Welcome to the Expansive Education Network 





Reimagining practical learning in secondary schools: 

A review of the evidence by Professor Bill Lucas and Dr Janet Hanson

The online webinar was hosted by the Royal Academy of Engineering to discuss the implications of Janet and Bill's report on practical learning in secondary schools. 

As part of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s active work to build an inclusive education system for engineers, this webinar invited audiences to tackle practical learning’s mischaracterisation, to reach beyond unhelpful educational binaries, and ultimately begin to reimagine the future of whole learning 

Rethinking assessment for a more expansive education

On Sunday 27 September a number of leading educators launched Rethinking Assessment, a new movement to try and ensure our exam system starts to recognise the full range of young people’s strengths. You can read Bill’s blog for the TES here and his critique of the system here. There has been a growing belief that there is something wrong with our assessment system.

In particular, people question why we are continuing with the curious anomaly of a school leaving age exam at 16, GCSEs, when young people can’t leave education until 18. As expansive educators many of us have found GCSEs to be a very poor measure of the full range of dispositions we want young people to develop. It’s an indication of the seriousness of the challenge we face that (Lord) Kenneth Baker, the creator of GCSEs, thinks it is time for them to go.

We hope you will join the movement by signing up here

Assessment: Why are we so reluctant to let go of exams? | Tes

Today, we have launched Rethinking Assessment in Education: The case for change.. The research makes the case for a fundamental shift in thinking about the role of assessment in education. Drawing on evidence from across the world, we show how high-stakes assessment is harming students and that this is increasingly ignored by key stakeholders.


                                                                               Why are we so reluctant to let go of exams?

                                                  High-stakes assessment is harming students – we need to learn from what the rest of the world is doing, says Bill Lucas

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.

World Creativity and Innovation Day 2020

Click here 

to see the wonderful expansive range of activities organised on World Creativity and Innovation Day

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.


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

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.

Bill's Blog - 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  

Clavering Primary School in Essex

Teachers gathered together at Clavering Primary School 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.

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

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 Prof Bill Lucas


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

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   



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