Expansive Education- Teachers taking students backstage in learning – Guy Claxton & Bill Lucas #educationfest


“The practicalities are everything”

Guy introduced the session by saying that a lot of the educational debate goes on at a high structural level, he wants to explore the practical and specific things which make the difference to student’s learning.

‘Expansive education’ is the area Lucas and Claxton have coined. Not moving the outcomes from test scores to something else, but expanding them to include other dispositions and habits of mind as well. The key word is ‘and’, preparation for life and examinations should go hand in hand.

The second facet of expansive is exploring a revised conception of children’s intelligence. No longer should we see intelligence as a fixed mindset determined by genes or ‘the good Lord’, but instead as something that can expanded.

‘Intelligence is the sum total of your habits of mind’

– Lauren Resnick

This is not an easy process of putting on a few thinking hats, but something which must be grown by a pervasive, sustained shift in the culture of a school. Simply bolting on Gardner’s intelligences in a few plenaries does not nurture these habits of mind, just a knowledge of the theory itself.

Lucas and Claxton have created ‘The Expansive Education Network‘ is a growing band of schools exploring these ideas and inventing ways of achieving them in practice. The focus is on schools and practitioners building this themselves, not being told how to do it by a professor.

They have created a checklist for schools who share the beliefs and practices of ‘Expansive Education’.

1. In an uncertain world, expanding young people’s capacity to learn is a function of education.

2. This is a practical possibility. Young people do not have a fixed pot of intelligence.

3. It is possible to expand capacity at the same time as reaching standards. EE does not neglect the content in favour of the process.

4. It is possible to do this for all young people. EE is as valuable for those on the way to Cambridge as  those on the way to a BTech in Motor mechanics.

5. This is new and difficult. It is not something that can be bolted on or just told to teachers.

6. We want to both benefit from and contribute to this growing body of practical knowledge. Teachers are co-constructors of these practical frameworks because it at that level which the knowledge need to function. We need research with a small ‘r’ which is worked, tested, practical examples. Bay House school are building the field themselves, and publishing their own journal.

7. We, the teachers need to be willing to experiment and willing to change our habits. Teachers need to excercise the habits they want students to have.

The list continues, but focuses on lots of small ways which teachers can ingrain the persuasive research on mindsets and the nature of intelligence into their teaching day to day. As Guy said earlier, it doesn’t need permisison from a Secretary of State to achieve this, it requires a willingess to act out the higher level thinking around teaching and learning teachers are hearing about in the ‘high level talks’ at many conferences.

Once again at the festival, John Hattie’s ‘Visible Learning’ was refered to. Lucas characterised the most effective of these as teachers who don’t just stand on the stage, but are willing to take them backstage, and explore the process of the teaching. However, backstage without a performance is nothing, and the content is still key, just expanded with greater learning about learning.

Expansive Education is not just a theory to be communicated in a book that goes back on the shelf, but Lucas & Claxton are building a participative network for schools to work on building the practice around this research. They have set up a social network, encouraging professional reflection and action research. This ‘club’ is based around continually making links to classroom practice and breaking down the barriers between cutting edge research into what works in learning and those who are practicing in the classroom.

Related posts:

Debt education - Martin Lewis #educationfest
Free schools and freeing minds - Toby Young #educationfest
Inclusion, Relevance, Ambition - Rod Bristow (Pearson) #educationfest

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