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The Learning Power Approach

The Learning Power Approach
Teaching Learners to Teach Themselves

Foreword by Carol S. Dweck

October 2017 | 288 pages | Corwin
Become mind-fit for life!

Learning is learnable! Educators can explicitly teach not just content, knowledge and skills, but also positive learning attitudes and habits of mind. Guy Claxton’s The Learning Power Approach will help teachers understand how ‘every lesson, every day’ shapes the way students see themselves as learners. This is the beauty of the Learning Power Approach: it is something all teachers can integrate into their daily practice. Claxton’s work helps us notice ‘what lies beneath’ the surface of our teaching and attend more closely to the way we shape dispositions and attitudes. Readers will find:  

approaches focused on building character alongside knowledge acquisition
cognitive, social and neuroscientific supportive evidence
practical illustrations and strategies

Written by a renowned cognitive scientist, this book offers a ground-breaking set of design principles for strengthening students’ learning muscles.

"This is the beauty of the Learning Power Approach. It is not a program, not a subject, not an add-on - it is something all teachers can integrate into their practice on a daily basis. Claxton’s work helps us notice ‘what lies beneath’ the surface of our teaching and to attend much more closely to the way we shape dispositions and attitudes to learning."  
Kath Murdoch, Education Consultant
University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia



About the Author
Chapter 1. The Origins of the Learning Power Approach
Nuclear Family


Friends and Neighbors

Near Misses

A Socket Set

Chapter 2. What Is Learning?
Why Do We Learn?

When Do We Learn?

What Is the Launchpad for Learning?

What Do Learners Actually Do?

The Beginnings of Learning Power

So Can You Get Better at Learning?

What Kinds of Learning Are Going On in Classrooms?

Chapter 3. What Exactly Is the Aim of the Learning Power Approach?
Diving In: The Aim of the Learning Power Approach

Some Flesh on the Bones

Chapter 4. How Do I Get Started? Some Quick Wins
The LPA Menu du Jour

Curious, Adventurous, Determined, Collaborative: A Starter Kit of Learning Dispositions

A Reflective Exercise

Chapter 5. Why Does Learning Power Matter? 10 Good Reasons for Pumping Those Learning Muscles
1. Because Life Is Complicated

2. Because Learning Power Makes the World a Safer Place

3. Because We Won’t Always Be There

4. Because Good Learners Are More Successful in Life

5. Because Employers Want to Hire Powerful Learners

6. Because Powerful Learners Do Better in School

7. Because Powerful Learners Do Better in College

8. Because It Makes Teaching Easier and More Rewarding

9. Because People Are Happier When They Are Learning

10. Because Young People’s Mental Health Depends Upon Their Learning Power

Chapter 6. What Is Learning Power Made Of?
The Elements of Learning Power

Chapter 7. Learning Power in Action: Some Classroom Illustrations
Chapter 8. Design Principles of the LPA Classroom
1. Create a Feeling of Safety

2. Distinguish Between Learning Mode and Performance Mode

3. Organize Compelling Things to Learn

4. Make Ample Time for Collaboration and Conversation

5. Create Challenge

6. Make Difficulty Adjustable

7. Show the Innards of Learning

8. Make Use of Protocols, Templates, and Routines

9. Use the Environment

10. Develop Craftsmanship

11. Allow Increasing Amounts of Independence

12. Give Students More Responsibility

13. Focus on Improvement, Not Achievement

14. Lead by Example

Chapter 9. What Is the Evidence for the Learning Power Approach?
Does Curiosity Affect Learning?

What About Concentration?

Can Learners’ Resilience Be Deliberately Increased?

Does Resilience Contribute to Raising Achievement in School?

Does Imagination Improve Learning and Creativity, and Can People Get Better at Imagining?

Do Deliberate Attempts to Teach Students to Think Clearly Work? And Do They Improve School Performance?

What About Collaboration?

Does the Same Apply to Empathy?

Does Reflection Aid Learning?

Does Learning Power Developed in One Context Transfer to Other Contexts?

Chapter 10. Distinctions and Misconceptions
Focus on Learning Power, Not Just Learning

Learning, Not Thinking

Learning Dispositions Are Malleable, Not Fixed

Is the LPA “Traditional” or “Progressive”?

