Pedagogy Focus: Ken Robinson

As part of our Pedagogy Focus series, we look at work of Ken Robinson and what he has to say about education

pedagogy robinson

Who is Ken Robinson?

Sir Ken Robinson (born 1950) is a British author, speaker and adviser on educational reform. 

In 1999, he led an advisory committee in an inquiry into the importance of creativity in the educational system and economy (colloquially known as the Robinson report). 

What does he say about education?

Robinson has also written extensively on the need to radically reform the national approach to education, championing an environment that cultivates creativity and divergent thinking rather than academic knowledge and exam success.

He argues that we are currently educating our pupils out of creativity by training them to conform to a rigid system. 

He proposes that all subjects should be viewed as equally important and educational approaches should not be so bound up in testing, allowing instead for a more personalised and organic experience for pupils.  

How have his ideas influenced pedagogy?

Robinson suggested three key strands for moving educational practice forward:

  • Schools need to dispel the myth that there is a divide between academic and non-academic subjects, and that some subjects carry a greater level of prestige than others. Instead, pupils need to see a collection of skills and approaches as necessary to future success and traditional, academic routes as only one way to equip themselves for life and work.
  • There needs to be a recognition of the importance of collaboration within the learning environment. Robinson asserts that the best learning takes place in groups and pooling knowledge provides greater opportunities for growth; this is true for both students and staff. Robinson also advocates a whole-school approach, where staff work collaboratively across disciplines in order to share expertise and develop ways of engaging pupils.
  • Reform needs to begin with a change to the habitual ways of thinking across the educational system as a whole. The current set-up is entrenched in old-fashioned and outdated principles that actually obstruct learning and hinder creativity and enthusiasm. 

    According to Robinson, schools can begin work on this by encouraging innovation and risk-taking, and by valuing staff who are willing to try different ways of engaging and teaching their students. While boundaries are still necessary, schools should not see constraints and rules from government policy as meaning they have no options and should instead find ways to start a change in practice from the bottom up.

Further reading

Ken Robinson (1989) The Arts In Schools: Principles, practice and provision (Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation)

Robinson’s TED Talk Do schools kill creativity? (2006)

Robinson’s website

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