Steps in to a Commission Model: Luke Abbott

As part of our Training Week for the Erasmus+ project, we spent a day with Luke Abbott.

Luke worked with the project team, to plan a session for a class of Year 4 children at Woodrow First School. The idea was to set up a "fictional context" - as you would do in “Mantle of the Expert” - which  could form the basis, at a later date, for an actual (real) commission from an organisation in the community.

It's one way to approach a Commission Model project.

In the morning, Luke worked with the team, to plan the session. His aims were to engage the class with a topic; to build their “frame” or “expertise,” and set up a fictional context. This is the context:

A team of waste disposal people with appropriate know how, has been contacted by Environmental investigators (adults in FULL ROLE) who are becoming alarmed at the patterns of ‘fly tipping’ in the areas around Redditch. The population of rat species is also increasing as the tipping of waste products also includes foods. Unfortunately, some very toxic materials are also being included in the illegal disposals such as oils from car engines, asbestos sheets, disused paint containers and blue bag hospital bags that have been opened.

In this context, the children were invited to represent "a team of people who have the wherewithal to remove and dispose of large masses of materials in a responsible manner".


Project team members were placed in role as Environmental Heath Officers, who needed help to deal with the problem of fly-tipping.


Attraction stage

Luke planned that, in the initial "attraction" stage, to engage the children's interest, they would first encounter the Environmental Investigators "as if in a moment of deep pondering over a map of Redditch, with several stickers indicating fly-tipping with lists of each site’s contents. Also, it is clear from the map that the motorways in and around Redditch are also being used as illegal tipping sites." Luke observes: "This is in the ICONIC / EXPRESSIVE mode enabling the class to begin to move through the attraction phase to CONCERN and INVESTMENT."

Luke is here referring to the “stages of attraction” which Dorothy Heathcote outlined for a Mantle project. She wrote:

Mantle of the Expert is based upon tasks, which carry all the learning. So think of all doing things together – teacher as manager of the workforce working for the “client” in collaboration.

Tasks begin very simply – no matter what the children actually know when they begin, the first task will start everyone off into the “enterprise” they will service.

Task 1 – attracts so must be built so all can “deal with it”

Task 2 – gains a bit of attention.

Task level 3 gains interest in working things out.

Level 4, begins engagement with “getting things moving”

Level 5. This then brings about bonding all together because we are getting attached to wanting us to be successful. We begin to be “really pleased with ourselves.”

Level 6. We begin to be invested in our enterprise and the existence of our client and our workplace.

Level 7. This starts concern so everything is working well.

Level 8. We become really committed to the work.

Level 9. We are now productively obsessed. This is when parents begin to notice how much their children are “full of it.”

And finally REFLECTION, the whole purpose!

Dorothy always worked through tasks; she stated that, in planning, she could always picture in her mind what the class would be doing. In her article “Dramatic Imagination” she wrote: “The nature of dramatic imagination involves the contemplation of visualizing classes doing. It is the root of planning for learning through drama systems.”

In Mantle of the Expert, the “teachers’ ‘playwright’ imagination is ‘collecting’ episodes … which will deepen attraction” and build commitment.

It seems that, for Dorothy, “tasks” were conceived, not simply as educational activities “to sustain the learning”, but as “dramatic episodes” in an unfolding “play.” This is evident, for example, in the various “episodes” in the drama which Dorothy led, about a fictional shoe factory, “Blackley and Broadene” – featured in the TV series Teacher (1981). The “episodes” were always based around a concrete task, and yet conceived as theatre, and as part of an unfolding “play.” 

In the Commission Model, the work is similarly structured around tasks, and “dramatic episodes.” For more on this, see Drama in the Commission Model.

The first video [coming soon] shows the planning session. The second video [coming soon] shows the session with the children.

To go to the next page, "Training with David Allen," click here.


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