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Enquiry Based Learning – Mantle of the Expert

When you reflect on your day at work, what skills and competencies have you applied during your working day? Communication – both verbal and written – is undoubtedly one of the key skills most of us use in our daily work lives. This communication is highly purposeful; we have a goal and an aim for what we are trying to achieve. Some of us may use mathematical skills; negotiating budgets; calculating ratios of staffing or allocation of resources. Few of us will work in isolation; working as a group, in a team; compromising, and cooperating are key skills we use in our everyday lives.

‘Mantle of the expert’ is an enquiry-based teaching methodology that aims to enable our children to do just this; apply the skills we teach them explicitly and implicitly, in a meaningful and motivating context. Essentially ‘mantle of the expert’ is problem solving, in role. Children assume the role of ‘experts’ in a particular field, and work together to solve the problem that has been posed to them. The skills that children can apply are limitless; and totally driven by the children, guided by skillful teacher questioning. Almost every curriculum subject can be reinforced through adopting ‘mantle’ teaching approaches; the children are empowered and compelled to evolve the essential higher order skills of compromising, planning, and working to a deadline; elements of learning that can be hard to facilitate in a more traditional teaching day. The most challenging part for teachers is giving up control; you don’t actually know what solutions the children will generate, but the learning and the process of problem solving is important, not the final outcome.

The Aspen Heights British School curriculum is centred around using innovative, enquiry based learning to facilitate children’s mastery of skills and concepts, demonstrating their ‘mastery’ by applying in a new, unfamiliar and meaningful context.  Examples planned include Cinderella writing to our FS children in their expert role as ‘party planners’ and asking their expert advice about her wedding reception; only to be struck by a huge problem at the last minute when the castle flooded! The FS children will work together in role – writing invitations, lists, making decorations, calculating how many cakes will be needed. All the learning that happens on a daily basis will be applied in an exciting, motivating and meaningful context. And, most importantly, events such as these are hugely memorable for our children; significant, purposeful events that they will remember with pride!

Emma Shanahan

Principal, Aspen Heights British School

Emma Janes

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