The Big Book of Independent Thinking

Do things no one does or do things everyone does in a way no one does

By: Andrew Curran , Dave Keeling , Ian Gilbert , Jim Roberson , Michael Brearley , Nina Jackson , Roy Leighton


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Products specifications
Attribute name Attribute value
Size: 297mm x 210mm
Pages : 179
ISBN : 9781904424383
Format: Paperback
Published: May 2006

Edited by Ian Gilbert.

In 1992 Ian Gilbert, author of the highly acclaimed Essential Motivation in the Classroom, founded Independent Thinking Ltd (ITL). His aim was to “enrich young people’s lives by changing the way they think and so to change the world”. He has done this by gathering together a disparate group of associates - specialists in the workings of the brain, discipline, emotional intelligence, ICT, motivation, using music in learning, creativity and dealing with the disaffected. ITL achieve their objective by “doing what no one else does or doing what everyone else does in a way no one else does”. With a chapter from each of the associates plus an introduction and commentary by Ian Gilbert, this is the definitive guide for anyone wishing to understand and use some of the thinking that makes ITL such a unique and successful organisation.

If you’re looking for a quick ‘How To’ guide and a series of photocopiable worksheets you can knock out for a last minute PSHE lesson, or because the INSET provider you had booked has let you down at the last minute and you’re the only member of the middle management team who didn’t attend the last planning meeting so you’ve ended up with the job of stepping in to fill in the gap, then this is the book for you. As befitting a disparate group of people brought together under the banner of Independent Thinking, these chapters are to get you thinking for yourself in thinking about what you do, why you do what you do and whether doing it that way is the best thing at all.


  • Introduction to Independent Thinking Ltd
  • Ten Things You Should Know Before You Read This Book
  • Chapter 1 - On Love, Laughter and Learning by David Keeling
  • Chapter 2 - Music and the Mind by Nina Jackson
  • Chapter 3 - The Disciplined Approach by Jim Roberson
  • Chapter 4 - ‘Lo Mejor es Enemigo de lo Bueno’ by Matt Gray
  • Chapter 5 - Peek! Copy! Do! The Creative Use of IT in the Classroom by Guy Shearer
  • Chapter 6 - How The ‘Brian’ Works by Andrew Curran
  • Chapter 7 - Living a Creative Life by Roy Leighton
  • Chapter 8 - Build the Emotionally Intelligent School or The Art of Learned Hope by Michael Brearley

This book is meant to be dipped into, with not every chapter being relevant for everybody all of the time. Some chapters are written with the classroom practitioner very much in mind, others with the students in mind, other still with an eye on school leaders. That said, there is something here for everyone so we encourage you to dip into it with a highlighter pen in one hand and a notebook in the other to capture the main messages and ideas that resonate with you.

So, does the assembly you’re about to give, or that lesson on forces you’re about to deliver, or that staff meeting you’re about to lead, or that new intake parents evening you’re planning look like everyone else’s anywhere else? If so, then what about sitting down with your independent thinking hat on and identifying how you can make it so that we couldn’t drop you into a totally different school on the other side of the country without anyone noticing the difference. Have the confidence to be memorable the world of education needs you to be great.

Picture for author Andrew Curran

Andrew Curran

Dr Andrew Curran is a practising paediatric neurologist and neurobiologist who is also committed to using his extraordinary knowledge of the workings of the human brain to make a difference in the educational experience of all young people. He has been involved with Manchester University's Department of Education, developing research ideas looking at the use of emotional literacy in our classrooms. More recently he has conducted work exploring the processing of reward in the human brain. He believes passionately in the importance of understanding the individual, connecting with them emotionally and leading them into self directed learning. His book, the Little Book of Big Stuff about the Brain (published by Crown House Publishing) is recognised as one of the leading books about understanding brain based learning and the importance of emotional literacy in our classrooms and in our lives. His latest book, Get Off the Sofa is a general health book aimed at anyone from 5 ' 85 who wants to understand their health more. He is a talented and internationally recognised presenter both to live audiences and on television where he was a main presenter on BBC3's Make My Body Younger. He is an associate of Independent Thinking Ltd.

Picture for author Dave Keeling

Dave Keeling

Dave Keeling has been a professional actor and stand-up' educationalist for more than two decades, working the length and breadth of the UK with teachers, pupils and parents. Whether it's leading a workshop with challenging teenagers, speaking to a hall-full of equally reluctant teachers or delivering a keynote for school leaders looking for the cure to recalcitrance in their school, Dave never fails to leave delegates happy, moved, less stressed and feeling a great deal more motivated by the job in front of them.

Picture for author Ian Gilbert

Ian Gilbert

Since establishing Independent Thinking 25 years ago, Ian Gilbert has made a name for himself across the world as a highly original writer, editor, speaker, practitioner and thinker, and is someone who the IB World magazine has referred to as one of the world's leading educational visionaries.

