Dispositional Teaching. Centre for Real World Learning

Submitting Institution

University of Winchester

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Education: Curriculum and Pedagogy, Specialist Studies In Education

Download original


Summary of the impact

CRL works on dispositional teaching (DT) in schools and colleges: that is, teaching methods that impact on the development of learners' dispositions towards, and beliefs about, learning itself. Generic dispositions such as perseverance in the face of difficulty, reflective checking of assumptions, or willingness to seek and act on feedback, are crucial mediators of students' success as learners. CRL contributes to research on DT, and derives tools that enable teachers in a range of settings to correct dysfunctional beliefs, inculcate effective learning habits, and cultivate a positive mind-set towards the challenges of learning. Our research is of two kinds: literature- based theory-development; and empirical assessment of the efficacy of derived tools and pedagogical processes.

It focuses on the development of positive learning dispositions (PLDs) in three main `contexts':

  1. general education in schools/colleges
  2. vocational education in schools/colleges, and
  3. creativity in schools/colleges.

Underpinning research

Dispositional Teaching in schools, colleges and beyond.

1. General education

A number of publications developed the theoretical approach to DT. Claxton (2009) offered a perspective that integrated cognitive, neuroscientific and sociocultural approaches to `learning to learn' (L2L), and generated a framework that enabled different practical approaches to L2L to be contrasted. Lucas and Claxton (2010) offered an innovative overview of the science behind `expandable intelligence', and proposed a new model for describing a wide range of different learning settings in terms of the learnable dispositions they required. Claxton, Lucas et al (2011) presented to a practitioner audience the findings of an evaluation of 18 schools which had been successful at embedding CRL's approach to DT via Building Learning Power at the whole-school level, drawing out lessons for leadership teams about the effective implementation of this kind of culture change.

2. Vocational Education (VE).

CRL also developed its approach to DT in the specific context of VE. Two reports commissioned by the Edge Foundation mapped national/international approaches to vocational pedagogy (Lucas, Claxton and Webster 2010), and the implications of new understandings of `embodied cognition' for the design of VE (Claxton, Lucas and Webster 2010). The latter led to a journal article that distilled in greater detail the implications for education of aspects of embodied cognition (Claxton 2012), and also to a funded study of DT in secondary school Design Technology lessons (Claxton, Lucas and Spencer 2012). CRL found that even small shifts in pedagogy could have a significant impact on the development of dispositions like resilience and reflection. Building on this, a report commissioned by City & Guilds developed a theoretical foundation for a distinctively dispositional vocational pedagogy (Lucas, Spencer and Claxton 2012). CRL argued that vocational pedagogy should aim at the development of dispositions such as `craftsmanship', as well as technical skill and knowledge, and that this had deep implications for the way that vocational education was constructed.

3. Creativity. The third strand to CRL's work on DT developed a view of creativity arising from an orchestrated set of dispositions. In a book co-written with Howard Gardner, Anna Craft and others, Claxton (2008) argues that both wisdom and creativity are composites of a variety of habits of mind, each of which can be cultivated. These putative dispositions included curiosity, determination, imagination, collaboration and discipline. A commission from Creativity, Culture and Education and OECD invited CRL to carry out an extensive review of the research behind such a view (Spencer, Lucas and Claxton 2012), and also to design and trial a tool that teachers could use to assess the effectiveness of their attempts to cultivate these dispositions. After several iterations, CRL developed a graphical tool that proved reliable and useful (Lucas, Claxton and Spencer 2013). CRL also created a more sophisticated version of the repertoire of dispositions (dividing each into constituent `sub-habits'), and to conceptualise more clearly three different strands of `development' which were called `strengthening', `broadening' and `enriching'. Key researchers were Claxton (Professor), Lucas (Professor), Spencer (Senior Researcher) and Webster (Researcher).

References to the research

1. Dispositional Teaching in general

1. Claxton, G.L. (2009), `Cultivating positive learning dispositions', in H. Daniels, H. Lauder and J. Porter (eds), Educational Theories, Cultures and Learning, Vol 1, Critical Perspectives on Education, London: Routledge.

2. Lucas, B. and Claxton, G.L. (2010), New Kinds of Smart: How The Science of Learnable Intelligence is Changing Education, Maidenhead: Open University Press.

3. Claxton, G.L., Chambers, M., Powell, G. and Lucas, B. (2011), The Learning Powered School: Pioneering 21st Century Education, Bristol: TLO.

2. Dispositional teaching within Vocational Education

4. Claxton, G.L., Lucas, B. and Webster, R. (2010), Bodies of Knowledge: How the Learning Sciences Could Transform Practical and Vocational Education, London: Edge Foundation.

5. Claxton, G.L. (2012), `Turning thinking on its head: how bodies make up their minds', Thinking Skills and Creativity, 7(2), 78-84.


