Who we are
The Centre for Real-World Learning, led by Director Professor Bill Lucas, was established in 2008 by Bill Lucas and Professor Guy Claxton. Bill and Guy are both internationally regarded as speakers and widely published in the field of learning. CRL has been joined by Dr Ellen Spencer, in 2010, and Dr Janet Hanson in 2013. Guy Claxton is now Professor Emeritus but remains in close contact with the Centre.
In 2014, following its acclaimed research into vocational pedagogy – How to teach vocational education: a theory of vocational pedagogy; CRL was instrumental, with City & Guilds, in creating an alliance for research into vocational education also including 157 Group, the Institute for Learning and the Association of Employment and Learning Providers.
What we do
The Centre for Real-World Learning's (CRL) work focuses on dispositional teaching in schools and colleges: that is, teaching methods that impact on the development of positive learning dispositions in learners which are likely to help them thrive in the real world. Such dispositions include perseverance, effective reflection, seeking/acting on feedback and being able to adapt and change. CRL’s dispositional teaching research generates new thinking and tools that enable teachers to correct dysfunctional beliefs, inculcate effective learning habits, and cultivate positive mindsets. CRL undertakes literature-based theory-development and empirical assessment of the efficacy of tools and pedagogical processes. CRL’s research focuses specifically on developing positive learning dispositions in two main contexts:
a) vocational/practical education in secondary schools and colleges.
b) creativity in primary and secondary classrooms.
Aside from its own research, CRL also coordinates the international Expansive Education Network; a growing body of schools and colleges with teachers committed to researching their own professional practice. Taking a dispositional perspective in their research, teachers aim to improve the learning and success – both academic and ‘real world’ – of all learners.
Of particular interest to CRL, and shaping the direction of its research are:
- The science of learnable intelligence and the implementation of expansive approaches to education.
- The field of embodied cognition and its implications for practical learning and for vocational education.
CRL is also active in:
- Health, with its Director being influential in the developing field of Improvement Science and acting as a strategic adviser to The Health Foundation on learning.
- Real-world English through its close collaboration with The English Project, of which Bill Lucas is a trustee and which is supported strongly by the University of Winchester.
What we believe
Our thinking stands on the shoulders of many others; drawing on global work from renowned learning scientists and other academics including Professors Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, Carol Dweck, Michael Fullan, Howard Gardner, John Hattie, Ellen Langer, David Perkins, Lauren Resnick, Sir Ken Robinson, Martin Seligman, Robert Sternberg and Dylan Wiliam.
As to be expected from the founders of The Expansive Education Network, we take an ‘expansive’ approach to the purpose and process of teaching and learning for all forms of education. We believe that:
- while teachers often feel torn between the pressure to meet official standards and a desire to instill valuable capabilities into their students; there is, in fact, no such dichotomy. We know that students with more elaborate conceptions of learning perform better at public exams (National School Improvement Network, 2001). Students who can think creatively about a problem will be the ones who do better in a reorganized high-stakes exam paper.
- education must instill not just facts and figures and an ability to pass tests, but that it has other desirable outcomes. These include communal virtues like empathy, virtues of self-regulation like self-discipline, and as epistemic, or learning virtues like curiosity, creativity, and collaboration.
- education must broaden its horizons in four areas:
- Its goals. Success must be framed in broader terms than exam results, important as these are. Young people need to be able to thrive in the real world as well as achieving outstanding results.
- Its understanding of what it is to be intelligent. The evidence shows that intelligence is malleable and that teachers can cultivate better thinking and learning as they raise expectations for all individuals.
- Its focus. We must move beyond the school gate to engage parents and employers actively.
- The role of the teacher. Teachers must become researchers of their own professional practice, modelling the dispositions they hope to instil in learners if they are to do so successfully.
To learn more about our history, click here.