Educational Readings March 21st

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!

Return of the Math Wars

Great blog on constructivist mathematics by Canadian teacher Joe Bower:

‘If I had to distill the math wars down to a simple idea, I would probably say that constructivist math calls for an increase emphasis on understanding while simultaneously calling for a decrease emphasis on direct instruction of facts and algorithms. The math wars get heated when critics come to see these changes to mean an elimination of basic skills and precise answers.’

 18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently

Don’t expect school reform to foster these!

“Inspiration and ideas often arise seemingly out of nowhere and then fail to show up when we most need them, and creative thinking requires complex cognition yet is completely distinct from the thinking process.”

How Does PISA Put the World at Risk (Part 2): Glorifying Educational Authoritarianism

Part 2 of Zong Zhao’s series on PISA.
Because some authoritarian education systems seem to generate better PISA rankings, it has been concluded that educational authoritarianism, the systemic arrangements designed to enforce government-prescribed, uniform standards upon all children, should be emulated by the rest of the world.”


“First, national standards and national curriculum—enforced by high stakes testing—can at best teach students what is prescribed by the curriculum and expected by the standards. This system fails to expose students to content and skills in other areas. As a result, students talented in other areas never have the opportunity to discover those talents. Students with broader interests are discouraged, not rewarded. The system results in a population with similar skills in a narrow spectrum of talents.”

50 Crazy Ideas To Change Education

What do you think of these? Which ones do you agree/disagree with? What changes would you make?

“Below are 50 ideas for a new education. Note, most of these are about education as a system rather than learning itself, but that’s okay. It’s often the infrastructure of learning that obscures anyway. Few of them may work; even fewer would work together, and that’s okay too. As long as we’re dreaming anyway, let’s get a little crazy.”

Teachers: life inside the exam factory

A story from England that will start to ring true in New Zealand and probably elsewhere if present GERM based policies are fully implemented.

“As a lot of teachers see it, they are the focus of bitter hostility from ministers and educational high-ups, and the victims of an increasingly oppressive machine. Schools are swamping their pupils and staff in data and targets, leaving no room for the kind of human values that were once at the centre of what teachers did. These aspects of education, teachers say, also distort their priorities, so filling in spreadsheets sometimes takes precedence over actually teaching kids.”

  The Long Death of Creative Teaching

An article for USA readers but as usual applicable all over.

‘Imagine your brain surgeon having to “follow the book” while operating on you or lose his job. While you are on the table, he discovers an unforeseen problem that, because of his experience and practical wisdom, calls for a spontaneous change of plan, yet he can’t do what he knows will work. You die on the table. So have students. He retires early, frustrated with conditions. So have the best teachers.’

 The DNA of GREAT Teachers – 3 “listicles” you have to read!

“What does the ‘DNA” of a great teacher look like?”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

New Problems, New Approaches: The Rise of the Generalist 

Bruce’s comment: I like the ideas of the gifted generalist (dot joiner) as against the narrow specialist. Kind of secondary versus primary thinking?

“The new Generalist is in fact a master of their trade. They bring expertise and experience in several areas, fueled by insatiable curiosity and the ability to “hyper-learn” new concepts and ideas. They practice empathy to fully understand and break down the nature of complex problems and collaboratively engage specialists in reframing the problem in order to arrive at potential solutions.”

25 Tricks to Stop Teacher Burnout

“There’s a reason why teachers receive a sad, knowing nod from others at a dinner party or when meeting new people. The profession kicks us around and often kicks hardest when we’re down. We teach for the pleasure of sharing a subject or skill that we love and hope to infuse a passion in someone else. We don’t teach for the pounding headaches or the late nights grading. We don’t teach because we like low pay and instability. So, in the light of how teachers are treated, it’s only natural to see teachers burnout more quickly than in any other profession. That’s why we need to take steps to protect ourselves from the inevitable because it can be prevented and controlled.”

Does Teaching Kids To Get ‘Gritty’ Help Them Get Ahead?

“Around the nation, schools are beginning to see grit as key to students’ success — and just as important to teach as reading and math. Experts define grit as persistence, determination and resilience; it’s that je ne sais quoi that drives one kid to practice trumpet or study Spanish for hours — or years — on end, while another quits after the first setback.”

 Bridging the Language Deficit Gap – appreciating that before the word comes the experience!

Bruce’s latest blog article:

“Teachers need to value their students’ views, thoughts and questions by entering into dialogue with their students to extend, elaborate and enrich their ideas (Hattie’s ‘rich conversations’). The model of teaching encouraged was a ‘co-constructivist’ one – challenging students’ ideas and clarifying their views.”

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