5 Lessons Education Could Take from Baristas

by Mark Dohn, CUE guest blogger

I’ve been spending quite some time in coffee shops lately. Having just moved from the classroom to life as an independent consultant, my “office” is anywhere but home. On one of these recent visits, I learned about barista competitions. I was fascinated as one of the baristas, David, at my local shop explained the particulars of a competition.

Here are the paraphrased basics from the WBC (World Barista Championships) and written by the WCE (World Coffee Events).

Each contestant has to adhere to the following rules:

  1. Create drinks in 3 categories – Espresso, Cappuccino and a personal creation
  2. The drinks will be served to the four sensory judges in fifteen minutes (There are 4 sensory, 2 technical and 1 head judge per competitor)
  3. At the end of their presentation, baristas have 15 minutes to clean their station for the next competitor
  4. All contestants scores will be tallied and winners announced
  5. Immediately after the winners are announced, contestants will have the opportunity to debrief with the judges concerning their scores

So why isn’t education like a Barista Competition? Roll with me on this one folks.

The competitors know exactly what the judges are looking for – there are clear expectations. In the rules it says, “What the Judges are looking for in a Barista Champion.” Hey, it doesn’t get any clearer than that!

Competitors are judged not only on sensory and technical skills but also on atmosphere. This includes the music they choose, and the passion with which they speak about the drinks they have created and shared. In other words, competitors are judged in a holistic fashion.

Finally, competitors are able to sit down with the judges and receive immediate critical feedback. Scores are later emailed to contestants in order that they have a digital copy.

Beyond the competition aspects, David shared how the contestants all work together and share information in the practice rounds as they prepare for the competition. He says that it’s in this informal social context that real learning and growth happen.

Ultimately, the goal is not to win even though someone will, but to improve one’s skills. Their motivation is intrinsic.

Lastly, everyone is expected to clean up after themselves. Everyone has a personal responsibility to the rest of the competitors.

Imagine a school where students come together with the purpose to learn and share, passionately, what they have learned – their knowledge and understanding with their peers, colleagues and advisors.

Imagine that they can use all the tools and materials that are a part of their daily lives in these presentations and that when they are done, the assessment is a time to confer with several advisors who will advise them from a holistic perspective, helping them to set goals and challenges for the next time.

Imagine sending your children into that kind of learning environment surrounded by Rock Star teachers. I wouldn’t mind being in that school!

Thanks for reading. Let us know if you are a teacher or know of a teacher who is an innovator like this.

lessons-education-could-take-from-baristas/mark-dohn-2/ ‎CUE Guest Blogger: Mark Dohn has been a technology teacher and coordinator for the past fifteen years in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). He has an MS in Education Media Design and Technology from Full Sail University where his research focused on collaboration and the use of 21st century tools in the classroom.

Mark has been honored for his innovative and creative teaching style by Apple (Apple Distinguished Educator 2009), the Los Angeles Unified School District and Computer- Using Educators Los Angeles (CUELA 2011 Teacher of the Year).


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