The Learning Power Approach

Teaching learners to teach themselves

By: Guy Claxton


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Size: 222 x 182mm
Pages : 248
ISBN : 9781785832451
Format: Paperback
Published: January 2018

In The Learning Power Approach: Teaching learners to teach themselves Guy Claxton sets out the design principles of a way of teaching that aims to strengthen students’ learning muscles and develop their independence, initiative, determination, and love of learning.

Foreword by Carol S. Dweck.

Learning is learnable! Educators can explicitly teach not just content, knowledge, and skills, but also the positive habits of mind that will better prepare students to flourish both in school and in later life. And as ‘traditionalists’ fight for rigour and knowledge, and ‘progressives’ defend the increasing focus on character and well-being, Guy Claxton’s Learning Power Approach (LPA) brings resolution to this phoney and unnecessary war by offering teachers a win-win way of teaching that delivers good academic results while simultaneously turbocharging students’ independence, initiative, and love of learning.

In this groundbreaking book Guy distils fifteen years’ experience with his influential Building Learning Power method to provide a set of design principles for strengthening students’ learning muscles, and – together with a wealth of practical strategies and the supporting evidence that underpins them – details the small tweaks to daily practice that will help teachers attend more closely to the ways in which they can shape their students’ learning dispositions and attitudes.

Complemented by engaging and informative classroom examples of the LPA in action – and drawing from research into the fields of mindset, metacognition, grit, and collaborative learning – The Learning Power Approach describes in detail the suite of beliefs, values, attitudes, and habits of mind that go in to making up learning power, and offers a thorough explanation of what its intentions and guiding principles are. Furthermore, in order to help those who are just setting out on their LPA journey, Guy presents teachers with an attractive menu of customisable strategies and activities to choose from as they begin to embed the LPA principles into their own classroom culture, and also includes at the end of each chapter a “Wondering” section that serves to prompt reflection, conversation, and action among teachers.

Suitable for teachers and leaders in all educational settings,The Learning Power Approach carefully lays the groundwork for a series of books to follow that are specifically tailored to primary teaching, secondary teaching, and school leadership.

Chapters include:

  1. The Origins of the Learning Power Approach
  2. What Is Learning?
  3. What Exactly Is the Aim of the Learning Power Approach?
  4. How Do I Get Started? Some Quick Wins
  5. Why Does Learning Power Matter? Ten Good Reasons for Pumping Those Learning Muscles
  6. What Is Learning Power Made of?
  7. Learning Power in Action: Some Classroom Illustrations
  8. Design Principles of the LPA Classroom
  9. What Is the Evidence for the Learning Power Approach?
  10. Distinctions and Misconceptions
  11. Joining the Culture Club 

Click here to view the review of ‘The Learning Power Approach’ in TES.

Click here to watch Guy’s introduction to The Learning Power Approach.

Picture for author Guy Claxton

Guy Claxton

Guy Claxton is a cognitive scientist specialising in the expandability of human intelligence ' bodily and intuitive as well as intellectual ' and the roles schools play in either growing or stunting these capacities. A prolific author, his practical programmes for teachers are influencing children's lives in Ireland, Spain, Poland, Dubai, South Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and Brazil, as well as across the UK.


  1. In this book Guy Claxton pulls together some of the most up-to-date and influential approaches in education into a comprehensive pedagogical formula. It is a compass for all educators with a belief that school is more than just an exams game - and that we can enable children to develop a rich knowledge about the world around them whilst at the same time learning to become resilient, inquisitive, reflective learners. 

    As I read The Learning Power Approach, I found myself continually nodding along in agreement and feeling invited to reflect on my own practice in a way I hadn't done previously. I was able to adapt my lessons the very next day to strengthen the good learning habits I so keenly want to develop in my young learners. I noticed an instant impact of many of these small adjustments - for example, by simply tweaking the language I used, I noticed children responding more positively and engaging more deeply in their learning. As I built on and deepened this practice, I noticed other, more long-term changes in learning behaviours, especially in children who had been finding it more difficult to lock onto learning. They were now raring to go, to seek out challenge and solve problems collaboratively with their classmates.

