Coaching, Education, and Feedback-Based Grading: Thoughts on the Final 3 Chapters of Ken Robinson’s Out of Our Minds

The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul.Let’s take a peek behind the implications of a grading system where “A and B are both correct, but C is most correct.”

Robinson ends Out of Our Minds with a crescendo of both the importance of educating for creativity as well as examples of schools and institutions that do so. I found myself literally cheering examples and daydreaming about the possibility of innovative education systems catching on.

There are hundreds of schools that are innovating and pushing the boundaries of what school can be. Unfortunately, there are thousands of schools still adhering to the traditional model as well.

Traditional schools excel at training people to answer questions with one clear, right answer. Even history and language are deduced into multiple choice tests with one, hopefully clear, right answer. Such a grading system elevates certain disciplines while depressing others, and gives the false appearance that creativity is necessary only for the arts.

The logic then continues in the following set of assumptions. Intelligence is for math and science. Creativity is for the arts. The arts are not as important as math and science. Creativity is not as important as intelligence.

It’s an argument and theme that Robinson riffs on throughout the book. My biggest takeaway from the last three chapters builds on this foundation. I was struck by the practical implications of grading answers to questions with only one right answer versus grading answers for questions or assignments with many right answers.

For example, let’s consider what would happen if students were allowed to hand in multiple copies of a paper to try out different voices, styles, arguments, word choices?

And let’s just assume that students get beyond their knee-jerk reaction of revolting at the least hint of doing extra work. The reason why students hate extra work is because they are going to be judged by how well they do.

Imagine if, instead of grades, students received only feedback. Information on which of the three papers was the most engaging or interesting.

Exchange judgment for information, and all of a sudden, people want to pay attention.

People in jobs usually considered “creative” are used to crafting several versions or drafts and eliciting feedback from others.

The feedback adds immense value. Grades only assess value. In some cases extract it by draining mental and emotional energy. Students spend so much time stressing their grades.

Such a feedback-base grading system isn’t a new idea, but the pervasiveness of the judgment-based system makes it seem revolutionary.

Coaching even takes the feedback-base grading system another step. In the realm of coaching, a client is the expert in the client’s life and the job of the coach is to elicit insights and learning from the client.

In an education focused feedback system, the teacher is still the expert, giving the student expert feedback on what could be improved.

In a coach focused feedback system, the client is the expert and is invited to consider situations from different perspectives and create powerful insights on what can be improved.

The combination of having expert feedback and coaching-elicited, self-feedback is incredibly powerful.

The best teams on earth know it. It’s what drove the exponential growth of the coaching industry, and the concept is just getting started. It’s only a matter of time before it disrupts education in a deep way too.

Looking forward to diving into this book and talking coaching with you!

~ John

1 thought on “Coaching, Education, and Feedback-Based Grading: Thoughts on the Final 3 Chapters of Ken Robinson’s Out of Our Minds”

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