Full On Learning

Involve Me and I'll Understand

By: Zoe Elder


Or purchase digital products from our partners:


Products specifications
Attribute name Attribute value
Size: 182mm x 222mm
Pages : 336
ISBN : 9781845906818
Format: Paperback
Published: June 2012

Full On Learning provides a blueprint for educators in all settings to construct the ideal conditions for effective learners to grow and develop. This is a no-compromise approach to the architecture of learning, creating quality learning experiences that foster a love of learning.

The start point is your end-point: the learner. What kind of learner do you want to develop? What are the characteristics of an effective learner and how can we teach to support the development of these characteristics? If future employers are looking for people who can solve problems, think creatively and be innovative, what can we do, as part of our current curriculum provision to enable students to deliberately' practise this skill? If being intelligent is not, in fact, measured by your IQ score, and has far more to do with the ability to apply higher order thinking to unfamiliar contexts and create new solutions to existing problems, then what learning challenges can we design for Year 9 on a sunny Wednesday afternoon that will allow them to develop the emotional and intellectual resilience required to be able to do this?

Full On Learning offers a range of tried & tested practical suggestions and ideas to construct the ideal conditions for the characteristics of effective learners to flourish.

Shortlisted for the Education Resources Awards 2013, Secondary Resource – non-ICT category and Educational Book Award category.

 photo ERA2013FinalistLogoRGB_zps642b322f.jpg

Picture for author Zoe Elder

Zoe Elder

Zoe Elder has worked in schools in Oxfordshire and the South West as a teacher, head of department, G&T coordinator, Advanced Skills Teacher (AST) and as a Local Authority Adviser. She is a Specialist Leader of Education (SLE) with the National Teaching Schools Programme and a consultant and speaker for National Association for Able Children (NACE). She works with schools around the country.

Click here to read Zoe Elder’s blog.


  1. If you only read one educational book, it has to be this. An utterly entrancing read that you can't and don't want to put down. Brimming over with critical thinking, Elder opens doors to research and thinking that you never thought you'd have the key for. A meticulous balance of practical advice, research and impact, this book is truly exquisite.
  2. This book is a apothecary of medicine for the learning soul. It adds thinking into learning with practical yet creative approaches that any practitioner could swiftly utilise. The visual imagery makes you think you enjoying rather than working. I am a great convert to this style of textbook. I have learnt lots!
  3. Any teacher will tell you that education is a two way process, that talking at students will neither engage them nor educate them, but will more than likely bore the pants off them. Research has shown more and more that interactive teaching will achieve the greatest success, in the words of Alfie Kohn: -˜Learning is something students do, NOT something done to students' and this is one of the reasons why Zoe Elder's book -˜Full on Learning' is so useful and well thought through. It is simple and accessible, encouraging the reader to engage with modern thinking on ways of learning and encouraging the next generation to be active and engaged decision makers, prepared to work confidently both independently and collaboratively in innovative and creative ways.

    Elder works from the premise that all children can achieve, whatever their ability and that by thinking about our long term plans for our students, for example what type of learning do we wish them to achieve? What type of thinkers will be most valuable in the world today? Once you have made that decision you can move forward with a style of teaching that is appropriate for the individual.

    Full of the now familiar jargon of teaching manuals this book nonetheless is refreshing in its presentation. The ideas are often illustrated with clear diagrams and the tabular format of many sections helps to make it attractive to read and easier to follow at the end of a long day in the classroom. Teachers generally are tired at the end of the day and for many -˜A Casual Vacancy' might seem more attractive bed time fodder than -˜Full on Learning' -” after all for many of us full on learning is an everyday occurrence!

    Although perhaps in places Elder's ideas are buried in too much pedagogical detail, the concepts themselves are often excellent, taking both old and new practical ideas, often reinvented for the digital world. She recognises that our teaching world is not so much about -˜knowledge acquisition' but more about -˜knowledge creation' as in the digital world we inhabit knowledge has been -˜democratised'.

    There are many excellent teachers in the world but none of us is ever too old to learn something new or refresh the things we thought we had down pat. This book does just that. It helps to refocus the things we are acquainted with, such as the art of questioning; outcome focused planning; allowing learners to shape their own learning and many other familiar concepts in the context of an ever changing technological world, where the skills that the next generation need are often very different from those learned by ourselves, our parents or in many cases our own children.