    The Learning Power Approach has been my guidebook to re-engage with my practice, examine how and why I am teaching, and reconnect myself and my learners with the purpose of coming to school. Reading this book has empowered both myself and, more importantly, my learners. In short, this book will take teachers on a wonderful journey - both eminently practical and constantly inspiring. This kind of CPD is both unique and priceless.
  2. Professor Guy Claxton is both inspiring and engaging as a presenter; it is no surprise that his latest book, The Learning Power Approach, is equally thought-provoking. As the Learning Power Coordinator of a large independent K-12 College, I have worked alongside him in the transformational work we have undertaken in the area of teaching and learning. This text confirms Guy's past thinking while setting new challenges and providing fresh and practical ideas for working at the coalface of teaching. The Learning Power Approach (LPA) is an umbrella term which synthesises much leading-edge thinking about teaching and learning - almost a global paradigm shift occurring in education. This innovative work captures the essence of what many teachers are wrestling and experimenting with, and then provides usable and effective strategies or -˜quick wins'. Reading this book inspired a resolute sigh of relief with its confirmation of best practice and frequent moments of sheer epiphany.

    We have definitely found that when the tenets of LPA are implemented, student learning is enhanced. My students speak fluently about their learning, and one of the most powerful tools Guy has given us is -˜letting students behind the scenes' of their own education and taking charge of their personal journeys of growth. At the heart of Guy's message is an unwavering commitment to delivering a range of powerful, transferable learning dispositions alongside rich content. 

    At our College, Guy's work has provided invaluable professional development in forming the basis for several of our professional learning teams. Engaging with this book and experimenting with its content have been cost-effective ways of generating a range of provocations and valuable conversations on-site. This work forms a regular part of staff professional development in curriculum meetings.   
  3. As a long-time fan of Guy Claxton's work around Building Learning Power, and a convert to its impact in classrooms and on student outcomes, I was very excited to read The Learning Power Approach.

    In his trademark style and with his typically effective use of language, Guy presents a compelling case for the LPA. He summarises and links together the various learning power approaches and gives a strong argument for educators supporting pupils to develop the skills, character and learning dispositions necessary for success in exams, lifelong learning and fulfilment and happiness in life. The book makes reference to wide-ranging and diverse evidence and research. It provides lots of new food for thought for those who have been working with learning power approaches for years, whilst also leading those new to the LPA gently by the hand and introducing them to its concepts.

    The book offers a wealth of practical tools which teachers can take and instantly implement in their classroom with the confidence that they will have impact. I also love the idea of the LPA menu du jour! It was through getting all staff to consider the different kinds of learning which should be taking place in the classroom, and ensuring that -˜the Learning River' was operating at the three depths of -˜knowledge', -˜skills and literacies' and -˜attitudes and dispositions' that, at Isaac Newton Academy (INA), we have supported students to excel in their exam outcomes (top 1% nationally in 2017 and 2018) and develop into rounded characters. The latest Ofsted report said, “Concepts such as bravery, integrity, resourcefulness and emotional intelligence are key features [at INA] ... and pupils have a shared understanding of what these concepts mean to them and how to apply them when tackling problems in different subjects.” Our school went on to win the Pearson School of the Year Award for articulacy and literacy.

    The Learning Power Approach is a most timely book. For too long there has been an unhelpful division of educational thought into polarised camps of -˜knowledge' versus -˜skills'. At the same time, many schools have demonstrated an unhealthy concentration on preparing pupils for tests and have focused on narrow academic measures to the exclusion of all else. This book is a refreshing and much-needed antidote to such thinking. Guy shows educational leaders a way to ensure that their schools hit both targets: results AND character. As school leaders contemplate their curriculum intent and impact, and prepare for the 2019 Ofsted framework, they would do well to have The Learning Power Approach by their side as a guiding handbook.
  4. The Learning Power Approach is an immensely useful book for anyone wishing to empower the learners they work with to be resilient, to be curious and to have the confidence to thrive in an unpredictable world. The book is packed with ideas on how to develop learning power with some very practical quick wins. As a teacher, my ethos is to support the -˜whole' child and I passionately believe that learning power does this. Its focus is for children and young people to -˜know what to do, when they don't know what to do'; to remain positive in the face of setbacks, to understand themselves as learners and know which skills to draw upon and when. Furthermore, it offers very clear concepts but in a non-prescriptive way, which allows creativity for schools when trying to build it into their individual settings.

