Ken Robinson (educationalist)

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Kenneth Robinson

Sir Ken Robinson (cropped).jpg
Ken Robinson speaking in 2009
Kenneth Robinson

(1950-03-04) 4 March 1950 (age 70)
Liverpool, England
OccupationAuthor, speaker, expert on education, education reformer, creativity and innovation

Sir Kenneth Robinson CBE FRSA (born 4 March 1950) is a British author, speaker and international advisor on education in the arts to government, non-profits, education and arts bodies. He was Director of the Arts in Schools Project (1985–89) and Professor of Arts Education at the University of Warwick (1989–2001), and is now[when?] Professor Emeritus at the same institution.[1] In 2003 he was knighted for services to the arts.[2]

Originally from a working class Liverpool family,[3] Robinson now[when?] lives in Los Angeles with his wife and children.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Liverpool, England to James and Ethel Robinson, Robinson is one of seven children from a working-class background. One of his brothers, Neil, became a professional footballer for Everton, Swansea City and Grimsby Town.[5] After an industrial accident, his father became quadriplegic. Robinson contracted polio at age four. He attended Margaret Beavan Special School due to the physical effects of polio, then Liverpool Collegiate School (1961–1963), Wade Deacon Grammar School, Cheshire (1963–1968). He then studied English and drama (Bachelor of Education - BEd) at Bretton Hall College of Education (1968–1972) and completed a PhD in 1981 at the University of London, researching drama and theatre in education.[6]

Career and research[edit]

From 1985 to 1988, Robinson was Director of the Arts in Schools Project, an initiative to develop the arts education throughout England and Wales. The project worked with over 2,000 teachers, artists and administrators in a network of over 300 initiatives and influenced the formulation of the National Curriculum in England. During this period, Robinson chaired Artswork, the UK's national youth arts development agency, and worked as advisor to Hong Kong's Academy for Performing Arts.

For twelve years, he was professor of education at the University of Warwick, and is now professor emeritus. He has received honorary degrees from the Rhode Island School of Design, Ringling College of Art and Design, the Open University and the Central School of Speech and Drama, Birmingham City University and the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. He received the Athena Award of the Rhode Island School of Design for services to the arts and education, the Peabody Medal for contributions to the arts and culture in the United States, the LEGO Prize for international achievement in education, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal of the Royal Society of Arts for contributions to cultural relations between the United Kingdom and the United States. In 2005, he was named as one of Time/Fortune/CNN's "Principal Voices".[7] In 2003, he was made Knight Bachelor by the Queen for his services to the arts.[7]

In 1998, he led a UK commission on creativity, education and the economy and his report, All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education, was influential. The Times said of it: "This report raises some of the most important issues facing business in the 21st century. It should have every CEO and human resources director thumping the table and demanding action". Robinson is credited with creating a strategy for creative and economic development as part of the Peace Process in Northern Ireland, publishing Unlocking Creativity, a plan implemented across the region and mentoring to the Oklahoma Creativity Project. In 1998, he chaired the National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education.[8]

In 2001, Robinson was appointed Senior Advisor for Education & Creativity at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, which lasted at least until 2005.

Robinson has given three TED talks on the importance of creativity in education, viewed over 80 million times (2017).[9][10] His presentation "Do schools kill creativity?" is the most watched TED talk of all time (2017).[11][12][13] In April 2013, he gave a talk titled "How to escape education's death valley", in which he outlines three principles crucial for the human mind to flourish – and how current American education culture works against them.[14] In 2010, the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce animated one of Robinson's speeches about changing education paradigms.[15] The video was viewed nearly half a million times in its first week on YouTube and as of December 2017 has been viewed more than 15 million times.

Ideas on education[edit]

Robinson has suggested that to engage and succeed, education has to develop on three fronts. Firstly, that it should foster diversity by offering a broad curriculum and encourage individualisation of the learning process. Secondly, it should promote curiosity through creative teaching, which depends on high quality teacher training and development. Finally, it should focus on awakening creativity through alternative didactic processes that put less emphasis on standardised testing, thereby giving the responsibility for defining the course of education to individual schools and teachers. He believes that much of the present education system in the United States encourages conformity, compliance and standardisation rather than creative approaches to learning. Robinson emphasises that we can only succeed if we recognise that education is an organic system, not a mechanical one. Successful school administration is a matter of engendering a helpful climate rather than "command and control".[14]


In his 2015 book, Creative Schools,[16] he encouraged his critics to look beyond his 18-minute TED talk to his many books and articles on the subject of education, in which he lays out plans for accomplishing his vision.


Learning Through Drama: Report of the Schools Council Drama Teaching (1977) was the result of a three-year national development project for the UK Schools Council. Robinson was principal author of The Arts in Schools: Principles, Practice, and Provision (1982), now a key text on arts and education internationally. He edited The Arts and Higher Education, (1984) and co-wrote The Arts in Further Education (1986), Arts Education in Europe, and Facing the Future: The Arts and Education in Hong Kong.

