British Journal of Education Studies review of Expansive Education Book

Expansive education: teaching learners for the real world. By Bill Lucas, Guy Claxton9780335247554 (2)
and Ellen Spencer. Pp 240. Milton Keynes: Open University Press. 2013. £22.99 (pbk).
ISBN 978-0335247554.

Values matter in education. From its first pages, Expansive Education reminds us ‘…
education is irreducibly a moral business’ (p. 8). Martin Luther King’s advice that teachers concentrate upon ‘worthy objectives’ for education sets the tone of this book full of challenges to established educational policy dogmas. Outlining what might be involved in ‘expansive’ education, the authors are unapologetic to use the word ‘ought’ to describe the need to teach confidence enhancing and creative mindsets applicable to both personal and global contexts. Dispositions like ‘resilience and resourcefulness’ (p. 12), for example, are argued to be as vital to the mental and intellectual health of those in the ‘best’ universities as they are to the youngest children in our nurseries. Expansive education must also involve values that apply to the ‘real’ world, of rapid communication, burgeoning technologies, widening access to heritage, knowledge, skills and research. The goals, attitudes, environments and leaderships of learning need expansion suggest the writers, and few would disagree.

Within a values set founded upon communal, self-regulatory and learning ‘virtues’ (p.
17), this book successfully brings together international evidence and practice to demonstrate
how an expansive approach builds intelligence and develops the creativity needed to
face the multiple threats to identity, environment and society today. Expansive Education
is clearly and accessibly written for a wide audience – those preparing to teach, parents,
teachers, governors and leaders as well as curriculum designers, researchers and policymakers
will all find this book interesting and informative.
The statement that education is ‘… above all, a preparation for the future’ (p. 3)
frequently prefaces aims for education. For many children, sidelined by policy terms like
‘hard to reach’, ‘pre-school’, ‘pre-readers’, with Special Educational Needs and
Disabilities, ‘disaffected’ or just not ‘school ready’ – the future may seem irrelevant,
however. In the UK, a future called ‘Big School’, ‘Key Stage 3’ or GCSE or A Levels
may be the limit of what some children are prepared for. Some children do not have a
future, so the idea that education is for the future needs some unpacking. Lucas et al.
claim that children’s positive interaction with the here and now is crucial to their
motivation and engagement in education. Unless an affirmative present is also a stated
focus of education, the involvement of all children in the learning journey is an
impossible dream. Well-tested neuroscientific and psychological research, uncited in
this book (Damasio, 2003; Fredrickson, 2009; Immordino Yang and Damasio, 2007),
suggests that involvement in systematic learning depends upon the engagement of
emotions like interest, fascination, security and confidence.

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