The author of several books, and the editor of many more, Ian is known by thousands of teachers and young people across the world for his award-winning Thunks books. Thunks grew out of Ian's work with Philosophy for Children (P4C), and are beguiling yet deceptively powerful little philosophical questions that he has created to make children's – as well as their teachers' – brains hurt.

Ian's growing collection of bestselling books has a more serious side too, without ever losing sight of his trademark wit and straight-talking style. The Little Book of Bereavement for Schools, born from personal family experience, is finding a home in schools across the world, and The Working Class – a massive collaborative effort he instigated and edited – is making a genuine difference to the lives of young people from some of the poorest backgrounds.

A unique writer and editor, there is no other voice like Ian Gilbert's in education today.

See for yourself.

Ian was winner of The Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society's inaugural Educational Writers Award (Nov 2008) for 'The Little Book of Thunks' - Click here for more information on the book.

Re-framing the Education Debate with Independent Thinker, Ian Gilbert.

Click here to read Ian Gilbert’s blog.

Click here to read Ian's article in International Teacher Magazine.

Picture for author Jim Roberson

Jim Roberson

Jim Roberson, former American football player, has been working on the Disciplined Approach for over 20 years as a teacher, trainer, coach and parent. He is an independent education consultant and works with parents, teachers and students.

Read a feature on Jim's approach to discipline in an article for the Independent - September 2012.

Jim and The Discipline Coach book had an Honourable Mention in the San Francisco Book Festival 2013.

Picture for author Michael Brearley

Michael Brearley

Former headmaster Michael Brearley was widely experienced in secondary education, and had a long-standing interest in engaging students more fully in their learning. His applied research at the University of East Anglia focused on teacher behaviour and how it impacted on students' learning; he also examined the role of mediation and the work of Carl Rogers. Michael's later research into emotional intelligence explored its practical application in the education and business sectors, particularly its effect upon performance as a teacher and leader.

Picture for author Nina Jackson

Nina Jackson

Nina Jackson is an international education consultant who has a breathtaking grasp of what makes classrooms, children and their teachers tick. She's a leading practitioner in all areas of teaching and learning with particular expertise in special educational needs, digital technology and mental and emotional health. She has transformed learning and teaching in some of the most challenging schools in the UK as well as working extensively with schools on the international circuit.

An accredited Apple Teacher, winner of the IPDA International Prize for Education and described by the TES as an inspirational, evangelical preacher of education', Nina is a tour-de-force when it comes to enlivening teaching and learning for all.

Nina is one of the happiest, most effervescent personalities in education today and puts her own learning, and the learning of others, at the heart of everything she believes in.

Ninjas and Sherbet Lemons ' Nina Jackson in the Time Out Room ' PP179

Click here to read Nina Jackson’s blog.

Picture for author Roy Leighton

Roy Leighton

Roy has been working in value-based areas in education, the arts and business environments in the U.K. and internationally for over 25 years. He has written books on creativity, learning, parenting, leadership and confidence. His areas of expertise are many and varied; from providing inspiring and stimulating key-note speeches to whole day conferences and workshops and sustainable programmes that run for weeks and years, and on rare occasions, possibly lifetimes.


  1. A bible of creative solutions to everyday issues in the classroom. A book that encourages creative and innovative approaches to all aspects of teaching and learning, inspired with relevant research and impact on learners.
  2. Fantastic articles here on a range of subjects. I will recommend this text to all the students and have also asked our library to look into purchasing an e- book copy so that we can discuss specific articles in seminars.
  3. From a professional educator's perspective this book is the best INSET day you have ever had. Each chapter has enough energy, insight and brilliance to inspire and invigorate the brain before you move on to the next one. This is a cleverly created anthology of some genuinely inspirational thinking. There are no wheels being reformed or revamped, just common sense put across in a slightly different way. Through The Big Book of Independent Thinking, readers can discover new ways to explore the science of teaching, the way the brain learns, how music can help, how good leaders lead and how to make the most of every opportunity. This is the kind of book that should have sticky notes falling out of it when you pick it up, well thumbed pages and highlighted quotes and paragraphs. It is not a book to be left on the shelf!
  4. At regular points in their career every teacher should take the time to remind themselves why they went into teaching and this is the book that to do it. Exciting, inspirational, motivating yet down-to-earth " a thinking and learning vitamin boost of a book.
  5. This book will make you rethink your whole approach to young people. With the benefits of not one but eight experts in their field, you will have all the ideas you'll need to motivate your students - and yourself. Stop struggling to get through to your students, get a copy of this book.
    • The book is in a format that facilitates easy access for the busy professional
    • It is written in the mode of an academic journal, with "articles' by various authors, though is eminently more accessible having done away with the usual frivolities of academic language
    • Though the book offers much practical advice and classroom based strategies, it is grounded in academic theory- a fact borne out by the references at the end of each chapter
    • The text offers information from different spheres. This is particularly interesting as the profession often only gets one sort of information or information from a narrow source.
    • The text offers a good overview of some of the most exciting educational questions of the 21st century such as the role of emotional intelligence in good learning and teaching.
  6. This book is a compilation from expert educationalists looking at many different aspects of education and proffering advice, theories and practical tips.

