Book Club 1 What you will learn from Creative Schools by Sir Ken Robinson

Show Notes

Chapter #1: Back to basics

  • People keep saying schools should get back to basics
  • They mean increasing results in math, eng and sci or at least literacy and numeracy
  • They use lots of tests to monitor this as a way to judge school and teachers
  • This is having a negative effect on schooling as we focus on preparing students for tests

Chapter #2: Changing metaphors

  • Schools were and many still are based on the industrial model of one size fits all, conformity etc
  • But, they are organic, human institutions and humans cannot be treated as things such as in industrial systems
  • Schools should be more like a garden for growing living organisms

Chapter #3: Changing Schools

  • Finland invests heavily in training and developing teachers and this is key to a quality education system.
  • Encourages schools to collaborate rather than compete. 
  • NO standardised tests but 1.
  • The best place to think about changing education is where you are.
  • Change is within your power as a teacher or a parent or a principal or policy maker or even as a student.
  • Get back to the fundamentals… helping students learn! And learning is relational

Chapter #4: Natural born learners

  • Children are born great learners. Naturally inquisitive and persistent
  • Intelligence is diverse, just as interest is. Some people like logic, others emotion, some are skilled artists, while others play sport or read a book. 

Chapter #5: The art of teaching

  • Teachers are there to facilitate learning
  • 4 roles:
    • Engage, enable, expect and empower students
  • Models such as:
    • Flipped learning
    • Inquiry-based learning
    • Linking learning with industry
  • Teaching and learning is a relationship (connect and believe)
  • Goal is to build learning power (Guy Claxton)

Chapter #6: What’s worth knowing

  • Constant controversy over this
  • Should be competency based
  • Lists the 4Cs as key things for education (curiosity, creativity, criticism,communication, collaboration, compassion, composure, citizenship
  • No such thing as subjects, just different ways of looking at things, they are more disciplines than subjects
  • We should be cross-disciplinary using design thinking type approaches
  • Schools could be democratic
  • Curriculum should have diversity, depth and dynamism (collaboration)

Chapter #7: Testing testing

  • The use of testing has lead to poor teaching, poor schooling and worse learning.
  • It is time to restore teaching and learning to the centre of education
  • Assessment is needed and beneficial, but high stakes testing it NOT

Chapter #8: Principles for principals

  • A quality principal can change education at the school level
  • Principles should give permission, give autonomy, support alternative approaches
  • Connect to the business world and real world
  • Organic conditions for growth help the essential features of empowering cultures of learning. Features include
    • Community
    • Individuality
    • Possibility 

Chapter #9: Bring it all back home

  • Parent engagement is vital for student learning
  • Helicopter parenting creates children who lack resilience and independence
  • Parents should engage with their child but also with the school and broader community to empower schools for learning

Chapter #10: Changing the climate

  • Policies should be adapted or completely changed in order to promote quality teaching and learning.
  • Schools should be allowed to focus on student-centred learning


"It's not industry. It's about people, it's an organic process. Teaching is about creating the conditions that are best to help students learn"



Dan: (00:00)
Well, hi everyone. And welcome to the first of my, what you will learn or, you know, kind of book reviews or a book club. I think I might call it book club, Hey, the book club for effective teaching. I’m going to basically talk to you about some of the books that I’ve read. I’m hoping to read a few more of them in the future as well, obviously. And similarly I do is kind of give you a run through of what’s in the book so that you can decide either that you want to purchase the book and read it yourself or buy it from a library, or maybe give you a kind of summary that’s enough for you to go and apply what’s there into your teaching and learning already. So I decided what better way to start this new aspect to, uh, both. And obviously, yeah, I’m also videoing this one.

Dan: (00:47)
So if you wanna watch the video for this, come on over, you’ll see, I’ll put images up and stuff in this video too. I’ll show you some of the diagrams that are in the book. Uh, you’ll see the cover of the book and all that kind of stuff, but we’re going to start by looking at the book by Sir Ken Robinson, Creative Schools. And yeah, this is really a lot of his Ted talks are in this book or they came out of this book. I’m not entirely sure I haven’t checked which order they went to, but I’m going to basically run you through what he said in his 10 chapters in this book and what we can learn from it. So that when we go into our classrooms, when we go into our schools, we can benefit from this book. Even if you haven’t read it well in chapter one called back to basics.