    The LPA has transformed my teaching practice: it is part of the culture within the school that I work. With its implementation I have seen children's learning power grow, as well as their confidence, at very little cost financially. As a teacher and a parent I find I use learning powers myself, too: it is so beneficial for children and adults alike.
  5. The Learning Power Approach has been a hugely important book at St Bernard's and for many others across our Teaching School Alliance. It's a practical handbook that has guided and supported our staff in understanding how to become better learners themselves. This has been key to shaping our approach to teaching and learning and has provided a source for rich debate about how we design our classrooms.

    Professional development for staff through the lens of the LPA has been really powerful. Using this book, teachers have unpicked their own practice and embedded the framework's principles in their classrooms. Each lesson is now planned with a split-screen focus to teach the national curriculum and develop the appropriate learning power at the same time. This has supercharged individual lessons and really shaped the -˜language of learning' across the school.

    Principles from the book have also underpinned our curriculum design. Our curriculum intent aims for confident and capable lifelong learners who are ready to face an uncertain world. Ideas and examples from the book have been invaluable in helping staff to plan to this aim, and we're already seeing impact! Children are talking in the language of learning power and applying it in their day-to-day work. Parents tell us too how their children have taken this back into their homes and have changed the way they look at learning when things get tough. This book has defined the core of our learning culture at St Bernard's and we couldn't imagine going back!

    The Learning Power Approach is a must-have book to shape learning, for all ages, for life!
  6. -‹“When 'The Learning Power Approach' landed on my doormat, I have to admit feeling scepticism at first.

    As a teacher who has been heavily involved in all things teaching and learning, my distant memories of Guy Claxton and “building learning power” seemed to place the general concept in the realms of “Kagan cooperative learning” (*shudder*) with hazy memories of INSET day speakers selling their wares.

    Cue many teachers being inspired but no one really changing their practice as a result. Sound familiar?

    However, there seems to have been an evolution. Claxton himself, in the opening section of his book, admits his ideas have developed and acknowledges the changing landscape of education - and how the conceptual idea of learning power has consequently adapted. He begins by setting out his rationale articulating what he is now calling the “Learning Power Approach” (LPA) as “what is possible in 21st century schools”, and then appeals to every teacher's desire to nurture independent and self-monitoring students. If only it were that simple, but the book teaches us that no, it isn't simple and somehow that is the point.

    As Claxton argues, -˜teaching learners to teach themselves' is a kind of educational utopia but one that, if accomplished, leads students to achieve well beyond the remit of external examinations; revisiting the well-trodden path that education's greater purpose is to nurture the life skills of the next generation.

    Subsequently, Claxton dedicates a significant chunk of the book to the fundamentals of learning, connecting LPA to his own experiences and the evidence base and whilst an impressive precis, it is a little drawn out.

    But after 45 pages of theorising, he changes tack and the magic really begins.

    I found myself furiously scribbling down ideas to take back to my own school as he takes us through how LPA can actually work in practice. This is what we incredibly busy teachers will be most drawn to.

    Powerful accounts abound as we are taken through concrete examples from teachers across all key stages and countries and what they actually do to enable students from all backgrounds to “strengthen a small set of vital attitudes towards learning” as Claxton modestly puts it. And the examples are impressive, with a series of pedagogical interventions we can all take inspiration from.