6. Claxton, G.L., Lucas, B. and Spencer, E. (2012), Making It: Studio Teaching and Its Impact on Teachers and Learners, London: Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

7. Lucas, B, Spencer, E. and Claxton G.L. (2012) How to teach vocational education: a theory of vocational pedagogy. London: City & Guilds Centre for Skills Development

3. Dispositional Teaching within Creativity

8. Claxton, G.L. (2008), `Wisdom: advanced creativity?', in A. Craft, H. Gardner, G.L. Claxton and others, Creativity, Wisdom and Trusteeship: Exploring the Role of Education, San Francisco: Corwin Press.

9. Lucas, B., G. Claxton and E. Spencer (2013), `Progression in Student Creativity in School: First Steps Towards New Forms of Formative Assessments', OECD Education Working Papers, No. 86, OECD Publishing.


10. Spencer, E., Lucas, B. and Claxton, G.L. (2012), Progression in Creativity — Developing New Forms of Assessment: A Literature Review, London: Creativity, Culture and Education

Details of the impact

CRL's impact has been the result of:

  • CRL directors' prolific speaking (500+ key-note speeches)
  • high impact publications targeted at practitioners
  • a specially-created teacher learning community providing training, and direct interaction with stakeholders.


CRL's Directors joined the board of TLO Ltd in 2010. They have played a significant role in developing new products arising from their research into DT - the design, proto-typing and development of the Learning Quality Framework http://learningqualityframework.co.uk/ and publication of The Learning Powered School (TLPS). LQF and TLPS have helped TLO to return to profitability with adoptions/sales, of respectively, 25 schools and 2,600+ copies).

CRL has created a social enterprise, The Expansive Education Network — http://www.expansiveeducation.net/ (eedNET) drawing on its research into expandable intelligence (Lucas and Claxton, 2010). eedNET has attracted £100k from Comino Foundation. eedNET brings together significant educational organisations (Campaign for Learning, CUREE, Design and Technology Association, Eden Project, Institute for Habits of Mind, Learning through Landscapes, SSAT, Teaching Leaders) with ten universities. Providing training for teachers to undertake action research and a location for them to publish their research, eedNET has recruited 250 school members and 1,000 teachers since its launch in September 2011. Recently it has attracted funding from the Gordon Cook Foundation in Scotland. Aberdeen University will coordinate Scottish development targeting schools in remote regions and enabling eedNET to develop state-of-the-art online delivery.

Public policy and services

Policy debate has been stimulated by CRL's research for Edge (2010) as evidenced by the subsequent commission by the National Skills Forum/Associated Parliamentary Skills Group (Claxton, G.L. & Lucas, B. Anti-Manualism in Open to Ideas. London: Policy Connect,) launched in the House of Commons in December 2011. Its core conclusion on the need for a richer, more dispositional conception of learning was picked up by City & Guilds (C&G) which then commissioned CRL to undertake research into vocational pedagogy. The report of this work, How to teach vocational education: a theory of vocational pedagogy, was debated in the Grand Council of the House of Lords on 28 February 2013. CRL's research was submitted by C&G to the McLoughlin Commission (CAVTL, 2013) which specifically drew on CRL's research to:

  • recommend `codifying, recognising and valuing the sophisticated practice of vocational pedagogy',
  • inform their eight features of vocational pedagogy, and
  • adopt CRL's recommendation to establish a national centre for VET in England.

C & G has committed to fund a partnership with 157 Group led by CRL as a result as a precursor to such a centre.

Society, culture and creativity

CRL's research on DT has stimulated public debate in the education press (for example TES PRO — Why we should all be hands-on, 16 November 2012) and SecED http://www.sec-ed.co.uk/best-practice/whats-the-point-of-school). A more popular example can be found in the Huffington Post on 18 September 2012 http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/professor-guy-claxton/ebacc-life-of-tests-is-no-preparation_b_1890686.html.)

Practitioners and services

The research on dispositional classroom teaching described in Claxton, G.L., Lucas, B. et al (2011) has been translated into a range of products/services branded `Building Learning Power'. This has been widely used to guide the development of dispositional teaching in primary/secondary schools across the UK, as well as in New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, and many others (see references below).

The 157 Group (representing large FE colleges), has taken CRL's work on vocational pedagogy (2012) and is now applying it with leaders/teachers in colleges. Highlands College, Jersey is undertaking extensive change using CRL's approach to vocational pedagogy and at least 5 other colleges in England are adopting CRL thinking.

Ideas about DT have impacted on the management domain, too: Lucas, B. (2009), rEvolution: How to Thrive in Crazy Times. (Carmarthen: Crown House Publishing) — winner of Chartered Management Institute award for management book of the year (innovation), - has been used by organisations (see Highlands College statement) to inform their attitude to change leadership

International development

International policy development has been influenced by CRL's research on DT in VE. For example key-notes by both Claxton and Lucas at Global Innovators Conference on Teaching and Learning in Technical Education, Qatar http://www.globalinnovators2013.com/ in April 2013 and an accompanying invitation for a closed-door session with the Qatari government.