Robinson's 2001 book, Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative (Wiley-Capstone), was described by Director magazine as "a truly mind-opening analysis of why we don't get the best out of people at a time of punishing change." John Cleese said of it: "Ken Robinson writes brilliantly about the different ways in which creativity is undervalued and ignored in Western culture and especially in our educational systems."[17]

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything,[18] was published in January 2009 by Penguin. "The element" refers to the experience of personal talent meeting personal passion. He argues that in this encounter, we feel most ourselves, most inspired, and achieve to our highest level. The book draws on the stories of creative artists such as Paul McCartney, The Simpsons creator Matt Groening, Meg Ryan, and physicist Richard Feynman to investigate this paradigm of success.


  • 1977 Learning Through Drama: Report of The Schools Council Drama Teaching Project with Lynn McGregor and Maggie Tate. UCL. Heinemann. ISBN 0435185659
  • 1980 Exploring Theatre and Education Heinmann ISBN 0435187813
  • 1982 The Arts in Schools: Principles, Practice, and Provision,. Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. ISBN 0903319233
  • 1984 The Arts and Higher Education. (editor with Christopher Ball). Gulbenkian and the Leverhulme Trust ISBN 0900868899
  • 1986 The Arts in Further Education. Department of Education and Science.
  • 1998 Facing the Future: The Arts and Education in Hong Kong, Hong Kong Arts Development Council ASIN B002MXG93U
  • 1998 All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture, and Education (The Robinson Report). ISBN 1841850349
  • 2001 Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative. Capstone. ISBN 1907312471
  • Robinson, Ken (2009). The element : how finding your passion changes everything. New York: Viking Press. ISBN 978-0-670-02047-8. OCLC 233549573.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Robinson, Ken (2013). Finding your element : how to discover your talents and passions and transform your life. New York: Viking Press. ISBN 978-0-670-02238-0. OCLC 829096794.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Robinson, Ken (2015). Creative schools: the grassroots revolution that's transforming education. New York: Viking. ISBN 978-0-14-310806-1. OCLC 893894810.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Robinson, Ken (2018). You, your child, and school : navigate your way to the best education. New York, New York: Viking. ISBN 978-0-670-01672-3. OCLC 993684586.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

Awards and honours[edit]


  1. ^ "Bio". Sir Ken Robinson. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  2. ^ "No. 56963". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 June 2003. p. 2.
  3. ^ Robinson, Ken (2015). Creative Schools. New York, NY: Penguin Books. p. 34. ISBN 9780698142848.
  4. ^ Better Together: California Teachers Summit (13 August 2018), Sir Ken Robinson Keynote Speaker at the 2018 Better Together: California Teachers Summit, retrieved 25 April 2019
  5. ^ Tongue, Steve (3 March 2013). "Outside the Box: Eat leaves and shoot rather than hoofing it up the field". Retrieved 9 August 2015.
  6. ^ Robinson, Kenneth (1981). A revaluation of the role and functions of drama teaching in secondary education, with reference to a survey of curricular drama in 259 secondary schools. (PhD thesis). University of London. OCLC 1000625866. EThOS Free to read
  7. ^ a b "Ken Robinson ~ Biography". Principal Voices. 2014. Archived from the original on 4 January 2013. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  8. ^ "Sir Ken Robinson – Creative Oklahoma". State of Creativity. 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  9. ^ "Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity? | TED Talk". Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  10. ^ "Do schools kill creativity? | Sir Ken Robinson | TED Talk". Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  11. ^ "Ken Robinson – Speaker". 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  12. ^ TED (6 January 2007). "Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?". YouTube. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  13. ^ "Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution!". February 2010. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  14. ^ a b "Ken Robinson: How to escape education's death valley". April 2013. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  15. ^ RSA Animate (14 October 2010). "Changing Education Paradigms". YouTube. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  16. ^ Robinson 2015.
  17. ^ "Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative". 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  18. ^ Robinson 2009.
  19. ^ "LIPA Companions". Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. 2014. Archived from the original on 15 September 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  20. ^ a b "Biography". 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  21. ^ "Honorary Graduates of Birmingham City University". Birmingham City University. 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  22. ^ "Ken Robinson Keynote Address at Commencement 2009". RISD. 30 May 2009. Archived from the original on 16 December 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  23. ^ "Gordon Parks Celebrating Creativity Awards Dinner and Auction". Gordon Parks Foundation. 1 June 2011. Archived from the original on 7 February 2013. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  24. ^ "Arthur C. Clarke Foundation Confers Honors for Lifetime Achievement, Innovation, and Imagination". The Arthur C. Clarke Foundation. 10 April 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  25. ^ "Robinson, Vennerberg to speak at OSU Commencement ceremony". OSU. 25 April 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  26. ^ "Honorary Fellows & Honorary PhDs". Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2014.

External links[edit]