Education, cycling and marginal gains

‘Put simply…how small improvements in a number of different aspects of what we do can have a huge impact to the overall performance of the team’ (Dave Brailsford)

Dave Brailsford coached UK cycling to 2012 Olympic success using the philosophy of marginal gains. To increase performance you must identify every single contributing factor and then you should continually try to improve each one little by little. The combination of all the little improvements is a large improvement and thus greater success.

This philosophy can work wonders in raising educational achievement  School staff should identify the contributing factors and continually seek to improve each one little by little. These are very likely to include:


1.Vision: Is this relentlessly optimistic with key markers for success?

2. Subject knowledge: Do you know this inside out?

3. Assessment and exam requirements: Do you know exactly how students will be assessed and how marks will be awarded?

4. Teaching and Learning strategies: Is your pool of methodologies big enough so as to allow the selection of the best provision to achieve identified lesson outcomes and allow for quality assessment opportunities?

5. Reflection: Do you have quality time to reflect on current success and identify areas for improvement?


The implication of this is that schools should continually work to provide meaningful opportunities for staff to improve each of these contributing factors little by little and all the time. This is why meaningful faculty meetings, pastoral meetings, coaching sessions and teaching and learning communities are so important.

The faculty and pastoral meetings create opportunities for teachers to formulate visions, to share their subject specific expertise and to debate their understanding of assessment criteria. The teaching and learning communities allow staff to design interventions collaboratively in response to specific problems and share the results of these. Finally the coaching sessions allow staff to reflect on their practice and deduce their next steps.

 Which contributing factors are you going to improve a little this week?

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