    At the outset, you are warned that this is no "how to" guide, but rather a book which aims to challenge you, make you think for yourself, and indeed, you may get feelings of discomfort as well-trodden paths of practice are dismissed within the book's pages.

    David Keeling starts us off with his essay On Love, Laughter and Learning in which he talks about improving self-esteem, self-expectation and motivation. Most of Keeling's work in the past 10 years has been with disaffected children.

    Matt Gray's chapter on changing your ways and the energy and commitment needed to do this is brilliant, not to mention funny. His essay surrounds motivation to learn and the importance of visualising goals and raising expectations. Guy Shearer's chapter on the creative use of ICT is excellent (for more see SecEd's Managing ICT section next week).

    In other chapters, Nina Jackson talks about the use of music in the classroom to improve study skills. Also covered is discipline (Jim Roberson); how the brain recalls and learns (Andrew Curran); living a creative life (Roy Leighton); and building an emotionally-intelligent school (Michael Brearley).

    I imagine a number of people may well find the book interesting but then put it down and not change much about the way they do things. That would be shame, as there are some good ideas in there.

    The Big Day of Independent Thinking on October 6 in Nottinghamshire sees the book launched alongside a new set of training courses. A number of the authors will be speaking and a range of workshops and Q&A sessions will take place.
  7. Do things no one else does or do things everyone does in a way no one does
    This is the motto of Independent Thinking Ltd, a unique network of educational innovators and practitioners who work throughout the UK and abroad with children and their teachers and school leaders. It was established in 1993 by Ian Gilbert to "enrich young people's lives by changing the way they think". This book; is a collection of the best work from his associates, covering topics such as how the brain works; how to live a creative life; how to build an emotionally intelligent school; love, laughter and learning; music and the mind; the disciplined approach; creative use of IT in the classroom; and why the "best' is the enemy of the "good'. Inviting to read and inspirational.
  8. This collection of grounded theoretical, practical and powerful insights provides an inspiration of what might be possible to achieve when the qualities of curiosity, wonder, belief and commitment come together with a sense of determined professionalism and discipline to make a difference. I admire each contributor's specialism and 'schism' of the world, which when taken as a collective offering, provide an unique challenge to practice - not only for the 'educator' profession but well beyond too.

    The book is thought provoking and yet at the same time enabling, human in its approach and empathetic, yet hopeful with regards to the challenges of working with young people in our society to enable them to reach their potential.

    Having enjoyed the contributions of some of the students who have been participants in this type of learning and seen what thoughtful and engaged young citizens that they are becoming, I wholeheartedly say get the book and try it out!!!
  9. The big book of independent thinking (BBIL) has a cover which loudly proclaims "do things no one does or do things everyone does in a way no one does" so at first sight writing a book about teaching and learning seems a little paradoxical. Closer inspection reveals, however, that this is the book to give you the confidence to live their maxim.

    The first big plus is that this is not one man's vision crystallised over several lunches and fired in the cauldron of their own utterly personal experience. It is written by eight very different people from eight very different backgrounds and eight very different styles. This is all threaded together by the ever entertaining and insightful Ian Gilbert who could make Grimsby fish docks sound interesting (and indeed has).

    The second big plus is that this is the proof needed to do those valid, creditable tweaks to your classroom practice that are just a little too wacky for the status quo. A feel that each and every one of these writers has faced down the inevitable doubters, curmudgeons and doom mongers (just like the ones that live in your staffroom) runs through every chapter with a breath of fresh air.

    And every one of these writers has the moral high ground over any query your colleagues might have. They are convincing, and eloquently so, about enhancing the experience for the kids in your school. Some write brilliant technical summaries of neurology that has become a main stay of the very best practice. Others save you the trouble of reading the dreary core business-world texts that offer great concepts if you can stay awake long enough to find them.

    But what marks out BBIL are the articles that simply shout the joy of teaching and making a difference. Some will say they shout too loudly but then this book, or any challenge to the we've-always-done-it-this-way crowd, is not for them. They are very, very convincing " I booked one author to speak to my students on the strength of his article. It is the book for people who want to change and who can change. For people who want their classroom to be a place of even better engagement and learning then this Big Book could be the catalyst for the great leap forward.
  10. A useful introduction to the work of the Independent Thinking network and is full of interesting quotes
  11. This inspirational book has far-reaching implications for both the theory and practice of education in the future " It should have a profound effect on every teacher that reads it.
  12. This is a book that will encourage you to ask searching questions, rather than seek offthe-shelf answers. Ian Gilbert and his team have put together a thought-provoking and academically rigorous compendium of ideas that can help you to make creative leaps forward in your classroom and school. I warmly recommend this to teachers and school leaders who wish to make a real difference to the lives of young people.

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