Learning without Fear

A practical toolkit for developing growth mindset in the early years and primary classroom

By: Ruchi Sabharwal , Julia Stead

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Products specifications
Attribute name Attribute value
Size: 222 x 182mm
Pages : 272
ISBN : 9781785833052
Format: Paperback
Published: June 2019

In Learning without Fear: A practical toolkit for developing growth mindset in the early years and primary classroom, Julia Stead and Ruchi Sabharwal provide teachers of this age group with a colourful collection of strategies and resources designed to nurture young learners' resilience and learning capabilities.

Having a growth mindset can really empower young learners to take risks to extend and deepen their learning. There is, however, more to it than simply adding 'yet' to 'I can't do this'.

In Learning without Fear Julia and Ruchi tackle this misconception head-on, combining bite-sized theory with the practical tools and techniques that will enable teachers to map out their pupils' growth mindset journey from the early years up to their departure for the challenges of secondary school.

Together they share tried-and-tested lesson ideas, questionnaires and examples of outstanding practice taken from their own very successful classrooms – all colourfully packaged into a complete toolkit that illustrates both the 'why' and the 'how' of successfully embedding growth mindset in early years and primary settings.

The book begins with a discussion of the benefits of instilling the traits and attitudes of a growth mindset early on in a learner's life, and presents a selection of mini stories that serve as simple springboards into exploring the mindset of young learners. The full-colour illustrations that accompany the stories are also available as free downloads for teachers' own use in the classroom.

To help educators boost their pupils' engagement and empower them to visualise a route to success, Julia and Ruchi advocate employing the analogy of a learning journey from Stuck Island to Got-It City. This involves navigating Challenge Ocean, and the authors make this voyage more achievable by providing a survival kit of learning techniques – designed to encourage pupils to take ownership in the face of struggle and to use metacognitive devices when tackling tricky tasks.

The book's comprehensive series of 39 lesson ideas – one for every week of the school year – are tagged with symbols to help teachers seek out activities suitable for their desired lesson focus, pupil groupings, time allocation and age range, and there is also a chapter dedicated to the ways in which the children's progress can be assessed.

Suitable for both newly qualified and experienced teachers of learners aged 3–11.

Learning without Fear was highly commended in the professional books category of the Nursery World Awards 2020.

Picture for author Ruchi Sabharwal

Ruchi Sabharwal

Ruchi Sabharwal is Director of Teaching and Learning at a community academy trust in Cambridgeshire. Driven by an insatiable passion for teaching and learning, Ruchi has a keen interest in new developments and research in pedagogy. She is also a regular speaker at #LearningFirst conferences, leading workshops on a range of approaches to assessment.

Picture for author Julia Stead

Julia Stead

Julia Stead is a teacher and key stage leader with over a decade of experience in the classroom, having taught from Reception right through to Year 5. Julia has written for various educational publishers on topics such as the recent changes in primary education, how specialised toolkits can be designed for whole-school impact and how to create whole-school CPD packages. She has also presented at national CPD events.


  1. There's quite a lot of suspicion around the concept of growth mindset in education, largely down to the superficial way in which it's often interpreted. As a result, I approached this book cautiously; we've spent too much time over the last 20 years implementing various initiatives and ideas that have increased teachers' workload while having no discernible impact on anything that really matters. 

    Before Learning without Fear even really gets going, however, we're reassured by Julia and Ruchi that this isn't the case here. The authors state that the phrase -˜growth mindset' is rarely explicitly used in their classrooms and that, instead, what they have developed are communities of learning. This idea is then refreshingly explored in significant detail, with frequent references to research and practice. 

    Ultimately, this is a book about learning and about how to create the conditions for learning to happen, how to support this process, and how to recognise when something has been learned over time. Obviously, the idea of growth mindset is intrinsically linked with this - and the benefits for children in terms of developing metacognition and self-regulation are presented clearly throughout. 

