Education Readings November 21st

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

This week’s homework!



Good thinking in this article by Gary Stager.

‘Piaget teaches us that “knowledge is a consequence of experience.” Schools and teachers serve students best when the emphasis is on action, not hypothetical conversations about what one might do if afforded the opportunity.

Papert was sadly correct when he said, “When ideas go to school, they lose their power.”’

Self-Directed Learning: Lessons from the Maker Movement in Education

Continuing the Piaget theme…

“Learning through the making of things is a concept as old as education. As psychologist Jean Piaget argued, knowledge is a consequence of experience. But somehow, with the exception of a small number of schools and vocational education programs dedicated to experiential inquiry-based learning, our nation’s schools strayed from this hands-on approach to education, spending much of the past 50 years focusing intensely on the memorization of information. Information matters, of course, but a growing number of schools and educators are reclaiming our educational roots, aiming to help kids learn by making stuff — but this time with a technological twist.”

The Purpose Of Education

“Somehow we need to reassert the traditional belief in education “for its own sake” (which really means “for life in all its complexity”) rather than for conformity, jobs and the national economy. I dare to hope that teachers themselves, who have kept so many educational ideals alive despite constant attacks, might lead the way to an enlightened view of the purpose of education.”

The conflict continues…

Here’s a response to the call from England for a return to ‘chalk and talk’ teaching.

“So that’s it then – let’s sit back and watch the pendulum swing. With politicians and university professors professing it to be so it must be correct – right? Wrong. Let’s put a bit of perspective on things shall we.”

“The worst possible model” – how charter schools have been introduced in New Zealand

“Associate Professor Peter O’Connor takes another look at NZ charter schools 3 years after they were first announced. Here, he discusses the model, funding, conflicting messages from government, the way charter schools are being rolled out into high growth areas in place of state schools, and more.”

Rethinking The Use Of Simple Achievement Gap Measures In School Accountability Systems

This is a very important article.

“Finally, we should also stop using gaps and gap trends in our public discourse about school performance per se. They are measures of student performance (and, when measured within schools, limited ones at that). The goal should be to provide educational opportunity for all, not try clumsily to ensure equal outcomes by rewarding and punishing schools based on the degree to which they exhibit those equal outcomes. In an accountability context, there is a crucial difference.”

Emotional Intelligence

“This leads me to challenge what we just take for granted—what is the purpose of schools. Most of use rarely think deeply about this question, and assume it is self evident—and that it is primarily “academic.” But how about this thought experiment; What if we turned this on its head? What if we thought the primary responsibility of schools was to get a citizenry that has a strong social/emotional education? “

New Research: Students Benefit from Learning That Intelligence Is Not Fixed

“Teaching students that intelligence can grow and blossom with effort – rather than being a fixed trait they’re just born with – is gaining traction in progressive education circles. And new research from Stanford is helping to build the case that nurturing a “growth mindset” can help many kids understand their true potential.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Time to return the focus back to encouraging creative teachers – the only real way to transform our education system.

Bruce has been a leading voice in promoting real education in New Zealand for many years, and was a major inspiration to me in my own school principalship. In this article he reviews things as they were, before GERM arrived, and stresses the need for creative teachers to reclaim education.

“I believe it is vitally important to encourage creative teachers who focus on providing engaging programmes and who develop personalised programmes able to develop the gifts and talents of all students.”

Project Wildthing

Bruce’s comment:

Great movement to reconnect children with nature. Children need to swap screen time for wild time. Are our children overprotected? There is need to match an hour outside with an hour on screen. Technology is stealing childhood from our children. We need to get back to the nature habit – even just a few minutes a day to encourage observational awareness. Check out the website Project Wildthing. We need to cut back on the indoor time.

Bruce continues: Read the below blogs for further inspiration.

Dear Time Magazine…

“I am furious, incensed, and irate at your November 3, 2014, cover depicting every American public school educator as a Rotten Apple and a billionaire from Silicon Valley as the savior of American public schools. So forgive me, if this Rotten Apple, tells you exactly what I think of your reporting since you never bothered to interview a public school teacher for your piece.”

States Listen as Parents Give Rampant Testing an F

Bruce’s comment: WARNING! Tested to death in the USA – time to change directions and certainly a path not to follow. Who would want to be a student or a teacher?

“Florida embraced the school accountability movement early and enthusiastically, but that was hard to remember at a parent meeting in a high school auditorium here not long ago.

Parents railed at a system that they said was overrun by new tests coming from all levels — district, state and federal. Some wept as they described teenagers who take Xanax to cope with test stress, children who refuse to go to school and teachers who retire rather than promote a culture that seems to value testing over learning.”

Secrets of the Creative Brain

A leading neuroscientist who has spent decades studying creativity shares her research on where genius comes from, whether it is dependent on high IQ—and why it is so often accompanied by mental illness. “

Bruce’s comment: A rather long but important read. Do schools foster the creative brain – I think not. And schools are certainly no place for creative teachers.

