Educational Readings February 28th

By Allan Alach

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

 This week’s homework!

Teachers are Learning Designers

‘What really struck me is that great teachers create the conditions for success, just as gardeners do. You can’t make a flower grow, but you can design and improve the condition for that flow of naturally occurring events. It’s the same for our students. We have the power and the duty to create the best conditions for students to flourish.’

 Testing and thinking (thanks Tony)

Great article by Grant Wiggins.

‘…it raises troubling questions about the validity of all typical tests of achievement used to evaluate student achievement and school effectiveness. Because if the tests reward content knowledge but not powerful thinking – yet, all Standards highlight important thinking – then the tests may be yielding invalid inferences and thus very harmful consequences.’

 How do inquiry teachers….teach?

Kath Murdoch.

‘Inquiry is not just about knowing how to plan – it’s about how we teach. It’s about what we say to kids and how we say it. It’s about the way we listen and the way we feel about what our kids are saying. It’s about knowing when to step back and when to step in.  The language we use and the silences we deliberately leave.  It’s about what we are thinking about what we are doing.’

 Play: Is it Becoming Extinct?

‘In an era of high-stakes testing and teacher accountability, play—the cornerstone of child development—is slowly becoming extinct. As more and more schools are doing away with physical education, recess, and curriculum that allows for children to engage in play activities, teachers find themselves relying on more teacher-directed instruction. Teacher-directed instruction includes activities and lessons planned by the teacher. The teacher guides the entire daily schedule and this type of instruction is the most structured teacher-centered form of planning. In schools and homes today, free-choice play, imaginative play, and physical play are almost gone in a child’s daily schedule.’

The Industrial Classroom

Learn about Taylorism and how it underpins the standards and accountability movement.

Very important article!

‘When education is reduced to test prep, rich curricula and the craft of teaching are imperiled. The vapid classroom of neoliberal school reform mirrors the vapid workplace of Taylorism. Teach for America, which implicitly advances the idea that the sparsely trained can out-teach veteran educators, engenders deskilling and deprofessionalization.’

 The Wrong Way to Teach Grammar:

No more diagramming sentences: Students learn more from simply writing and reading.

Well what do you know? Are you surprised? After all teaching writing through rules is the written version of ‘paint by numbers.’

‘These students are victims of the mistaken belief that grammar lessons must come before writing, rather than grammar being something that is best learned through writing.’

 Bigger Gains for Students Who Don’t Get Help Solving Problems

Doesn’t fit with the standards movement….

‘First, choose problems to work on that “challenge but do not frustrate.” Second, provide learners with opportunities to explain and elaborate on what they’re doing. Third, give learners the chance to compare and contrast good and bad solutions to the problems.

By allowing learners to experience the discomfort of struggle first, and the triumph of understanding second, we can ensure that they have their cake and eat it, too.’

Infographic: Why Corporations Want Our Public Schools

Where’s the big money in privatization? Take it from the teachers.

 The Myth Behind Public School Failure

In the rush to privatize the country’s schools, corporations and politicians have decimated school budgets, replaced teaching with standardized testing, and placed the blame on teachers and students.

Does this ring any bells for Australian, English and New Zealand teachers?

‘Until about 1980, America’s public schoolteachers were iconic everyday heroes painted with a kind of Norman Rockwell patina—generally respected because they helped most kids learn to read, write and successfully join society. Such teachers made possible at least the idea of a vibrant democracy.

  Since then, what a turnaround: We’re now told, relentlessly, that bad-apple schoolteachers have wrecked K-12 education; that their unions keep legions of incompetent educators in classrooms; that part of the solution is more private charter schools; and that teachers as well as entire schools lack accountability, which can best be remedied by more and more standardized “bubble” tests.’

 This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Getting Beyond the Blame Game

‘Not surprisingly, surveys indicate that teacher satisfaction has declined dramatically in the last five years, on some measures to the lowest level in the last 25 years (Harris Interactive, 2013). A decade of belt-tightening and unprecedented levels of teacher and union bashing from pundits, philanthropists, and all sides of the political spectrum have finally come home to roost.’

 Nine-hour tests and lots of pressure: welcome to the Chinese school system

The secrets behind Shanghai’s PISA results. Warning – germers are flocking to learn from this.

‘Even though Shanghai students scored well on the test, this doesn’t mean that Shanghai’s education system doesn’t have any problems,” said Lao Kaisheng, a professor in the education department of Beijing Normal University. “In fact, it’s the opposite.”

 The New Classroom: A Vessel for Innovation

Bruce’s comment: Taking Google environment to the classroom – isn’t it what good NZ teachers do (or used to ?)

‘When people walk into my classroom — renamed The Hive Society — they aren’t quite sure what they’ve entered. There are no textbooks, there is not one single desk, there are no stock motivational posters with children in neon eighties garb, no signs telling students to turn off their voices. Instead, desks have been replaced by conference tables, vintage stools, low-to-the-ground tables, and area rugs. Authentic student work and thought-provoking prompts leave no room for cliché posters. Textbooks have been stacked away in closets while tablets and desktop computers are easily accessible. And students are greeted each day with the challenge to activate their voices.’

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