    If you're interested in optimising the conditions for learning in your classroom, this practical and well-informed guide is a great place to start. 
  2. Learning without Fear is a fantastic introduction to growth mindset in the classroom which skilfully debunks some of its common myths. Accessibly written and based on sound research, the book begins with a discussion on how to assess your own mindset and invites you to consider its impact on your practice. Julia and Ruchi then move on to offer practical ways to introduce the concept of growth mindset to children across the primary school age range, explore its importance as an ethos rather than as a bolt-on lesson, and provide strategies to embed growth mindset throughout the curriculum.

    This book will be a valuable addition to the library of both experienced teachers and those new to the profession.
  3. By distilling a wealth of research on growth mindset and metacognition, Learning without Fear provides the classroom teacher with a go-to compendium of ideas and strategies to fully embed a culture of growth in the classroom. 

    This book has the potential to change every primary school classroom in the land, and should be a key text for any primary teacher training course.
  4. A must-read for anybody working with children, Learning without Fear offers a fresh approach to looking at growth mindset and provides a whole host of excellent ideas, resources and practical examples. Can teachers make a change? With this book, yes they can!
  5. In Learning without Fear, Julia and Ruchi tackle some of the myths relating to growth mindset and show how there is much more to this complex field than positive thinking and increased effort alone.

    Beautifully illustrated, this terrific book covers the field of growth mindset in a way that is both accessible and thought-provoking - providing subtle insights into the difference between failing and failure, and how to support children to feel comfortable with being uncomfortable, for example. Furthermore, it shares wonderful resources, stories and case studies to help teachers make authentic growth mindset possible for every child in their classroom.

    Learning without Fear will be incredibly useful for primary school teachers. An absolute gem.
  6. When there's an item on a menu or a label on a tin, I want to know that what it tells me I'm going to get is exactly what I am delivered. No hidden ingredients, no surprises' just exactly what the description says. This book ticks all those boxes and more: magically transporting the reader into a world of teaching and learning where the most important element - the children, the learners - is at the core of everything it shares.

    Full of intoxicating lesson ideas and strategies, Learning without Fear is also a carefully crafted, sharp, edgy and compelling read. Why? Because it addresses growth mindset - and all the supporting tools for learning - with rigour, research, heartfelt descriptions of children learning, and expert advice on how growth mindset opens up a wonderful gateway to personal development. The book hooks the reader in for a riveting journey of ideas, researched applications and practical tools that will enable the development of a thorough growth-mindset approach in any classroom.

    Not only are the scenarios of -˜mindsets in action' creative and purposeful, but I would go as far to say that Julia and Ruchi are master storytellers throughout the book - and the beautiful illustrations and use of modelled work really enhance the reading experience. I felt compelled to assess many of my own growth-mindset approaches through the authors' skilful questioning and extensive use of appropriate language for this age range, and the detailed approaches specific to the early years are to be highly commended too.

    No teacher need be concerned or fearful about developing a growth-mindset philosophy in early years and the primary classroom. Learning without Fear has it all here for them.
  7. Julia and Ruchi have produced an instantly accessible, practical guide which explains some of the key concepts central to growth mindset and metacognition in such a way that will help everyone who works with children. The book's mini stories are an excellent medium to get learners to think about different scenarios, and the references to research are useful for anyone who wants to explore the literature around growth mindset in greater depth.

    Learning without Fear is a really valuable resource which will spark debate and discussion among staff teams and help teachers to reflect on the language they use and the behaviours they model in school.
  8. Forget growth mindset mantras and posters - instead read this more nuanced, comprehensive exploration of a range of strategies designed to achieve success in early years and primary settings.

    Learning without Fear accessibly and practically describes the critical elements of learning without fear, and also delves into pupil self-regulation and the pitfalls of praising the child rather than the process. It is filled with anecdotes and -˜mini stories' - case studies of children's typical negative school experiences or thoughts, skilfully turned into success stories - that all come to life in the book's colourful, welcoming pages, which also feature plenty of research evidence and the authors' personal classroom experiences.

    This delightful publication then culminates in a bank of powerful and easy-to-follow lesson ideas, which - together with the rest of the book's content - will help educators develop in their learners a growth mindset that will benefit them both in school and beyond.

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