From Bruce’s ‘oldies but goodies’ file:

Do we have the wrong schools for an age based on connections? Seth Godin

“Seth sees schools reflecting the needs of a past factory based  industrial age – one that provides workers who were compliant, schools where productivity can be defined and measured.The development of such factory like schools, he believes,  is not a coincidence. Now,  he writes, is the time for a new set of questions and demands  and to consider how schools need to change to develop the new dispositions young workers need in a connected age. “

Education Readings November 14th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

This week’s homework!


Integrating technology into learning

UK academic Steve Wheeler – if you ever get the chance to attend one of his presentations, take it!

“Technology is not a substitute for good teaching. No amount of technology can replace a great lesson that has been delivered in a passionate, inspirational and focused manner.”

Digital reflections

Steve Wheeler continues …

“This post examines some of the categories of technology and the places they might occupy when they are integrated into the learning process. It’s important for teachers to consider that integrated technology can provide a doorway to deeper learning, characterised for example in critical analysis and personal reflection.”

“Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder” (ADHD) is Actually Correlated with Creativity and Achievement

Food for thought.

“Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs Would Be Diagnosed with ADHD If They Were Born In This Decade.”

Classroom technology can make learning more dangerous, and that’s a good thing

“The latest movement to add more technology into classrooms is repeating the same mistakes, focusing on how tech can help teachers by churning out more data about students, saving time and raising test scores. Here’s a crazy idea: What if we focused less on selling technology to teachers by convincing them it makes learning more efficient, and more on how computers, like a bicycle, might make learning a little more dangerous?”

Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack

This document will keep you occupied …

“A global study of threats or deliberate use of force against students, teachers, academics, education trade union members and government officials, aid workers and other education staff, and against schools, universities and other education institutions, carried out for political, military, ideological, sectarian, ethnic or religious reasons in 2009-2013”

Questioning Gagné and Bloom’s Relevance

Time to kick a sacred cow or two …

“Do you have research support for putting a verb in one category or another? Neither did Bloom. As far as I know, Bloom’s taxonomy was meant to be a theoretical framework and was not based on any sort of research.”

To Teach Facts, Start with Feelings

“While it’s easy to assume that student apathy is related to laziness or an attitude problem, it actually makes perfect sense that so many students don’t care about what they’re learning because they’ve never been taught how to care.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Kids Do Well if They Can

Bruce’s comment: A four minute video that makes a lot of sense

One Dozen Qualities Of Good Teachers

Bruce’s comment: Take the focus off standards and think about 12 qualities of good teachers.

“Much of the discussion today about good schools, classrooms and teachers revolves around test scores, teacher evaluation formats, and the Common Core standards. In this commentary, I want to try to bring back the discussion to what is really important to think about with regards to good teaching and good teachers. Below is a list of twelve qualities of good teachers that don’t get discussed very often, yet are important and relevant to consider as we try to improve teaching excellence.”

Too Many Kids Quit Science Because They Don’t Think They’re Smart

Bruce’s comment: Gain insight into Carol Dweck’s research about why kids give up on learning.

“For most students, science, math, engineering, and technology (STEM) subjects are not intuitive or easy. Learning in general—and STEM in particular—requires repeated trial and error, and a student’s lack of confidence can sometimes stand in her own way. And although teachers and parents may think they are doing otherwise, these adults inadvertently help kids make up their minds early on that they’re not natural scientists or “math people,” which leads them to pursue other subjects instead.”

All the Time They Need

Bruce’s comment: Teachers were taught about ‘wait time’ in the 80s – worth revisiting today?

“Waiting in silence for students to think before responding can, at first, be uncomfortable for everyone. But oh, the insights they’ll share!”

From Bruce’s oldies but goodies file:

Bruce comments: Two popular blogs from the past. Looking at reasons for educational failure.

Educational failure – it is all about poverty

“In the New Scientist article large scale UK research found, ‘that babies born in the poorest areas have slower cognitive development, which compromises their education and prospects in earlier life….Overwhelmingly the poverty into which a baby is born is going to be a big influence.’”

Why do so many students fail to achieve at school?

“School is irrelevant for too many students. The age of knowledge transmission is over – students need to be helped to ‘seek, use and create their own knowledge’ ( NZ Curriculum 2007)”

Bruce comments: And an answer – authentic learning, problem based learning.

Basing education around student inquiry.

“PBL is a far more evolved method of instruction. Well-executed PBL begins with the recognition that, as in the real world, it’s often difficult to distinguish between acquiring information and using it. Students learn knowledge and elements of the core curriculum, but also apply what they know to solve authentic problems and produce results that matter.”

This week’s contribution from Phil Cullen.

What is Happening to Our Profession? Quo Vadis?

The end of teaching as a profession – what do you think?

“The money-hungry mongrels have had their way, we placid folk have capitulated and we are now heading for a universe that has never existed before.  Teaching is now just a job. Amen. Once high in the group of noble service professions, it is so no longer.”

