How to Change Education – from the ground up

How to Change Education – from the ground up

Now there’s a grand statement eh, ‘How to Change Education – from the ground up’. Fear not dear reader, you do not have to rely on me to deliver on such a grand aspiration, instead you must look to a master in the art of creativity, Sir Ken Robinson. Sir Ken is giving a talk on how to change eduction at the RSA on July 1st at 13:00 UK time, and if you are anything like me – you were a little slow out of the blocks and missed out on the chance for a ticket. Don’t beat yourself up too much – the talk sold out in a blink of an eye, and importantly the RSA will livestream it, so join me and other ticketless hordes as we sit in comfort at a distance and violently (or otherwise) agree and disagree with Sir Ken, whilst eating crisps at the kind of noise levels which would surely get us thrown out, were we in the auditorium.

‘What does this Robinson feller have to say about education anyway?’ I hear you ask. Well quite a lot actually, and if you are tempted to listen into the talk – maybe check this neat RSA animated video where among other things he challenges the practice of anaesthetising kids through school and the model of standardised education.

Divergent Thinking

Something Sir Ken talks about in this video is divergent thinking, or the ability to see lots of possible answers to a question. He describes this thinking ability as an essential capacity for creativity and collaboration, and then proceeds to talk about some tests carried out to assess our ability for divergent thinking.

Typically when asked to explore a question like ‘How many uses can you think of for a paperclip?’ we will come up with ten to fifteen suggestions. Someone who is very good at divergent thinking might come up with over a hundred. In the book Breakpoint and Beyond, 1,500 people are tested for their ability to think divergently. The percentage of people who rated above genius level for this ability was an astounding 98%. When they were first tested, the 1,500 people were at kindergarten level in school. The same group were retested at the ages of 8-10, and at 13-15, by which time the percentages had fallen to 32% and 10% respectively. The researchers then tested a large group of adults over the age of 25 and this group returned 2% of people considered genius level in divergent thinking. When you consider the importance work places on creativity and particularly on collaboration – that seems like a pretty alarming tail off in our ability to deliver against a collaborative agenda, don’t you think?

Increasingly my work focuses on helping people unlock pathways to creativity and collaboration so I’m intrigued to hear what Sir Ken will have to say on July 1st. Making changes in such a calcified system will not be easy. This week Neil Morrison laid into workplace platitudes such as ‘Raising The Bar‘ and for sure, the boldness and persistence required to make worthwhile change in eduction stick is not well served by over simplifying the challenge. In the meantime, and before Sir Ken lays his ideas out for us all, if you’ve got any thoughts on this subject, I’d love to hear them.

photo credit

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

5 thoughts on “How to Change Education – from the ground up”

  1. Hi Doug

    Great post. I’d recommend the work of John Abbott whose book Overschooled but Undereducated lays out how education could be changed –

    Ideas from the book have been turned into animations here:

    I do some work with John so this may seem like a blatant plug, which I guess it is. However, he has been synthesising research on how we learn for 30 years and I find his work compelling.

    As a parent governor I find it deeply depressing that the measure of success for a primary school is literacy and numeracy. As important as it is this is not only what primary school is for – things such as creativity, helping create our children’s life story, critical and divergent thinking . . . the list could go on, are crucial to our children’s development.

    The truth is we know we need to equip children with deeper skills such as resilience in order that they succeed in their increasingly uncertain future.

    Final link:

    Check out what the guy from the US Education Department has to say about why US education must be transformed and what John Seely Brown has to say about skills our children will need.

    Bit of link share there but thanks for sparking it.

  2. Thanks Martin and Broc – I appreciate you sharing stuff, honestly this is not a subject I know much about though I feel strongly that school education needs considerable reshaping. So you are both helping me and doubtless others too with what you’ve contributed. 🙂

  3. Just got me a ticket for the Ken Robinson talk on Monday, turns out going on the wait list was a good idea. I’ll listen as well as I can and report back afterwards.

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