Dan: (01:31)
Ken talks about the fact that our politicians constantly harp on about the need for schools to go back to basics, right? And he’s basically saying that what politicians or what our general society means by that, that is that that means going back to reading and math, it goes back to science. It goes back to those core kind of subjects and negates, a lot of the other subjects. And obviously, so Ken Robinson was a creative teacher. He was an art teacher and he obviously has issues with that. And honestly, I would say so too, I think it’s all good to check on students’ literacy and to check on their numeracy and they do need to develop those kinds of things. And I do hope that they’re good at maths, English, and science, but I think that’s the wrong way of looking at schools. And that’s basically what he’s going to talk about too, throughout this book.

Dan: (02:23)
Uh, and he’s going to talk about the fact that, you know, when we look at getting back to these basics, what our politicians tend to do is create standardized testing and implement it throughout our schools to monitor it and to constantly monitor it. Uh, and it’s all about the fact that the, these are, these are in the, uh, the international PISA tests. That’s what they do kind of looking at. And so we’re going to focus on making sure that our country looks good against other countries. And then, you know, people start to, compare schools against schools, and really, that’s not what these tests should used for. The test generally should be used as formative for teachers to understand where their students are at to then adapt their teaching practices, not in a standardized way across the whole school. Now in this chapter, he also talks about the use of lots and lots of tests to monitor and judge schools, to judge the teachers and the negative effect that this has on how people go about teaching.

Dan: (03:23)
Right? So it’s having a really big effect on how teachers teach, because teachers are starting to teach for tests, not for learning. And I think that is one of the biggest problems in our schools. And I am supported by sir, Ken Robinson, uh, in his thoughts as well. We then come to chapter two. And in chapter two, Ken is going to talk about how our schools need to essentially change metaphors. So when schooling was originally set up, it was set up in the industrial model was in the industrial age. And so everyone got everything quite standardized. You know, a teacher taught from the front, the kids wrote notes, everyone did tests and you graduated and you came out and everyone had to behave themselves and be quiet and to sit still and there were essentially train people up for the industrial system. Now, what Ken’s talking about in this chapter is the fact that you can’t do that to education because education isn’t about things.

Dan: (04:23)
It’s not industry. It’s about people, it’s an organic process. And so he starts to link the metaphor across to gardening and the whole idea of agriculture and growing food and talks about essentially all the work and effort that people go into creating the right conditions for growing food is the same that we should be, same thing that we should be doing as we try and go about teaching students and helping them to learn, we should be looking to create the ideal climate, I guess, or the conditions to help our students grow and make sure they’ve got the nutrients in the ground. They’re getting water, they’re getting sun and that they’re being cared for and all that kind of stuff. And so that is what he’s talking about in chapter two. And we get to chapter three, we have this compassion that he does with Finland.

Dan: (05:12)
And basically he’s going to talk about how to go about the process of actually changing schools because Finland changed their entire education system. When they realized that it was going poorly with the focus on standardized testing. And so essentially what happened is that they got rid of their standardized testing. Instead they focused on quality teaching and learning. And so they really worked on training their teachers well, and the continuing that professional development for teachers throughout their time as educators, to make sure that they were delivering quality education throughout their entire system. They also encourage schools to collaborate rather than compete against each other. So they were sharing resources and ideas and teachers were helping each other all the time. And they basically, they only had one standardized test in Finland. And that is very last test at the end of their school life. Now can also says we want to change education.

Dan: (06:05)
The best place for us to start is actually right where we are because we are teachers. We are empowered. And even if you’re not a teacher, if you’re a student, if you’re a principal, if you’re a policymaker, if you’re a parent, there are ways that you can really be involved in improving the education that’s happening across our country, across the whatever country you’re in. Really cause a lot of countries, particularly Western countries have this standardized approach to education. And so we are the ones who can change and we change it at our level. And as a teacher, if we can change it for our students, then helps them to fall in love with learning. It helps them become lifelong learners. It helps them to enjoy life and be better prepared for what’s out there because as they leave school these days, students are generally not going into industrial systems.

Dan: (06:51)
They are instead now going into more design thinking systems and businesses and needing to be entrepreneurial. And those kinds of skills don’t come from an industrialized education system. They come from more of an organic education system. The final thing that Ken say is in this chapter is that we really do need to get back to the fundamentals of education, but those fundamentals are helping students to learn and making sure that we’re focusing on the relationships between teachers and students, because we have that relationship that is the absolute core and essential, um, aspect of creating quality teaching and learning is to make sure that the teacher is really good in that relationship in terms of developing and facilitating, learning in that student. And so relationship is key to be able to do that. Chapter four is all about natural born learners. And he Ken’s talking about the fact that as children, we are born as learners, we are very curious.