What is happening to our profession? Quo Vadis?

What is Happening to Our Profession?
Quo Vadis?

Melutor, [click]who posted this illustration, asks. “Am I the only person thinking this about the teaching profession ?”  WHAT? The teaching ethic controlled by big business!! Wash your mouth out, Sir!

Alas. He’s right.  The illustration suggests that present day school authorities are working diligently  on behalf of big business to demolish the dualism of the teaching profession. And, yes. It’s true.  You can easily notice where public education is going.

Let’s pause for a while.  The profession dismantled????

Teaching consists of [1] the holding of  the certain  beliefs about childhood, which, in turn, are reflected in [2] the ways that we actually treat children;  our beliefs match our actions. That’s the dynamic dualism of pupilling – treating children as pupils……teacher and learner together.

 Childhood is more than just an age-range.  It’s transmundane. Its description includes a mixture of esoteric peculiarities and predicatable activities that command serious thought, consideration and moral adoption of particular beliefs by those called to teach. The love of children, respect for their humanity , and sincere trust in them as learners are crucial parts of each teacher’s belief system. Our reaction to the blatant  insults and threats to our profession and to our pupils in recent times, depends on our level of passivity and timorousness….and tolerance. But, yes. We dare not question our corporate masters.

When a teacher pays special attention to the kinds of things that children do as they handle their individual styles of learning  and what is consistent when they indulge in their group learning : i.e.  that they  are curious and interested in the world, enjoy play and prefer to be happy, like to handle things, naturally explore situations and try new things, demonstrate great joy in achievement and are motivated by it, learn most effectively when their own interests are being pursued; that they learn by doing, observing, imitating, teaching other children….they  entrench all this in their teaching psyche and the better that their beliefs are translated into classroom action, the better the world will be. A teacher becomes a dynamic duo with each client. Mind you, the numbers of possible learning interactions are gargantuan and googleplex.  Only the dull and naive would believe that there are just a few didactic, adult-controlled teaching tricks to be learned [Hello Christopher!]. Small classes are essential for maximum interaction. Large classes can prevail for didactic, direct kinds of instruction.

A  real teacher will notice the disappointment that children experience  in failure and in  the fear that they endure when threatened by it, more common to hard-nosed didactic strategies of instruction [vis-a-vis dynamic teaching]; and every teacher I know is conscious of the tragic outcomes of such unfortunate experiences. It’s dynamic versus didactic, isn’t it?  Good teachers wont go near blanket testing  with a ten-foot barge pole ……and yet …..our testucating political number crunching sycophants [very brown-nosed ones]  rely upon blatant fear just to produce higher scores on those idiotic,  unreliable NAPLAN tests.

That conflict between what a teacher believes and what a  teacher is expected to do, [originated by Julia Gillard in 2007] was used to start the degradation of the teaching profession in the antipodes; and is now being forced-fed by those who continue to use recognisable neoLiberal tactics for provider capture and for corporate profit. Our school/political leaders gave in so easily at the time and allowed them to do so. 

The neoliberal dogma that only the rich and powerful should rule and that they should capture pure measurement-minded testucating bureaucrats to set the school conditions in which the major activity is to  measure and count numbers is now well established. The appointment or retraining of   Dr, Strangelove-style, Stockholmed job principals  required  the marginalisation of the teaching profession and the degradation of public schooling first.  It was essential for business; and the neol support staff in school offices are now good at their job. They don’t seem to care much how children feel.  Things are going far better for the Murdoch empire, for one,…..far better  than they had anticipated and the public face of schooling is on the way out at the same pace as the profession is allowing itself to be degraded. The new order has no place for caring, holistic learning-oriented teachers. 

So. No Sir, Mr. Illustrator/Melutor.  You are not the only one thinking about the teaching profession. Corporations and their fawning politicians have been manipulating it – successfully – for the past decade. The money-hungry mongrels have had their way, we placid folk have capitulated and we are now heading for a universe that has never existed before.  Teaching is now just a job. Amen. Once high in the group of noble service professions, it is so no longer.

How did it happen? Simply.


Note 1  We copied the wrong system. Australian schooling is a product of the British Grammar School system which was exported to all British colonies. It was a simple system based on telling learners what they ought to know and then testing them to see if they had been listening. It had no altruistic function. Subjects were added to what was taught and kept apart from each other. Those easily examined, held special status.

Note 2 We kept examining our own navel. When we  post-WW2 schoolies occasionally became concerned about improving classroom tactics, we studied what the big great U.S.A. was doing or we followed its gurus…..really looking into the rear vision mirror with them at our common heritage….pointless…..with little thought for how children learned in non-western cultures; their cautious and serious learning intensity shared with ongoing evaluation and associated celebration that will undoubtedly produces superior races than those using our present staid anglo-saxon stagnating  mould. Have you, by the way,  ever seen a movie or documentary of an American classroom scene where all pupils were NOT anchored to seats, looking in the same direction?  What does that tell you?  That’s what we copy? Kotter?

