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Why Role Models Like Marcus Rashford Matter For Education

In recent years, educators across disciplines have called for updates to the UK National Curriculum. From History to ICT, ongoing debates centre on refreshing the curriculum to better equip and inspire the twenty-first century learner. In many ways, AQA’s inclusion of Marcus Rashford’s inspiring social campaigning efforts in GCSE Media Studies is a welcome change. Drawing from the relatable world of sport and social impact helps students contextualise often abstract academic ideas. In doing so, courses of study hold the potential to inspire and encourage students beyond the classroom.

Conscious citizenship

Rashford’s now AQA-famous letter to Parliament helped force a monumental U-turn over the provision of free school meals for low-income families. This sustained, collective campaign has a social impact beyond the thousands of families the policy (finally) served. It’s living proof to young people that they too can ignite positive change. It encourages them to think critically about real-world problems and create solutions for the common good.

The Manchester United player’s actions speak to the International Baccalaureate’s mission to “develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect”. What better way to shape ‘academic civic-mindedness’ and ‘model citizenship’ than drawing from relatable role models?

Reinvigorating course content

Applying real-life case studies to course content helps to ground abstract ideas. It drags theories out of obscurity and brings them to life. Students of Media Studies (as well as History, Economics, or Politics) could unpack complex ideas about social movements and systemic inequality with more enthusiasm using relatable examples. Learning this content, along with sharpening key skills like communication, could be promoted through lively debate on these issues.

The hidden power of role models

The stories we hear and tell ourselves shape cognition and our worldview. In this soup of stories, role models matter. For young people, interactions with positive role models improve self-confidence and goal-setting. Rashford’s messaging around social change speaks to the finding that young peoples’ exposure to media content with positive messaging can lead to improved social outcomes.

What’s more, role models’ stories open the door to profound psychological changes. Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck argues that changing the way you think helps fulfil your potential. According to Dweck, shifting from a ‘fixed’ to a ‘growth-oriented’ mindset fosters a love of learning and resilience in the face of failure. Learning from a role model offers the opportunity to adopt this mindset early on.

Modern sport is rich with inspiring examples of people who overcome personal and socio-economic challenges to maximise their potential. While athletic performances capture fans’ hearts, their stories of grit and determination can inspire students’ minds. While many often list athletes among their most admired people, educators would do well to draw upon a diversity of role models to support students. This holds the potential to foster the mindset on which maximising psychosocial and learning outcomes rely.

Crafting career paths

Exposing students to relatable stories like Rashford’s are inspirational and instructive. Drawing upon insights from a diversity of professional fields awakens students to all that they could achieve. This is what Feynman Masterclasses are about. Our free, weekly discussions provide practical information and inspiration from a range of industry experts. These interactions between students and role models are designed to pave the way for futures as bright as Rashford’s.


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