    But Claxton is only getting started with his “quick wins” as he follows up with a rigorous exemplification of each component of LPA. I have to admit, it's very convincing. Think metacognition, desirable difficulties and growth mindset all thrown into one, with convenient QR codes for quick access to relevant clips online.

    There's a significant nod to Carol Dweck in this book and her endorsement is confirmed in the foreword. Even the section which suggests how teachers can be “learning coaches” adds a new layer to the metacognitive approach to teaching that many of us are presently worshipping, and it's fascinating.

    Yes, at times Claxton's vision is definitely one of idealism, especially as he sets out the expectation that as teachers we should get all of our students “wondering and contemplating”, whatever that means. Yet, the antidote comes in the form of clear pedagogical recommendations. For example, his analogy that in a complex David Attenborough documentary, it is the behind-the-scenes feature that reveals the production company's real work, thoughts and processes.

    This reminds us to regularly show students what he calls “the innards of learning”. While ostensibly obvious, it is most definitely food for thought. How often have I really done that, I wondered.

    Overall, Claxton's call to empower students reminds us all to take a breather from the exam treadmill and actually take more than a momentary glace at our entrenched methods of pedagogy. This really is worth a look.”

    Click here to read the review on Schools Week's website.
  7. Guy Claxton's The Learning Power Approach really hits the button by convincingly presenting the key to teaching and learning success. This compelling work is written with passion and awe-inspiring conviction and empowers the teacher to appreciate learner-centred learning as never before. The Learning Power Approach (LPA) concept is underpinned by a strong case for the value of education, which will undoubtedly resonate with teachers and trainers across a broad spectrum.

    The LPA model promotes the learner's ability and inclination to acquire knowledge and skill by taking the stance that humankind was programmed to learn as part of a lifelong drive on which the teacher can naturally capitalise. The LPA learner will, therefore, be inclined to observe, critique, experiment and reflect as a natural component of the learning process with his/her curiosity and imaginative powers well honed.

    The Learning Power Approach also presents a compendium of invaluable practical strategies with which the teacher can satisfy the learner's whetted appetite for acquiring new skills and knowledge and can encourage the learner to become more self-directive.  
  8. Learning is such an important and crucial aspect of being. No matter what path our lives are drawn towards, our learning - and attitude to learning - will help us succeed professionally and personally. Of course, learning can take place at formal and informal moments of our lives, involving observations, readings, critiquing, experimenting, imagining, reasoning, imitating, discussing, reflecting and practising.

    Fundamentally, learning is best achieved when we are individually invested, interested and engaged - whether intrinsically driven, curious, or wanting to learn to achieve a personal goal or ambition. But where does such a learning desire fit in with current school agendas judging on standardised test scores? How does a drill-and-test teaching approach help ignite young people's imaginations to inspire learning beyond what is needed to pass the exam?

    In the first book of a promised series, Guy Claxton offers a Learning Power Approach (LPA) that schools and teachers can adopt, with the text offering an argument about what is possible to achieve in 21st-century schools. Offering the rationale, evidence, principles and frameworks that underpin the whole LPA, the book guides the reader to explore the kinds of learning going on in classrooms, reminding us that attitudes to learning are often formed by less visible and discreet classroom occurrences. Guy reminds us that-¦

    Every lesson, every day, affects the slow build-up of (critical learning) attitudes - for good or ill. How we teach slowly shapes the way young people respond to the unknown - to change, challenge, complexity, and uncertainty. Our teaching can steer them towards becoming more positive, confident, and capable in the face of difficulty. Or it can steer them towards becoming more timid, dogmatic, and insecure. If we choose the former route, they will learn what they need to know more easily and effectively, and they will pursue their own dreams, interests, and ambitions more robustly throughout life” (p.30)

    The above quote is an inspiring reminder for all working in schools, as in the bustle of daily school life, it is often easy to lose sight of our individual position, and the messages young people take from our words and actions.