Note 3  We kept copying American Packages. Americans have an admirable propensity for assembly-line production [Fordism] , for structures to be solid and to become more important than the product – to be maintained long after the product fails –  and for the ability to package products neatly. How we loved the packages like the SRA Reading kits, the ACER maths kits, the assembly line new maths and music programs.  The teacher became the check-out counter, no skills required….just like the NAPLAN routines, which encapsulate the packaged worst of New York’s ‘worstest’. No real teaching required. We’ve had thousands of teacher-proof products since. Direct Instruction, for instance. Common core.

The post-Plowden era in Britain was the most exciting in the life-time of many truly great educators : Sir Alec Clegg , Lady Plowden  Marianne Parry, Edith Biggs and, now, in their mould : Sir Ken Robinson, Robin Alexander, Yong Zhao, Marion Brady, Diane Ravitch. Australia had Alby Jones, Bill Bassett, Phillip Hughes, Hedley Beare, all of whom would have nothing to praise the present-day Australian  testucators for.  New Zealand has Kevin Smythe, Bruce Hammonds and Allan Alach and a political school paraclete in the person of the Labour Party’s shadow minister, Chris Hipkins. He’s ahead of the game.  I have known most of these well enough to know that they would be ashamed that their timid contemporary colleagues still allow this state of affairs to continue and would be saddened by the obvious plans for the demise of public education.  Yes. It’s planned.

Note  4 We supported the maintenance of social class. Our foundation templates, the  Dame schools and Grammar schools were  based on social class.  The English class system, on which Australia’s schooling system is based, has to be maintained in the antipodes at all cost. It’s now our kind of society. The rich and powerful must have their way;  economists and accountants must control operations; the middle class must be kept in their place and not be too ambitious; the poor and marginalised must stay where they are. Providing expensive toffee-nosed schools cements that kind of system.  The gap between those who have and have not and the level of support for them, was pointed out in the Gonski Report. The  neoliberal parties on both sides of parliament are not anxious to change things nor to discuss the issues of NAPLAN tests and traditional  public examinations with Gonski concerns in mind.  The aim is to keep mum and protect  the most powerful….to rid the country of public state schools where, until now, the bulk of teaching competencies resided,  replace them with Charter Schools and more private schools, then business sponsored. Bill Gates and wifey know where their bread is buttered and have expended billions on the establishment of these. They open the contact with the testing empires. In Australia, we have adopted them just for the heck of it. A gimmick to divert voter attention. Of course they could be offered, just to satisfy the middle class. Tax-payer funded.

Note 5  We have a test-crazed mentality. Wide scale, blanket testing is not only a waste of time. It is unnecessary. If a teacher and at least one of their  school administrator do not know how well each pupil is doing at school, they should not be in the job.  What does S.B.T promote? Witness the so-called scandal of tertiary attenders paying big money for assignment writing, the growth in these kinds of special test-preparation tutor schools, the huge increase in the sale of pharmaceuticals for the frightened kids during the test-preparation period, the amazing volume of practice tests sold. That we so-called professionals prefer to ignore these realities of our test-based system is hard for a child-centred old schoolie to handle. Our professional mentality is mashed – useless, disregarded and degraded.

The impact of our past on our future needs serious thought. It may not really matter who runs what, as long as all children who bother to attend school,  are treated like human beings, using levels of pupilling excellence that are based on what is known about learning in schools. We teachers are not trying hard enough. This gives our neoliberal-directed politicians and sycophants to degrade the once-noble profession.

We are test-crazed. Our profession is now the pits. Its integrity has  got away from us. The reality of that statement is shattering.


Phil Cullen, 41 Cominan Avenue, Banora Point,  Australia 2486       07 5524 6443                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     


Education Readings November 7th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

This week’s homework!


Am I the only person thinking this about the teaching profession?

Here’s a New Zealand teacher’s pondering on the dismal state of education in New Zealand. Ring any bells for you?

“I’ve been wondering…. wondering if we’re becoming so obsessed with professionalising teaching we’re losing sight of the individual teacher. This may be controversial.  But I think if someone is not willing to stop and challenge this road we seem to be travelling, we may go too far down the road of no return.”

Why the Best Teachers Don’t Give Tests

Alfie Kohn – say no more…

“When teachers test their students, the details of those tests will differ from one classroom to the next, which means these assessments by definition are not standardized and can’t be used to compare students across schools or states. But they’re still tests, and as a result they’re still limited and limiting.”

The Myth of Chinese Super Schools

The battle for education is truly international. I was sent this link by Antonio Dias de Figueiredo, from Portugal.

Diane Ravitch:

“The United States is already ensnared in the testing obsession that has trapped China. It is not too late to escape. Parents and educators across the nation are up in arms about the amount of instructional time now devoted to test preparation and testing. Yong Zhao offers wise counsel. We should break our addiction to standardized testing before we sacrifice the cultural values that have made our nation a home to innovation, creativity, originality, and invention.”

