|About the book|
'`Creating Learning without Limits' takes on one of the most important issues in education today. In the last decade schools in England have taken a path towards putting all children into boxes, attaching a level to their heads and deciding what they are capable of achieving. This book shows the possibility of a different educational path, one in which all students are encouraged to achieve the greatest they can. Importantly the book also documents ways in which courageous teachers can do this - promoting fair and engaging learning environments for all students. This is a must-read for educators, policy makers and parents alike.'
Jo Boaler, Professor of Mathematics Education, Stanford University, California. Formerly a teacher and researcher at the Universities of London and Sussex.
'This will undoubtedly turn out to be amongst the most important educational books of the decade. Our capacity to respond, both individually and collectively, to its key insights and messages will profoundly affect not just the quality of our schools, but of our society for years to come.
Engagingly and eloquently written, it exposes the intellectual bankruptcy and human destructiveness of widely held concepts of `ability' and offers a richly textured, practical account of how one school moved from `failure' to OfSTED `outstanding' by committing itself to the practicability of a morally inspiring, educationally convincing alternative.
If you want to know why `the standards agenda' must inevitably fail and what we might do instead, read this book.'
Professor Michael Fielding, Institute of Education, University of London, UK
"This is an inspiring and reviving book. It reminds us why people come into education - to make a difference for children. To make a deep difference we have to organize education differently. It describes a school that vibrates with learning in an atmosphere of deep humanity and care. Its practices are light years away from the measuring, labelling, targeting, and testing structures that have become our recent national norm. The school as a whole community transforms people."
Anne Watson, Professor of Mathematics Education, University of Oxford, UK
'This book provides a grounded demonstration of the importance of educational principles, the most important of which is the understanding that each child's potential for learning is limitless. The authors describe new school and classroom practices through which learning can be transformed. Their argument has influenced government thinking on the review of the National Curriculum in England. I urge you to let it influence your thinking too!'
Professor Andrew Pollard, Institute of Education, University of London, UK
'This is a brilliant study of a small and very successful primary school in Hertfordshire where the teachers have rejected ideas of fixed innate ability and believe instead in the limitless potential of all young people. At a time when the Ofsted inspection process employs dubious and limited notions of `standards' and `achievement', it would be good to think that there could be many more schools like this one showing the way towards a new and liberating view of human development. The book deserves a really wide readership.'
Professor Clyde Chitty, Institute of Education, University of London, UK
"This book is slim in size but hefty in significance. It tells the story of a school driven by ambition, hope and the self-confidence that comes from a profound faith in the capacity of every child to be a passionate and engaged learner. This in the face of powerful and societally dominant messages that explicitly or more insidiously tell a different and more deterministic tale: that children (and schools) are fit and proper subjects for classification, measurement and management. And there's more - the careful scholarship on which this story is based prevents this book from being merely a description of what happens when a unique constellation of propitious circumstances meets a charismatic leader: this 'other way' is open to all who will take it - but it will demand the laying of solid and value-rich foundations, the exercising of autonomy for staff and pupils, the rethinking of relationships, a focus on learning (letting performance come as a secondary gift), and the taking of collective action.
It's become a cliché to say of a book that it `Should be read by every teacher (or parent, or whoever ...).' This one, and its predecessor `Learning without Limits'' merits that injunction.'
Barry Hymer, Professor of Psychology in Education, Education Faculty, University of Cumbria, UK
'Creating Learning without Limits provides a welcome tonic that can help to offset the beleaguering effects of a performativity and standards agenda that reinforces the ability based practices so pervasive in schools today. Building on the compelling pedagogy first presented in `Learning without Limits', this inspiring book shows how an alternative school improvement agenda can produce high academic attainment and enhanced capacity to learn for everybody. A classic for our time, it should be read by all who seek approaches to teaching and learning that are free from externally imposed views of ability and potential.'
Professor Lani Florian, School of Education, University of Aberdeen, UK
"If you share the convictions of the authors: `That human potential is not predictable, that children's futures are unknowable, and that education has the power to enhance the lives of all', read the book! You will however need to proceed with caution; it will make some of you reflect on what you do and why you are doing it. This book could be the catalyst for the educational change that we are all praying for."
Julie Lilly, Head Teacher, UK
This book tells the story of how one primary school community worked to build a learning environment that is inclusive, humane and enabling for everybody, a place free from the damaging effects of fixed ability thinking and practices. Drawing on compelling accounts of everyday life in the school, it describes how, in just a few years, the school (once in special measures) grew into a thriving community, with distinctive views of learning, curriculum and pedagogy, monitoring and accountability that found expression in every aspect of school life.
The work of the school community was guided by the findings of a previous project, Learning without Limits (Hart, Dixon, Drummond and McIntyre 2004), an empirical study of the classroom practice of individual teachers who had rejected the concept of fixed ability. Creating Learning without Limits explores what becomes possible when the same ideas and principles are used creatively to guide and inspire whole school improvement. This book is not simply a celebration of the success of the school; it engages with the struggles and difficulties encountered by the staff as they set about learning to reshape pedagogy and curriculum by reference to their shared values of inclusion, social justice and human educability. It gives a detailed analysis of how the headteacher harnessed the power of collective action.
The insights generated by this study have enduring relevance and applicability to people in other contexts - for staff groups craving for more equitable school improvement; for individual teachers wondering how best to foster children's learning capacity; for school leaders and teacher educators who find their values increasingly compromised.
|About the authors|
Mandy Swann is a lecturer at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, UK.
Alison Peacock is Headteacher of the school where this research was carried out, and was one of the original participating teachers in Learning without Limits, UK.
Susan Hart and Mary Jane Drummond are both former lecturers at the School of Education, University of Cambridge, UK, and are co-authors of Learning without Limits (Open University Press 2004).
|Table of contents|
An Alternative Improvement Agenda
Extending Freedom to Learn
Re-thinking Learning Relationships
Putting Learning First: Creating a School-Wide Culture of Learning
The Power of Collective Action