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Expansive Education 

is an approach to teaching that focuses on developing dispositions that help young people to be fulfilled and successful in their lives   

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Latest from Ellen's Blog

Expansive Notes: Our best reads for teachers (remote and homeschooling!) this week

At a time when teachers are working remotely from their pupils, and maybe even having to homeschool their own children simultaneously, many will be wondering how best to use this time and maximise its opportunities. With exams cancelled and much uncertainty, teachers can guide children and young people in ways that will make a real difference to their lives. Here are our thoughts on some ideas we have collated from around the web:

1) Rather than ticking over with subject-based worksheets, why not use this chance to focus on a weekly topic to spark an appetite for ‘finding out’ in pupils of all ages. Alex Quigley has suggestions on his home-school page that will build each week. This week he has been supplementing the school’s work with art-themed homeschool. In my house we’ve taken on a ‘travel’ theme for our daily homeschool, and learn about aspects of each country we visit that speak to parts of the curriculum we want to explore. 

Read the full blog post here

New book Zest for Learning

Authors: Prof Bill Lucas & Dr Ellen Spencer

Zest for Learning: Developing curious learners who relish real-world challenges

Zest for Learning: connects the co-curriculum with the formal curriculum, building both theoretical and practical confidence in the kinds of pedagogies which work well. It draws together a far-reaching literature exploring zest and zest-like attributes, offering schools and organisations working with schools a model of how it could be at the heart of children’s educational experiences.

Zest for Learning: is a call to action for school leaders to broaden their horizons of what school can be and to take heart from the ideas which others are already using. It is the third book in the Pedagogy for a Changing World series, which details which capabilities matter and how schools can develop them.

Read full press release

An open letter to Nick Gibb: 5 myths about creativity

By Bill Lucas

10 March 2020

In an open letter to the Schools Minister, Bill Lucas makes a case for the teaching and assessing of creativity

Dear Mr Gibb,

Congratulations on your reappointment in the recent Cabinet reshuffle. I am a strong supporter of your view that teaching should seek to develop deep knowledge in students and, of course, that we should unremittingly seek to raise standards.

At the same time, I am a long-term advocate of the value of creativity and critical thinking in schools and in life, advising organisations across the world on this topic. 

Today, I will be meeting with other educators and policymakers from around the world, to consider how best to use research and promising practices to advance the creativity agenda globally. 

I would like to take the opportunity to wonder aloud about five myths about creativity, which have gained currency in some people’s thinking. I would love to discuss these issues with you, in the light of the opportunity the UK still has to opt into the Pisa 2021 test of creative thinking.

These myths need to be challenged consistently if we are truly to cultivate young people’s creativity across the world.

Read open letter in full

Why the UK must crank up efforts to get creativity blooming

Bill Lucas writes in TES

Education systems around the world are increasingly focused on nurturing creativity, recognising how important it is in enabling students’ potential to blossom, and developing the skills employers need.

Unless our government does the same, the UK will be left behind in the global race.

Twenty years ago, the National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education, which was chaired by Ken Robinson, published a seminal report. It recommended the development of a national strategy for creative and cultural education to foster the different talents of all children. This was a landmark moment, as very few education systems at that time made creativity a key part of their national curricula.

Latest from Bill's Blog

Research in Practice: Problem-based learning

Prof Bill Lucas and Dr Janet Hanson offer insights into the concept of problem-based learning as part of their work supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering and Comino Foundation.


The problem-based learning approach begins with a problem, which drives an inquiry process whereby learners use self-directed learning, problem-solving skills, and often group work, to identify solutions to a problem. 


Problem-based learning is often interdisciplinary and, as such, may have something valuable to offer to schools wishing to engage learners with life-long learning. 


When teachers adopt it in a rigorous way, a number of myths can be dispelled: 

  • Students do not just do anything they want, nor are they left to their own devices.
  • Teacher input is required from the beginning, not just at the end.
  • There is no place for students to ‘hide’ in the group learning situation, providing the assessment strategy is robust.