    In his foreword Ian Gilbert says that teachers are accountable to the children they teach and with that accountability there needs to be -˜a preparedness to countenance new ideas'. Spending a little time with this book will help sharpen up some of the tools in your teaching tool kit that have perhaps become a little blunt!
  4. Zoë Elder starts (and ends) Full On Learning with a metaphor about boat-building. It was only when humans were faced by a river and decided the best way of getting across it might be by floating, that we began having a go at constructing something to do the job. In other words, the skills involved in boat-building only came to the fore when they were needed. No problem, no skills.

    Full On Learning, she explains, taps into this ability to “learn new things as a way of overcoming problems.” It's long been argued -” from this site included -” that we're sending our students out into a rapidly-changing world and so it's our duty to develop skills that will help them out there. Which is difficult when the only two things we can predict are “the unpredictable and the unexpected” (Full On Learning, p.4).

    Full On Learning is about understanding this brave new world, recognising the skills that our pupils need to develop and understanding how we can help them develop them. In boat-building terms, Zoë Elder takes a long hard look at that big wide river and gives us a comprensive lesson in raft construction.

    Eleven of the twelve chapters of Full On Learning describe a different characteristic of 21st century learners. We need to be sending students into the world who-¦- are collaborative - are emotionally intelligent - develop expertise - think creatively - get involved - are digitally literate - give and take feedback - question - are motivated - are risk-taking and can be described as learning entrepreneurs.

    Each chapter is as much a wake-up call to us as teachers as a blueprint for developing these skills in our students. If we're honest, isn't it easy to just go through the motions in a lesson? Just glide along for 50 minutes or so, dealing with issues as they crop up and generally make sure everyone gets on with their work? What Zoë Elder argues is that each and every interruption, activity and lesson is a considered one-¦

    This idea hit home with us and proved to be one of the most powerful themes in the book. To be honest, this sort of thing doesn't come naturally and it provoked some guilt! When was the last time we approached a lesson with that level of insight and planning? Like the movements of a surgeon's knife, each time we intervene with a question or a direction, it should be considered and precise. And if we're going to interrupt a student's train of thought, the development of an idea or a learning journey, we'd better have a good reason to do so. Full On Learning gives us those reasons, ensures nothing is in our planning that doesn't need to be there and provides plenty of effective strategies that do.

    If you follow Zoë Elder on Twitter (which you should do, she's @fullonlearning), you'll realise the author is a well-read individual with a keen taste in TED talks! And so, Full On Learning contains ideas, examples, quotes and website links* drawn from all over the place to tie her thinking together. Try reading a chapter at a time with an open laptop next to you to watch the appropriate YouTube video or check out a related blog -” it makes for a rich feast of ideas. Immensely practical, you will want to try out these ideas at once. Perhaps, though, to borrow an idea from the author's Marginal Learning Gains blog, it's more important to focus on doing a few small things well and reap the rewards from those before trying to cover more.

    We've heard it said before that teachers can sometimes tend to overplay the whole “sending them out into the big bad changing world” card. This isn't the case here. Full On Learning gently shows us how many of our 21st century learners are already pretty collaborative and creative outside of school through the internet. It's our role to tap into these skills in the YouTube generation. The author “provides a blueprint for teachers to methodically and artfully create opportunities for learners to flourish” (Full On Learning, p.5). And as blueprints go, it does a pretty comprehensive job.

    Full On Learning is a beautifully designed book. If you're familiar with Zoës blogs, you'll know she has an almost minimalist eye for design that (credit to the Independent Thinking Press designer too) has been translated onto the written page. Or perhaps her eye for a well-designed book has been translated onto her blogs?! Either way, it's a well-presented book.

    At just over 300 in-depth pages, this is no light read. You'll need to devote time (how about this summer?) if you want to fully understand the river and how you can help your students build that boat. If you realise you have a duty to transform your teaching and make every intervention matter, you'll need to sit down and concentrate. This is a book to make notes alongside, scribble in the margins of and fill with Post-Its.