    Yet Guy continues into the book explaining the intentions and guiding principles behind LPA, aiming to develop students becoming confident and capable learners. Offering teachers guidance on what LPA might look in everyday classroom practice, along with some quick wins to get started. Offering ten reasons of why LPA should be embedded into teaching practice, Guy argues that being a powerful learners helps pupils do well in education, equipping individuals for the world of work. Add in the eight elements of learning power, the book gives you the building blocks to best support young people and putting the approach into action.

    The book continues exploring fourteen design principles evident in LPA classrooms that can be easily applied to everyday teaching, requiring only a few subtle changes by individual teachers to what is probably being done on a daily basis. Guy concludes by explaining the evidence for LPA, also exploring some of the distinctions and misconceptions of the approach.

    Ultimately, LPA asks teachers to become more conscious of the cultures created in their classrooms, taking note how habits steer young people towards or away from learning dispositions. So who is this book for? This is an ideal book for teachers, school leaders, or student teachers who are wanting to explore an approach to support pupils take ownership of their own learning, becoming more efficient and effective learners. This is no -˜quick fix' book, and readers will need to reflect upon their own practice, classroom environment and make a commitment to follow through on the ideas, philosophies and theories articulated throughout.


    Offers an argument about what is possible to achieve in 21st-century schools.

    Book aims to develop students becoming confident and capable learners.

    Explores fourteen design principles evident in LPA classrooms that can be easily applied to everyday teaching

    Approach asks teachers to become more conscious of the cultures created in their classrooms

    An ideal book for those who want their students to become more efficient and effective learners.
  9. Guy Claxton writes compellingly about the importance of teachers recognising the influence that they have within their classroom to create a culture where learning can take place at different depths and levels. He transcends the traditional versus progressive debate by illustrating how we can "have it all" when both knowledge acquisition and skilful learning behaviours are valued in harness. The teacher's transformative influence is celebrated and practical examples of an environment where the Learning Power Approach is evident are provided alongside encouragement for the reflective teacher to explore, within the confines of his or her own classroom, the design principles laid out in this book.

    The Learning Power Approach restores faith in the fullest ambition for what can be achieved when we engage inclusively to empower children, young people, and teachers through education.
  10. What I particularly like about The Learning Power Approach is how Guy Claxton almost makes you feel as if you are in the room with him. Page by page, Claxton gently guides you through each element of his Learning Power Approach and then - as if reading your mind - skilfully puts to bed any doubts you may have, reassuring even the most reluctant cynic. There's something in The Learning Power Approach for everyone, whether you're an experienced teacher or an NQT, and it is written in such a way that you'll find yourself having finished the book before you even know it. Thoroughly recommended.
  11. Reading this latest offering from Guy Claxton is a total treat. Rich with practical examples of what teachers and school leaders can do to support our pupils to develop the right mindset for success, The Learning Power Approach is a must-read for all educators who care about ensuring our young people develop the character and resilience to enjoy learning, as well as be great at it.

    Not only is Guy's approach rooted in solid research, it resonates with me personally as somebody who has a passionate belief in teachers' dual role of teaching content and then enabling pupils to make sense of and master its key concepts through challenging and thought-provoking follow-up activities. And what's even better, pupils who combine these approaches do better in tests and exams too. What's not to like?
  12. The Learning Power Approach is a very important book indeed. Few, if any, people over the years have provided as consistent or intelligent a voice as Guy Claxton when talking about the need for a deep and genuine education. This book really nails the subject.
  13. Guy Claxton's The Learning Power Approach clearly shows that developing children's thinking and learning skills is not only compatible with acquiring knowledge and passing tests; the two aims actually constitute the warp and weft of 21st century education. Full of practical teaching tips and common sense ideas, The Learning Power Approach is both very readable and immensely timely.
  14. Guy Claxton is one of the deepest thinkers in education. Every book he writes is worth reading as they are treasure troves of new ideas, perspectives, and strategies, and his fundamental insight that the purpose of schooling is to develop powerful learners is more relevant now than everbefore.