Bill and Janet offer some key lessons for teachers wishing to adopt problem-based learning in their classroom.      Read the full blog post here

An opportunity for England to learn about the creativity of its people


10 December 2019



Hasan Bakhshi, Professor Bill Lucas 



Educators talk of the importance of ‘Creative Thinking’ - the process by which we generate, refine and critique ideas and new ways of thinking. It requires specific knowledge, skills and habits of mind. It involves making connections across topics, concepts, disciplines and methodologies and it leads in turn to new understanding and impact. It also improves outcomes beyond school. The evidence suggests that Creative Thinking is not innate; it can be learned and it can be assessed, all of which explains why countries such as Singapore, Finland, Canada and Australia are prioritising it in schools.


Educators talk of the importance of ‘Creative Thinking’ - the process by which we generate, refine and critique ideas and new ways of thinking. It requires specific knowledge, skills and habits of mind. It involves making connections across topics, concepts, disciplines and methodologies and it leads in turn to new understanding and impact. It also improves outcomes beyond school. The evidence suggests that Creative Thinking is not innate; it can be learned and it can be assessed, all of which explains why countries such as Singapore, Finland, Canada and Australia are prioritising it in schools.  


The power of creativity in our lives


Bill Lucas



It’s been a great few weeks for creativity.


A fortnight ago the LEGO Group launched a global campaign, Rebuild The World, to draw attention to the importance of nurturing creativity in all young people. Every child is born with creative problem-solving capabilities, and it is more important than ever that we make creativity a central goal of education. For creative habits of mind, we have long argued, are at the heart of an expansive education.


The World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report places creative problem solving in the top three skills the job market will require from 2020. Educational researchers across the world see its importance for a lifetime of learning. And we have written at length in Teaching Creative Thinking about the many ways in which teachers can embed it in their practice in and beyond school.


I was recently invited to the first-ever ‘round-floor’ along with various creative thought leaders across design and academia and, most importantly, with children aged 7-11 to discuss the importance of creativity.  It was a reminder to me of how articulate and creative children are. Recent research by YouGov suggests that 84% of children identify themselves as creative individuals and value creativity as a key skill for the future. As the children went about their task of redesigning Big Ben, I could see their playful imagination and critical thinking in great measure!


Creativity is, in my view, the most important attribute we need to develop in young people today. Really a set of habits of mind, a way of thinking and being, it requires knowledge, skill and many opportunities to practise. Every subject of the school curriculum has the potential to develop young people’s creativity. Playful experimentation, tinkering and prototyping are critically important skills to acquire not just in the early years but throughout our lives.


Which brings me to the most recent piece of good news. This week in London the OECED launched the report of its four year study into the teaching and assessing of creative and critical thinking. You can read it here. Eleven countries took part in the study and many more gathered at the innovation foundation, Nesta, to hear at first-hand how teachers across the world are making the nurturing of creativity a central priority.


The OECD work has allowed educators to develop a shared professional language to describe creativity and how it can be cultivated in young people. The LEGO Group in its Rebuild the World campaign is taking this message to a wider group through the medium of film. And during the October half term LEGO is hosting free Rebuilder Workshops across the UK where young people will be asked to use their creativity to build solutions to real-world issues affecting cities today.

In chaotic political times it is heartening to see a global movement for creativity taking shape.     

How to develop habits of creative thinking

If schools are to make creativity normal, then they need to think about the culture they seek to create, says Professor Bill Lucas.



Read full report here


Bill Lucas urges us to move on from the rhetoric and focus on the evidence

It’s a characteristic of human beings to want to look ahead and think about what might happen next. Indeed our capacity to anticipate and plan for new experiences is, at least in part, why we have evolved as a species so successfully.

So it was entirely natural that, as the year 2000 dawned, with all the extra bezazz of it being a millennium milestone, the futurists got to work. Buoyed up by the potential for the so-called ‘millennium bug’ to shut down virtual civilisation as we knew it and driven by genuine uncertainties about the opportunities afforded by the invention of the World Wide Web in the 1980s, speculation about what this might mean for society in general and schools in particular was rife. In 1998 Google was invented and the two decades which followed saw the birth of Facebook (2004), Twitter (2006) and Instagram (2010). Surfing on this wave of human inventiveness were and are the many tech companies which enable these digital breakthroughs to flourish. It was and is in the interests of such companies to suggest that their products provide solutions which bricks and mortar schools cannot. The marketing device to create the necessary sales climate in education was the idea of ‘twenty-first century skills’.


