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The South Central Region of the RSA is holding a series of events aimed at sharing ideas about education. These events are run by and for RSA Fellows with the aims of:

  • Sharing knowledge and ideas about education

  • Meeting and networking with other Fellows

  • Clarifying existing, and provoking new, ideas for potential projects

  • Sharing information on Catalyst funding which could potentially support the growth of the ideas.

On Wednesday 30 October Professor Guy Claxton FRSA led a discussion on 'Building Learning Power'. Guy is Co-Director of the Centre for Real-World Learning and Professor of the Learning Sciences at the University of Winchester. This is a guest blog from Guy about the event.


I liked the idea of the RSA regional events on education – but not so sure about the One Big Idea. But there were 50 or so of us in the austere grandeur of one of the new lecture theatres at the University of Winchester, so I had to have a go… If I did have one idea, it was a pretty simple shift in perspective on what goes on in classrooms. Usually people focus on the Content or the Assessment, but I think we need to focus more on what is happening at the learners’ end – and especially on the cumulative effect on young minds of the way they are being put to use in classrooms. What kind of mind training is going on, day in, day out, as the students plough through Adding Fractions, The Tudors or the Periodic Table? You can use the Tudors as an ‘exercise machine’ to develop the skill of Empathy and an attitude of Resilience…or you can use the same subject matter to develop Passivity, Dependence and a Credulous attitude towards knowledge. Are we training young people to think like 19th century clerks…or like 21st century explorers?  

Are we training young people to think like 19th century clerks or 21st century explorers?

So I think the battle ground for 21st century education is not going to be whether we teach Dryden or JK Rowling, or whether we grade GCSEs from A to F or 1 to 9. The point is: do we really know what kinds of mental habits will enable the next generation to thrive in the tricky, turbulent world of the future, and are we giving them the right kind of mental exercise to stretch and develop those habits? That’s what BLP has been working on for the last 15 years – with considerable success. With BLP, youngsters do better on the tests…AND at the same time they develop the tough, supple, adventurous minds they will surely need. What’s not to like, Mr Gove?

What kinds of mental habits will enable the next generation to thrive in the tricky, turbulent world of the future?

For more information, visit the BLP website.

And all of this kind of thinking sits well within the idea of ‘expansive education’ which I have created with my colleague Bill Lucas. BLP, as well as other approaches like ‘habits of mind’ and ‘thinking schools’. You can find out more – and ideally join us – at


Book now for upcoming events in the Ideas Education series:

5 December 2013: Ideas in Education: DIY higher education in the global swamp? Oxford

To find out more contact Fellowship Councillor for South Central Bethan Michael.

If you are a Fellow in the South Central region and you have an initiative which you would like Fellows to support, you can feature it on the Ideas and Actions Noticeboard. You can also 'like' RSA South Central on Facebook and follow @RSASouthCentral on Twitter.


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