“We called it a studio school to go back to the original idea of a studio in the Renaissance where work and learning are integrated. You work by learning, and you learn by working.”
In this short TED talk from July 2011, Geoff Mulgan introduces The Studio School, “a new concept in education, which seeks to address the growing gap between the skills and knowledge that young people require to succeed, and those that the current education system provides.” The Studio Schools are based on a “simple idea about turning education on its head and putting the things which were marginal, things like working in teams, doing practical projects, and putting them right at the heart of learning, rather than on the edges.”
“We think we’re onto something. It’s not perfect yet, but we think this is one idea which can transform the lives of thousands, possibly millions, of teenagers who are really bored by schooling. It doesn’t animate them. […] They want to do things, they want to get their hands dirty, they want education to be for real.”
Studio Schools, which operate in the UK exclusively, are based on seven key features:
- Academic Excellence ~ Like traditional schools, Studio Schools teach the National Curriculum and offer key academic and vocational qualifications. On leaving their Studio School, students will have the full range of progression routes available to them. They will have gained the qualifications, knowledge and skills to choose the option which is suitable to them: entering the jobs market from an advantageous position; starting an apprenticeship; or going on to further or higher education.
- Employability and Enterprise Skills ~ Key employability and life skills underpin all the activities at a Studio School through the unique CREATE skills framework. CREATE is comprised of a wide range of skills and stands for Communication, Relating to people, Enterprise, Applied skills, Thinking skills and Emotional intelligence. Four years in the making, CREATE is grounded in a wide range of skills typologies and has been developed specifically for Studio Schools in order to equip young people with the key skills that they need to flourish.
- Personalized Curriculum ~ all students are assigned a ‘personal coach’ who meets with them one-to-one every fortnight to develop their own personalized learning plan. This allows students to tailor their curriculum to their individual needs and aspirations, and track their progress towards their CREATE skills and qualifications. Personalization of the curriculum is further supported through a small school environment in which every young person is able to access the tailored support that they need.
- Practical Learning ~ Enquiry-based learning (EBL) lies at the heart of the Studio Schools’ curriculum model. In Studio Schools, students learn the National Curriculum principally through Enterprise Projects in their school, local businesses and surrounding community. To root students’ learning in the real world most projects involve external commissions. So whether it is a health report for their local hospital or a business brief for a local employer, students’ learning is authentic and actively involves them in local community life.
- Real Work ~ students spend a significant portion of their weekly time on real work placements. Students work as employees in local businesses and, crucially, students over sixteen earn a wage. Students in Year 10 and 11 participate in four hours work experience each week, and students in Year 12 and 13 spend two days per week in work. There is considerable evidence that this direct, ‘hands on’ experience better prepares young people for life and work.
- Small Schools ~ As small schools of around 300 students, Studio Schools offer a supportive, personalized learning environment in which strong pastoral care runs throughout the school’s activities. This helps to ensure that no young person gets lost within the institution and that young people are able to build strong relationships with their peers and coaches. Crucially, coaches know students well, making them better able to tailor the curriculum to their individual needs and aspirations.
- Students of All Abilities
Speaking of studio schools, I had an interesting conversation yesterday with a deep critical thinker turned designer who shared some fascinating insight about her transition from ‘traditional’ classrooms to a studio-based learning environment. She noted that studio-based schools promote an enhanced sense of transparency and openness that is markedly absent from desks and rows types of schools. In the studio, everything one works on is out in the open, visible to all other pupils. Being a learner in this type of environment, requires one to adjust to a certain level of comfort with ‘failing’ publicly–when one’s process is laid bare for all to see, the inherent stumbles and mistakes of learning and growing can and will be witnessed by others. This typically is not the case in traditional classrooms, as pupils’ processes and mistakes are shielded and contained by their individual desks and notebooks. What really interested me, was this designer’s observation that whereas while she was in traditional types of schools the emphasis was on seeming as intelligent as possible, once she entered studio-based education, her focus shifted to learning how to embrace this transparency which was inherent to her new learning environment. This observation made me wonder about the link between learning environments and Carol Dweck‘s research on growth mindset. Can growth mindset be nurtured and communicated through spatial arrangements? Are pupils in studio-based learning environments more likely to adhere to a growth mindset than those whose process and learning practices are shielded by the boundaries of their desks and the neat rows in which these desks are arranged? I’d love to know what you think…*
Geoff Mulgan: A short intro to the Studio School | via TED.Com, published September 2011.