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Todd Rose and the myth of the average learner

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Started by Chrissie Butler 14 Jun 2013 4:10pm () Replies (2)

Square Peg

I'd like to introduce you Todd Rose. He's worth getting to know, especially if you have a passion for making learning work for everyone in your classroom.

I first bumped into Rose's work on YouTube. He is a great storyteller and his passion for dispelling myths about variability I found compelling.

In a nutshell, Rose highlights that variability and difference are the norm from student to student, in fact from person to person — even among those who seem to share similar characteristics, such as culture, age, race, or level of success. 

The thing is, if we think about it, we know that:

  • No such thing as a “regular or normal student".
  • ALWAYS TREMENDOUS VARIABILITY among individuals in how they perceive and interact with any environment, including the classroom. This is PREDICTABLE.
  • Individual qualities or abilities are not static and fixed; rather, they are continually shifting, and they exist in relationship and in response to the environment.
  • The notion of umbrella categories of learners—“smart–not smart,” “disabled–not disabled,” “regular–not regular”, "special - mainstream" does not reflect reality.
  • One-size-fits-all resources, environments, assessments and teaching methods will exclude some learners from opportunties to access, participate and engage in learning.

But do we design learning opportunities needs to cater for that predictable variability at the outset?

Square Peg - a good read

Todd Rose recently wrote a book called "Square Peg - My story and what it means for raising innovators, visionaries and out-of-the-box thinkers." If you haven't yet dipped into it, it's cracking and hilarious read, which I wouldn't usually associate coming from the pen of someone who teaches at the Harvard Grad School.

You can browse the prologue to Square Peg on Scribd.

Myth of the Average - Variability Matters - good viewing

If you would prefer to watch before you read, take a look Rose's video, Myth of the Average - Variability Matters. Again Rose talks about the same ideas and connects them to the recent research.

You can also view the video Todd Rose: Myth of the Average - varibility matters video with interactive transcript on YouTube, to take a closer look at the story telling and to catch quotes.

 Let us know, what you think about the video and how it might impact on what you do in the classroom.


  • Roxy Hickman (View all users posts) 17 Jun 2013 9:14am ()

    I finished Square Peg over the weekend - A witty, informative and though provoking read! It is packed with real stories, backed up with engaging research and evidence. There are also some relevant and current themes that come through about UDL, standardised testing, charter schools and an incredible mother who advocated for her son.  

    This blog that appeared on my Scoop It this morning 8 Ways of looking at intelligence relates perfectly to some of the key ideas that Todd Rose discovers about learning through his own experiences. "situations can make us smarter" "emotions can make us smarter" and "relationships can make us smarter". 

    This book really tells the story from a child's perspective and reasons behind his behaviour. It is a real insight beneath the tip of the iceberg.

    An easy read and one that I would highly recommend for all teachers.

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