The adoption/further development of CRL's eedNET by Deakin University in Australia in 2012 and creation of their Expansive Learning Network — http://expansivelearning.com.au/ draws on CRL's work on expandable intelligence (2010) and their approach to expansive education.

This impact on Australian educators prompted the Australian Council for Educational Research to commission CRL to undertake an international scan of expansive education — Lucas, B. Claxton, G.L. and Spencer, E. (2013) Expansive Education: Teaching learners for the real world. Melbourne: ACER.

Sources to corroborate the impact

Weblinks and Reports
Numerous school websites describe on how they are using DT approaches like BLP, for eg:
http://www.redoaks.org/blp.php; http://www.shipston.warwickshire.sch.uk/building-learning-power

250+ schools adopting expansive education in their approach to dispositional teaching:
http://www.expansiveeducation.net/pages/featured-schools; example of school-based action research http://www.phoenixhighschool.org/resources/PhoenixLearningEnquiries-booklet.pdf.

Various schools adopting CRL approaches to dispositional approach to creativity, for example:
http://www.creativetallis.com/creative-learning-development-fund.html and http://tallishabits.tumblr.com/post/56352904633/the-expansive-education-network.

For impact on national policy/wider culture, see Skills for a New Economy (2012) London:
Aldersgate Group, pages 15, 24 and 26, for attribution of impact of CRL's research in dispositional teaching — http://www.aldersgategroup.org.uk/reports and It's about work: excellent adult vocational teaching and learning (2012) (London: CAVTL) for impact on public policy re. vocational teaching http://repository.excellencegateway.org.uk/fedora/objects/eg:5937/datastreams/DOC/content Commissioned papers for school sector arising from CRL work on DT (see statement from CEO of SSAT) — What kind of teaching for what kind of learning (London: SSAT, 2013) Commissioned paper arising from impact of CRL report How to teach vocational education on 157 Group's practices (see statement from CEO of 157 Group) Pedagogic Leadership: creating cultures and practices for outstanding vocational learning (London: 157 Group, 2013). City and Guilds CEO Chris Jones: `The Centre for Real World Learning is leading the way in the theory behind all of our practice. We [C & G, 157 and CRL] are a powerful combination.' - http://www.157group.co.uk/news/157-group-publishes-thinkpiece-pedagogic-leadership CRL framework in How to teach vocational education, adopted and adapted by RSA in Bamfield, L. (2013) Rebalancing the UK's Education and Skills System (London RSA) http://www.thersa.org/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/1531653/RSA_Education_Balancing_skills.pdf Significant section (pp 121-126) based on How to teach vocational education in Crowley, S. (Ed) (2013) Challenging professional learning (Abingdon: Routledge). Author is key figure in Institute for Learning who is inviting translation of CRL work into practice of FE teachers. Significant section on impact on practice in book about leading thinking in creative practices, Parker, D. (2013) Creative Partnerships in Practice: developing creative learners (pp147-156) (London: Bloomsbury)

Parliament - (1) Link to debate in House of Lords debate on 28 February 2013 about How to teach vocational education http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=12655. 02.01.45 onwards. Lord Lucas: `an extremely readable and lucid account'... `not just a theory but a practice of vocational education'. (2) Answer to Parliamentary written question to Secretary of State for Education from Mr Brady about How to teach vocational education — 18 March 2013. Matthew Hancock: `The City and Guilds report is a welcome addition to debate around vocational education. Learning by trying to solve real-life problems can be a highly effective way of acquiring and applying vocational knowledge and skills.....`

Corroborating individuals

1. Dispositional Teaching in general education

  1. Headteacher, Bay House School (on impact of CRL/BLP/NKOS DT work on school and as an early adopter of the Expansive Education Network)
  2. Director, Interface Consulting and TenderBridge (on impact of CRL's work on expansive education, on ACER and on Australian practices)
  3. Research Fellow at Deakin University (on creation of Expansive Learning Network Aus.)
  4. Creator of Habits of Mind (on influence of CRL/BLP/expansive education globally)
  5. Professor of Early Childhood Education, University of Waikato, NZ (on CRL's dispositional research impact in NZ)
  6. Director, Kites Language School, Argentina (on CRL/BLP impact in Argentina)
  7. Director of Development, Independent Schools Victoria, Australia (on CRL/DT professional impact in Australia)
  8. CEO, SSAT (on impact of DT on thinking in English schools)

2. Dispositional teaching within Vocational Education

  1. Principal, Highlands College, Jersey (on influence of CRL DT research on practice in VE and dispositional teaching and on the leadership of change)
  2. Director of Policy and Research, Edge Foundation (on impact on vocational education policy and practices and more generally)
  3. Chief Executive, 157 Group (on impact of CRL's research on vocational pedagogy on FE sector in England)

3. Dispositional Teaching within Creativity

  1. Director of Research, Creative and Cultural Skills (on impact of dispositional teaching and assessment practices in creativity)