    But perhaps you'd expect that with a title like Full On Learning. As someone said to us recently -” this is a pretty full on book.

    See the full review here: http://www.sparkyteaching.com/creative/full-on-learning-a-review/
  5. Many years ago whilst on an advanced WRU coaching course a visiting All Black coach pointed out that the best coaches such as Carwyn James were able to stand back from the fray, observe what was happening and respond quickly to change the direction of play, and the course of the game to their team's advantage. Zoe Elder within this free flowing and easily read text addresses key areas such as collaborative learning, emotional intelligence, creative thinking and promoting the thinking culture which all enable the teacher to be more effective as the “Carwyn James” of learning A very thought provoking and stimulating book

  6. Zoe Elder's beautifully presented and creatively designed book -˜Full On Learning' should be the -˜go-to' text for every classroom practitioner. In fact it should become required reading for everybody involved in education - especially those responsible for the development of strategies and policies. This book asks every reader to question how they can provide meaningful, and safe, opportunities for young people to become successful learners. She gently but persistently requires us to question our own vision of what learning looks like and how this matches up to the demands of the 21st century. Through investigation into her own practice, combined with her erudition and extensive knowledge, she is able to guide us through the changes that are necessary for young people, going forward into a world that has yet to be designed.

    With each passing chapter I read, I found myself longing for the new term to begin so that I could go back into school and put into practice my new insight into what teaching and, more importantly, learning could really look like.

    The Action Research sections were particularly useful and I shall be using them in staff meeting sessions and as a way of carrying out a self-appraisal.

  7. `Full On Learning` sits at that intersection where the craft of teaching meets the science of learning. Packed with practical ideas, it proves what Zoë expounds: that effective teaching is fundamentally a creative activity which focuses relentlessly on teasing out the capacity and potential of each student. Defining an architecture, creating with the building blocks, it will not only transform classrooms but will take teaching and learning experiences to another level.
  8. Zoë's book really does provide a must-have read, -˜a blueprint for teachers', for the 21st Century and beyond. It is invaluable for all educators, from the NQT to the nearly-retired; after all, as the author states, -˜Learning is far too important to be left to chance'.

    Because -˜everything a teacher does and says in the classroom counts', Full On Learning helps us know, understand and learn about how to improve our practice to instigate the best possible learning opportunities for the young people in our care; learning that will help them now, and in a fast-changing and very uncertain future.

    This book, -˜truly involves the reader in the learning' and emphasises the importance of planning and preparation, as well as the need for effective questioning and well-honed feedback. As such, Zoë helps us to explore the why, what, when and how to create successful learners, and therefore life-long learners, equipped to respond to a range of new situations and unforeseen predicaments.

    I particularly like the Action Research questions which help the reader focus on how to bring to practice the ideas and themes explored in each of the chapters. These are perfect for developing self-reflecting practice and developing our own ideas towards how they can encompass and develop our very own Full On Learning experiences -¦ look out for the green boxes!

    Finally, and of invaluable use to anyone in the challenging world of teaching, is the advice, suggestions and prompts that Zoë gives us on risk taking, emotional awareness, creative thinking and thinking cultures -” all in the name of creating powerful learners. Combine this with her tremendous insights into questioning and motivation and you have a wealth of techniques to create the learning entrepreneurs that we need for a successful society of tomorrow.

    If you believe we all -˜have a duty to be curious', I urge you to buy this book, to -˜build your boat' and make a difference in your classrooms.
  9. `Full On Learning` is a -˜must have' book for any professional learning facilitator. Zoë articulates principles for learning, in a simple, accessible way, which are deeply consistent with what we now know from research about deep learning and quality student engagement. This is a radical 21st century approach to teaching as learning design, something that is going to become a core professional competence for teachers and learning and development specialists in the information age. Each chapter takes a profound idea -” involvement, creativity, entrepreneurial learning, collaboration, feedback, motivation, questioning -” and presents it simply, including both the why and the how. This book is an essential text for any teacher who is passionate about deep learning.
  10. `Full On Learning` will inspire school leaders, energise class teachers, provide essential wisdom to politicians and may just recharge those in the profession who have lost their way. 