The cerebral life of schools

A warning that we shouldn’t disregard teacher expertise in school development:

“The revolution of the ‘rational’ could give birth to an equal or greater absurdity than the ‘irrationality’ it usurps. Let us make sure that the best of what already exists in our system, our schools, our classrooms and our minds always forms the basis of what is to come.”

My alternative school – proof you don’t need grades and the curriculum

“More than 10 years ago in downtown Roanoke in Virginia, US, a group of parents, many whom were college professors, opened an alternative school. They were frustrated by the standardised curriculum taught at most public schools, and wanted to create an environment that encouraged children to learn independently and imaginatively.”

The Value of Connecting the Dots to Create “Real Learning”

“Open Connections is based on the premise that “learning is natural and self-motivated, does not have to be compelled, and is experiential, as in the Confucian proverb, ‘I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand,’” Bergson says. Its other core beliefs: There is variation in human development; there is inherent value in free play and taking pleasure in learning; collaboration is more useful than competition; learners have the right to pursue their own interests; and people learn best in mixed-age groups, in an atmosphere free of the anxiety generated by artificial grading and testing.”

Neophobia (fear of the new) – not new but it’s damn annoying

“Neophobia, fear of the new, is not new. No doubt some wag in some cave was asking their kids to ‘put those axes away, they’ll be the death of you’. From Socrates, who thought that writing was an ill-advised invention, people have reacted with predictable horror to every piece of new technology that hits the street. It happened with writing, parchments, books, printing, newspapers, coffee houses, letters, telegraph, telephone, radio, film, TV, railways, cars, jazz, rock n’ roll, rap, computers and now the internet and especially social media. The idea that some new invention rots the mind, devalues the culture, even destroys civilisation is an age-old phenomenon.”

Education Chief Says Market-Based Policies are Ineffective

“First, the countries that have been pursuing this strategy tend to be the countries that have experienced the greatest declines in student performance over the past decade. Australia, New Zealand, UK, USA, and Sweden have all seen their school results decline despite the introduction of market-based policies.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

ExpeRimental: A series of short films making it fun, easy and cheap to do science at home with your children.

Bruce’s comment: Some excellent science activities to excite your class.

Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives

Bruce’s comment: If you haven’t caught up with Carol Dweck’s research check this out!!

“The consequences of believing that intelligence and personality can be developed rather than being immutably engrained traits, Dweck found in her two decades of research with both children and adults, are remarkable.”

Teachers told: spend less time marking books to cut excessive workload

Bruce’s comment: Sounds like common sense.

“Ask any teacher and they’ll give you at least two more examples like that: whether it’s having to highlight their lesson plans in five different colours or inputting every pupil’s marks into countless different spreadsheets in countless different ways at regular points in the year.”

Why Daydreaming is Critical to Effective Learning

Bruce’s comment: Is multi tasking a myth – and how to achieve quality work.

“Many people believe they are skilled multitaskers, but they’re wrong. Neuroscience has shown that multitasking — the process of doing more than one thing at the same time — doesn’t exist.”

From Bruce’s ‘oldies but goodies’ file:

The Right to Learn – an agenda for the 21stC; challenging the status quo.

Bruce’s comment: The right for all students to learn – but to do so schools have to change first.

“As we enter the second decade of the ‘new’ millennium what has changed in education? Not much.We can do a lot better. What is needed are fresh perspectives.So far reforms have not changed the basic assumptions of traditional schooling. A new vision is required.”

Dysfunctional Schools

Bruce’s comment: How school practices (like streaming/ability grouping) harm schools.

“I don’t think teachers like to face up to the fact that schooling actually harms many of their students but it is clear , reading Kirsten’s Olsen book, it does. Obviously this harming is not done intentionally but it is all too easy to blame failure on dysfunctional students. Certainly too few students leave school with their joy of learning alive and their unique gifts and talents strengthened – not even the so called successful students.”

Treehorn Is Every Child.

Treehorn is Every Child


 Click here to download……….NOW

TREEHORN, the name given by Florence Parry Heide to a little lad who kept shrinking but nobody noticed, represents all boys and girls. Nobody notices school children; adults indifferently ignore almost every single child from the day it starts going to school. NOBODY cares…..really…. about the way that schooling should be conducted for Australian children. Our historically petrified, pest’em-test’em State Theory of schooling stresses–out keen learners…. socially, emotionally and intellectuality; and ,so, their cognitive capacities are not stretched to any decent extent. Some of their more zombic mentors even think that test-stress itself is good for children; in the same way that measles are good for their complexion. SO, Treehorn and his friends keep shrinking intellectually, emotionally and academically. Nobody worries.

Read this booklet if you think that schooling is important..The material contains topics that those with a genuine interest in schooling like to talk about. Each topic and each cartoon in this little booklet has meaning. Each helps each one of us to think about schooling, and learning. Please feel free to print it as a booklet and share or its parts with others.