    Guy shows how his method combines rigour with imagination, and his credibility as a cognitive psychologist gives him unimpeachable credentials when navigating the minefields of memory, knowledge, and learning. Whether learning a skill, acquiring new knowledge or developing emotional resilience, building learning power is the route to success and The Learning Power Approach shows you how to go about it.
  15. Guy Claxton's influence on schools over the last few decades has been enormous. Through all of the many and often contradictory changes imposed by successive governments, Guy has helped focus teachers on ways to unlock learners' enormous potential, and, in The Learning Power Approach, provides teachers with a guide to keep at their side during the decades ahead as they navigate the as-yet-unimagined changes that will be imposed on our schools in the future.

    What governments make complex, Claxton makes intelligible, simple, and exciting.
  16. Guy Claxton clearly illustrates why a focus on building the competence and inclination to learn well needs to be a fundamental part of the educational approach of all schools.

    Full of rich insights and practical approaches, this is a must-read for any educator who cares about preparing students of all abilities, and from all backgrounds, to be effective lifelong learners.
  17. The Learning Power Approach helps to validate a belief that the subjective goal of education should be about the liberation of the self, freeing us to choose our own essence in life. This book helps to emphasise optimal learning for all students.
  18. In person, Guy Claxton balances the precision of academia with the warmth and wit of our most beloved teachers. He challenges, engages, and inspires in equal measure. It is the same when he writes; he transforms complexities of learning into recommendations that are both inviting and inspirational, and he does so without ever losing the subtlety of nuance or culture. He is the perfect “critical friend”, and The Learning Power Approach is the exemplary handbook.
  19. We have to radically reimagine education if we're going to fulfil the potential of today's students as leaders who will address our increasingly global challenges. The Learning Power Approach is a valuable map not just to student success but also to a more peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable planet.
  20. Guy Claxton challenges the traditional approaches to learning that exist in so many of our schools and presents a compelling and practical strategy to foster authentic thinking and learning for all. The Learning Power Approach is rooted in the belief that we must move beyond systems that categorise and judge people merely on their ability to do well in exams and tests - or learning that promotes the myth of the “one right answer” - to cultures that focus on “the cultivation of the confidence and capacity to be a good learner”. Claxton identifies and describes the diverse variety of strengths essential to successful learning and presents practical approaches to make these a priority.

    This is a great book. It is a must-read for those who understand the uniqueness of abilities in all of their students and would like to set in play a culture of learning that makes this flourish - a culture of learning that is inclusive and personal.
  21. Reading this book was a joy. As a writer, Claxton is beautifully able to express the whats, whys, and hows of the Learning Power Approach. His argument is urgent but it is expressed with great warmth, making it a compelling read. Claxton's work has just the right mix of accessibility and challenge.

    Central to the Learning Power Approach is the belief that it is every teacher's responsibility to nurture the student as learner and to grow learners who are “mind fit”. Learning itself is learnable! I challenge any teacher to read this and not come away questioning their practice and inspired to tweak their classroom spaces, language, and the way they design lessons. Reading this book will help teachers understand more clearly the way “every lesson, every day” gradually shapes the way students see themselves as learners and their understanding of the process of learning itself. This is the beauty of the Learning Power Approach. It is not a programme, not a subject, not an add-on - it is something all teachers can integrate into their practice on a daily basis. Claxton's work helps us notice what lies beneath the surface of our teaching and to attend much more closely to the way we shape dispositions and attitudes to learning. As an ardent inquirer, I found the “Wondering” sections at the end of each chapter particularly stimulating. These wonderings would be a great way to prompt conversation and action among teachers, making it a marvellous text for rich, collaborative conversations across an entire school community.

    Claxton often uses the metaphor of a coach to describe the work of teachers using the Learning Power Approach, and there are some fascinating and helpful case studies of such coaches in action throughout the text. After reading this book, I feel as if I have spent time with one of the very best learning coaches there is. I can already envisage The Learning Power Approach, dog-eared and lovingly littered with sticky notes, on my shelf. This book deserves a place in every teacher's collection.

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