Dan: (07:55)
We are resilient, you know, uh, kids try and learn a language. It takes them a long time. It’s difficult that they’re trying to learn to walk. And regardless of how many times they fail or fall over, they keep getting up and they keep learning. And he says that that is there in children. And if we focus on children and watch them learn, we can then help us as teachers to then know, okay, well, that’s actually how people learn really well. And there’s lots of research behind that, that if we look at helping to develop curiosity in our students and resilience and those kinds of things, that they become better learners, he also talks in this chapter about the fact that intelligence is diverse and what he means by that is basically that people have particular preferences and people generally do better at particular areas. And so they become intelligent in it that they then work really hard.

Dan: (08:49)
And so you might have someone who’s really into, you know, structured and natural understandings of the world. Then you might have people who are really into reading books or really into sport or people who are just particularly skilled. Artists can be anything, but people have various different things that they are interested in. And that also drives their curiosity, develops them into learners in that area, which then helps them to become intelligent in that area. Essentially. Now in chapter five, we get down to the real crux of the book when we’re talking about the art of teaching and in the art of teaching, Ken talks all about how teachers’ role is just to facilitate learning in their students. It says that there’s four roles of the teacher to fulfill in doing this number one is to engage the student. The second one is to enable the student.

Dan: (09:40)
The third is to expect a lot from the students. So setting your expectations and the fourth one is to empower your students as learners to go along with this, he talks about particular models of learning that are really beneficial for creating lifelong learners. So he talks about flipped learning coming in and how that frees up the teacher to actually spend more time on quality teaching in the classroom and the students getting that content type, lower level learning at home, which is very much how they learn these days. Anyway, when they use technology, they’re watching videos, they’re reading things themselves, and they can learn in that sense. And then you want to be there to help them with their application, critical inquiry and all that kind of stuff. He also talks about inquiry based learning and that whole inquisitive nature and creating whole units, basically around these questions that students have about what they will learn and then building curriculum into that.

Dan: (10:41)
He also talks about linking learning with industry. And so I guess in that sense, it’s a bit more like project-based learning this one where you’re looking at really creating a product at the end and connecting out with people outside of the classroom. And that’s normally when Ken’s talking about these talks about businesses, non-for-profits those types of things, not just connecting with people, but connecting with projects that are happening outside of the school and bringing those into the school or being in the students out to connect to that as well. Again, in this chapter, he emphasizes the relationship aspect and how teachers and students really need to work on that relationship because that is the key to basically connecting with the students and believing in them is what that whole teaching and learning relationship is about. And then finally it talks about the goal, uh, basically being to build learning power, which is a Guy Claxton thing.

Dan: (11:39)
He has a book all about building learning power, and we’re going to hopefully get to that this year, but I read that one, but that’s what, something that he talks about here as well, which is essentially about developing the learning dispositions in students and helping students to become self-sufficient lifelong learners, which is a lot of what we talk about throughout a lot of this podcasts, chapter six shifts into talking about what is worth knowing. And so here, you know, there’s constant controversy over these people constantly debating what should be in the curriculum and what shouldn’t be in the curriculum and things get changed and jumped all over the place. And it’s often because a minister wants to, you know, make someone happy. And so they put stuff into the curriculum and it, you know, there’s payoffs or whatever. I don’t know, like there’s just too many external things influencing what goes on until there’s lots of debate, even from professors and people high up in education debating what should be covered.

Dan: (12:35)
And so basically he shifts that away from talking about the nitty gritties of it, to focusing more on the skills and the whole idea of competency-based learning. And he talks about not the four CS, right. He talked about what to see. So there’s curiosity, there’s creativity, there’s criticism, communication, collaboration, compassion, composure, and citizenship, lots of Cs there about, and talks about them as the keys, uh, as, uh, educational keys for students. And basically the kid they’re kind of like dispositions their skill sets that relate specifically to being effective lifelong learners. And then also talks about the idea that there’s actually not really such thing as subjects, you know, English isn’t on its own sciences. So math is not on its own, but they’re actually just different perspectives on disciplines. And so he then talks about doing interdisciplinary unit designs and removing the idea of subjects where instead of instead encouraging us to blend things together, kind of like we do with STEM or with a lot of our project based learning type actions, they often blend together multiple subjects as well.

