VIEWS From the pen of... John West-Burnham & Malcolm Groves

In our regular series looking at authors working in the field of UK education, in February we heard from JOHN WEST- BURNHAMand MALCOLM GROVES, who told us about their new book, “Flipping Schools”.

Our shared belief, supported by a wide range of robust evidence, is that we need to move away from incremental models of school improvement towards fundamental and radical change. For us this involves flipping the collective educational mindset away from seeing the school as an organisation towards viewing it as a community. It means turning school-centric thinking inside out to open up a community-centred and learner-focused mindset. In particular, we highlight the accumulation

John West-Burnham From the pen of... Paul A. Kirschner & Carl Hendrick

In March 2020, as part of our regular series looking at authors working in the field of UK education, we heard from PAUL A. KIRSCHNER and CARL HENDRICK, authors of “How Learning Happens”.

Malcolm Groves

of evidence that suggests only between 20% and 30% of the factors that influence educational outcomes are directly within a school’s control. We conclude therefore we need to encourage schools to pay a little more attention to engaging with those social, economic and environmental factors beyond the school’s gates and to focus in more on the individual learner in their social and educational context. Our thinking has been strongly influenced by the current situation

across the school system which might be best described as diminishing returns. This is the situation where the energy and commitment of students, their parents, teachers and school leaders are simply not producing the outcomes appropriate to those levels of engagement and investment. The evidence clearly points to the fact that the gap in performance between advantaged and disadvantaged students is only continuing to widen – a trend which could last well into the distant future. It also points to a fundamental lack of equity in our school system that makes disadvantage systemic for the most vulnerable. At the heart of the book are the experiences of four schools that

have started the process of exploring what it means to move from being school-centric to being community-centric in their structures, policies and relationships. Our argument is that if some schools out there – such as these four – can make changes in the way they think about accountability, outcomes, purpose and quality and can start to do things differently, then there is nothing in principle (except perhaps fear) to stop any other school wanting to do the same. Our review of research and practice leads to a focus on four key

components of the outward-facing school that inform our discussion. Firstly, it is a place of trust and mutual respect; secondly, a base of value and values; thirdly, an engine of engagement and participation; and finally, a hub of networks and support for learning. It is the interaction of these elements that generates the social and cultural capital vital to building and developing community. For each we offer some starting strategies and useful tools. We were determined to be evidence-informed in developing our

case for change. We believe that all the evidence, experience and expertise that we have assembled reinforces the case for radical rethinking based on the conceptual framework of social justice expressed through building social and cultural capital. The pivotal theme throughout the

book is the notion of community – exploring the school as a community working in partnership with other communities. We hope the book will generate reflection, enhance dialogue, stimulate research and innovation, and inform action.


Of all the bitter feuds in Science, one of the fiercest is the ‘war of letters’ between Robert Hooke and Isaac Newton. One particular dispute between them popularised a phrase which has now become one of the most prominent observations about progress and the way in which true scientific discovery is inherently cumulative in nature. Hooke claimed to have discovered the nature of diffraction, but Newton claimed that this ‘discovery’ was largely a result of earlier work by French and Italian scientists who had conducted similar experiments. In a letter to Hooke in 1675, Newton wrote:

Paul A. Kirschner

Carl Hendrick You have added much several ways, & especially in taking the colours

of thin plates into philosophical consideration. If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.

We as educators also need to stand on the shoulders of giants who

have studied how we learn and how we can best design, develop, and implement instruction to make teaching and learning more effective, efficient, and enjoyable (satisfying). Our new book How Learning Happens: Seminal Works in Educational Psychology and What They Mean in Practice attempts to make the knowledge and evidence produced by these giants available to teachers, parents, administrators, and educational policy makers in language that they can easily understand. For our book we have chosen 28 key works on learning and

teaching, from the fields of educational and cognitive psychology, and offer a roadmap of these important discoveries in how learning happens. Each chapter has the same structure. First we explain why work is so important or ground-breaking; in other words why you should read this article. We then present the original abstract and describe the research and the insights that it has produced. Having done this, we continue by describing the work’s implications for both education in general as well as your own classroom teaching. We end each chapter with takeaways (tips and tricks) for teachers and then provide the references used followed by ‘Suggested Readings and Links’ with QR codes that lead the reader to other, often popular, articles or websites. Clearly divided into six sections: • How our brain works and what this means for learning and teaching

• Prerequisites for learning • How learning can be supported • Teacher activities • Learning in context • Cautionary tales and the ten deadly sins of education. The final section, Cautionary Tales, discusses three articles on how

learning can be hindered rather than facilitated if you do the ‘wrong’ things and closes with a chapter on prevalent myths and fables in education (Ten Deadly Sins); ideas on or approaches to teaching that sound temptingly logical and good - and for that reason are unfortunately embraced by many - but which actually prevent learning. Our book isn’t meant to be a set rules to be obeyed. It’s nothing

more but certainly nothing less than an introduction to a trajectory of thought that will hopefully lead to reflection. It’s meant to help the reader know and understand the theories behind educational practice so as to optimize their teaching. Like most things, good art – and teaching is ultimately an art that is informed by science - both anticipates the future and acknowledges the past.

How Learning Happens by Paul A. Kirschner and Carl Hendrick is available from

Editor’s Choice 2020

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