Education Readings November 7th

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!


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

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

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

Why the Best Teachers Don’t Give Tests

Alfie Kohn – say no more…

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

The Myth of Chinese Super Schools

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

Diane Ravitch:

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

The cerebral life of schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Education Chief Says Market-Based Policies are Ineffective

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

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruce’s comment: Sounds like common sense.

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

Why Daydreaming is Critical to Effective Learning

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

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

From Bruce’s ‘oldies but goodies’ file:

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

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

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

Dysfunctional Schools

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

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


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