Dan: (13:45)
So those kinds of things he’s really promoting throughout this section. And then finally he talks about how schools could be democratic in the sense of really giving students a voice in what happens across the school so that the curriculum then becomes diverse, deep and basically building collaboration throughout. So that’s chapter six, not long ago, a few months ago, it’s a long one. It’s a good book. That was very good book. Chapter seven is about the testing testing. Testing is what he calls it. So the use of testing basically says, yeah, it led to poor teaching, really bad results for schools. Uh, we get worst learning happening. And so it was time to restore teaching and learning to the center of education. He says that assessment is still needed and is very beneficial, but talks about as formative assessment. And it’s something that teachers use to check in on students to know what’s next for them and to watch students progress.

Dan: (14:43)
Uh, but basically there’s a high stakes testing and particularly lots of it is quite detrimental for learning because it means that teachers essentially kind of led by the system to be teaching kids for a test. And I actually see that all the time in new South Wales where teachers are focused on teaching kids, how to really well in their final HSE exams, rather than focusing on helping kids actually learn and learn the skills of learning and to be good learners and to learn their subject at the same time, chapter eight is principles for principles. So this focuses on the leaders of schools and basically says that the quality principle can change education at the school level. And that principals should be giving permission to teachers, giving them autonomy and supporting the ideas that our teachers come up with that are alternate to our normal industrial type model, where we have, you know, timetabled periods, timetabled subjects, uh, all that kind of stuff that people move around by bills.

Dan: (15:43)
He says, we can challenge all those presuppositions about what schooling should look like and come up with a better model here. Uh, he also talks about the need for principals to help the school connect with businesses outside in the real world, and really focus on creating those organic conditions that are needed to help our students to grow and be empowered in a culture that supports learning. And so he lists a few features that really can help with this. Basically this three of them, one is community. So developing your community to be empowered for learning, focusing on individuality, so differentiation and that kind of stuff, and possibility actually saying yes and finding alternatives to our general systems that are used across a lot of education systems at the moment, chapter nine talks about bringing it all back home. And this is all about the need for parents to be connected into the learning for their students and that it can be just parents being engaged in general with their student.

Dan: (16:48)
It could be parents being engaged in the specific activities of learning with their students. He goes further than this too. When he talks about how parents can really be positive and impactful on schools as a whole by supporting schools with their changes by lobbying governments, by just being supportive of different activities and really engaging in the home community of the school, not just for their own student, but for the whole school in general. And he really encourages that to do as something that parents should be doing as they engage in learning with their student, with their child. All right, final chapter is about changing the climate. So here we talk a lot about policies need to be changed and updated. If you’re a policy maker, try and change them so that they promote quality teaching learning in schools and start to move away from tests, move away from the industrial model that we currently have and seek to allow flexibility and autonomy to the schools and the teachers that they can do.

Dan: (17:51)
What they’re trained to do. They spend years at uni learning how to do and what they then continually to learn to do as they teach throughout their career. So he says that schools should be allowed to focus on student centered learning in this chapter. Now the book finishes the final chapter. That’s, that’s it. The 10th chapter, the book finishes with some really great words from Ken Robinson. These words, I love it. I think it’s actually might be quoting Gandih. He says, when enough people move, that is a movement. And if the movement has enough energy, that it’s a revolution and in education, that is exactly what we need. Well, that’s it. That’s our first little book club going through a book we’ve gone through creative schools by Ken Robinson. If you would like please head over to, to get the show notes for this episode, to make sure that you also come leave me a comment.

Dan: (18:48)
I would love to hear from you what your ideas are for creating a revolution at your school. And of course, give me some ideas of some other books that I should read that I should make sure that I cover as I do this in, throughout my podcast as well for you to help you to improve your practice. Well, I hope that you enjoy me. Next time. I do a book club episode. My next book club episode will focus on Embedded Formative Assessment by Dylan, Wiliam. So come on over. I would love for you to be there. They show you subscribe, actually make sure you subscribe so that you don’t miss that episode and come over and let me know in the comments, what you thought of this. I would love to know if I should keep doing them or if I should maybe stop if you’re not into them. Thanks.

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