Evidence, Not Measurement

Precision About Language

Learning Muscles and the Mind Gym

Pedagogy Rules

It’s Not Just Classrooms; It’s the Ethos of the Whole School

Provisional and Growing, Not Set in Stone

Chapter 11. Joining the Culture Club
Bibliography and References
Resources and Further Reading

“This book helps to validate a belief that the subjective goal of education should be about the liberation of the self, freeing us to choose our own essence in life.  Thus, in developing the skills to become more aware of our own actions and their consequences for which we are responsible, we must study our own creativity and creations (knowledge and how that knowledge is gained and used…or not used).  This search for self-empowerment, self-knowledge and self-awareness is our most challenging life endeavor.  It allows us to study patterns in our lives.  In so doing, we are better able to make corrections and improvements to our life’s goals.  Education should provide an awakening into actuality the potentials that lie within us.  Education does not merely give us knowledge, but teaches us how to think and use that knowledge, which helps us place an elevated emphasis on understanding and appreciating what was; actively participating in the chaos that is; and, vividly imagining and influencing what will be.”

Kenneth Austin, Associate Professor
Department of Seconday Education and Educational Leadership, Nacogdoches, TX

"In person, Guy Claxton balances the precision of academia with the warmth and wit of our most beloved teachers. He challenges, engages and inspires in equal measure. It is the same when he writes; he transforms complexities of learning into recommendations that are both inviting and inspirational, and he does so without ever losing the subtlety of nuance or culture. He is the perfect “critical friend” and The Learning Power Approach is the exemplary handbook."

James Nottingham, Author
The Learning Challenge: How to Guide Your Students Through the Learning Pit, Northumberland, United Kingdom

"We have to radically reimagine education if we’re going to fulfill the potential of today’s students as leaders who will address our increasingly global challenges. The Learning Power Approach is a valuable map, not just to student success but also to a more peaceful, prosperous and sustainable planet."

Steven Farr, Executive Director
Global Learning Lab @ Teach For All, Washington, D.C.

"Guy Claxton challenges the traditional approaches to learning that exist in so many of our schools and presents a compelling and practical strategy to foster authentic thinking and learning for all. The Learning Power Approach is rooted in the belief that we must move beyond systems that categorize and judge people merely on their ability to do well in exams and tests, or learning that promotes the myth of the “one right answer”—to cultures that focus on “the cultivation of the confidence and capacity to be a good learner.” Claxton identifies and describes the diverse variety of strengths essential to successful learning and presents practical approaches to make these a priority. 

This is a great book. It is a must read for those who understand the uniqueness of abilities in all of their students and would like to set in play a culture of learning that makes this flourish—a culture of learning that is inclusive and personal."

Peter Gamwell, Author
The Wonder Wall, Ottawa, Ontario

"Reading this book was a joy.  As a writer, Claxton is beautifully able to express the what’s, why’s and the HOW’s of the learning power approach. His argument is urgent but it is expressed with great warmth making it a compelling read. Claxton’s work has just the right mix of accessibility and challenge.

Central to the Learning Power Approach is the belief that it is every teacher’s responsibility to nurture the student as learner and to grow learners who are ‘mind fit’. Learning itself is learnable!  I challenge any teacher to read this and not come away questioning their practice and inspired to ‘tweak’ their classroom spaces, language and the way they design lessons. Reading this book will help teachers understand more clearly, the way ‘every lesson, every day’ gradually shapes the way students see themselves as learners and their understanding of the process of learning itself. This is the beauty of the Learning Power Approach. It is not a program, not a subject, not an add-on - it is something all teachers can integrate into their practice on a daily basis. Claxton’s work helps us notice ‘what lies beneath’ the surface of our teaching and to attend much more closely to the way we shape dispositions and attitudes to learning. As an ardent inquirer, I found the’ wonderings’ at the end of each chapter particularly stimulating.  These wonderings would be a great way to prompt conversation and action amongst teachers, making it a marvelous text for rich, collaborative conversations across an entire school community.

Claxton often uses the metaphor of a coach to describe the work of teachers using the Learning Power Approach and there are some fascinating and helpful case studies of such coaches in action throughout the text.  After reading this book, I feel as if I have spent time with one of the very best learning coaches there is. I can already envisage ‘The Learning Power Approach’ dog-eared and lovingly littered with post-it notes on my shelf.  This book deserves a place in every teacher’s collection."

Kath Murdoch, Education Consultant
University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

"We are always trying to see through the eyes of learners and guiding them on their way to become their own teachers. This is that guide."

Michael McDowell, Ed.D. Superintendent/Author of Rigorous PBL by Design
Ross School District, Ross, CA
Key features
The Learning Power Approach series will
  • Draw on an unusually wide range of cognitive, social and neuroscientific research, highlighting the importance of emotion, embodiment, intuition, visualisation and collaboration, as well as resilience and critical thinking.
  • Distil the commonalities to create a ‘broad church’ of approaches that focus deliberately, systematically, effectively and demonstrably on building ‘learning character’ alongside the acquisition of knowledge and the pursuit of grades.
  • Include practical illustrations and strategies from practitioners

For instructors

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