The eight traits that make a school great

by Robert Ballantyne17 Aug 2015

Sir Ken Robinson has some 40 years of experience in the education industry, having taught in classrooms, worked alongside governments and researched educational theory worldwide.

In April, Robinson released a new book called ‘Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education.The book expands on his 2006 TED talk, titled: “Do schools kill creativity?” which remains the most viewed TED talk of all time.

An article which appeared in Business Insider Australia outlined the eight competencies which Robinson says all great schools bestow to their students. Here they are below:

 
1. Curiosity: The ability to ask questions and explore how the world works.

“Knowing how to nurture and guide students’ curiosity is the gift of all great teachers,” Robinson writes.

"They do that by encouraging students to investigate and inquire for themselves, by posing questions rather than only giving answers, and by challenging them to push their thinking deeper by looking further.”

 
2. Creativity: The ability to generate new ideas and to apply them in practice.

“As the challenges that face students become more complex,” Robinson writes, “it’s essential that schools help them all to develop their unique capacities for creative thought and action.”
 
3. Criticism: The ability to analyse information and ideas to form reasoned arguments and judgments.
We’re living in the Information Age. That means there’s more of a need than ever for young generations to stay sceptical — “to separate fact from opinion, sense from nonsense, and honesty from deception,” Robinson explains.

In his view, every discipline taught in school should be infused with an appreciation for criticism. Kids should learn that not everything they’re told is true, but to still respect reasons when they’re valid.

 
4. Communication: The ability to express thoughts and feelings clearly and confidently in a range of media and forms.

“We think in sounds and images, in movements and gesture,” Robinson says, “which gives rise to our capacities for music, visual arts, dance, and theatre in all their variations.”

Together, these tools help kids get their ideas out into the world, so that they stand a fair shot at reaching their full potential.

 
5. Collaboration: The ability to work constructively with others.

Diverse thoughts drive innovation. That’s why hive minds and think tanks are so popular. In schools, group projects allow kids to be more social and work through disagreements.

“They can learn to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and to support agreed solutions,” Robinson writes.
In doing so, kids strengthen their sense of teamwork and realise where they lack certain skills, which they can later hone.

 
6. Compassion: The ability to empathise with others and act accordingly.

Robinson says that compassion is empathy in practice. It’s the habit of thinking about other people’s motivations and goals in guiding their behaviour.

Kids who cultivate compassion learn not to bully or act impulsively. Over time, they can put that restraint to use in higher education and in wider society.

Robinson says that “in schools, as elsewhere, compassion has to be practiced, not preached.”

 
7. Composure: The ability to connect with the inner life of feeling and develop a sense of personal harmony and balance.

Schools enjoy the unique power to shape how students feel about both the outside world and their own lives. Too often, the emphasis on standardised testing squashes kids’ inner peace — replacing it with anxiety and stress.

Schools can be forces of good, Robinson says. Institutions that practice meditation and promote mindfulness are just two examples he provides.

 
8. Citizenship: The ability to engage constructively with society and to participate in the processes that sustain it.

Ultimately, schools must prepare kids for the real world. That means giving them the skills to be an active participant in a democracy, attuned to the needs of others.

Citizenship, Robinson says, “is about championing the need for equal rights, the value of dissent, and the need to balance personal freedoms with the rights of others to live in peace.”