P.2    This inside-cover tableau has its genesis in Pasi Sahlberg’s [Finland] original comparisons between the aims of the Australian National GERM and the aims of LEARNING systems of schooling, like Finland. It’s not complicated.

P.3    This first cartoon’s origins are uncertain. It represents a meeting of ‘stockholmed’ principals, many of whom hold high positions in teacher organisations, high on the hierarchical scale of a state, church or other school system, are hard workers; and generally considered to be regarded as ones who ‘run a good school’. They’re immobile and sterile in an educational sense. When it comes to the exercise of professional ethics and belief in children as learner-children, their professional mind finds refuge under the soil.

In milder terms, Kelvin Smythe describes such ‘educators’ as Dr. Strangeloves after the doctor played by Peter Sellars in How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb [Substitute ‘NAPLAN’ for ‘bomb’ and you get the picture], “..strangegloving principals do not, at base, have to learn to love the government lines; it is inherent in their intellectual and moral make-up. That is because we have much less free will than we think. Strangeloving principals, while often very competent principals, feel morally lost going against authority, they need someone to trust and believe in – so feel impelled to strangeloving.” .

P.4    The photograph of the message on the pupil’s shirt says it all in a few words. There are a few thinking C2000 schools around Australia and America with parents who are prepared to go to these lengths for their kids. God bless them and their spunk.

P.5   Inspired by Freeman Butts – Assumptions Underlying Australian Education – 1955 – this page displays how little we have learned about ourselves over the past 60 years. Great book. Sad. Still relevant. We still ignore all decent research into teaching and learning; and blindly follow the quantitative modes of mediaeval times. Stress and test .

P.6   This page contains a sincere and serious prayer: “Please revitalise our professional dignity…” [Pray sincerely at this point]; then there’s a telling comment from a mother ; and then a model of Australia’s testing factories spewing Creativity, Disciple and Intelligence out of the system as waste; replaced by mortar-boards. Who’s got the best stress and test factory? That’s the purpose, right?

P.7    Here are some more serious assumptions. For instance, we often forget that: how Australian teachers teach and what to teach, whether good or bad, is in the hand of just one person in Australia, usually a politician whose experiences of schooling are negative in terms of knowledge and experience. Yes. One person only decides….based mostly on whims of the moment. The present one subscribes to the ancient chalk-talk theory of schooling without reference to classroom research nor to holistic learning.

P.8-12    Kelvin Smythe describes, in this brilliant summary, the basics of a realistic school system that (1) keeps the pupil in the middle of each teacher’s eye, (2) is based on high ethical principles and (3) encourages the freedom to learn without limits.

P.13-14    Who is Treehorn? As Florence Parry Heidie says…..he’s every little child. What have we adults done to him?

P. 15    ‘ N.A.P.L.A.N. ‘ – the poem by Ray Kelley.

P.16-17    If parents are not allowed to decide for themselves whether their child is to be kleinised or not, school systems of the future should reserve a few billion dollars for some push-over anti-test-stress litigation.

P.18-20   A proper Head Teacher aka Principal talks about the way that his/her school will progress using the humanity, the challenge and the pleasure of the learning experience.

P 21   “I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think “ [Socrates]

P.22    Quotable Quotes

P.23 A Case Study in ‘ethical’ political command by the Federal Minister for Education.

P.24    A teacher-aide describes how she navigated life at school.

P.25    A series of “What if?” questions, the most telling of all : “What if Julia Gillard had not shared cocktails with Joel Klein in New York in 2007?”

P.26    The true origin of the Australian system of schooling aka Testucation 2007.

Phil Cullen […..not too late? ]41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point Australia 2486 07 5524 6443

Education Readings October 31st

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

This week’s homework!


More bible study, less dreaming stories, less enjoyment, more memorising

If you think things are bad in your neck of the woods, the outlook for education is looking pretty bleak in Australia.

“He complains about too much emphasis on enjoyment, which he does not believe is necessarily part of learning literature. “The idea of pupils as ‘creators’ of literature in English needs to be kept firmly in check” he reports. Students’ own works should not be valued too highly.”

American Schools Are Training Kids for a World That Doesn’t Exist
Not just American schools …

“We may not be getting dumber in America. But we need to get smarter in ways that match the challenges we now face. The time is now to support the role of learning in the pursuit of discovery and to embrace the powerful agency of culture.”

How Students Lead the Learning Experience at Democratic Schools

“Children begin as explorers—they explore the environment around them, watch others, and try out what peers as well as adults are doing. … What they need to acquire, they are able to acquire quite proficiently through ‘discovery learning.’”

Research Indicates No Relationship between Student Standardized Test Scores and Quality of Teacher Performance

Are you surprised?

“Recent research from the University of Southern California has shown there is “weak or non-existent” relationship between state administered value added model tests—VAM, and the content and quality of teacher instruction. The study questions whether VAM data would be helpful in evaluating teacher performance and influencing teacher instruction.”

Is this what we mean by ‘close reading?’

If you want to kill any love of reading, follow this example.

