Marginal Gains - recipe for success in Education

By Robin Chu, CoachBright Founder

As we enter the final lap, the GCSE and A-level exams our pupils have been gearing up to all year round, it seemed right to share a key principle underpinning our approach to coaching pupils into top universities.

A simple formula really; marginal gains over time = exceptional results

Popularised in the world of sport. Sir Clive Woodward, a man who knows a thing or two about leadership once said ‘England winning the Rugby world cup was not about doing one thing 100% better, but about doing 100 things 1% better”.

Similarly, Sir David Brailsford who brought Team GB 8 golds in London 2012, not to mention the Tour De France for Team Sky making him one of the most successful coaches the world of cycling has seen. He said ‘If you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together’.

Again, improving the 1%. Not drastic sea change rather minute little-by-little details. During Woodward’s reign, he demanded his team repeat the acronym T-CUP – Thinking Clearly Under Pressure (to stay emotionally intelligent during pressure periods), wore skin-fitting jerseys (opposition players couldn’t just grab your shirt but rather tackle players like Jason Robinson), and a full time video analysis room (to empower players to reflect on their play). In isolation, likely to be insignificant but in unison and embedded over time can produce the perfect end result.

So, as educators, lets transfer that thinking to our pupils?

If we broke down everything you could think of to get the pupils you work with into university, what would that be and look like? Then, how could you raise their performance in each factor by 1%.

Just a few points that come up during our coaching sessions:

  • Environment: where best to work? Library? Study room? 
  • Time: how long to revise? What is optimum?
  • Method: how should I revise? Teaching others? Past papers?
  • Mindset: visualising success or failure? What drives you? Having a Growth Mindset?
  • Diet/Exercise: are you getting the right balance?

Where do your pupils need to improve? What are the marginal gains your pupils can make? Are you facilitating situations to make that 1% increase?

Let us know what you think by commenting below or tweeting @CoachBrightUK and @RobinChu1