Read full blog


Read full report



18 teachers gathered at Clavering Primary School in Essex, supported by their head teachers, to present their action research findings after two terms of investigation on a range of topics including resilience, creativity, pupil agency, drawing and writing. Attending the session Bill Lucas said: ‘This was a wonderful group of dedicated teachers all of whom committed their time to exploring the ways in which their attempts to improve learning outcomes for their pupils are working.’



Yasodai Selvakumaran, a teacher at Rooty Hill High School, has been selected as one the 10 finalists in the Global Teacher Prize



Her 'top ten' master class will focus on the Centre for Real-World Learning's ten dimensional model of creativity which Rooty Hill High School has developed so imaginatively. Leading a day in the school in Sydney last week Bill Lucas was able to congratulate her in person. A truly expansive teacher at the top of her powers sharing the importance of expansive teaching and creativity to a global audience.


Read more here




Dr Ann McCarthy of NACE summarises the action research projects in her report






'All teachers improved their practice and engaged in professional learning which they used to benefit learners. They were able to identify changes which were successful and elements which did not work as well. They then adapted their practice in response to the self-evaluation.'


'The energy and enthusiasm which came from this activity led to teachers extending the new initiatives beyond their classrooms. Dialogue within school and between schools had a positive impact on both learners and teachers. All teachers found that research-based practice was a valuable form of professional development. They were empowered to continue to approach teaching in this manner and to share this practice with those around them.'


Read full report here   


Secretary of State outlines five expansive foundations of character education including creativity


 The full report can be read here

Expansive Education in Australia


Australia is a leading light in its decision to emphasise the need for expansive capabilities in schools. Last week Bill Lucas launched a new report, A Capable Country: Cultivating capabilities in Australian education, with Melbourne-based Mitchell Institute, suggesting ways in which the vision could become reality across the education system.



The full report can be downloaded here


Prof Bill Lucas and Dr Ellen Spencer collaborated with the RSA to explore how young people feel about engaging in youth social action opportunities




The research found that young people are giving back to society more than adults might think and that there are strong links between a young person’s belief in their creativity and their confidence to participate.  However, more opportunities are needed that allow young people to express their creativity through selecting the problems they want to solve.

The report and an extensive literature review on creative self-efficacy that informed the research can be downloaded here:



Congratulations to Gomer Junior School as they win prestigious national TES award "STEM Team of the Year 2018"


Gomer Junior School took inspiration from research into engineering habits of mind (EHoM) conducted by Professor Bill Lucas  and Dr Janet Hanson at the Centre for Real-World Learning of the University of Winchester on behalf of the Royal Academy of Engineering and then linked this to their own pedagogy.


Teachers at Gomer Junior engaged children in real-world applications of STEM subjects and EHoM and enabled them to participate in hands-on activities to highlight career opportunities available in STEM subjects. 

Read more 



Developing Tenacity launch event and the 'fantastic' talk by @LucasLearn


Most teachers will be familiar with the frustration of students giving up all too easily when things get difficult. This is a problem, because learning happens at that uncomfortable place where thinking has to be stretched. Students who tick along nicely without trying are those who come unstuck at higher levels of learning. 


And students used to failure need to experience the buzz of success through hard work if they are to accomplish anything in life. 


Educators attending the recent launch event listened to Professor Bill Lucas talk about why tenacity matters and, more importantly to teachers, how they can cultivate it. 

The book is already proving popular with teachers looking for ways to embed practical changes in their classrooms. Its framework of what tenacity means is highly practical. Said one teacher: I could see having students take their own Tenacity temperature against these specific components. Superb and focused!


But don’t take our word for this!UKEdChat’s review says of the book: ‘no matter what stage of your teaching career you are at, you will find it thought-provoking and challenging’. If you’re looking for material for your teachers to dip into that provides quick wins as well as deep thinking, this book is well worth reading. 