“85 questions assigned by a high school teacher to start off To Kill A Mockingbird… Is this what we mean by ‘close reading?’”

Reading John Dewey

“Today as in 1897, if we could adhere to these basic principles, education would be in a much better state.”

Dewey, Testing Companies, and the Origin of the Common Core

“John Dewey’s vision of reform was a bottom-up approach that focused on the needs of the child and the expertise of the teacher. He warned against a system that relied on a lack of connection between the people in charge of planning for education and the people in charge of actually educating. What would John Dewey think of the Common Core?”

Your Data Will Lie To You If You Let It

A valuable article:

“So what is the better alternative to data-driven education? The answer is teacher-driven education, not data-driven.”

Being Pegged, Late Bloomers and Effort

Check the following link for an article that Bruce wrote this week on a similar theme.

“This is not just a story about a late bloomer.  It is also about pegging students. Smart. Academically challenged. Either label can be a burden to a student for different reasons.  Plus, how do we know for sure?  Does the teaching culture of the school exhibit one-size-fits-all pedagogy?  Are there various modes and opportunities to learn? Do teachers have the time and resources to accommodate students’ varied needs?  Or, do we just love to pigeon-hole students?”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Teachers using ability grouping contributing to growing inequality in schools!!

“Although many teachers talk about groups being flexible there is research that ability groups students are placed into in their first year predicts the stream they will be placed in at secondary school.”

Learning and teaching should not stand on opposite banks and just watch the river flow by; instead, they should embark together on a journey down the water. Through an active, reciprocal exchange, teaching can strengthen learning how to learn.”

—Loris Malaguzzi, 1920–1994

Report urges revamping student testing

Bruce’s comment: Moving away from standardised testing in the US.

“The report, by the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education and the National Center for Innovation in Education at the University of Kentucky, recommends alternatives to annual standardized tests. It says there should be far more emphasis on ongoing assessments of students as part of regular classroom instruction. Schools should focus more on “formative assessments,” the curriculum-based problems and quizzes that teachers give to students throughout the school year for feedback on how students are doing, in addition to locally developed alternatives to assessments, the report argues.”

Next two articles: Some good advice to ensure successful project  based learning.

Minimize Frustration and Maximize Deep Learning

“As we move through the Information Age, many educators believe that teachers should concentrate on crucial concepts rather than memorizing facts and students should use critical-thinking skills to build their own understanding and transfer skills and knowledge to authentic situations. But this reality is hard to create. Often, a project seems like the answer to a prayer, but without careful planning, it can quickly lead to curses and frustration.”

Tips for Managing Project-Based Learning

“Project-based learning (PBL) can be messy by nature, but, then again, isn’t all learning? PBL is a student-centered practice. Because it allows for voice and choice for students in not only what they produce but also how they spend their time, the learning is not as structured as many educators are comfortable with. However, PBL can still be focused if educators pair content standards with a menu of choices for demonstrating understanding of those standards, rather than allowing students to do projects on whatever they find interesting.”

From Bruce’s ‘oldies but goodies’ file:

Bruce has been looking back at articles I wrote for him back in 2011 when my brain was working…

Guest Post by Allan Alach – a ‘must read’ and share with others

His introduction at the time:

My principal friend Allan sent me an e-mail that was so on the mark that I asked him to extend it into a blog. To my mind it is a piece of writing all teachers and schools should read -and then pass it on to as many other people as is possible.”

A post apocalyptic vision of New Zealand education if present policies continue!

“One respondent used the nom-de-plume Ozy Mandias. This brought back memories of a high school English class, where we studied a poem of that name. I recalled enough of it to realise that it would provide an excellent analogy for my pessimistic view of the future of education in New Zealand.”

Contributed by Phil Cullen:

School is a prison — and damaging our kids

This article is a must read:

“I don’t mean to paint self-directed education as a panacea. Life is not always smooth, no matter what the conditions. But my research and others’ research in these settings has convinced me, beyond any doubt, that the natural drives and abilities of young people to learn are fully sufficient to motivate their entire education. When they want or need help from others, they ask for it. We don’t have to force people to learn; all we need to do is provide them the freedom and opportunities to do so.”

Education Readings October 24th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

This week’s homework!


The Myth of “Knowledge Gaps”

“I asked this question: Is there really a developmental window of opportunity when learning needs to happen, and if it doesn’t happen at that time, can never effectively happen?”

5 myths about the human brain, debunked

Education is full of myths propagated by snake oil salespeople and non-educators.

“The brain is the most amazing organ in the human body. Somehow, this collection of billions of cells gives rise to thoughts, feelings, action — all the things that make us who we are. So it’s no wonder that there are lots of misconceptions about how this three-pound hunk of flesh actually works. Here are five of the biggest myths about the human brain:”

The Science Of The Common Core: Experts Weigh In On Its Developmental Appropriateness

“Child development experts and early childhood educators believe that there is actually quite a lot to lose. The issue is not at all ideological, they say – it’s partly pedagogical, and partly psychological. According to experts, a poorly conceived set of standards has the potential to be, at best, fruitless and, at worst, detrimental to the youngest kids who are on the frontline of the Common Core.”

