Excellence...I know it when I see it

Kay Hack, Academic Lead for STEM and regular parkrunner, considers what excellence looks like in parkrun. Are there lessons to be learnt for the TEF? 

Olympian and world champion triathlete, Jonathon Brownlee, holds the course record for York parkrun, completing the 5K in 14:43. We can probably agree that Johnny’s run was an excellent performance - especially if he had cycled from Leeds first!  

Parkrun is a wonderfully simple concept which has over 75,000 runners taking part in a free, communal 5K run in beautiful locations all around the UK at 9:00 every Saturday morning. As a regular parkrunner I am inspired by the stories of so many runners-  the autistic teenager who completed a parkrun on his own for the first time and the 83 year old who became the oldest person to complete 250 parkruns. Each week in the parkrun blog, runners share their stories of how they have achieved weight loss or fitness goals, gained confidence, or used running as part of their road to recovery from heart attacks, strokes and surgery.  None of these runners hope to get near the time of Johnny Brownlee- he lapped 80% of the field!  So how can we measure and compare their “excellence-ness”, what are the indicators of excellence and are some achievements more excellent than others?  Simple metrics in terms of finishing times clearly identify some excellent performances but an ‘isolated measure’ might not provide the complete picture; what about improvement as an indicator of underlying excellence?

“We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by the distance they have travelled from the point where they started.”   Henry Ward Beecher

Many of the 3 million registered parkrunners will have got steadily faster since their first run, can we use this improvement as a measure of excellence – or does this also only tell part of the story?

In this weeks’ Tweetchat I aim to promote some lively debate about what excellence is, and what it can look like in different disciplines. Hopefully we can start to develop a clearer picture of teaching excellence and how it can be measured.