Education Readings February 27th

By Allan Alach 

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

This week’s homework!


Four reasons to seriously worry about ‘personalized learning’

Another gem from Alfie Kohn – a must read.

“Personal learning entails working with each child to create projects of intellectual discovery that reflect his or her unique needs and interests. It requires the presence of a caring teacher who knows each child well.

Personalized learning entails adjusting the difficulty level of prefabricated skills-based exercises based on students’ test scores.   It requires the purchase of software from one of those companies that can afford full-page ads in Education Week.”

Steve Hargadon: Escaping the Education Matrix

“What are most kids getting out of 12 years of school?” he asks. “The honest answer is they’re learning how to follow, and that was the original intent. Public schools were based on the belief that what was needed was a small group of elites who would make the decisions for the country, and many more who would simply follow their directions” — hence a system that produces “tremendous intellectual and commercial dependency.”

How Learning Artistic Skills Alters the Brain

‘The art students specifically increased “their ability to think divergently, model systems and processes, and use imagery,” the researchers write. The results suggests that, in a matter of a few months, “prefrontal white matter reorganizes as (art students) become more able to think creatively.”’

The Corruption of Learning

The biggest challenge facing schools is that the modern world amplifies our ability to learn in the classic sense, and increasingly renders the official, school based theory of learning pointless and oppressive. While our kids’ love of learning can flourish outside of school, it’s extinguished inside of school as we take away agency, passion, connection, audience, authenticity, and more.”

Three lessons from the science of how to teach writing.

So much for teaching by standards…

“Traditional grammar instruction isn’t effective. Period. Six studies with children in grades three to seven showed that writing quality actually deteriorated when kids were taught grammar. That is, graders scored the essays of students who’d been taught traditional grammar lower than those of students who had not received the lessons.”

What Comes First: the Curriculum or the Technology?

“It’s important to never force fit technology – if it’s not supplementing what’s already happening in the classroom or a teacher’s goals for the school year, the addition will become more of a barrier to learning than a catalyst.”

Why Slowing Down Stimuli to Real Time Helps a Child’s Brain

Suggest you read this and reflect….

“The pacing of all programs, both adult and child, has sped up considerably. Part of the reason for that is that the more rapidly sequenced the scenes, the more distracting it is. It’s taxing to the brain to process things that happen so fast even though were capable of doing it. And there’s emerging science now in older children that watching such fast-paced programs diminishes what we call “executive function” immediately afterwards. It tires the mind out and makes it not function as well immediately after viewing it.”

False Choices and how to Avoid Them

This came to me from Phil Cullen who found it on an Alfie Kohn tweet…

“The lesson “accept your children for who they are rather than for who you want them to be” is clear. Loving your kids for who they are is the only real choice.”

Is There School Today?

“Kindergarten, literally a “children’s garden” was traditionally a place focused on playing, singing, and otherwise imagineering. Over the past 20 years, a myopic focus on reading and math has turned the children’s garden into a factory, a place where unique beings go for standardization, followed by 12 more years of it. This standardized approach to learning supposedly prepares them for placement in an economy that no longer exists.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Welcome to Concept to Classroom!

Bruce’s comment: For teachers who want some practical knowledge about :Constructivist Teaching,Multiple Intelligences,Cooperative and Collaborative Learning, Inquiry Learning, Interdisciplinary Learning, Assessment and Evaluation and Web Based Learning,  and practical ways to implement them this is the link for you. Highly recommended.

“The site features a series of FREE, self-paced workshops covering a wide variety of hot topics in education. Some of the workshops are based in theory, some are based in methodology – but all of the workshops include plenty of tips and strategies for making classrooms work.”

16 Ways Your Brain Is Sabotaging Your Effort To Learn

“The human brain is our best friend, and our worst enemy, and unless we keep one eye peeled, it can hijack our learning completely.

In this article I’d like to examine some of the “traps” the brain sets for us during the course of our academic careers, and what we can do to avoid them.”

Welcome back to a new year of learning!

Bruce’s comment: I think this NZ site Discovery Time is well worth a plug.

“Discovery Time is the perfect opportunity to excite children’s curiosity, discover their strengths and stand  back and observe how they work together.  Keep your ‘Key Competencies’ focussed on ‘managing self’ and ‘relating to others’ i.e. looking after equipment, sharing, taking turns, cleaning up when you have finished, trying something new, working with someone you don’t know…”

Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching – a New Zealand perspective

Bruce’s comment: The challenge of developing a 21st C education system. Some NZ thinking about personalising learning. Well worth the read.