    This is a -˜done with' not a -˜done to' resource. If you're after a series of photocopiable lesson plans, look elsewhere; if you want a guru to make all your classroom challenges go away, it's the next shelf down. But if you are a head teacher seeking inspiration to lead, or a class teacher wanting processes to make learning more relevant, then read on. 

    Zoë sets her expectations high. She assumes you to want to prepare your pupils for their 21st century digital futures, not some long-gone mythical golden age; she believes in you as a professional learner and proficient classroom researcher and she offers you a design process for seizing back your passion and your creativity. 

    Each of the 12 sections explores an indispensable feature of successful learning, using well-honed text and visuals that support meaning rather than invade it. The book is scattered with genuine action research prompts that engage and challenge classroom practice: -˜What is a risk for me in my own practice' or -˜How do I establish a safe learning community for all learners?' are typical nudges to get us thinking about learning. 

    Zoë's standards are high, but they are broad standards of human learning, not restrictive measures of pupil achievement. To apply the book's opening metaphor, Full On Learning is not the hired boat that will take you over one river but the principles, skills, confidence and motivation to build your own and to sail it anywhere.
  11. `Full on Learning` is a book that is so inviting that it forces you to turn the pages. 

    Zoëis steeped in teaching and learning. Reflection, synthesis and practical tips ooze from every -˜full on' chapter. It is a wonderful tour-de-force that needs to be in the library of every teacher and required reading on ITT courses. From the example of a 3-year-old who can happily use apps on an iPhone, to the power of outcome-based planning and collaborative learning for all ages, Zoë shows that learning is at a step-change. We have to embrace digital technology and we have to see teaching as an apposite, but crucial, interruption to learning. With `Full On Learning` and Zoë Elder we have a new force in educational thinking.
  12. All teachers need hope, and the infectious enthusiasm and expert advice that Zoë Elder gives in `Full On Learning` is just the medicine needed to believe that we can make a difference in our schools. 

    If you are feeling under pressure from the relentless nature of school life, then this beautifully presented book will help you remember it is what you can do in your classroom which truly affects the children and young people you work with.

    You may have implemented the best of the National Strategies in your primary school and Zoë's book will provide you with the next set of ideas to move your teaching and your colleagues to good and beyond. In a secondary school you may be grappling with impact of The Wolf Report and recognise that the route to progress is less likely to be through curriculum changes, so instead the road map for improving classroom interactions given in `Full On Learning` is perfectly timed. 

    If you are truly trying to develop -˜Outstanding' teaching and learning in your classroom, your department, your Key Stage or in your school, then you must read Zoë Elder's `Full On Learning`.
  13. This very special book is a beautifully produced treatise on learning. Each page is a pleasure, with something new to learn and explore. It reminds me of when I first got my iPad: it was so full of interesting things I took it everywhere and played with it endlessly, constantly surprising myself with its potential. The same with Zoë 's book - there is so much in it that I know it will be filled with Post-it notes and bookmarks on every teacher's bookshelf. 

    This book really does cover everything you need to know about learning for the 21st century. The author's voice is consistently heard throughout the book, demanding that we consider the importance of the learners owning their experiences and being fully engaged to reach their amazing potential. This book also practises what it preaches, as it is fun and engaging and makes you think in different ways. It also sets up very useful checklists and informative links to make it an extremely practical read too. 

    I haven't read a better book that sums up all the essentials for outstanding learning in such an engaging format that will make it one of my most treasured tomes, lovingly taken everywhere and only lent to trusted friends.

    Teacher, buy this book!
  14. Zoë Elder's book makes a compelling case for teachers' and students' effortful engagement in the many processes of learning, and she sure walks the talk: this book exudes hundreds of hours of thought, reflection, planning, redrafting and reorganising, and it's all the better for it. The author clearly has a relentless curiosity (more talk-walking), and a remarkable capacity to synthesise wide reading at the frontiers of educational theory in a format which is attractive, accessible and very readable - without once talking down to her reader. On the contrary, potential readers of this valuable addition to the canon of classroom praxis had better be prepared to step up. If they do, they will find much to intrigue, provoke and feed their appetite for educational excellence, and they will take away practical strategies for translating often subtle insights into the rich melee of the classroom.

Write your own review