Geoff Mulgan: A short intro to the Studio School

In my regular and continuous search to locate schools that are implementing deep project-based learning, I came across this recently released TED talk by Geoff Mulgan. In just eight, short minutes, Mulgan demonstrates the set up and the success of the Studio School movement in England.

Couldn’t we establish such a studio school here – even as a school within a school? I can imagine an “innovation strategist” working within a school that is serious about transforming education. Such an innovation strategist could work with a cohort of teachers, a collection of willing parents, and an enthusiastic team of students to build such a studio school within one of our existing schools. Or such a studio school could hub together the spokes of a few willing institutions. Can you imagine all that we would learn…by doing?!

Geoff Mulgan and the Studio School are leading from the emerging future. This past week, I began my deep read of C. Otto Scharmer’s Theory U: Leading from the Future as it Emerges. I have read the book once through on a quick read. Now, I am meandering and studying the work. It is mesmerizing and compelling. Near the opening, Scharmer explains, “leaders cannot meet their existing challenges by operating only on the basis of past experience, for various reasons. Sometimes the experiences of the past aren’t very helpful in dealing with the current issues. Sometimes you work with teams in which the experiences of the past are actually the biggest problem with and obstacle to coming up with a creative response to the challenge at hand” (Kindle location 256 of 5811). Scharmer devises Theory U to address “the core question that underlies the book: What is required in order to learn and act from the future as it emerges?” (Kindle location 325 of 5811).

I believe Geoff Mulgan leads from the future as it emerged. He established Studio School as a doorway into the future. A few could argue that Studio School looks a lot like education of hundreds of years past. Few could argue that many, if any, formalized schools of the industrial age and information age have looked like Studio School. No, Geoff Mulgan is showing us the future and leading from the future. He is leading in such a way as to help the future emerge.

Geoff Mulgan is committed to “Do Different.” Bless him.

3 thoughts on “Geoff Mulgan: A short intro to the Studio School

  1. I notice all the named classrooms at Westminster, and I wonder if we could ever begin to have named Outdoor Rooms that might serve a variety of purposes. I could see an economics project on free market environmentalism via local restoration of our native Southern Piedmont similar to Woodland Gardens in Decatur or to the beautifully restored and reclaimed outdoor rooms on the Emory Campus near the Carlos Museum and Goizueta Business School. At Emory, they began with ivy and privet pulls to get rid of invasive plants; that could be a type of Community Service at Westminster. Students could contribute to the Design for these reclaimed spaces, and we could start small working with the garden and greenhouse and the restoration of native plants.

  2. Pingback:, innovation, creativity, and possibility #Synergy « It's About Learning

  3. Bo,

    Following is a portion of a message I just wrote to our Faculty Technology Committees who are working to articulate their educational rationale for more intensive use of tech in the classrooms. Sort of on point with your current blog, I think…

    We cannot simply measure that which we have always taught and see if enhanced use of technology yields better results on the same assessment rubric. That is equivalent to saying, in maybe 1915, “Let’s see if learning to drive that automobile is going to make you a better buggy driver”. The objective of being a great buggy driver and a great auto driver was exactly the same: getting to another place quickly and efficiently. But the measures of quickness and effectiveness are and were utterly different.

    FIrst we have to adopt and embrace the fact that rapidly changing electronic (or at some point biologic) instruments of connection to the human knowledge base are real, here to stay, and will be completely integrated into schools from now on. They are not our masters; we need to use them when we want and can, and not let them take over our lives. But we simply cannot measure effectiveness of their use based on what students needed to know before ubiquitous knowledge access came into play. We have to measure effectiveness by things like the opening of new horizons and new capabilities, by demonstration of skill rather than mastery of knowledge. Think of how the auto changed every aspect of our lives from when horses were best-practice, and apply that same perspective to the evolution of schools over the last five years and the next decade or so.

    IIf we use a measuring stick based on what we have done in the past, I think we really, really miss the point. And that is scary. How do we know if we are “winning” if we can’t rely on past performance as a measure? Answer: we either don’t know, or we have to come up with other ways to measure success. Unfortunately, the train has left the station and if we wait until we have a thorough and tested measuring stick, we are never going to catch the train.

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