“It is widely argued that current educational systems, structures and practices are not sufficient to address and support learning needs for all students in the 21st century. Changes are needed, but what kinds of change, and for what reasons? This research project draws together findings from new data and more than 10 years of research on current practice and futures-thinking in education.”

Personalisation and Digital Technologies

Bruce’s comment: Download this document for a UK view of personalising education.

“The logic of education systems should be reversed so that it is the system that conforms to the learner, rather than the learner to the system. This is the essence of personalisation. It demands a system capable of offering bespoke support for each individual that recognises and builds upon their diverse strengths, interests, abilities and needs in order to foster engaged and independent learners able to reach their full potential.”

Personalising learning – what does it mean?

Not to be outdone, here’s Bruce’s take in personalised learning. Bruce mentions a book called ‘In the Early World’ by Elwyn Richardson. All teachers should have this in their library,

“Once ‘child centred’ was commonly heard phrase but it  now seems dated . ‘Student centred’ seems more relevant – is this personalised learning? If students are helped individually some might call this personalised but , if it is moving through a pre-determined curriculum at the students pace this is simply a more an extreme form of ability grouping than personalising learning.”

World’s Shortest Books

Aussie Friends of Treehorn


World’s Shortest Books

“My View of Equity” by C. Pyne

Gillard & Pyne : “Our Love for Teachers.”

“Everything ACARA knows About Classroom Learning”

“The Holistic Curriculum” by C. Pyne

“Learnacy’ by J. Klein.


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

Australian schools’ patron saint.

The Treehorn Express


Joel Klein – Patron Saint of Australian Schooling
The Emperor’s Representative

The inspiration, designer, motivator and founder of the ideas and techniques adopted by Australia’s NAPLAN regime.

For the office wall of those who approve of the NAPLAN way of life, especially those schools and organisations who continue with it. Your community should know what your founder looks like.


Treehorn: Why can’t we kids have a pupil-centred, achievement-oriented, shared-evaluation as part of the learning process, holistic-learning-based-curriculum? Why? Why?Why?

Testucator: We adhere to the profit-based, stress-laden, teacher-squirming, unreliable test program, thanks to Murdoch & Klein. We won’t change it. We tell you what to do.
Treehorn: Why can’t you replace tension with challenge, fear with encouragement, ritual with creativity, teacher-bashing with professionalism, subject-hate with love-of-learning, time-wasting-tests with shared-evaluation ?

A testucator is a pretend schoolie who is unable to apply the theories and practices of learning. Ignorant of the ability to share positive evaluation of children’s learning, they ignore children’s human rights to healthy cognitive development.and just badger them with tests from time to time for political purposes..


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

2. Thinking About NAPLAN ?

Aussie Friends of Treehorn

2. Thinking About NAPLAN ?

Is it a budget concern or isn’t it ?

I have been told once or twice, that the former Labor Party government left an enormous debt and a financial mess and that measures continue to be undertaken to straighten out the economy.

Am I being taken for a ride ? NAPLAN, the most extreme, useless, dangerous and most expensive alteration to schooling in Australia’s history, costing thousands of millions of dollars is still in place.!!

As a swinging voter, I’m really sick of listening to political upstarts with forked tongues, talking about financial crises while our government carelessly throws millions away on ridiculously evil projects like NAPLAN, a recognised instrument of child abuse. This kind of rhetoric doesn’t attract my vote under any circumstances.

Yes. The coalition government continues to throw education money around as if it was unlimited and, yet, keeps blaming the Labor Party for over-spending. At the same time, Joe is right. Labor started NAPLAN and developed the massively expensive, stupid and extremist curriculum intrusion with the help of a NY lawyster. [sometimes called a ‘shyster]. It was a siegheil event that would have been worthy of the any extreme neoliberal on the planet. Labor’s semantic-mind-controlling druids easily captured the Libs, whose educational ideology [ ‘Only fear produces results’] is parallel; and they kept up the spending of millions and millions on the useless Klein con. when they got into power. Suckers.

