RAIS commissioned Steve Williams, the editor of Teaching Thinking and Creativity magazine (published by Questions Publishing) to write a book about the RAIS experience.  After making a number of visits to see the project team in action and interview some of the young people, community leaders, teachers and parents involved in the project, Steve and his co-author Rupert Wegerif from the Open University, offered the term Radical Encouragement as the way to describe all that we do.

Steve describes Radical Encouragement as:

Radical Encouragement is not a new commercial program for the improvement of organizations. The phrase is not trademarked.  It is not a portfolio of planning cycles or a set of teaching and learning procedures.  Organizations could implement ‘Radical Encouragement’ in different ways, but the principles would be the same.

Some approaches that are already well known could contribute to Radical Encouragement such as Habits of Mind, Philosophy for Children, some Thinking Skills strategies and some elements of ‘coaching’.  Radical Encouragement should be emotional and intellectual.

Our definition of ‘Radical Encouragement’ is:  the application of multiple strategies by an organization to encourage the dispositions and abilities necessary for persistent and positive self-development by people within its sphere of influence.

For encouragement to be ‘radical’ it must be deliberate, strategic and targeted at developing dispositions and associated abilities.  It must also respect the true meaning of ‘encourage’.  This work is not an acceptable synonym for coercion.

Radical encouragement also facilitates reflection on self development by providing a forum for discussion on meanings and values.  Radical Encouragement should therefore have a philosophical dimension.

Key Recommendations for Learning

1.  Re-explore the nature, scope and power of encouragement and ask
whether personnel and clients are effectively encouraged
2.  Target encouragement on dispositions.  In fact, learning throughout
the organisation should be re-assessed to give maximum opportunity
for the encouragement of positive dispositions and associated abilities
3.  Consider introducing a philosophical dimension into the core work to
give a regular space for children to create questions, discuss values
and develop thinking abilities
4.  Balance adult-led activities with challenges that require children choice
or sustained independent work
5.  Seek out programmes, literature and initiatives that seem to offer
strategies, tools or environments that assist radical encouragement

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Radical Encouragement is an approach to developing dispositions, skills and strategies for better thinking and learning. It combines tried-and-tested work on thinking skills, coaching, dispositions or ‘habits of mind’ and philosophy in schools.

This book provides an overview of all the components of Radical Encouragement illustrated by the inspiring work of RAIS (Raising Aspirations in Society) – an independent local educational organisation working with teachers, learners, parents and community groups. The RAIS project, and the strategies developed within it are relevant to all initiatives that aim to foster independent learning, thinking skills and emotional resilience.

‘Our school has benefited significantly from RAIS over the past three years. The strategies have had a very positive impact on standards of teaching and learning in classes of teachers who have used them. This year we have noticed a big improvement in the oracy of Year 5 children on transfer from first schools who have done philosophy. The quality of their questioning has risen dramatically.