Says Ron Berger, Chief Academic Officer of EL Education, and teacher: 'To create beautiful work and contribute to a better world, students need tenacity. Bill Lucas and Ellen Spencer describe how schools can inspire and cultivate tenacity, pulling together research and best practices from a wide range of educators to guide schools in creating a culture to bring out the best in students'. 


Professor Ronald Beghetto of the University of Connecticut calls the book 'Accessible and immediately applicable'. 

Follow Developing Tenacity on Twitter @pedagogy4change



Twelve ways to be a more successful learner

Following on from our Successful Learners event at The University of Winchester in partnership with the Winchester Teaching School Alliance and Kings' School Winchester Professor Bill Lucas has written a blog detailing the twelve ways to be more successful. 



What do you really need to learn in life? How do you teach students to excel? What do successful learners do differently from others? What, in short, are their habits of mind? Over the last two decades the learning sciences have begun to provide some powerful answers to these questions.


Here are some suggestions, drawing on research, to help you identify the kinds of learning habits likely to help you succeed. Imagine a clock-face. This one comes from Winchester High Street. Think of each of the twelve points of its face as we look at twelve key aspects of learning.


Read Bill's blog here  



Mindset influence on academic achievement explored in new report



This latest analysis of PISA results by McKinsey & Company suggests that students’ mindsets have more influence on academic achievements than their socioeconomic background. McKinsey & Co call this mind-set a ‘motivation calibration’, where students exhibit effective behaviours (eg; doing more than expected, continually improving on tasks) that increase their academic performance. For students in poor performing schools, having a well-calibrated motivation mindset can support social mobility.

Read more 



New research from the RSA - The Ideal School Exhibition 



Two key aspects of Expansive Education feature strongly in The Ideal School Exhibition report by the RSA. The research stresses the importance of setting expansive aims for education and on the role of the teacher as the expert best able to select teaching and learning methods likely to produce a rounded education.


Report author and RSA’s director of education Julian Astle says of the debate about what an ‘ideal school’ looks like: ‘In short, it is a debate about what kind of education will prepare them, not just to write a good exam, but to live a good life.’. We too believe the point of education is more than exams and that expanding goals, places, mindsets and teacher personal identity are of utmost importance to help children and young people to become better at learning so they can thrive in all they do.


The report makes a number of recommendations including:

1. Create a new culture in educational assessment by making tests harder to teach to; 2. Reform the accountability system by reweighting league tables; and 3. Encourage a teacher-led professional renaissance by abolishing Ofsted’s ‘Outstanding’ category.


Above all, as Bill Lucas has argued on many occasions. Astle invites us all to move beyond the old binary alternatives of didactic or enquiry-led teaching to explore what is likely to develop young people's character as well as their knowledge. 


Read the full report here


Calling all our members in Scotland!


Nominations for the Scottish Education Awards 2018 are open. Your excellent work through eednet could be just what the judging panel are looking for. There are awards for STEM education, creativity, working with parents and many more.


Check the website for details and if you do decide to submit a nomination, or if you would like help in compiling one, do get in touch with us. An open letter to Damian Hinds MP


Bill Lucas welcomes the new Secretary of State for Education and invites him to help change the conversation about what schools teach.



Engineering Habits Of Mind

One of our expansive research areas is Engineering 'habits of mind'. Teachers in many subjects, including not only STEM (Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology) but also in English and Art, are interested in encouraging learners to 'think like an engineer' because they can see the value of developing children’s skills such as problem solving and improving within their subject. In a project funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering, teachers have developed some fantastic resources to help learners grow their engineering habits of mind. Teachers taking part might want to know


If I want to develop my pupils' engineering habits of mind, how can I use a formative assessment tool to ensure they can track their own habits?


This 'Engineering Habits of Mind' questionnaire, developed by one of our member teachers, attempted to answer a question like this. The link below is a great tool to try out with your class.




It will help them map their competencies and work out how they need to develop their thinking to become better problem solvers! For more free resources, see the Royal Academy of Engineering's dedicated page about the project.Engineering is just one of the research areas our teachers explore. Others include creative thinking, maths, science, outdoor learning, and giftedness.  Contact us to find out more. 

Good news - Creative Thinking will be the focus of the 2021 PISA test!


