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In the Zone


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Table of Contents


  1. What is learning?
  2. The zone and the importance of challenge
  3. Attitudes to learning
  4. Formative assessment
  5. Memory and the learning brain
  6. The terror of error
  7. The hook
  8. Creativity
  9. Flow in learning
  10. Questioning
  11. Challenge and positive mental health

About the Author

Mike Lansdown is a PGCE tutor and MA in education supervisor with the University of Buckingham's education department, a position he has held since retiring from his second headship in 2015. Prior to completing 18 years as a headteacher, he worked in London teaching in both the primary and secondary sectors. Before this, he taught English as a foreign language (EFL) in London and in Sweden, but started life as a teacher of geography, geology and PE. He believes that engagement and enjoyment, mixed with creativity, inquisitiveness and a willingness to take risks, underpin great teaching and learning.


Easy to read, gripping and thoroughly thought provoking. In The Zone is not just a guide to teaching and learning, it comprehensively explores the pedagogy and theory behind specific ideas, with appropriate links to educational advice given today. Lansdown quite simply 'gets' modern-day challenges in education. He does not preach, he inspires and encourages investigation into one's own practise. From personal experience he imparts tips and tricks for teachers at any stage - whether it be for modernising and refreshing teaching styles, or motivating trainees early in their teaching careers like myself.

The chapters are well written, attractively illustrated and the use of questions encourages reflection on readers own teaching throughout. I particularly enjoyed the way in which the structure of the writing encompasses Lansdown's own role as an educator, just like pupils readers are: stimulated with questions, encouraged to think deeply in relation to personal experience, led to understand the theory behind the skill/practise and finally even encouraged with 'next steps' through practical opportunities for development.

I found "Hook 'em and Hold 'em" (Chapter 7) incredibly refreshing in exploring teaching strategies through pupils' own interests and excitements. The breadth of sensory ideas to grasp pupil interest is eye-opening in exploring how we can effectively captivate learner interest without the need for resources or extensive time-consuming prior preparation. I look forward to testing these out in the classroom!

-- Eli Young, Chepstow House School

In the Zone is a book which should inspire and inform teachers and non-teachers alike. It is based on Mike's lifetime as an educator and school leader, rooted in a deep understanding of the pedagogical background to today's education system, taking the reader from an academic platform built on scholarly references, through inspirational texts, diagrams, humorous cartoons and questions, all designed to support the reader in their own learning journey.

Great teaching does not just tell; it inspires the learner to want to find out more by investigating for themselves. That is what this book does. If you want to better understand how to support your child and others in their learning, but you feel you would like some practical support, then this is what this book does. But don't take my word for it; read the book for yourself and you will find that for every page you spend reading, you will spend much more time thinking and even, I hope, having the chance to put your ideas into practice. Don't turn down the opportunity!

-- Christopher McDermott

In the Zone is a concise and accessible book focused on children's learning and how, as a teacher, we can maximise this, both at school and beyond. The chapters are clearly broken down into manageable sections, drawing attention to the most important aspects of effective learning. In particular, chapter 2 (the importance of challenge) and chapter 3 (attitudes to learning) resonated with me as a trainee teacher.

It is hard to strike the right balance and the author helps with this by offering questions or tasks at the end of each chapter providing structured reflection and prompts to relate the content to personal practice and experience.

Furthermore the author's use of a wide range of research, opinions and visual aids alongside real life examples was thought provoking. Therefore the book is ideal as a point of reference if you want to try something new or want to be reminded of personal key motivators for becoming a teacher.

-- Isabelle Gulliver, University of Buckingham

Mike Lansdown has written a very readable guide to learning. He brings together the theories of educationalists over the years right up to modern times, explains and discusses their key points, and then applies his own broad experience in schools to produce a very clear and useful guide to what to aim for and what to avoid when promoting pupil learning.

This book is packed with useful tips and real life practical examples that have been used successfully in schools. A great balance between theory and practice. A must for a students training to be teachers, newly qualified teachers and experienced teachers wanting to improve their pupils' learning.

-- Philip Gibbs. Retired headteacher. Link Tutor St. Mary's University

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