Education Readings May 22nd

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!

Increasing Student Voice in Local Schools and Districts

An article targeted at high schools, but there’s plenty to stimulate thinking at primary schools.

“Student leadership involvement should take place in every high school district. The failure to do so excludes those most affected by decisions from having a voice in that process. It also deprives school boards of some potentially valuable insights. The arguments against this role for students are weak, frequently founded on an underestimation of student maturity and perception that too often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Why Schools Need to Bring Back Shop Class

Sir Ken Robinson..

“Vocational programs – such as carpentry or welding classes, cosmetology classes or many of the other practical areas of study available in some US high schools and in the vocational schools that dot our cities and suburbs — are seen as second-rate options for people who don’t make the academic cut. As we argue in Creative Schools, this academic/vocational caste system is one of the most corrosive problems in education. It need not be.”

Classroom Practice – 10 commandments of successful innovation

“… teachers are usually willing to give everything a try at least once. This can be a positive attribute. But often, by indulging their inner magpie and hurling as many shiny ideas into the mix as possible, teachers guarantee that none of them will be successful. They will end up juggling multiple and often competing schemes, their ideas will not be well considered nor given enough time to take effect, and their students will be left confused.”

Does tinkering lead to learning?

Annie Murphy Paul’s observations on the maker movement – well worth reading.

“Making is too young a phenomenon to have generated a broad research base to answer this question. The literature that does exist comes from enthusiastic champions of making, rather than disinterested investigators. But there are two well-established lines of research within psychology and cognitive science that can inform how we understand making and help us ensure that making leads to learning. Taken together, these two strands of empirical evidence provide the best guide we presently have for maximizing the learning potential of maker activities.”

11 Ways Finland’s Education System Shows Us that “Less is More”.

Just in case you haven’t read enough about Finland’s education system, here’s another viewpoint.

Currently we believe “more” is the answer to all of our education problems— everything can be solved with MORE classes, longer days, MORE homework, MORE assignments, MORE pressure, MORE content, MORE meetings,  MORE after school tutoring, and of course MORE testing!   All this is doing is creating MORE burnt out teachers, MORE stressed out students and MORE frustration.”

Knowledge For Literacy

This is a technical article, well worth reading.

“The core definition of a word is only a tiny fragment of the meaning that makes it useful in understanding language. Neuroimaging confirms that the full meaning of a familiar word extends broadly through the mind, including associations to every trace that your experience with that word or its concept has left in your memory. For instance, your full knowledge of the word “apple” extends to the traces in your memory of the many apples in your life…”

Why teaching kids to have ‘grit’ isn’t always a good thing

“If you follow fads in education, you probably know that what passes for “character education” in this country is now dominated by the teaching of “grit,” helping students learn how to persevere and stay on task. It is taken for granted that having grit is always a positive thing, but, in the following post, scholar Mike Rose shows that it isn’t always so.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

New Zealand Schools – the Rhetoric and the Reality – and a creative future

Bruce’s latest blog post:

 ‘The current standardised approach’, writes Hood, ‘needs to be replaced by one that focusses on the individual.  Personalised learning is about creating a learning environment that responds to the needs of each individual student and their interests, talents and passions and aspirations’.

‘In an environment where there is clear vision, shared values, high expectation and a culture of challenging traditional ways of doing things, then people will work in a myriad of unplanned , unseen and successful ways; it will be a creative and innovative environment’.

Memorizers are the lowest achievers and other Common Core math surprises

Bruce’s comment: Stop the math memorization The real oil on mathematics. In a recent commentary math educator Jo Boaler writes, “We don’t need students to calculate quickly in math. We need students who can ask good questions, map out pathways, reason about complex solutions, set up models, and communicate in different forms.”

Quick, Draw a Scientist!

Bruce’s comment: What is your class’s image of a scientist? Once you have identified their prior image (stereotype) see if you can modify, or reconstruct, it. A fun activity with some serious learning implications. Consider trying ‘prior drawings’  of students ideas about whatever you are studying, for example what are their prior images of spiders- after learning experiences do another drawing to see if they have changed their minds! A great assessment task.

“Inoculating the perception of a scientist is tantamount to fixing the leaky STEM pipeline. If students don’t think that being a scientist is for them, humanity loses. A diverse workforce is a better, faster, and stronger workforce. Scientists of diverse backgrounds working together are better suited to solve complex problems, can work with greater agility, and can cure diseases that have been overlooked.”

Tech tip: Avoid blurry vision and ‘shiny objects’

Bruce’s comment: Avoid ‘blurry’ visions and ‘shiny objects’. A short but pertinent article that applies to any school.

“If your school (district) doesn’t have a clear vision for what it is and what it needs to be, no matter how “innovative” ideas taken on board are, they will not help to move it forward. Sure, there may be some great discussion and perhaps even some implementation of worthwhile initiatives. But without a vision to clarify and justify the purpose of the initiatives, they all become disparate activities.”

From Bruce’s “goldie oldie” file:

Developing a powerful school vision

This article by Bruce explores a similar theme to the one above.

All schools these days have Visions, Missions and Strategy Plans but all too often few people can articulate them let alone say what they really mean in action. No matter how well they are drawn up if no ones knows what they mean they are not worth the paper they are written on.”

Pavlov’s Dogs – an untold story.

Bruce’s comment: A new twist on Pavlov’s dogs!

“It is a shame that we need dramatic shocks for us to change. It took the carnage and unnecessary slaughter of World War One to develop in the ordinary man a distrust of god given authority – particularly of the old generals who were long past their ‘use by date’”

The artistry of teaching and future learning attributes

Bruce’s comment: And a little more on artistry and the innate desire to learn. There is a:

.‘a lust for knowledge, an ache for understanding is incised in the best of men and woman. As is the calling of the teacher. There is no craft more privileged. To awaken in another human being the powers, dreams beyond one’s own; to induce in others a love for that which one loves; to make of one’s inward present their future; this is the threefold adventure like no other.’

Artistry versus conformity in teaching.

Teacher artistry or deliverer of approved ‘best practices’?

“Teachers need to claim back their professional judgement, or ‘artistry’, and place greater emphasis on ensuring every student develops their innate gifts, talents, individuality and creativity.”

Australia – A testucator’s Paradise.

Australia – A Testucator’s Paradise

Where the ‘Minnesota Malady” flourishes

Since its first introduction to British ways of doing things, Australian schooling has been based on the notion that children attend school to learn how to read, write and calculate; nothing much more. Any other reasons for attending school have been deemed as unimportant and can be done without. That was the purpose of the early governors when they approved of and established schools ….so that the raw communication and trading exchange skills of soldiers’ children, convict and former-convict children could be used more efficiently by the traders. The cashed-up squatters and merchants’ own children needed something more in line with the noble folk in mother England. Now, our maintenance of a class structure remains more British than the British. Grammar Schools offered the model for those who could afford them, and religions wanted to make sure that their children did not lose their faith and could ‘keep up with the Joneses’ at the same time. So, modelled on British Grammar school styles of operating, Australian schooling became a pretty strict class system, based on fear of the birch and of failure. Tests had to be conducted at certain points to see how teachers and pupils were going. Those who were not coping, were ‘left down’ to a lower level or encouraged to depart from schooling. Mindless plutocratic neo-hoods described this as ‘tough love’. It was certainly tough. From Year One, children started to prepare for the HSC and other school graduation devices, invented by states. One didn’t need any variety of teacher competencies to ‘teach/instruct’ in such schools at the time. All children were treated as students who did as they were told. Direct instruction was the only kind.

Post-WW2 educators, strangely enough prompted by war experiences, started to view learning per se from a different perspective. They had found , through catch-as-catch-can modes of organising schooling that children really liked to learn in bomb shelters and the like, with only bricks and mortar for teaching aids. Teachers started to observe HOW children learn and to make the most of this learning desire by establishing caring, happy learning climates within and outside peculiar classrooms that, as raw as the buildings were, became centres of serious learning. They had found, especially in these bomb-ravaged parts of England that children were naturally curious and interested in the world around them, that they wanted to share, to handle things, to explore and to try new things. They learned by doing, observing, imitating and teaching others, with a wide mix of ages all helping each other. For them, learning was an active, individual occupation. No two pupils were the same in teaching/learning requirements. Teachers came to realise that “where the affective domain is secure, the cognitive is inevitable.” [John Settledge] and that children are as thrilled and motivated by achievement as much as they feel disappointed and rejected by failure. They don’t need to be presented with situations [like NAPLAN] that makes them fear any kind of learning enterprise. Achievement had no bounds.

Australia totally ignores Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. Human indignities are piled on young children during NAPLAN time with the full knowledge that self-actualization, self-motivation and high achievement can never by reached under such circumstances. Trevor Cobbold’s recent mega research has clearly demonstrated that NAPLAN is plainly useless for what it thought it might do.

Schools and school designs altered; and Australia, by copying what was learned, became known throughout the world, in the 50-80s period, for the kind of products that emerged from the school system ….thinkers, innovators, amazing scientists and mathematicians, first class entrepreneurs and business leaders who have made enormous contributions to world welfare and advancement. You will know of at least one of these giant Aussie graduates of the period . It is unlikely that we shall ever see their like again…… while NAPLAN is around.

The notions of the Harvard-prone managerialists imbued with peculiar contrary-business models stuffed up everything big-time, starting about 1990. It set the platform for kleinism, the fear-based NAPLAN system’s essential element. As a consequence, the political control of classrooms brought forth a strain of thinking-resistant humans who inhabited positions of importance in schools and boards and authorities, all of whom seemed anxious to deprive the world of ethics, integrity and the yen to think. Scientists at the University of Minnesota have identified the strain within their own profession, especially as it applies to climate-change. “These humans appear to have all the faculties to receive and process information, and yet, somehow, they have developed defences that, for all intent and purposes, have rendered those faculties totally inactive.” More worryingly, as Davis Logsdon, one the the scientists, points out :As facts have multiplied, their defences against those facts have only grown and multiplied.” Refer to Cobbold’s indisputable data.

Learning receptors –eyes, ears, and mouth – have connections to the brain which are unused by the testucating fraternity at NAPLAN time. It could be added that, where all connections from receptors to the brain do exist, but are switched off by fiat or voluntarily, then eichmannism develops.

While he and other Minnesota scientists confess that they do not have a clear understanding of the mechanisms that prevent the fact-resistant humans from absorbing data …..[ the NAPLAN supporters and engineers in our case]…they theorise that the strain may have developed the ability to intercept and discard information en route from the auditory nerve to the brain. “The normal functions of human consciousness have been completely nullified,” Logdon notes.

How this malady has developed so easily down under in Australia is obvious. Our exam-based culture was ripe for manipulation. Learning is regarded as a passive undertaking. It’s what someone else does to you, not what you can do for yourself. We were bred to believe that attendance at school was for passing exams, so we will teach you how to do this. We Aussies have seldom ever, except for the fifties to eighties period, diverted from this cultural hangover of believing that fear based testing is THE dominate mode of teaching because, they think, the stress factorworks. Just as the Gordon Gekkos of this world screamed “Greed is Good!’, so our masters screamed, “Stress is good!” When evidence is presented that learnacy is far more effective than such kleinist practices, the connectors between the receipt of information and the brain close down.

Never before, in my lifetime have I heard some many young families openly state that they are thinking of not sending their children to school at all. And, despite my tendency to be a state primary school protagonist, I now find myself agreeing with them. Never before, in Australian history, have children been denied the right to learn without fear to the maximum in happy, stress-free circumstances at school, even though we have a work-force that can educate children in the true meaning of the word. They aren’t allowed. We have quality teachers who are absolutely controlled by sufferers of the Minnesota Malady. The kind of learning that produces giant thinkers no longer exists. Unschooling and Home Schooling – there is a difference – will be the saviours of many.

We must note:-

  1. NAPLAN, at present costing over over $50million per year, soon to rise to billions was, deliberately, it would seem, not mentioned by any political or media commentators during the recent budget debate. Its uselessness could have been provided as a budget savings. Don’t you find that strange? Is someone manipulating things? Surely folk who have all their receptors well wired to their brain can see this as shameful.
  2. Serious indicators, such as those revealed by Cobbold, that NAPLAN testing has failed to produce any positive results for children’s learning, have been ignored. No professional association, no politician anywhere, no part of the media empire had anything to say about such revelations.
  3. NAPLAN has seriously damaged the desire for teachers to teach creatively. It’s fast becoming just a job. Follow directions.
  4. Now that testucation replaces education, there is little need for teacher education that promotes quality teaching. It must be noted that Mr. Pyne sees teacher education as a way of ensuring that his views of instruction are carried out, having already arranged for millions of dollars to be given for some schools to adopt Direct Instruction.
  5. NAPLAN is in total control of the curriculum for far too many months each year. Nobody seems to have noticed.
    The use of NAPLAN in its present style is a form of child abuse.
  6. Comments exposing the deleterious effects of NAPLAN by notable world educators have been shamefully ignored by the press, politicians and testucators, so much so that it is highly likely that ACARA has already ordered or are ready to order without open discussion, the supply of millions of tabloids at a cost of billions of dollars, to perform the tests quicker and to practice for tests easier, before taking stock of whether the program is actually working now or ever will. Should true believers in kids, capitulate? The forces of evil are big and powerful, control nations and have conditioned a wide group of supporters of procrustian data-miners.
  7. Bill Shorten promised to bring Digital Language Teaching as a subject into a curriculum that is already overwhelmed by NAPLAN and should have to take its place in the queue of endless lobbies that are presently lined up for a piece of school time. Worthy proposal….but… Here’s Minnesota Malady in action. No connection. No discussion with teachers. Something will have to go from the curriculum to make room. What would you suggest? Maths, Social Studies, ESL, Reading, NAPLAN? One doesn’t have to be very bright to understand that it makes common sense to discuss this issue with classroom teachers. If the idea is sound, something has to go. They are the experts. The curriculum is far too over-packed now. Didn’t you know this? Disconnected? Wasteful, useless, damaging NAPLAN, the greatest of all disruptors must be discussed in any case in relations to its control of curriculum matters.
  8. The silence surrounding NAPLAN week, 2015 indicates a level of control from a particular source that has extraordinary power; and further indicates that the good guys, parents and the true believers have no chance, now that the machine age is on order. The big boys have won. No need for open debate.
  9. The installation of tabloids so that the tests can be done with greater speed means the completion of the publishers’ jihad. Murdoch, Pearson and Klein are rubbing their hands rock pushingwarmly together and exchanging big fives. Mission complete. While the cost to Australia is a few billion dollars, Mr. M. has said that it is worth $500billion per year in the U.S. alone to him. That’s big bickies and highlights the fact that the attempts committed educators to rewire the Minnesota Malady sufferers makes the Sisyphus task look like apiece of cake.

If professional organisations such as principals’ groups do not suffer from the Minnesota Malady, they suffer from Eichmannism. As guardians of Australia’s teaching professionalism they seem to be immune to anecdotal and serious research…..and just don’t care. Kids have no advocates anywhere, anymore.

Read The Shrinking of Treehorn again. The Underachieving School by John Holt is also worthy of an hour of your time.

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

Footnote : A clear demonstration of the existence of The Minnesota Malady, is this. Any teacher, worth knowing, is familiar with various tried and tested rules and laws of sociology whose undeniability is as sound as any of the laws of any of the physical sciences. Campbell’s Law, Goodhart’s Law, the Lucas Technique and McNamara’s Fallacy can be applied to social circumstancs with much more reliability than any Testucator’s theories such as the NAPLAN OBSERVANCE which states:-. Testucators’ views of classroom behaviour including learning and diagnosis can be recorded on the back of an old postage stamp in bold type and large font [Hefferan].

Education Readings May 15th

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!

What Happens When Students Boycott a Standardized Test?

“These protests should also serve as a reminder for decision-makers that parents and students are stakeholders in education policy and that community outreach must be part of any reform. Just as third-grade students need to explain why, for example, three-fourths equals six-eighths on the PARCC, education leaders should also answer the “why?” question: Why should students take standardized tests?”

In Australia, a School Designed to Excite and Engage

There are still beacons amongst the gloom…

“From the outside, Wooranna Park, built in 1971, looks boxy and old school. That impression changes as soon as you step inside and see that the original walls and halls have been moved and reconfigured. There’s room here for all kinds of learning — individual, collaborative, hands on, digital. Children and teachers move from space to space throughout the day, depending on the situation or activity.”

The 10 Biggest Breakthroughs in the Science of Learning

“While we still have a long way to go before we truly unravel all the mysteries the brain has to offer, scientists have been making some major breakthroughs that have gone a long way in explaining both how the brain functions and how we use it to organize, recall, and acquire new information. Here, we list just a few of the biggest and most impactful of these breakthroughs that have contributed to our understanding of the science of learning.”

Can reading comprehension be taught?

“Can reading comprehension be taught? In this blog post, I’ll suggest that the most straightforward answer is “no.” Reading comprehension strategies (1) don’t boost comprehension per se; (2) do indirectly help comprehension but; (3) don’t need to be practiced. Let me elaborate on these claims.”

Teaching Reading: No Magic Wand Required 

“Teaching children to read seems to be a mystery to everyone except primary school teachers. Someone recently asked: Is it true that it is not necessarily a teacher’s job to teach children to read? Is our job to give them the skills to make them better readers? Does any teacher have the time to teach all their students to read?”

The knowledge economy is neither

These days we are bombarded with the phrase ‘knowledge economy.’ This article deconstructs that.

“The knowledge economy is about extracting as much goods and services from the people who do the actual work of extracting what we need.”

Education Reformers Are So Gullible

This article is applicable all over.

“The thing voters need to ask themselves is: Who do they believe has the best interests of their child in mind more — the person who interacts with them every day and is part of their local community, or the corporate CEO 500 miles away who answers to an unelected board and investors? Because right now, the only ones really benefiting from the litany of education reform sweeping the nation are the corporations.”

Sir Ken Robinson: ‘The education system is a dangerous myth’

More from Sir Ken’s latest book.

“The issue in a nutshell is this: most developed countries did not have mass systems of public education much before the mid-19th century. These systems were developed to meet the labour needs of the Industrial Revolution and they are organised on the principles of mass production. The standards movement is allegedly focused on making these systems more efficient and accountable. The problem is that these systems are inherently unsuited to the wholly different circumstances of the 21st century.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Most states lacked expertise to improve worst schools

Bruce’s comment: So much for top down school change! After all the money and compliance requirement one third of schools showed no change (on standardised tests I presume) and one third got worse.

“Although turning around the worst schools was a priority for nearly every state, most did not have the staff, technology and expertise to pull those schools out of the bottom rankings, according to a brief released Tuesday by the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Education Department.”

7 Ways to Use Technology With Purpose

“In order to make sure you are using technology the right way, you must first “start with why”. If your students understand the “why” behind your technology use, then the class will have a purpose and technological glitches and issues can be worked through. If they don’t understand the “why” then any small issue could turn into a major problem.”

21 Fun (and Simple) Formative Assessment Tool

“Eyes bugging out when looking at endless lists of formative assessment strategies? Head spinning trying to figure out which one to use? Like a good librarian, we’ve put things in order to help you find what you’re looking for. First, we will define the characteristics of effective formative assessment. Then we will give examples of the quickest no-nonsense (and fun) formative assessment tools.”

Characteristics Of A Culture of Learning

Bruce’s comment: An excellent run through of the elements that contribute to a positive learning culture. How does your school/class stack up?

“Schooling is a system designed to move students from one grade to the next. Once students earn enough high school credits, they are rewarded with a high school diploma. Schooling focuses on teaching, while a Culture of Learning focuses on the whole child and student understanding.”

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Howard Gardner – developing a disciplined mind

Bruce’s comment: Gardner’s ideas of the disciplined mind continues Perkin’s ideas of in depth learning. Gardner calls ‘the disciplined mind’ a mind that knows how to work steadily over time to improve skill and understanding ad writes, ‘Without at least one discipline under his belt, the individual is destined to march to someone else’s tune.’

“Rather than the current diversion of focusing on literacy and numeracy, with its inevitable consequence of narrowing the curriculum, schools should get back to providing Perkin’s ‘threshold experiences’ so as to develop disciplined  minds and the gifts and talents of all their students. With such gifts firmly in place students will be equipped to make a positive contribution to whatever areas of learning/occupation that have attracted their attention.”

Guy Claxton – building learning power.

Bruce’s comment: More on the theme of real learning from Guy Claxton. Both teachers and students need, according to Guy Claxton, to know what habits of mind ( learning muscles) that they need to exercise, stretch and strengthen. These ‘learning power’ capacities need to be part of all learning. They must be a permeate of the culture of the school. ‘Messages’ that learning power is important ought to be obvious to all.

“At centre is the belief that all students can develop their learning power? How do your students see their ability – one one fixed by birth and set for life ( a ‘fixed bucket’) or one that can be continually expanded ( a ‘learning muscle’). The ‘mindset’ a student holds will effect all their future learning – or non learning.”

Advice from David Perkins to make learning whole

“’Play the whole game’ not fragmented bits says David Perkins.The problem Perkins says is there is too much problem solving  teachers problems and not enough problem finding – or figuring out often ‘messy’ open ended investigations.’Playing the whole game’ is the solution resulting in some sort of inquiry or performance. It is not just about content but getting better at things, it requires thinking with what you know to go further, it is about finding explanations and justifications.It involves curiosity, discovery, creativity, and camaraderie. It is not just discovery learning – it needs strong guidance gradually faded back.”

Education Readings May 8th

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!

How to really change education — excerpt from Sir Ken Robinson’s new book

“I’m often asked the same questions: What’s going wrong in education and why? If you could reinvent education, what would it look like? Would you have schools? Would there be different types? What would go on in them? Would everyone have to go, and how old would they have to be? Would there be tests? And if you say I can make a difference in education, where do I begin?”

We’re teaching our kids wrong: Steve Jobs and Bill Gates do not have the answers

“A close look inside the classroom door suggests that in the past 150 years we have come to think, perhaps without realizing it, that the purpose of education is to make money. Though going to school hugely increases a child’s chance of earning a decent wage in adulthood, that fact need not, and should not, define our thinking about what and how children should learn. Decent wages may be a very desirable outcome of attending school. But that doesn’t mean that money should be the goal of education or the measure of its success.”

The myopia boom

This article has ramifications for children during school hours.

“Ian Morgan, a myopia researcher at the Australian National University in Canberra, estimates that children need to spend around three hours per day under light levels of at least 10,000 lux to be protected against myopia. This is about the level experienced by someone under a shady tree, wearing sunglasses, on a bright summer day.”

Learning Modalities

Another rebuttal of the learning styles myth.

“What the research has shown is that when you use all modalities all learners learn better! This is really a boon for teachers, since instead of feeling like you need to test each of your students for their strengths and then designing separate lessons for each type learner, now what you are best off doing is designing lessons that utilize all modalities. The more modalities you use, the more all students will do better.”

Abracadabra! Put The Magic In Teaching

“Let’s use the wonder of creation for children to have magical experiences that may or may not be tied to standards, even for an hour a month? A week? A day? I guarantee my students will always remember having live spiders in the classroom, building a giant peach, and conducting a pumpkin museum. These experiences bring the magic back into learning.”

Stop Penalizing Boys for Not Being Able to Sit Still at School

“In an attempt to get at what actually works for boys in education, Dr. Michael Reichert and Dr. Richard Hawley, in partnership with the International Boys’ School Coalition, launched a study called Teaching Boys: A Global Study of Effective Practices, published in 2009. The study looked at boys in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, in schools of varying size, both private and public, that enroll a wide range of boys of disparate races and income levels.”

Children with ADHD ‘learn better when fidgeting’

Following on…

“The actions of fidgeting children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have frequently been labeled as disruptive in the past, but a new study suggests that they may be essential for these children when it comes to learning at school. Children with ADHD could perform better at school if they are allowed to move, the study suggests. Researchers from the University of Central Florida (UCF) have found that excessive movement characteristic of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) helps children with the condition to retain information and work out complex cognitive tasks.”

Are We Training Our Students to be Robots?

This article isn’t as depressing as the title might suggest; however it does flag issues that need to be considered.

“If you take personalized learning to its logical positive extreme, technology will educate every student as efficiently as possible. This individual-centric agenda is very much rooted in American neoliberalism.

But what if there’s a darker story? What if we’re really training our students to be robots?”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Resources for Developing Questioning Skills in Your Students

Bruce’s comment: Resources for developing questioning skills with your students – aligns well with the NZ Curriculum ideal of ‘students seeking, using and creating their own knowledge.’

“Teachers are always on the lookout for ways to foster great questioning skills. Here are some useful and fun sites, an infographic, and some apps to help you along.”

What is a Performance Task?

Bruce’s comment: It would seem that in the US state and federal politicians introduce all sorts of standardised assessment tests and core standards which have a range of both intended and unintended consequences – narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the tests and, putting it plainly, cheating. With this mind it was refreshing to come across the below blog written by an educationalist Jay McTighe  encouraging performance tasks and, even more so to read, a number of excellent practical examples.

“When used as assessments, performance tasks enable teachers to gauge student understanding and proficiency with complex processes (e.g., research, problem solving, and writing), not just measure discrete knowledge. They are well suited to integrating subject areas and linking content knowledge with the 21st Century Skills such as critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication, and technology use. Moreover, performance-based assessment can also elicit Habits of Mind, such as precision and perseverance.”

5 Great Educational Resources for Modern Classroom

Bruce’s comment: For those involved in technology in the classroom – 5 great educational resources to consider.

“In the digital age, many innovative organizations have branched off into educational initiatives, and their timing couldn’t be better. Recognizing the need for visual literacy, digital citizenship practices, and guided ed-tech implementation, many of these organizations strive to offer our students and teachers versatile tools and the most rewarding experiences possible with them. The following 5 educational resources in this article represent exactly the types of learning environments that are meant for today’s students.”

4 Terrific Blended Learning Projects for Your Students

“There are many benefits of using the blended learning methodology in the classroom, but many teachers lack the experience of using technology to help their students. For these teachers, incorporating blended learning projects into the classroom can be a difficult and frustrating experience. Here are four ideas for easy ways to start implementing blended learning projects into the classroom.”

From Bruce’s “goldie oldie” file:

Fundamentals in education

Ask most people what they would consider fundamental in education and they would probably say ‘the three Rs’ or, in,today’s, speak literacy and numeracy. Certainly this is the view of our current conservatist government. But , like most simplistic answers , if people give the question more thought, more enlightened answers come to mind. Learning to interpret and express ideas about ones experiences is the basis of all learning from the moment one is born.”

Principals suffering from HAS Syndrome?

“Schools now suffer from the label they give to their their students ‘ADD’ – ‘Attention Deficit Disorder’ unable to focus on what is important to them – or, more importantly, what is important to the wider community if we want to develop a sustainable creative country. All too often schools have become inward looking and competitive, turning themselves in to ‘Christmas Tree – look at me schools’ with fancy brochures and doubtful narrow success achievement graphs.”

Are you a risk taker? Either you are or you aren’t. It seems who dares wins. What might this mean for schools?

“In a blame culture people are scared to step outside the norms. So it is only brave organization that takes on the brilliant mavericks and they are wise enough not to want them to fit in. They want them to help them see the world with new eyes. So it seems it is important to develop cultures which makes challenge possible.”

Education Readings May 1st

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!

Hattie’s research: Is wrong Part 3 – meta-meta analysis a monster

The latest instalment in Kelvin Smythe’s deconstruct of john Hattie’s ‘visible learning research’:

“While what follows points out fundamental statistical and mathematical errors in Hattie’s research, I want to emphasise that the central error in Hattie’s research is not in his mathematics and statistics but in his lack of control over the variables. All other errors, such as the mathematical ones that follow, are symptoms. In a bizarre sense, the errors were ‘necessary’ – necessary to cope with the massive lack of control of variables.”

Great teacher = great results? Wrong

“Does that mean that teachers don’t matter? Of course it doesn’t. We need teachers who help children to get the most from their time in school. It does, however, mean that the common assumptions about what schools can achieve are based on a fallacy. Because learning is done by the child, and not by the teacher, and no education system can exceed the desire and capabilities of its children.”

After learning new words, brain sees them as pictures

Implications for the way children are taught to read:

“The visual word form area does not care how the word sounds, just how the letters of the word look together,” he says. “The fact that this kind of learning only happens in one very small part of the brain is a nice example of selective plasticity in the brain.”

Judgement Day: The Double Standard of Teacher Evaluation

‘The plangent perversity of this process is, perhaps, best summed up by Michael Fullan in a recent interview in which he remarked: “A huge apparatus is in place to identify the five to seven percent of teachers who shouldn’t be teaching. One hundred percent of teachers are involved in a superficial system in order to catch five percent. If you reverse that and say you want to catch the 95 percent in the collaborative culture, then you can do appraisal on teachers who are struggling.’

8 Characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset

“Building upon Carol Dweck’s work, I have been looking at the traits of the “Innovator’s Mindset”, which would be summarized as follows:

Belief that abilities, intelligence, and talents are developed leading to the creation of new and better ideas.”

10 very real teacher ailments and diseases

Such as:

Endoftermitis: This disease normally occurs at the end of term but sometimes afflicts teachers at half-term breaks too. Symptoms vary but usually include exhaustion, shattered nerves and a common cold.

Britain should be wary of borrowing education ideas from abroad

Pasi Sahlberg:

“One thing is true. No country should aim to replicate the educational models of others. Finland is no exception. What governments need to get right is the big picture for the educational landscape of their nation. The road to a better education for all our children is not to return to the past but to build schools where curiosity, engagement and talent can be discovered and nurtured. That calls for integrating research-informed international lessons into local needs and capacities.”

Misconceptions about Mindset, Rigor, and Grit

Beware of bandwagons…

“Among the educational ideas that have gained momentum in recent years are the concepts of Mindset, Rigor, and Grit. While all of these ideas may have merit, as with all shiny new objects that attract our attention we need to proceed with caution and think about whether and why these concepts fit into our personal pedagogy. Being willing to implement the hot new thing is admirable, but not if it is done feet first with our eyes closed.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

The Problem With Math Problems: We’re Solving Them Wrong

Bruce’s comment: Confused about maths then is worth a read. Getting ‘stuck’ on a maths problem is real maths – or the essence of problem solving or creativity. Not knowing  drives knowing and not giving up.

“There really ought to be problem solving and imaginative thinking all the way through while kids master the basics. If you’ve never been asked to struggle with open-ended, non-cookbook problems, your command of math will always be shaky and shallow.”

Why on Earth Do We Need Teacher Training? 

“Much of the teacher training I’ve encountered has been fundamentally top-down in approach; follow the example of the trainer (like the mentor educator), and you too can learn how to work in class.  I’d favor a flipped approach, in which educators tried to listen to their learners and reshaped their classroom strategies accordingly.”

Time to create a positive learning epidemic/virus – says Andy Hargreaves

“In education antiquated educational cultures and structures are increasingly being found wanting and becoming part of the problem. And any new change can no longer rely on central educational architects with some master ideology or plan to provide roadmap into the future.”

Shifting Mental Models in Educators

Bruce’s comment: An excellent read – our mental models (often unconscious) determine how we treat students.

‘If we’re intent on transforming classrooms and schools, if we are truly committed to seeing equitable outcomes for children, we’ll need to take a long and hard look at our mental models. This is hard and scary work, because we need to poke around in the beliefs that we hold about education and children and their ability to learn’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Creative Leadership: A Challenge of our Times

Bruce’s comment: Schools need creative leadership – are there any around? If schools are to break out the crushing conformity that has resulted since technocrats and politicians captured the education agenda creative leaders will have to emerge.Creative leadership is the challenge of our times. Can you think of any leaders you know of?

“This means principals being brave enough to take sensible risks so as to help teachers open up possibilities for thinking about things in different ways. This represents a new form of leadership, one that ‘isn’t top down: leading a team in such a way that it’s not dictating and yet still scaffolding and supporting’.”

Bring back the Jesters!

Bruce’s comment: We need modern Jesters to tell us the truth. Time to bring back the role of the jester – the only person in a medieval court to tell the truth.

“Modern boards of directors are a bit like mediaeval courts where no one questions the king or the senior courtiers because they have become far too important to challenge. And as long as they can’t possibly be wrong, they can continue doing the wrong things all the time and never know it.”

The dark side of Literacy and Numeracy

“It would seem heretical to suggest the current obsession with Literacy and Numeracy is limiting the learning of our students. Every classroom you visit is full of the current approaches as introduced by ‘contracted’ advisers following their written scripts; all passing on the John Hattie message of intentional teaching, feedback and the dogma of ‘evidence based teaching’. Not that it isn’t a good message but to restrict it to literacy and numeracy is to limit the potential power to develop students’ talents in equally, or more important, areas. Literacy and numeracy are ‘foundation’ skills. They do not ‘drive’ learning – learning is driven by students’ interests and talents and their deep desire to make sense of their lives.”

Education Readings April 24th

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!


Wobbly no more: Work on analogical processing helps children learn key engineering principle

Vygotsky in action?

“Children love to build things. Often half the fun for them is building something and then knocking it down. But in a new study children had just as much fun learning how to keep their masterpieces upright — they learned a key elementary engineering principle.”

Education reform: Jekyll or Hyde?

This article, by Warwick Mansell, a freelance journalist and author of Education by Numbers: the tyranny of testing (Methuen, 2007), is about United Kingdom education policies in the run up to their forthcoming general election. As is usually the case, this article has relevance all over.

“The question is whether it is possible to talk meaningfully about supporting teachers to do their jobs well while at the same time espousing ‘zero tolerance of failure’ when the schools in which they work underperform. I think this is a very difficult circle to square, in the reality of how schools operate: the hunch must be that if you use ‘zero tolerance’, so making schools extremely fearful as to their next bad set of results, you probably will make them unattractive workplaces for many teachers or would-be teachers.”

How Visual Thinking Improves Writing

“Younger kids typically love to draw and aren’t too worried about the outcomes of their artwork — until they get older. By the time they’ve learned to read and write, art takes a back burner to academics, primarily because of what most schools prioritize. Over time it becomes harder for kids to think in pictures the way they once did. But what if students were encouraged to think in pictures alongside words?”

The 4 biggest mistakes that teachers make when integrating technology

“Being a passionate educator, leader, and coach, I hope for a classroom where everyone (including the educators) are willing to take risks, make mistakes and learn from them; where technology is used as a tool to enhance learning and pedagogy..

Pedagogy before technology! Get integrating, be willing to take risks and immerse your students in the wonderful learning opportunities that technology provides.”

To Advance Education, We Must First Reimagine Society

“The formal school system needs to be “turned upside down and inside out.” It should be based on the biological system of weaning — i.e., gradually reducing children’s dependence on teachers. Teacher-student ratios should be high in the early years, then decrease dramatically in adolescence, when “the whole community has to become a place of learning,” with mentorships, apprenticeships and other hands-on learning experiences complementing highly self-directed classroom learning.”

Ten obvious truths about educating kids that keep getting ignored

This list, by Alfie Kohn, has been around for some time, but its well worth revisiting.

“If we all agree that a given principle is true, then why in the world do our schools still function as if it weren’t?

Here are 10 examples.”

Story Hui: Bringing Data To Life Visually

(Thanks to Liz Stevenson)

This downloadable booklet from Story Hui is targeted at a New Zealand audience, but there’s a wealth of useful suggestions for teachers all over. Note –  ‘hui’ is a Maori word for a gathering, a meeting. Another Maori word used in the booklet is ‘whanau’ which is an extended family group. Also, ‘koha’ means ‘precious gift’.

From Liz’s email:

“It is a tool for evaluating learning and is not standards based. It’s about using story, drawing & questioning to show clear evidence of engagement, wellbeing and interpersonal capabilities. The feedback from teachers who have trialled it has been overwhelmingly positive and in many cases it seems to have removed a lot of stress. People feel that at last they can really show the whole child’s learning – and if a literacy judgement is not great – then that is only a small part of the bigger story.”

Hattie’s research is wrong: Part 1 and Part 2

Distinguished New Zealand educator Kelvin Smythe has major concerns about John Hattie’s ‘research’ and as a result is writing a series of articles outlining his concerns. Here are the first two parts:

So influential has Hattie’s research become and Hattie along with it, that to critically examine it, whatever the outcome, if integrity and validity of policy information is valued, should be welcomed by all in school education, in academia, in government bureaucracies, by governments, and by Hattie himself. If readers take a stand (as I have) that the egregious errors are just that, the only path remaining is that Hattie has been astonishingly careless and ignorant in the maths, statistics, research design, understanding of curriculum, and presentation.

Part 1:

Part 2:

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Have we lost sight of the purpose of education – to create the conditions to ensure all students develop their creativity or is it about testing and accountability?

“If only New Zealand schools would take the current Zealand Curriculum (2007) seriously. Imagine if every student left our school system as a ‘confident life long learner’ ,  all with a  positive  ‘learning identity’,  and all  able to ‘seek, use and create their own knowledge’.

I live in hope.”

National Stigma – two teachers speak out

This is a letter from two teachers, posted on the Save Our Schools New Zealand website, that expresses their angst at the impact of New Zealand’s National Standards on children in their classes. National Standards are not too far removed from the Common Core Standards in USA  (of course that’s a coincidence) but instead of a testing regime teachers are required to use their judgement to rate children’s achievement against relevant standards.

“We are two teachers who have been teaching for about 21 years each but we have never had to deal with anything as heart-breaking as reporting to parents about their child’s achievement in relation to national standards. We feel we have been ‘bullied’ into implementing these standards, have not been consulted during any part of the process and labelled as uncaring and unprofessional when sharing our concerns. Here is the reality of National Standards for us.”

Build an Innovation Culture – With the Right Leaders

Bruce’s comment: A short but powerful suggestion about the need for leaders to develop a creative culture. As they say – ‘culture counts’.

“But building a culture of innovation is not easy. Any change initiative is challenging building a culture of innovation is one in which many organizations fail. At the center of it all is the leader.”

Evolution of the “good” teacher

Bruce’s comment:

A great read for the thinking teacher! What is good teaching? Does any body really know? The below link struggles with some possible answers. What is clear is that no approach fits all students.Teaching is in the middle of a change, an evolution, a revolution — the intensity of the description depends on whom you ask. One could argue that this change is natural and part of an ebb and flow cycle, but this change feels faster, and possibly more frenetic — likely due to technology’s role in the change. Is good teaching now for the 21st-century markedly different than it was previously?

Developing a Growth Mindset in Teachers and Staff

Bruce’s comment: I still run across teachers who have not heard about Prof Carol Dweck and her notions of fixed or growth mind-sets – here is a link from Australia  for those who want to catch up or just refresh themselves.

“However, in my work, I have found that the notion of developing a growth mindset is as equally applicable to staff and teacher performance as it is to students. This article begins with a brief discussion about the difference between the two mindsets, what that means for education, and concludes with some ideas for how school leaders might seek to develop a growth mindset amongst their staff.”

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Teachers’ key role in fostering creativity.

Bruce’s comment: So what is the teacher’s role in a creative classroom?

“Essential characteristics of creative teachers, according to one US researcher, are a commitment to: deepen the understandings of the world of each learner; believe in the creative ability of all students; encourage empathy in students; value creative expression in learners; teach in ways that facilitate it; adapt the curriculum to meet students individual needs.”

Slow learning needed for fast times!

Bruce’s comment: In this fast paced world maybe it’s time to slow down, enjoy the experience, and and do fewer things well?

“Slow learning they believe is essential for our lives and learning by giving depth to our experiences and providing insight for creativity and ingenuity. All too often, in contrast, students are rushed through learning to cover curriculum material. First finished is best seems to be the order of the day! As a result ‘slow learning’ is neglected in schools.”

We need leaders not accountants.

“It was interesting to read an article by Elizabeth Moss Kanter saying, ‘number, numbers, numbers – is that what preoccupies the school system today – tests and school performance statistics’? It is not that she doesn’t believe in measures but if school systems focus too much on complying with such demands they are in danger of being taken over by accountants not leaders.”

Education Readings April 17th

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!


Report debunks ‘earlier is better’ academic instruction for young children

Are you surprised? New Zealand has a wonderful early childhood curriculum (Te Whāriki ) but how long will it survive under the present government?

‘Rather, she says, the research suggests that “preschool programs are best when they focus on social, emotional and intellectual goals rather than narrow academic goals” and provide “early experiences that provoke self-regulation, initiative and …sustained synchronous interaction in which the child is interactive with others in some continuous process, rather than a mere passive recipient of isolated bits of information for stimulation.”’

For Pearson, Common Core is private profit

While this article discusses the USA, Pearson Group is a major threat to education all over. Do you want your country’s education to be defined by a multinational corporation? A definition that just happens to include both their testing and instructional products?

“Taking inspiration from Margaret Thatcher’s motto “Don’t tell me what, tell me how,” Barber rarely discusses what schools should teach or cites scholarship on pedagogy. Instead, the book emphasizes again and again that leaders need metrics — e.g., standardized test scores — to measure whether reforms are helping children become literate and numerate. Of course, Pearson just happens to be one of the world’s largest vendors of the products Barber recommends for building education systems.”

In the Digital Age, How to Get Students Excited About Going Outdoors

Thanks to Innes Kennard for this.

“Louv has since become famous for coining the term Nature-Deficit Disorder — not as a medical diagnosis, but as shorthand for what’s happening to kids who stay, for the most part, inside, away from nature, for the majority of their young lives. He uses strong research to support his claims that rising rates of obesity, depression and anxiety, and ADHD symptoms could well be linked to kids’ disconnection from trees, fields and streams.”

Demystifying the Muse: Five Creativity Myths You Should Stop Believing

Another one from Innes – I may have posted this before …

“We’ve built up an image of what creativity is that is completely wrong. If you don’t believe me, here are a few of the biggest myths about creativity that most of us still believe:”

How Bad Journalism Is Driving the Collapse of Our Once-Great Public Education System

This USA story is easy to transfer to other countries.

“Be afraid, be very afraid, any time you see a reporter in the business media turn his or her attention to education and public schools. What will likely follow is a string of truisms used to prop up a specious argument, steeped in biased notions that were themselves picked up from ill-informed conversations promoted by other clueless business news outlets.”

Modern Learning Environments – the underlying philosophy to success

“Modern Learning Environments (MLE) are all the talk in educational circles right now. Schools, around the world, are knocking out walls and creating bright stimulating classrooms with multi purpose furniture and giving students access to technology. On the surface it looks fantastic, however I am concerned that without a big pedagogy shift, students will be simply just learning the same way many teachers have been teaching – just in bigger classrooms with new furniture.”

MLE and MLP- a returning fad, or something that could be truly transformative?

In a similar vein:

“If nothing else changes except collaborative spaces and collaborative teaching then the end result will not change. You are just repeating the open plan experiments of the 70s and 80s and it will fall over sooner or later. If you are still taking reading groups and writing groups and math groups in the same way, just on a bigger scale with more teachers and with several classes, then you are just streaming and making more work for everyone, because of the communication and organisation required. You are teaching traditionally in a shared space. You are using a MLE, but not practising MLP.  There is a huge difference.”

Go Team: Why Teacher Teams Struggle To Work Effectively Together And How Schools Can Create The Conditions For Success

Following on, teacher teamwork will be vital if any modern learning environment is to have any chance of working.

“Even when schools recognize the potential of teacher teams to have a measurable impact on improving teaching and learning, many teams fail to achieve the results they seek. Is it simply a case of good or bad chemistry, or are there concrete steps schools can take to cultivate collaboration that works?”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Why Talking About the Brain Can Empower Learners

Bruce’s comment: Every teacher should know about Carol Dweck

“Stanford University professor of psychology Carol Dweck, who has been leading the research in this field, discusses “The power of believing that you can improve” in this TED talk.”

The NMC Horizon Report: 2014 K-12 Edition examines emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning, and creative inquiry in schools

Bruce’s comment: An easily read but challenging document about technology and its transformational implication for education. My advice – set aside a wet afternoon to read and think about the implications. The diagram on page three is a good summary.The report is  all about in-depth learning; technology enhanced learning; authentic learning; user friendly technology ; user friendly technology, the changes  (for some) of the role of the teacher; new modern learning environments  and personalised learning;  and other considerations.

A Brave New World for “Personalized Learning”?

Bill Ferriter:

‘”Relax, Bill!” I’ll say in the middle of my incoherent ramblings and cold sweats.  “SURELY there are good people at big corporations who are developing products with PURE intentions.  It’s NOT about capitalizing on fears and making a fast buck. It’s about improving schools FOR THE CHILDREN!”’

Effective Communication Needs Common Language and Goals

Bruce’s comment:

To develop a quality learning across a school you need agreement on common goals/ teaching beliefs – a common language to align all teaching behind and to evaluate teachers progress and to provide appropriate feedback and help. A great idea as long as it encourages individual teacher creativity as well. To greater enforcement of consistency (of Common Cores or National Standards)  can be counter productive.

“So, how can schools ensure that all leaders are communicating effectively and keeping the school on the right path? By making sure that everyone—teachers, administrators, and support staff—uses a common language to work toward common goals.”

Evolution of the “good” teacher

Bruce’s comment: A great read for the thinking teacher!

“What is good teaching? Does any body really know? The below link struggles with some possible answers. What is clear is that no approach fits all students.Teaching is in the middle of a change, an evolution, a revolution — the intensity of the description depends on whom you ask. One could argue that this change is natural and part of an ebb and flow cycle, but this change feels faster, and possibly more frenetic — likely due to technology’s role in the change. Is good teaching now for the 21st-century markedly different than it was previously?”

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Creative teaching

Bruce’s comment: Elwyn Richardson’s thought are more relevant than ever. We have standardised teaching (or in Elwyn’s words ‘normalised’) and as a result creativity has been all but lost. Even art, the most creative of learning areas, is now clone like – the result of zealous over teaching of criteria and oppressive feedback. Poor old Vincent van G wouldn’t last 5 minutes. It’s now a paint by numbers education system and no colouring outside the lines.

“A ‘good’ classroom should develop in students a personal commitment to their learning. Teachers can do this through: talking, discussion, focusing students’ attention, helping them look closely at things,by taking trips into the immediate environment, and by tapping their personal experiences. From such activities students develop ideas to research and share and emotional feeling to express through words, poems, paintings and other art media.”

Education for a Creative Age

Bruce’s comment: ‘Teacher the Geranium on the Windowsill just Died and you kept on Talking’ – more on the death of creative education.

“At the very least schools talk about the ‘Information Age’ but, according to perceptive commentators, this ‘age’ has already passed its ‘use by’ date. According to Juan Enriquez, in his book, ‘As the Future Catches You, the ‘future belongs to countries who build empires of the mind’.”

Importance of Observation.

Bruce’s comment: And an antidote might be to return to encouraging focused observation – interesting that some of schools where Silicon Valley parents sent their students to are computer free!

“Drawing is an ideal way to break through habitual ways of thinking. All too often our students see but they do not look. Observational drawing has long been an important means for some teachers to develop deeper consciousness in students – to assist students see through their habitual ways of seeing and to develop new awareness.”