Read a glowing review in TES here


This innovative book applies the idea of growth mindset to the cultivation of a vital contemporary capability - creative thinking - drawing on both evidence and promising practices. Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology, Stanford University   

Upcoming events

16 Jun 2020 3:45 PM • Bury College, Market Street, BL9 0DB Enterprise Building Room E404
29 Jun 2020 4:15 PM • Southgate School, Sussex Way, Cockfosters, EN4 0BL
06 Jul 2020 3:45 PM • Sacred Heart R.C. Primary School & Heart Teaching School Alliance, Central Drive, Westhoughton, Bolton. BL5 3DU


What we're reading

Inventing ourselves - The secret life of the teenage brain


A compelling read which makes sense of the science and busts many of the neuromyths around today, this is a perfect book for teachers or parent of teenagers to read over the holidays!

Range - How Generalists Triumph in a Specialised World 

This is a brilliant take on expansive education, making the well-argued case that we need people who know a fair bit about a lot of things rather than individuals who get bogged down in the detail of a small number of disciplines. As Tolstoy said about Nikolay in War and peace: ‘he refused to specialize in anything, preferring to keep an eye on the overall estate rather than any of its parts…and Nikolay’s management produced the most brilliant results.’ Epstein makes us challenge our preconceptions about the nature of expertise but never sinks into false opposites or simple truths. He recognises the power of specialist knowledge as well as the strength of the expansive mind.

Powering up Children - The Learning Power Approach to Primary Teaching 

This inspiring new book is about how teachers can develop confident, curious, motivated learners. Its great strength lies in the practical advice it contains. If you are a teacher, this book will help you think about things like the learning environment you create and the language you use to develop children as learners.


It is packed full of really helpful guidance on how to tweak your lessons to get the level of challenge just right for your whole class, and examples from real schools who are on this journey too. One of our favourite sections comes in the chapter on how to achieve responsible independence in the classroom, and it is called ‘bumps along the way’! What do you do when children practising risk-taking are laughed at by their peers; when children are still more concerned with performing than with learning; or other influential adults use language that undermines your efforts? Co-author Becky Carlzon draws together a series of ‘what if’ scenarios and ‘try this’ suggestions for when the worst happens in the classroom! We think Powering Up Children is a worthwhile read for the busy teacher who wants to cultivate positive learning dispositions, and bring out the best, in all children in their care.

 Visible Learning: Feedback


This is a really practical, evidence-based book focusing on one of the most interventions teachers can use, feedback. Excellent case studies explore the variable quality of feedback, the importance of surface, deep and transfer contexts, student to teacher feedback and peer to peer feedback, all with immediately practical suggestions. This book is deeply expansive in its underlying messages.

15 Minute STEM

Great practical guide for teachers full of exciting quick activities that are easy to add into the timetable. Clear step by step instructions for creative learning in the classroom. 


Perfect book for schools and to recommend for parents to read with their children over the summer. This book helps to inspire children with a love of science and nature and follows five children with different gifts in a fight for survival. 




An evidence-informed, collaborative professional learning resource for school leaders  




This pack, from the Institute of Education, is a resource designed to help groups of teacher leaders bring about change in their schools. Designed for all types of school, and all types of leader. Leaders may hold formal roles; equally, they may lead change or supporting professional learning more informally. 
Aimed at promoting professional learning, it does so with the help of resource cards and a clear facilitator guide.

We've found the guide to be packed with professional learning practices that we know work. Teachers who are able to research and understand their own professional practice are in a much stronger position to help develop capable learners. 

The Learning Power Approach - Teaching learners to teach themselves


This book is rich with great ideas to help teachers to teach students to become expansive learners. As Carol Dweck puts it in her foreword, 'You will cherish this book. It's full of engaging and informative classroom examples.'

A great book for any teacher who wants to improve outcomes for individual students by supporting them to develop the right mind set for success.

Education Forward- Moving schools into the future

Image result for education forward

 This book is an exciting 'optimistic' and 'future-focussed' movement for change trying to influence the conversation around schooling in the face of unprecedented societal and technological transformation. 

We're enjoying this new book, which puts forward a collection of think pieces for a reimagined education based on creativity and love of learning! 




Pioneers and University Partners


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