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Welcome to the Learning without Limits project

The Learning Without Limits project is dedicated to developing approaches to teaching and learning that do not rely on determinist beliefs about ability. The project is inspired by decades of research that have drawn attention to the many complex ways in which ideas of fixed ability, and the practices based on them, can limit learning.


4th network seminar: Saturday 25th June 2016 (10.00 am - 12.30 pm)

The seminar will be held at the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education. It will take as its central focus open-ended learning. By using participants' experiences, some selected readings and discussion activities, we will explore how and why teachers may choose to offer experiences that encourage open-ended learning. More information will be available shortly.

Freedom, Autonomy and Democracy in Education: Seminar

This seminar, one of the Freedom to Learn project series, was held in Hull on 9th March 2016. Keynote speakers included Shami Chakrabati, Director of Liberty, and Patrick Yarker, Learning without Limits Research Group. Patrick's presentation can be viewed here.

'Abolishing grammar schools is not enough'

Grammar schools have been much in the news lately, with Nicky Morgan's announcement of a new 'annexe' for Weald of Kent Grammar School. Patrick Yarker has written a short article about what this means for children, teachers, families and the comprehensive future. 

Link with a school in Norway

In September 2013, with the support of colleagues from the Leadership for Learning network, we held a two-day study tour for Headteacher, Stein Larsen, and his staff (51 in total) from the Ortun Secondary School, Bergen, in Norway. Following a day spent exploring the principles and values of the Learning without Limits research at the Faculty of Education in Cambridge, the group then spent a day at The Wroxham School, hosted by head teacher, Alison Peacock, co-author of Creating Learning without Limits. Further research, funded by the Isaac Newton Trust and ESRC, has now been carried out to learn how these ideas are being developed by our Norwegian colleagues. More details about the research will be available soon.

Forum book cover

A special issue of the journal FORUM (vol 55, no 1, 2013)

See also the Related Work area of the website for links to the challenging and inspiring accounts of the ideas and practices of a selection of teachers, academics and researchers who are committed to developing teaching and learning approaches free from limiting ideas about ability.

An alternative approach to whole-school development

Book Cover for Creating Learning Without LimitsCreating Learning without Limits, published by Open University Press in 2012, builds on the findings of the first Learning without Limits study (see below). Co-authored by Mandy Swann, Alison Peacock, Susan Hart and Mary Jane Drummond, it tells the story of how one primary school community worked to build a learning environment that is inclusive, humane and enabling for everybody, a place free from the damaging effects of fixed ability thinking and practices. Further information about the project aims and methods can be found on the Creating Learning without Limits project pages.

Original study and book

Our first study (1999-2002) set out to analyse the practices of individual teachers who had rejected ability-based approaches. We found that, in place of the notion of ability, a sense of 'transformability' permeated every aspect of their work: the conviction that things can change and be changed for the better, sometimes even dramatically, as a result of the choices that people – both teachers and children - make in the present. Further information can be found on The First LWL Project pages. The key concepts and principles of transformability-based pedagogy are elaborated in detail in our award-winning book, 'Learning Without Limits', published by Open University Press in 2004, described by Professor Tim Brighouse as a 'book that could change the world'.

Building a network

Related work by other colleagues, in the UK, Europe and US, can be found by following the link. If you are interested in joining a network of people working towards the development of education free from determinist beliefs about ability, you will find an invitation to make contact by following the Building a Network link.

Previous projects laying foundations for the development of a network include: