Educational Readings August 30th

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!

Mind-Mapping And The Digitization Of Learning

I’ve used mind mapping (pen & paper, and also software) in both work and study, and found it to be a very valuable tool.

‘The efficacy of mind-mapping is well-understood and tested yearly in worldwide studies. For students and educators, the real question is: How can mind mapping make the academic world more efficient and more productive? How can the education world leverage mind-mapping software to ‘hack’ the retention, organization and distribution of knowledge?’

 The Real Problem With Multiple-Choice Questions

‘So let us look at multiple-choice questions in this light. More than anything else, when a multiple-choice question is given to a student in hopes of measuring how well he or she understands something, it manufacturers the illusion of right and wrong, a binary condition that ignores the endlessly fluid nature of information.’

 Where The Smart Kids Are

  • a review of the book “The Smartest Kids In The World: And How They Got That Way’ by Amanda Ripley.

‘Yes, she travels to Finland to observe the “Nordic robots” who achieve such remarkably high scores on international tests — and to South Korea and Poland, two other nations where students handily surpass Americans’ mediocre performance. In the best tradition of travel writing, however, she gets well beneath the glossy surfaces of these foreign cultures, and manages to make our own culture look newly strange.’

Grappling With the Question: Why Isn’t America Number 1?

Another article based around ‘The Smartest Kids In The World: And How They Got That Way.’

‘…Ripley allows us to follow her as she goes to experts in South Korea, Poland, Finland and the United States to get answers about teacher preparation, national standards and assessment that raise yet more questions about what the purpose of education is, what national policies are most effective and what obligations schools have to kids and kids have to schools.’

 Let’s bring on a real education revolution

‘Australia should follow the lead of Canada where there is no federal apparatus in education and no need for a minister.’

An idea which needs to considered all over? Agree? Disagree?

Right Brain, Left Brain? Scientists Debunk Popular Theory

Oh dear, there goes a number of cherished classroom programmes…

‘Maybe you’re “right-brained”: creative, artistic, an open-minded thinker who perceives things in subjective terms. Or perhaps you’re more of a “left-brained” person, where you’re, good at tasks that require attention to detail, and more logically minded. It turns out, though, that this idea of “brained-ness” might be more of a figure of speech than anything, as researchers have found that these personality traits may not have anything to do with which side of the brain you use more.’

A Christmas Carol, 1843 – Education Today

‘In 1843 Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol which speaks to an identical issue we face today.

“This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want (Poverty). Beware them both… but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.” 

Lack of education and poverty. Doom for an entire society and the wealthy who control it.’

 School is a prison — and damaging our kids

‘Longer school years aren’t the answer. The problem is school itself. Compulsory teach-and-test simply doesn’t work.’

This is a ‘must read article’ by US psychologist Peter Gray.

 Cuba: Revolución Educativa?

Seems Cuba is up there with Finland:

‘For me this was probably the most interesting aspect given that without a hysterical rush to adopt “21st century” platforms and capitulating to PISA league tables Cuba has achieved, according to the instruments and indicators applied by international organisations such as OECD and UNESCO, one of the world’s best educational systems. An education system that is free to all students from primary to higher education and has achieved almost 100% literacy amongst its population.’

An illustrated History of a Special GERM


The Treehorn Express

An Illustrated History of a Special G.E.R.M.


image[2]New chum Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, while taking control of everything on 3 December, 2007 dreamed up a ploy to demonstrate his toughness. Influenced by the brain-dead scato-meme called GERM, he decided that he was going to smarten up school performance, using GERM’s raison d’etre. He called it a Revolution. He knew a soft target when he saw one.

 His close colleague, devoted Deputy and Minister for Education Julia RM Gillard, liked the idea of being a termagant presiding over the activities of timid educators; so, ignoring kids mental, emotional and cognitive welfare, she made unilateral arrangements for the introduction of something that no Australian child-oriented educator would ever have contemplated. Where did she get the idea?

On 27 June, 2008 while attending a Carnegie Corporation knees-up in New York, she met sweet-talking co-lawyer Joel Klein, as schadenfreude as she, who ran a kitsch system of schooling in the Big Apple that relied on conformity to political and corporate dictates. She had found a soul-brother.Klein

As leader [lawyer?] of a school district, he persuaded her [lawyer!] to adopt his ‘crime and punishment’ style of educational management.

  1.   Keep the work force cowed and fearful of losing their jobs.
  2. Scare the daylights out of children by forcing them to do standardised tests of selected fundamentals.

It’s guaranteed to work; money-wise. Don’t allow educators to share the idea….only measurers and corporate benefactors; and, later, don’t let journos talk about it. They can be pesky. The giant banking corporation Swiss Bank aka UBS paid for Mr. & Mrs. Klein to visit Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. At the Canberra Press Club, the Canberra Times writer, Emma Macdonald exposed him as a fraud but it didn’t matter. Who dares challenge the big end of town? Who cared about kids at the time? During the visit of Joel Klein to Sydney, he outlined his policy of fear and was applauded. Julia RM Gillard immediately set about arranging the compliance of locked-in 2010-05-12-NAPLAN-trumpeted-by-Gillard-226[1][1]sycophantic claques, who, Klein had warned her, were likely to oppose her on professional grounds. She knew that they would comply easy. They did.

First targets, according to the Klein/Gillard m.o., were parents and teachers, usually the two essential partners in successful schooling. They had to be dis-empowered and their rights hidden from public views. No problem. All teacher groups did as they were bid, despite the growing evidence that it was a really stupid idea.

Meanwhile, back in H.Q. Big Apple, Joel Klein took charge of Rupert Murdoch’s $US700billion testing company, Amplify, on a $2m p.a. salary and in-flowed the money. The notion of making big, big money from kids’ classroom tears and fear was phenomenological. First time in history. It is usually ‘Kids KLEIN-articleInline-v2First’. Aussie-based NAPLAN still relies on fear-driven premises; very few folk care and the cash registers toll louder and louder. Yank-happy Aussie testucators have been faithful to all edicts even though the methods were mean, miserable and vomitous for children. While anxious educators protested [ ], eichmannised testucators with doubtful ethics, some in charge of schools and school systems, kept fracking children’s cognitive development and learning happiness to try for better test scores on teeny-weeny bits of a wide, future -focussed curriculum…. and on nothing else! Out went the baby. Surprisingly, the Klein system still remains in place and, even though NOW – election time – is the best time to ban the blunder, nobody is game to say anything about NAPLAN nor to try too hard to get rid of it. It’s all part of the original dastardly scheme.

Schools%20on%20trial[3]Things are now going well from Julia RM Gillard’s point of view. She believes that Australia will raise its score to the top 5 in the peculiar, unsatisfactory, meaningless PISA tests by 2025. Top 5 in schooling immaturity, wethinks. [ ] That aim is now part of Labor’s declared policy!

Even the political opposition has embraced it. Opposed to child-centred education as fervid devotees of the Gradgrind School of Pedagogy, their Minister of Education, Mr Chris%20Pyne[4]Chris RM Pyne is looking forward to installing a robust curriculum into all schools. Poor kids. Just what you need.

Meanwhile the money rolls in…to RM, USA. He looks at the palm of his hand every now and then…..and pats them on their tiny little heads.

The years since 2008 have been messy and dysfunctional. Australia’s school education has been heading in the wrong direction.

 We all know that it is.

The silent press doesn’t care.

Kids cop it.








Phil Cullen A.M., A.Ed., B.Ed., Dip.Ed.Admin. M.Ed.Admin[Hons] ; Former Q’ld Director of Primary Education (13yrs}, Regional Director/Inspector {7 yrs}, Primary School Principal 23 years ; FACE, FACEL, FQIEL,, Gold Medal FACEL ; Life Member QSPSSA, QSPSCA,QSPSA,QSPPA,BPSRLSA ; Founder:Treehorn Express, FNQPPA ; 41 Cominan Avenue, Banora Point 2486 07 5524 6443        

Educational Readings August 23rd

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!

In Praise of CREATIVITY Parts 1 & 2 (via Tony Gurr)

‘Today, we have guest posts from Chaz Pugliese, a teacher-trainer and musician (he plays a mean blues tune or two) based in Paris. Chaz and I met in Istanbul a few months ago and when I learned his “passion” was allthingsCREATIVITY – I just had to ask how he felt about allthingsBLOGGING! I’m glad I did. Take a read – feel free to contact him at’

What is Education For? Looking for Answers in the Montessori Movement

‘Montessori was a vehicle for seeing what is possible. It showed me that children can learn what they most need by following their own passions. It taught me that the role of adults should be a supportive one that allows children to develop what is already beginning within themselves.’

Nah, let’s have top down standardised education to prepare children to participate in the workforce.

Why are we teaching like it’s 1992?

‘The schools we have inherited were designed for standardisation and industrialisation. Their aim was to turn farmers into factory workers and, on a different social level, to show shopkeepers how to be corporate employees. We have inherited this Industrial Age system of specialised, field-driven, silo-ed, top-down, standardised education. We measure achievement in “bubble tests” where you find the best answer from five possible ones. How does that kind of thinking prepare our students for a world where they can upload or download any thoughts or pictures or movies or music they want?’

 What We Know Now and An Alternative to Accountability-Based Education Reform

‘Well into the second decade of the twenty-first century, then, education reform continues a failed tradition of honoring messaging over evidence. Neither the claims made about educational failures, nor the solutions for education reform policy today are supported by large bodies of compelling research.’

 Deck Chairs on the Titanic Failure of American Education

‘Actual children, as opposed to the abstraction of children as seen in policy debate, are not “standard.” Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of child development knows that children learn in different ways and different times.’

While this article is about the USA, it’s very relevant to any GERM infected country.

Start funding college [university] like high school 

‘Yet, even though the 21st century economy is clearly telling us that “the college degree is becoming the new high school diploma,” we do not have the same funding model or outlook for college. Instead, we still predicate access to higher education on a student’s wealth and/or their willingness to go into crushing debt.’

Why All Students Should Write: A Neurological Explanation For Literacy

‘Writing promotes the brain’s attentive focus to class work and homework, promotes long-term memory, illuminates patterns (possibly even “aha” moment insight!), includes all students as participants, gives the brain time for reflection, and when well-guided, is a source of conceptual development and stimulus of the brain’s highest cognition.’

Bruce Hammonds is an enthusiast for inquiry learning. Here’s a selection of links from Bruce that expand on this process:

How to Trigger Students’ Inquiry Through Projects

‘When students engage in quality projects, they develop knowledge, skills, and dispositions that serve them in the moment and in the long term. Unfortunately, not all projects live up to their potential. Sometimes the problem lies in the design process. It’s easy to jump directly into planning the activities students will engage in without addressing important elements that will affect the overall quality of the project.’

Creating Classrooms We Need: 8 Ways Into Inquiry Learning

‘If kids can access information from sources other than school, and if school is no longer the only place where information lives, what, then happens to the role of this institution?’

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. Students focus on a problem or challenge, work in teams to find a solution to the problem, and often exhibit their work to an adult audience at the end of the project.’

Educational Readings August 16th

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!

Is core curriculum rotten?

Common core in the USA is like national standards in New Zealand, although possibly worse, given the reliance on standardised testing. This infographic looks at the relationship between common core and college preparedness.

 Secret Teacher: schools have got lesson observations all wrong

‘With teachers playing the system and students clamming up in observations, surely schools can find a better way to assess teaching and progress?’

I agree – once the teacher and children become aware they are being observed, the classroom is no longer functioning as it usually would. The validity of any conclusions is suspect. The current emphasis on accountability, performance pay, etc, just makes it worse.

I know I have to be observed and I know that observations are important. But I long for the day when I will be trusted to do my job and people can just wander in when they want to instead of sitting there, po-faced and unsmiling, writing everything down when I so much as breathe.’

The ultimate abomination is Bill Gates’ proposal of video cameras in all classrooms, recording every event of every day.

 The High Cost of Low Teacher Salaries

This article is about the USA; however there’s much of relevance to teachers all over.

‘We have a rare chance now, with many teachers near retirement, to prove we’re serious about education. The first step is to make the teaching profession more attractive to college graduates. This will take some doing.’

End the ping-pong in education

Excellent RSA Animate style video from the Post Primary Teachers Association about the effects of ‘reform’ and restructuring on New Zealand education.

 Babies and Bath Water

Australian/US educator Pat Buoncristiani writing on the difference between reading books and reading online.

‘I am reading a fascinating book: ‘The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing To Our Brains’ by Nicholas Carr. I strongly recommend it. I was particularly drawn to his analysis of the differences between ‘deep reading’ and the kind of interconnected, hyperlink driven reading that we engage with when we read on the internet.’

Some years back, I tried, without success, to make similar points to a Massey University reading ‘expert’ but my observations were dismissed.

 Piaget’s four stages of cognitive development

Remember this? C’mon, be honest….

 Why we should stop talking about ‘delivering’ the curriculum (via Tony Gurr)

That phrase has irritated me for years, and is an example that illustrates how we should be very mindful not to use jargon that originates outside education.

 Here’s Why Competition Doesn’t Work in Public Education

‘While the quality of other people’s refrigerators doesn’t affect ME in a deep and meaningful way, the quality of their education most certainly does.  Ensuring that ALL children — including “those people living in the poor section of town” — have access to Subzero schools means ensuring that ALL children will grow up to be competent citizens capable of making positive economic and social contributions to our communities.’

The forgotten concept of ‘public good’ needs to be reintroduced into our dialogue.

 The LQ rich environment

‘The challenge to the teacher then is not to teach in a manner that seeks to meet significant strengths or preferences that have been developed (thereby further promoting them) but to provide the conditions whereby the learner is guided and given permission to go exploring their learning needs and how to meet them.’

Q&A – the NAPLAN one

It’s election time. no special guest.

The Treehorn Express

Images of Tree horn

 TO: Folk who should care more about kids, especially about those kids from 5-15 years of age, forced to go to school and ordered to sit for tests and examinations….the ‘Treehorns’…………

used by the unscrupulous,

ignored by those who should care,

exploited by those who don’t.



Q&A [ABC] does not approve of the mention of NAPLAN on its show. Here is a Q&A, devoted to NAPLAN, that was run on ‘Primary Schooling’ in April 2010 – – when Julia was the Education Minister, the manufactured consent of local unions and ‘professional’ bodies had been arranged, testucators were goose-stepping behind Her Immenseness, the press was losing its respect for kids, dominant corporations were overjoyed; and coercion needed no justification.

Q. Is Australia really failing to reach reasonable standards of schooling?

A. Yes, it is; and things will get worse if we continue to follow the imported practices for much longer.

Q, How come?

A. It keeps copying the quick-fix, force-feed, packaged culture of its dominant friends , the US. and the U.K. It used to copy the best aspects of schooling from parts of these decentralised systems when they were run by schoolies. Then shallow, profit-based business took over with politically-backed manic energy – both up-over and down-under.

Since the time of Governor Phillips, Australians have always felt inadequate when it comes to heavy-lifting intellectual work, never believing that it can produce an indigenous Aussie system of real learning and achievement. Hence our penchant for copy-catting. The root problem is that, in all three places, there is a prevailing business credo that someone with a Ph.D in anything knows everything; and can run anything. This forte of business modellers took over political thinking in the late 1980s. New York/Harvard managerialists provided the classic model of these beliefs and established a system of schooling that was heinous. We copied it, without thought or belief in ourselves.

Q. Well, what should Australia do to get kids to learn more and better.

A. It’s a pity that we cannot turn the clock back to 1990. That was the defining year when management theorists and business modellers tossed the baby out, when all they had to do was change the nappy. For instance, those who supervised the standards of all school activities were made redundant in that year. We called them Inspectors. Instead of continuing to place such people with wide hard-yard experience, proven academic ability, a measure of authoritative clout, and a yen to ‘fly with pollen on their wings’ to positions that mattered, we adopted the Patel system of appointment to positions of higher authority. A practical background did not count. If a candidate could compile or purchase an attractive curriculum vitae, use better-than-average thespian skills at interview time, and had an academic background of any sort, the job was theirs. So. Plumbers took over the garage. Is it any wonder that the answer to your first question is ‘Yes.’ ?

But, in answer to your implied question asking if Australia can develop an administrative model that makes us the very best in the world, the answer is a big YES. THE THINKING needs to start from the classroom, the business end of any schooling system. That’s where a country’s future is located. That’s where our teachers and pupils get together. That’s where the action is. What happens there determines what sort of country Australia becomes. Think about it….seriously. It hasn’t been tried south of Finland yet; but Australia has the knowledge and expertise NOW within its school-active working ranks to design and operate an holistic model that focuses on achievement in ALL the things that our down-under society believes to be important. Trust me.

 Q.That’s all airy-fairy wishful thinking, isn’t it?

A. On the contrary. In each room that is a group of pupils [‘student’ – a meaningless word in a school context] who interact with an adult to develop a learning expertise that is unique to them and will last them forever. That’s what ‘pupilling’ means. Teachers are trained to do ‘it’ better than others. They know about learnacy, the centre-piece of classroom cognitive development. A school’s first duty is to pupil children. Each day, the interaction between both pupil and teacher is intense, as it should be; and needs to be well planned and well resourced.

Before you ask……yes…..fundamental learnings are crucial. Some learnings are quasi-measureable and parts of these lernings are generally regarded as essential.They have a special need to be pupilled very carefully if we require our future citizens to want to do the best they can do in whatever they choose to do. We certainly should not frighten vulnerable young children with fear of failure nor scare them away from learning things. Effective learning is such a pleasant, delicate matter. A reliance on testing procedures is a heavy, jack-booted, lugubrious, prosaic state of affairs. It’s the work of the devil.

At the same time, children want to feel that things are going okay. They evaluate their progress as they go and they usually like to share their successes with someone close, whom they respect…Mum, Dad, Teacher, Friend, Relative…as long as their co-evaluators respect the level of confidence that their learning progress means to them. Evaluation is an essential part of learning. It is on the spot, positive, personal, private, developmental. It recognises the place of errors as an essential part of learning. The fear-based forms of so-called accountable blanket testing regimes, conducted from afar, are particularly destructive of the learning processes. They destroy every known tenet of top-level learning. Please note: State based efforts to standardise learning outcomes destroys the uniqueness of each child. As such, t is cruel and immoral.

Each child has an idiosyncratic learning style, and the teacher has to handle each style. Each teacher uses an enormous range of strategies for particular situations that are arranged or happen to occur during each day, ranging from the didactic [bossy chalk-talk] to the maieutic [chid-initiated]. A myriad of group-learning techniques form part of each teacher’s repertoire, which themselves are personal and idiosyncratic. Teaching is a busy, busy high-octane occupation.

Tolerating criticism from sciolist managers and ‘know-it-all’ rigor-based, child-despoiling politicians on accountability kicks, is part of the game. Teachers have to accept that “…where ignorance is bliss….’”.

Let me refer you to the work of our own Aussie, Dr. Michael J. Dunkin, whose studies of classroom practices is esteemed world-wide. He draws serious attention to the sorts of things that happen at school, more often ignored as quirky than regarded as of any consequence. When you hear our Shortens, Pynes, Gillards, Garretts, McGaws, Nelsons, Randells, Piccollis and the like discuss classroom activities, with the dignified expertise that Dunkin does, you will know that they have started to think about children’s learning and that Australian education is in safe hands. We await. When they can only discuss assessment of children’s testing abilities, and use weirdo descriptions like ‘5 by 25s’ or ‘we need a rigorous curriculum’ or ‘let’s get rid of child-centred education’, be worried. Be very, very worried.

Have you, as Dunkin has done, observed the kind of agitation that occurs on wet and windy days, the ‘shows’ put on for visitors, the concentration mode at the end of each week, each year. Why do schools teach maths in the morning; leave art and physical education to the late afternoon; cancel sport, art and music when test heat is high? Can our ‘experts’ describe many of the million social-teaching-learning exchanges that occur each and every day? Dunkin says, “Few attempts have been made to document these ‘truths’. These are examples of the context of the classroom upon the processes [e.g. smiling, listening, problem-solving, distracting, answering, asking, demonstrating, commending, cajoling, questioning, supporting, expounding, correcting, distributing, frowning] that occur within it. These are context-process relationships that could be examined. Such relationships reveal influences that need to be examined. Such relationships reveal influences upon classroom events that environmental factors, physical and temporal, have.”

Why not design a schooling system that starts with a discussion on these sorts of things…and NOT from the presumptions of those whose only classroom experience comes from the crash-bang-wallop, gotta-pass-the-exams techniques of their own school experience.

The anti-child finds easy managerial comfort in controlling systems that still believe in Edwardian techniques that David Copperfield and Tom Jones endured, head-mastered by the likes of Creakle and Gradgrind : “What I want is, Facts. Fact, fact, fact!” Australia introduced the modern-American version of this approach and we called it NAPLAN. It’s so easy for test nerds to follow. But. It’s was vomitous then. It’s vomitous now.

 Q. Are you saying that you would have no external testing of any kind?

A. None whatsoever. The use of state or country-wide blanket testing in Australia, United States and Britain has shown itself, empirically. to be very damaging to functional learning, children’s mental health and parents’ expectations. We continue with it only because large corporations have a stake in the profits from test-paper publishing, on-line programs, sale of androids and learning-based apps; and from growth industries such as specialised coaching clinics, personalised coaching, sale of pharmaceutical supplements and special packaged programs of all kinds. [That, dear reader, is a brief description of the Australian schooling system as it is…now. ] NAPLAN is, put simply, a multi-billion-dollar industry . It does not…..does not…..does not contribute to improved classroom learning of any kind.

NAPLAN is dangerous because it unfairly ignores the social and temporal conditions within each school. The testing program is revealing itself as unnecessary, immoral, costly, unreliable and destructive of curriculum spirit and school time. My School website doesn’t seem to do anything for anyone. I ignore it. If I wanted to check out my child’s progress, I’d ask her teacher and hang around her school more than I do now. I’m sure my child would respond positively to my interest

Q If tests are so damaging, how come the principals of schools haven’t told us so?

A. Australian principals of all kinds are wonderful people, so easy to get along with, so knowledgeable and keen……and so easy to control, politically. They are busy at school as curriculum leaders and as head teachers. That’s their job….curriculum leadership….guiding pupils through the best learning experiences and leading teachers through the best pupilling techniques. The more they are immersed in the teaching-learning activities, the better the school. In these turbulent times, they have to read widely and deeply. They have to give parents their personal opinion about the school’s place in the changing landscape. They need to be able to give their opinions of the more popular contemporary education literature – The Cambridge Review, Death and Life of the Great US School System, The Stupid Country. Their tasks are onerous….far more onerous than other academic or intellectual pursuits.

Australia is fortunate to have the kind of school leadership that it has. However, when asked why they don’t speak to their parents about the parental rights and privileges as applied to NAPLAN or to comment on the usefulness of SBTs like NAPLAN they will tell you they are not allowed. This kind of ‘fascist shift’, as Naomi Jacobs describes the present changes in the political landscape from democratic governance to uneasy forms of ‘benevolent’ dictatorship, prevents schools from progressing much further than the present level of mediocrity. As parents, our rights are being denied and our principals have to do the dirty work of test-crazed politicians and greedy entrepreneurs by curbing their ethical beliefs and just doing what they are told. Collectively, they have the power to refuse to administer NAPLAN tests on ethical grounds and their part in breaching the U.N. Rights of the Child Charter. Apart from the implications of such immoralities, what true educator can possibly approve of a fear-based schooling system? Well…..Since national needs are framed by the needs of the dominant, Rupert and his testucators are having their way. That’s it! What’s with the ethics and moraities, anyhow?

 Q, Won’t GONSKI and the new reform movement help?

A. Yes. They are the most promising vehicles of progress in decades. Australia could move along well once the mechanics fix or replace the defective parts. Sorting money and organising Rupert like curriculum programs for onlining to schools will take some time, however. AND….. It wont go very far while one of its tyres is flat and it tries to drag heavy, chartered useless gimmickry.


 No.83 Read it?





 Phil Cullen No. 83 A.M., A.Ed., B.Ed., Dip.Ed.Admin. M.Ed.Admin[Hons], Former Q’ld Director of Primary Education, FACE, FACEL, FQIEL,, Gold Medal FACEL, Life Member QSPSSA, QSPSCA,QSPSA,QSPPA,BPSRLSA. Founder:Treehorn Express, FNQPPA, Primary School Principal 23 years 41 Cominan Avenue, Banora Point 2486 07 5524 6443      

 Did you cruise around ‫Images of Treehorn ?

Educational Readings August 9th

By Allan Alach

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

 This week’s homework!

Do Green Classrooms Lead to Artistic Teaching?

This is a superb antidote to GERM.

Cord Ivanyi’s idea about a fabric of connections moves us to consider the whole of teaching and not trying to break teaching and learning down into components, especially components that can measured.’

 Bloom’s Taxonomy

This has been used for over half a century, in spite of some very valid criticisms made by many educational experts. The present emphasis on standardised learning, sequential achievement objectives, etc, is a descendant of Bloom. While Bloom has been adapted to guide thinking and questioning processes, this wasn’t his original intention.

If Bloom’s taxonomy were used just as a taxonomy—in other words a description of different types of thinking, I can see them as interesting and possibly useful. But generally they are used in the former way as developmental steps to be gone through, as Bloom designed them to be used.’

Put the Awe Back in “Awesome” — Helping Students Develop Purpose (via Tony Gurr)

‘Here’s how awe works: when we experience an inspiring work of art or a grand vista in nature, or when we learn a new mind-expanding theory, we often feel a sense of vastness that gives us a new perspective on the world and our place in it. These two steps make up the emotion of awe.’

This is the real job facing teachers – creating a sense of awe, or as another has put it, creating learning experiences of children that enable ‘mini-love affairs’ with something they have learned. You’ll all know the story – a child whose learning experiences develops into a life long passion and career. All in all, a long way from any notion of standardised learning.

What Are the Risks in Using Data to Predict Student Outcome?

A thoughtful post by Annie Murphy Paul:

‘“Is it good to tell a first-grader, ‘You might be a dropout?’”

The obvious answer would seem to be: Uh, no. But when Thomas C. West posed this question recently to Education Week reporter Sarah D. Sparks, he had a genuine dilemma in mind. West, who is an evaluation specialist at Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, has devised a tracking formula that can predict, with startling accuracy, which students will drop out of high school—as early as their second semester of first grade.’

 Schools that Practice Learning-Literacy

David Warlick is yet another ‘must follow’ educator.

‘Teachers, who teach solely from their university experience do a disservice to their learners.  Teachers should model themselves as habitual and resourceful learners, and skilled artisans of what they’ve learned.  We must walk into our classrooms out of today, not from the day that they graduated.’

Book Review: Visible Learning

A much needed critique of John Hattie.

He’s not necessarily wrong, but if we cannot trust the average effect sizes he gives as evidence, and cannot sensibly compare them, we cannot make that conclusion from this data’

Can we trust educational research? (“Visible Learning”: Problems with the evidence)

Staying with the ‘Hattie’ theme, here’s another critique. Convinced yet?

‘John Hattie seems to be a leading figure in the field, and while he seems to be a decent fellow, and while most of his recommendations seem somewhat reasonable, his magnum opus, Visible Learning, has such significant issues that my one friend who’s a professional statistician believes, after reading my copy of the book, that Hattie is incompetent.’


‘He essentially blames teachers for the fact that teaching is not more evidence-based, implying that if we hidebound practitioners would only do what the data-gurus like him suggest, then schools could educate all students to a very high standard.’

Music to GERMer’s ears!

Bruce Hammonds is an indefatigable reader of educational articles.  Here’s a couple of links from Bruce.

 The Differences Between Projects And Project-Based Learning

‘There’s a big difference between using projects in the classroom versus project-based learning in the classroom. What are those differences, you ask?’

This article includes a very comprehensive table.

Project-Based Learning Research: Evidence-Based Components of Success

‘What boosts PBL from a fun and engaging exercise to a rigorous and powerful real-world learning experience? Researchers have identified four key components that are critical to teaching successfully with PBL.’

NAPLAN is a dirty scheme.

The Treehorn Express

Images of Treehorn

TO: Folk who care about kids, especially about those kids from 5-15 years of age, forced to go to school and ordered to sit for tests and examinations used by the


ignored by those who should care,

exploited by those who don’t.

 Isn’t it ironic? Rupert Murdoch who has made millions and millions of dollars from NAPLAN testing over the last five years, has sent his No.1 hit-man to organise News Ltd., other media outlets and his lobbyists to organise the defeat of the Labor Party in Australia. Makes one wonder, right?



This was the title of a talk to over 100 attendees at a U3A gathering at Cleveland, Queensland on Monday 5 August 2013. It seemed to be the popular opinion of the majority of the audience.

I tried to indicate that, if I was still the State Director of Primary Education, this statement would probably be headlined in the local press on the next day. It wont be, because, these days, negative comments on NAPLAN of any kind are forbidden through the media. Rupert Murdoch and allied measurement-freaks wont allow them to do so. NAPLAN is not to be discussed. It is deliberately embargoed by school authorities by fiat. The Darwin Effect is working well, but not for any worthy reason.

Also. I mentioned that NAPLAN’s link with Gonski [Money] and the ‘new order’ schooling [Politics] is tenuous. Both have worthy intentions, but can hardly work while NAPLAN dominates the testucating landscape, and controls how things are taught. You know that NAPLAN never ever had any worthy intentions. It’s a really dirty business totally controlled by Rupert and associates.

Another point was that the issue will not the discussed in any other forum. We adults just don’t care what happens to children at school. We all know that NAPLAN testing induces fear of schooling, loss of sleep, pre-test vomiting and plenty of tears. The immorality of enforcing such fear based tensions into the teaching act will continue to be ignored. They’re just kids. Why worry?

I tried to use a couple of USBs to talk to, at the meeting, but was unsuccessful. Here they are……


Phil next table



Holistic schooling disappears.
Takes months of preparation.
The curriculum is narrowed.
Children are turned off learning.
Assaults the cognitive domain.
Shows no regard for other parts of the curriculum.
Professional ethics disappear.
Induces fear and stress on children as young as 7 years.
Eichmannism prevails.
Provides a gateway for gimmicks. [Charter Schools etc.]
Tests scores seldom improve by any noticeable level.
Endorses cheating at all levels of schooling, especially administration.
Mediocrity becomes a focus.
Provides millions of dollars for greedy entrepreneurs.
Failures rather than successes are remembered.
Three days sweating over statistically invalid tests.
It initiates a dumb, dumb, dumber kind of schooling.


83 Read it? Did you note the piece on Press Control?



Phil Cullen No. 83 A.M., A.Ed., B.Ed., Dip.Ed.Admin. M.Ed.Admin[Hons], Former Q’ld Director of Primary Education, FACE, FACEL, FQIEL,, Gold Medal FACEL, Life Member QSPSSA, QSPSCA,QSPSA,QSPPA,BPSRLSA. Founder:Treehorn Express, FNQPPA, Primary School Principal 23 years 41 Cominan Avenue, Banora Point 2486 07 5524 6443

Did you cruise around ‫Images of Treehorn ?

Kids speak out about Naplan


The Treehorn Express

Images of Treehorn

 TO:  Folk who care about kids, especially about those kids from 5-15 years of age, forced to go to school and ordered to sit for tests and examinations….the ‘Treehorns…………

used by the unscrupulous,

ignored by those who should care,

exploited by those who don’t.


 Our very special guests today are school children. The Treehorn Express exists because it cares for kids in school who have to suffer from the problems generated by forms of Standardised Blanket Testing. The general public prefers to ignore their plight, even that of the very, very young Year 3s who are pitilessly and shamefully assaulted by schooling measures that are meant to distress. There should be no need for The Treehorn Express to exist. That it does and that it is dedicated to a fictitious little primary school lad called Treehorn, who was totally ignored by his parents and teachers, conveys its own message. Its raison d’etre is justified while : “Most adults shamefully ignore the cognitive treatment and mental welfare of children at school.”

  It’s monstrous, but we don’t really care.

A group of school children dared to write to the Senate Inquiry into NAPLAN but not to provide its name. They were very brave, as was their school for sending the children’s pleas. Fear is part of the DNA of NAPLAN testing. It is now well embedded in Australia’s schooling culture.

Their submission is Number 90, listed amongst those submitters who withheld their name…. further down than the infamous 83 [See below]! See all Senate submissions.


Years 3,5,7,9 school children.

The following is a collation of responses to the NAPLAN Senate Inquiry terms of reference from a group of five Queensland school age children who have experienced NAPLAN testing, and wanted their thoughts on NAPLAN to be considered by the Senate Inquiry. We Australian adults can guarantee that their feelings will be ignored. We, generally speaking, can’t stand kids.

The Senate’s terms of reference are stated first in the following submission..


 “a) whether the evidence suggests that NAPLAN is achieving its stated objectives; (re-framed as ‘Does NAPLAN help you learn better? Does it help the teacher know what you know?’)

(8 years): “How can we learn from it? The teacher can’t even help with it. No it doesn’t because they just hand it to the government. They don’t even find out. Well they do, eventually. It does help a little bit to see who needs extra help with certain things. But barely.”

(15 years): “My experience of NAPLAN since grade three is that NAPLAN is not achieving its stated objective because the results are inaccurate and many students who have to participate, myself being one of them, do not care or try in NAPLAN. Therefore NAPLAN is not accurate.”

(16 years): “I didn’t care about it, so I just wrote crap.”

 b) unintended consequences of NAPLAN’s introduction; (re-framed as ‘Do some not-so-good thing happen that they don’t expect?’)

(8 years): “Yes. Some kids get scared. They think that if they don’t do well in NAPLAN they don’t pass their grade. I was very annoyed. It takes 3 days in a row. I don’t think that the first day, you shouldn’t have 2 on the first day. You should have time to get used to it. The classroom is really different with all the words and our work taken down. I don’t like it being like, empty … well, I’m thinking about other people as well, I’m not just thinking about myself. We should tell the government that this is a good question.”

(11): “Kids with anxiety will repeatedly try and kill themselves, if they have to keep on doing NAPLAN.”

(15 years): “Students not attending school on days there are NAPLAN practices. This means that students, especially in high school students, miss out on school days that are valuable for our education unlike NAPLAN. Students stress and worry about the NAPLAN results and stress on the day about failing NAPLAN. Some students worry if they do badly in NAPLAN they will not get into a good university because the Universities are Government funded and might ask for NAPLAN results. As a result, they think they will end up as homeless poor people because of this one test.”

 c) NAPLAN’s impact on teaching and student learning practices; (re-framed as ‘does your teacher change the way change she teaches when the tests get closer?’)

(8 years): “Yes. We had to do practice tests. I think the practice tests are harder than the actual thing. Maybe it’s to get you jumped up for the real thing. Maybe it’s just me. On one of the days we did 2 tests so we get to see what it feels like. I think we got more stressed out. The teacher marked off the time when it was done. Because when I got really stuck on a question I saw the teacher marking it off on the board. It’s a lot different to what we usually do, because we usually do like 2 pages, not that big. Probably no-one does group work because it’s NAPLAN.”

(11): “We waste time just practicing our NAPLAN which we have already practiced. And if we didn’t have NAPLAN we could be learning all kinds of things. It’s just a waste of time.”

(15 years): “High school students miss out on many important lessons due to NAPLAN. This results in students having to catch up on their school work at home which can result in sleep deprivation as well as stress which can lead to anxiety.”

 d) the impact on teaching and student learning practices of publishing NAPLAN test results on the MySchool website; (re-framed as ‘Do you know about the My School website and putting the results in the newspapers?)

(8 years): “Well they do have it in the newspaper and the news says when it’s a NAPLAN day. We don’t talk about it much at home. I think that talking about good schools and bad schools stresses people out. You can’t say oh that’s a bad school, it’s just ‘cause they need more help.”

(11 years): “NAPLAN NAPLAN it’s all our school talks about. We even do year 7 NAPLAN practice tests in year 6 when we don’t have to do it until year 7.”

(15 years): “My school does well in NAPLAN so there is only a small impact. However dueto my school doing well, we are reminded before NAPLAN that our school does well so we are pressured to perform so our school gets noticed.”

 e) potential improvements to the program, to improve student learning and assessment; (reframed as how can they make NAPLAN better?)

(8years): “Don’t make it three days in a row and don’t put 2 of them on the same day. They could give you a little more time, even 5 more minutes, I’d say. If you can’t read a question you should at least be able to ask the teacher. And if there’s a word you can’t read you could ask what that word is. Because I was thinking ‘what is that word, what is that word’ and it turned out it was famous. Well either way, like, this is one thing that happened when I did NAPLAN. They could raise some money for the poor schools so they could do better at NAPLAN and other learning that is better. You could give them money for books for their library and stuff like that. Because that would actually be pretty nice.”

(11 years): “Get rid of it. It’s a waste time.”

(15 years): “If you won’t scrap NAPLAN completely do not publish the results of the schools on the internet because this puts pressure on the teachers and students.” f) international best practice for standardised testing, and international case studies about the introduction of standardised testing; g) other relevant matters. (re-framed as ‘Is there anything else they haven’t thought of?)

(8 years): “I would like to put it on a fire. But the only good thing is it gets you out of work. The other reason I don’t like it is because you’re time limited. If you’re stuck on a really hard question and you haven’t done most of it, the government won’t know as much about what you can do.”

(15 years): “NAPLAN does not allow creativity to be explored as well as taking away imagination as students are not encouraged to be creative or use any creative thought patterns orhow to learn in creative, new or engaging ways. This is one way NAPLAN is taking away from The Arts. The other way is that people don’t think music, drama or art are important anymore.”


 83 Read it?






 Phil Cullen No. 83 A.M., A.Ed., B.Ed., Dip.Ed.Admin. M.Ed.Admin[Hons], Former Q’ld Director of Primary Education, FACE, FACEL, FQIEL,, Gold Medal FACEL, Life Member QSPSSA, QSPSCA,QSPSA,QSPPA,BPSRLSA. Founder:Treehorn Express, FNQPPA, Primary School Principal 23 years 41 Cominan Avenue, Banora Point 2486 07 5524 6443                

Laws, Rules, Principles

The Treehorn Express

Enjoy a clickathon with Images of Treehorn

TO: Folk who care about kids, especially about  those kids from 5-15 years of age, forced to go to school and ordered to sit for tests and examinations….the ‘Treehorns…………

used by the unscrupulous,

ignored by those who should care,

exploited by those who don’t.

 It’s election time in Australia….time to remind schools, unions, principals associations that they are forbidden to talk about classroom-based children at school. Each has been most co-operative so far. Talk about Gonski instead of NAPLAN. Keeps HIM happy.

The same milieu of controlled silence is well embedded in news outlets’ policies and political-non-speak.  Mr. Murdoch is very, very pleased with everybody’s efforts down under. He likes the idea of their talking about [Gonski] money instead of children’s learning welfare.


SBTs are dirty

Below is a raft of laws, rules and principles that influence dirty operations such as STANDARDISED BLANKET TESTING [e.g.NAPLAN].


Diane  Ravitch asks “ What is it with legislators ? Confusion, incoherence, indifference, ignorance or something else?”


 A country, especially a GERM country, that deliberately imposes blanket school tests that are assessed by adding the number of items correct and then makes broad judgements on the standards of human reaction, plays a very dirty game.

Mandated rules that cause stress and discomfort to the mental health of young children especially, and inflicts serious depression for many of them, is in serious infringement of the Rights of the Child as propounded by the United Nations.

YES.  For government representatives to use their authority to persuade the general public that this kind of political behaviour is acceptable is a very, very dirty trick. To arrange for children to have their basic rights removed and to prevent parents from having their say is a very, very, very dirty trick.  To maintain it by fiat is an utter national disgrace. Disgusting.

DIRTY is the best adjective available to describe the Kleinist model on which Australian schooling is based.  Using fear-laden, ineffective SBTs, it removes the rights of the child in a most disgusting manner and treats parents’ rights in an underhand, cavalier fashion.


APART FROM IDEOLOGICAL AND MORAL IMPERATIVES, such political/corporate control incorporating the use of Standardised Blanket Testing [SBT] has understandable  and predictable consequences.

Holistic schooling disappears.

The curriculum is narrowed.

Children are ‘turned off’ learning.

Professional ethics disappear.

Eichmannism prevails.

Test scores seldom improve by any noticeable level.

Mediocrity becomes the focus.

Children remember the terror of testing as a reminder of their failures, not of their successes.


Isn’t that enough to make sure that NAPLAN is ‘dead, buried and cremated’ asap? It IS such a dirty, rotten business. How come we still allow it? Below is a sample of some of the influences, expressed as Law, Rules and Principles to which most administrative behaviour is subjected during the existence of this scato-meme; especially the left-hand column.

The peculiar inhumane assault on young children [e.g.NAPLAN] was fostered and promoted by a wealthy/political elite.  It now spreads through a few countries as a toxic pandemic which destroys part of each nation’s spirit during the few years of its existence. The longer it lasts, the more it destroys.  SBT in schools is a maleficence that has spread during the first decade of the 21st century…..a movement that was destined to have more scatalogical consequences than educational.


If you are a school administrator of any kind, you will appreciate that MANAGERIALISM [the proposition that inexperienced people can be appointed to control positions of any kind if they have a higher university degree or have a neater CV or interview better than any other possible candidates.] illustrates the principles on the LHS of the tableau below more than any other..

Significant amongst contemporary political operations and organisational responses are…….

