Egan K, Cant A and Judson G (eds)(2014) Wonder-full Education: The centrality of wonder in teaching and learning across the curriculum. London: Routledge

243 pages

Wonder-full Education focuses on the nature of wonder within education from a teachers’ perspective and within the joy of learning from a learners’ perspective. It is about the fascination felt when being taught by a knowledgeable passionate teacher. Whilst a play on words, the title Wonder-full Education considers how we can reclaim the value of wonder in our classrooms.

Wonder-full Education is written in three parts. The first part explores the nature of wonder and its educational uses and takes the reader into a world where the sense of wonder becomes a pedagogical resource. Two practical examples are given to ground the theory; these are taken from science and mathematics.

Part two considers how we engage wonder in the everyday classroom beginning with a discussion on the joy of teaching and the fascination of learning. To counter the argument that is easier to capture wonder in the Primary classroom the author explores ways it can be re-kindled in secondary and tertiary schools. Having explored a philosophical stance practical ways are offered to instil wonder in the relationship between teachers and students and the curriculum.

Finally, part three uses the dimensions of awe and wonder to create a pedagogy of wonder. The author’s unique approach in Wonder-full education helps to make the distinction between the feelings of joy and surprise that children experience and the experiencing of wonder as a learning tool to create an amazing schooling experience for students and teachers. It calls for wonder to lie at the very heart of learning.

‘Wonder is that special affection of a philosopher; for philosophy has no  other starting point than this’ (Martineau, 1901)

The contributors  (lecturers and doctoral students) explore a topic that they have found of interest within their work or writing. Whilst the book is not research based each chapter draws from theory and research. Each part uses different writing styles to reflect the individuality of the writers with the common thread of wonder.

The book as a whole provides an international and multicultural manifesto for creativity, awe and wonder. This is interesting, as the wonder does not translate into some languages for example, Romanian. This may encourage those in power to adopt some of the suggestions made whilst teachers will relate to the practical suggestions being put forward.

In the last chapter ‘Wonder for sale’ Annabella Cant gives the stark contrast of where we are with motivating our students in their learning. She uses an example from the preface of a curriculum programme in her native Canada.

Each grade in the model contains an Assessment overview Table intended to support teachers with their assessment practices, and the assessment unites organized by topic – including the prescribed learning outcomes and suggested assessment activities for each topic.

(preface to the BC Health and Career Education Curriculum Package, 2006,p7)

She believes the education system can be turned around and so presents her version of the above preface that demands teachers to look into the eyes of their students in order for the teaching to begin. She writes

Each grade in this model contains many strategies and methods intended to support teachers with their natural ability to include wonder in every lesson and to identify opportunities for listening to all children in order tobe able to adapt their lesson plans to the rhythm of the questions and intended explorations initiated by children.

Preface to the Ideal Curriculum Package, Here and Now, p1)

Wonder-full Education was written for truly international audience of teachers, administrators, early childhood educators, undergraduate and graduate education students and parents.

However, in my opinion the domain of educational policy making would require a major shift change to fully engage with the proposals in this book.

The authors believe that Wonder–full Education is different from other educational literature as they have made a unique distinction between wonder as a childish feeling of joy and surprise, and wonder as a powerful learning tool that has the potential to change the schooling experience of both students and educators. At moments the book is deeply philosophical and at other times it is practical. I imagine its interest to different audiences would depend on their need and reason for reading the book.


Dr Coleen R Jackson
Consultant Principal, Waverley Abbey College