Open Dialogue peer review: A response to Claxton and Lucas

Cremin, Teresa (2016). Open Dialogue peer review: A response to Claxton and Lucas. The Psychology of Education Review, 40(1) pp. 17–21.


Drawing on their new book Educating Ruby: What our children really need to learn Claxton and Lucas assert that education has lost its way and that by affording a higher profile to the development of character strengths, more appropriate ways forward can be found. With regard to the first assertion I could not agree more; the pressure of performativity (Ball, 1998), so endemic in the UK and many other countries, continues to seriously skew and adversely affect students’ experience of schooling (Assaf, 2008; Dooley, 2005). The current system fails to prepare the young for the uncertainties of life and tends to position teachers as little more than technicians. With regard to their second assertion, as Claxton and Lucas acknowledge, even if agreement can be reached on the key dispositions to be developed, innovative ways to nurture such ‘habits of mind’ (Claxton, 2002) need to be created. Whilst recognising the difficulties, they outline work already in existence in this area, (including their own), and argue that schools need to operate as continual incubators of the strengths and habits that they want their students to develop. They close by challenging psychologists (and teachers?) to become more strategic and politically savvy, seeking to inform and transform parental understanding of what is at stake in order to shift the educational agenda. I support their call; the future will continue to surprise us and transformational change in education is urgently needed. Nonetheless, in my opinion they may underestimate the depth of instrumentalism inherent in contemporary schooling, and may need to afford more attention to the tensions and dilemmas experienced by teachers, many of whom are stretched and stressed themselves and are not well positioned to cultivate character traits such as optimism, zest and curiosity.

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