TOTALITARIANISM :- No limits to state authority. State strives to regulate every aspect of people’s lives, especially the youngest.

CAMPBELL’S LAW :– “The more any quantitative social indicator [or even qualitative indicator] is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption processes and the more apt it will be to distort the social processes it is intended to monitor.”

NUMERICAL OUTCOME PRINCIPLE :– “Once a number is used to judge outcomes, people will adjust their behaviour to maximise that particular number.” Joseph Ganem shows that “…the use of standardised tests, as a tool for assessment and accountability, has resulted in more disillusionment than improvement. The heavy emphasis on mandated testing has not lead to the sought-after gains in educational outcomes.  ”   e.g. NAPLAN .  QED


This tableau is meant to illustrate that pathologically-controlled school principals and executives in GERM countries tend to operate according to theories listed down the left-hand side, and to reveal the truths of these principles. This is very unfortunate for children at school in these countries. Children are impaired in their learning development by the benign or deliberate exercise of leadership styles that are implied by such sick totalitarian arrangements.

Theories listed down the centre column illustrate the real world of working within a schooling system of any kind.  The maintenance of equilibrium with support for positive learnacy innovations, as suggested here, is far more preferable than responding to the essentials of those listed in column one.  However, sciolist control-freaks working in tandem with corporate enterprises trespass on the professional teachers’ domain and the rest is sad history…..back to the elements of Column 1.

The right-hand column theories provide the bases for ethical, effective, and more humane administrative styles. These principles are samples of child-centred belief systems that work. They produce results!


No.83  Read it.





Phil Cullen No. 83 A.M., A.Ed., B.Ed., Dip.Ed.Admin. M.Ed.Admin[Hons], Former Q’ld Director of Primary Education, FACE, FACEL, FQIEL,, Gold Medal FACEL, Life Member QSPSSA, QSPSCA,QSPSA,QSPPA,BPSRLSA. Founder:Treehorn Express, FNQPPA, Primary School Principal 23 years    41 Cominan Avenue, Banora Point 2486    07 5524 6443                  

Did you cruise around Images of Treehorn ?

Educational Readings August 2nd.

By Allan Alach

THUNKS…for Teachers (this time)!

All teachers should reflect on these ‘thunking’ points that are raised by Tony Gurr….

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

 This week’s homework!

How to Create Nonreaders: Reflections on Motivation, Learning, and Sharing Power

Another gem from Alfie Kohn.

“But if we’re serious about helping students to fall in love with literature, to get a kick out of making words fall together in just the right order, then we have to be attentive to what makes these things more, and less, likely to happen.  It may take us awhile, but ultimately our classrooms should turn the usual default setting on its head so the motto becomes:  Let the students decide except when there’s a good reason why we have to decide for them.”

 A Glimpse into the future of learning.

Here’s an interesting infographic.

 Theories for the digital age: Connectivism

Steve Wheeler, discussing a 21st century learning theory. Do you agree? Is constructivism  dead, or is it part of connectivism? Behaviourism? Cognitivism?

Helping Children Love Mathematics  – Jo Boaler; and the need to question ability grouping in our schools. (via Bruce Hammonds)

Dan Murphy, the very competent principal of Winchester School (Palmerston North), made the decision a couple of years back, to break away from the Ministry of Education’s Numeracy Project, and for the school to develop its own mathematics programme. A major resource for this was the book ‘The Elephant in the Classroom: Helping Children Learn and Love Maths’. Dan lent this to Bruce Hammonds, who wrote this article. (NB Dan has contributed to Kelvin Smythe’s excellent booklets “The Primary School Diaries – Curriculum.” )

Give Them a Hand: Gesturing Children Perform Well On Cognitive Tasks

‘Studies have shown that gesturing can help older children learn new math concepts, for example. “Really, though, there is evidence that gesturing helps with difficult cognitive tasks at any age..”’

Nah, politicians, economists, business experts and media moguls know the answer lies in didactic instruction and lots of testing.

 11 things missing (via David Kinane)

“What follows are the first eleven things that leapt to my mind while sitting in a mainstream classroom that were utterly absent, and which I believe to be absolutely essential to any useful practice of education ….”

 Pedagogy v Education

Australian educator Greg Whitby with some thought provoking observations. I may never use ‘pedagogy’ again!

‘Pedagogues are enthusiasts for measurement and precision and look for certain outcomes.  Educators assume that the most important elements in human life are uncertain and speculative, defying precise calibration.’

Curriculum – Could a stitch in time save Finland’s international rank?

‘Its education system has been hailed as the best in the world, but Finland is facing increasing competition in international league tables that compare performance in reading, mathematics and science. So how does the country respond? By voting for more time in the curriculum for non-academic subjects, including physical education, music, and arts and crafts.’

Nah, they’ve got it wrong. Testing, testing and more testing is the answer…

What about this bit?

‘Ultimately, however, Finland is not concerned about being overtaken in international comparisons and it remains confident that its methods are right for students, she said.”

Right on!

 Is Pisa fundamentally flawed?

The smoking gun, that destroys the basis for GERM!

‘They are the world’s most trusted education league tables. But academics say the Programme for International Student Assessment rankings are based on a ‘profound conceptual error’. So should countries be basing reforms on them?’

 Why We Need To Value Students’ Spatial Creativity

‘Not everyone is going to be an Einstein, Tesla, or Edison, but if we identify the many spatially talented students who have been neglected in our school systems we might discover many brilliant kids who are just waiting to develop their creative potential.  We need to help them.  After all, we will ultimately depend on their visions to help create our future.’

How Thinking in 3D Can Improve Math and Science Skills (via Jedd Barlett)

‘All of us, children included, live in a three-dimensional universe—but too often parents and teachers act as if the physical world is as flat as a worksheet or the page of a book. We call kids’ attention to numbers and letters, but we neglect to remark upon the spatial properties of the objects around us: how tall or short they are, how round or pointy, how close or far. Growing evidence suggests that a focus on these characteristics of the material world can help children hone their spatial thinking skills—and that such skills, in turn, support achievement in subjects like science and math.’