The Myth of Average: Todd Rose at TEDxSonomaCounty

Designing for the average student [video]

In this TEDx talk Todd Rose compares the difficulties and issues encountered by the US Air Force in the 1950’2 and 1960’s in a severe drop in performance in it’s fighter pilots to the drop in performance in today’s education. The comparison is the design of the cockpit / classroom.

YouTube: Todd Rose, the myth of average

Guess what .. the Air Force found out the hard way that there is no such thing as the ‘average’ pilot. Todd argues that isn’t it about time that education and policy makers figured out that there is no such thing as an ‘average’ students, and that we should be more flexible in how we design learning.

The image below is a mashup of two of Todd’s slides – the cockpits used to be designed for the average pilot based on the 10 measurements (left) and there were found to be 0 (zero) pilots who fitted the average measurements, then how many students do you think will fit the average measurements based on the classifications that are used to measure them?

The Myth of Average: Todd Rose at TEDxSonomaCounty

Todd shows how the Air Force got better results once they stopped designing planes for the “average” pilot and how a teacher unlocked a future scientist once she individualized her teaching so that he wasn’t held back by his below average reading abilities.

“So far we’ve been content to blame the students, we blame the teachers, we even blame the parents. But here’s the thing – I think back to the Air Force example, and I can’t help but wonder how much of this problem is just bad design? Even thought we have one of the most diverse countries in the history of the world, and even though it’s the 21st century, we still design our learning environments like textbooks for the average student.”

“What if we ban the average in education? We know it destroys talent.; Instead, what if we demanded that the companies that sell materials in to our classrooms design them, not to the average dimensions of learning, but to the edges? It would be a bold move. It would certainly send a strong signal to the market – the game’s changed.”