern from the few blogs and details I have read on MoE is that because the activity is quite pupil led I can’t see how a teacher can possibly have very specific content in mind and whatever is taught will be vague and unlikely to build effecively on previous learning or reinforce past work. If your aim is to teach generic skills then I don’t suppose that weaknesses of the model for content delivery need be viewed as a problem. In my own secondary history teaching I could picture getting something out of a form of role play in which advance planned detail was fed to kids but the idea that the mountain of content we have to cover could be delivered in this pupil led fashion is inconceivable. I think it is only possible to consider the approach workable if you are not really serious about covering content effectively.

  7. Chris Dean says:

    Seems fairly reasonable to me to hypothesise that some children will engage with some material more through role play than through some other forms of information and, as a consequence, will recall that information more easily later on. I have no concerns, then, with that element of MoE. My worries would be purely about the ‘discovery learning’ feature, about pupils deciding their own fields and directions of enquiry before having the foundational knowledge to do that in a meaningful and productive manner. Sure, some will ‘get it’ and come out with some amazing ideas. I doubt whether that will be true of the majority.

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