The great peril of standardized education

“If Einstein was right when he said that “standardization is a great peril,” our nation may have suffered a brain robbery that has stunted the full development of the intellect and unique talents of millions of people. In their obsession with making students uniform or “common” in knowledge and skills, reformers may have overlooked the value of variety. Could it be that the “great peril” of standardization has been the devaluing of student curiosity, creativity and initiative, as well as reducing personal integrity?”

Learning, making and powerful ideas

Recently I’ve included articles about the ‘maker’ movement. This article from Steve Wheeler provides a pedagogical background to this movement.

“The theory of contructionism is experiencing something of a revival in recent years with the emergence of maker spaces, robotics, 3D printing and other tools that can promote the making of objects.”

Metacognition: The Gift That Keeps Giving

“Students who succeed academically often rely on being able to think effectively and independently in order to take charge of their learning. These students have mastered fundamental but crucial skills such as keeping their workspace organized, completing tasks on schedule, making a plan for learning, monitoring their learning path, and recognizing when it might be useful to change course. They do not need to rely on their teacher as much as others who depend on more guidance to initiate learning tasks and monitor their progress.”

Q&A with Daniel Goleman: How the Research Supports Social-Emotional Learning

“Goleman’s work still examines the unconscious influences on our conscious mind, and gives us tools to understand and harness these influences to positive ends. In his latest book, The Triple Focus: A New Approach to Education, he collaborates with Peter Senge to showcase the importance of cognitive control in helping students make good decisions.”

Learning Is Different Than Education

“Learning is different than education. One can be self-directed but supported; the other is led and caused. One is driven by curiosity and the joy of discovery; the other is metered and measured, and a matter of endless policy and mechanization.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

As Overtesting Outcry Grows, Education Leaders Pull Back on Standardized Tests

Bruce’s comment: The anti testing movement slowly rising to the top as Obama speaks out. Too little too late. Best to not even have gone there in the first place – politics before education.

As the outcry against the overtesting of American children has grown, state and local education leaders – in a move endorsed by President Barack Obama – have announced a new focus on dialing back the volume of standardized testing and dialing up the quality.”

Learning from Live Theater

“In a previous study, we examined the impact of field trips to an art museum. We found significant benefits in the form of knowledge, future cultural consumption, tolerance, historical empathy, and critical thinking for students assigned by lottery to visit Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (see “The Educational Value of Field Trips,” research, Winter 2014). In the current study, we examine the impact of assigning student groups by lottery to see high-quality theater productions of Hamlet or A Christmas Carol.”

Duluth Middle students use STEM concepts to build solar-battery-powered cars

Bruce’s comment: Importance of active learning

‘“If we learn by using the car, we can actually have a hands-on experience with it instead of just looking at a board and writing stuff down about how to do it,” Jackson said.’

Five Keys To Building A Culture Of Active Learning

“Independence does not develop in a culture that values compliance. Independent learners will be motivated to confront relevant problems, engage in challenging tasks, persevere long enough to overcome obstacles, and have ownership of goals for new learning. These are challenging tasks. Students will need educators willing to give them the latitude and guidance to start today.”

25 Things Skilled Learners Do Differently

Bruce’s comment: Sit down and quietly go through the list of learning strategies – how many do you use – or teach your students to use?

“Imagine for a moment that all human beings had the same IQ, but that some of us knew how to tap into it better than others. How would we approach education differently?”

Innovation Psychology: Innovate like Leonardo da Vinci

Bruce’s comment: Learn by seeing connections between art and science – Learn like Leonardo da Vinci.

“Many people today believe that science and art, like oil and water, do not mix.  However, many of the worlds’ greatest innovators were not constrained by this bias. Leonardo da Vinci was pretty innovative, and his creativity spanned fine art, military engineering, anatomy and biomimicry.  He was not alone.”

Stagnating? Innovate How You Innovate With These 5 Ideas

Bruce’s comment: Is your school stuck in the present? Here are 5 ideas to develop innovative practices?

“Throughout this past year, I’ve been having conversations with innovation leaders from a couple of BIG companies about re-inventing their innovation capability. The pattern of conversation: we’ve had a good run, but feel that our process for making innovation happen is delivering incremental results. Bureaucracy has developed, and so we aren’t taking a lot of risks anymore. How do we shake ourselves out of it?”

From Bruce’s ‘oldies but goodies’ file:

Advice from David Perkins to make learning Whole

“To get students involved in any learning game teachers need to present ‘threshold experiences’ suited to the students developmental level. And students need to see the point of the game in any content area.”

Contributed by Phil Cullen:

Common Core gets AWFUL review in new study

“Bad news for supporters of national education curriculum: States with education standards most closely aligned to Common Core fared worse on math tests than states with their own standards, according to a new study.”