Now, all parties, with gross disregard for kids’ emotional and cognitive development, want to appear tough and domineering; and to appear to be doing something by demanding high test scores, while they have no idea of the mess that they are creating. They demand that teachers abuse children’s mental health on their behalf so that they can claim a party achievement. The March-April period has become, traditionally, the government-approved ANXIETY-STRESS CREATION months in schools….about to start for the 2015 testucation season…..out come the NAPLAN practice books in newsagents, the fish-oil and other supposed ‘performance-enhancing’ products in chemists shops, up go enrolments in test-tutoring businesses, with a dramatic increase in homework, practice, practice, practice, and so on and so on.

The Greens, traditionally, sit on the fence hurling a missive or two; and occasionally calling for a Senate Inquiry which they organise with consummate skills to do nothing whatsoever. They can always say, they tried. With astute care, an inquiry never asks for the cost of NAPLAN. It takes too much time to gather the figures. It’s a bother. Kids continue to be anxious and distressed, because no known Australian politician – Labor, Lib.,Green or PuP gives a damn.. They play with the evil import as if taxpayers money was endless and the Treasury just don’t care about a few hundred million .

Budget problems ? Bullshit, Joe. Can’t be…

What can be done without losing face? Well, our Captain left us assured us that ABC Radio and Television [that contrary left-wing organisation] was examined and was severely pruned as a consequence of a thorough assessment. Why not? A serious audit, it took a couple of weeks. The PM has indicated that an “Annual Funding Reductor” was applied to the ABC as is usual for all federal government authorities. It seems that the auditors used an “Efficiency Dividend Measure” to evaluate activities that might be pruned. Both assessment instruments are not commonly known to the taxpaying layman, but they seem to be able to be used to effect, swiftly and successfully. Why not apply them to NAPLAN? Something has to be done in a hurry. The coffers are bleeding.

NAPLAN can easily become a major election issue if any of the opposition parties have an interest in kids. Our country deserves better, after all. Whichever party promotes the banning of NAPLAN is surely on a winner. Parents are awakening. While those in organisations have been ‘client captured’, the great mass of independent, worried ‘moms’ are exerting their will: “My child will NOT do NAPLAN.” and the numbers, according to recent research are increasing by the thousands. God bless such concerned mums.

When will we see these ABC kind of performance indicators applied to NAPLAN ? It’s a blood sucking form of extremism, attached to an existing schooling enterprise…….so it can be removed with ease and will not be missed. Its elimination will save millions and millions of dollars. With diligence, the banning can be done and dusted by May 2015, when the next set of victims are due for the torture chambers. It will only need a money-cost audit. On humanity issues, the damage is too obvious.

What is its real cost, indeed….of ANCARA, state and federal publishing and administrative costs, regional organisation in money terms? Nobody seems to know, nor care; and various senate and other inquiries have shown no interest in knowing.

Why not ask your local member to raise the issue in the party room? What does NAPLAN and alliedWhy%202[2] gimmickry cost in money terms ?
It certainly costs the earth in psychological damage and general human misery. WHY?

Then there’s Gonski, one day set to Guide Our Nation’s School Kids Intelligently. [Attached]


Phil Cullen, 41 Cominana Avenue, Banora Point 2486 07 5524 6443

Gonski social equity

Thinking about NAPLAN.

Aussie Friends of Treehorn


Thinking About NAPLAN as Child Abuse  ?

NAPLAN is an Australian designed data-driven device used in classrooms to direct curriculum traffic towards lower-level mediocrity. 
NAPLAN is a form of state-driven child abuse forced on all schools to create tension and stress on children going about their normal learning activities.
NAPLAN is part of the State Theory of Learning : FEAR and DOMINATION  motivate learning better than anything else.

There are many definitions of  NAPLAN.  It is being used in Australia to divert school leaders and their teachers from the proper exercise of their craft and it prevents pupils in schools from applying full learnacy techniques to their personal cognitive development.

It is a nasty, nasty business. Its origins are soundly embedded in the profit-making motive of big corporation’s publishing, syllabus programming and the use of digital devices businesses. As stated by one who knows*, it is worth billions and billions of dollars.

It is important for political controllers that the stories behind the introduction of NAPLAN remain hidden.  Sensitive to its potential to damage the mental health of children, especially the seven and eight-year olds in Year 3, captured schools were forbidden from informing parents of their right to refuse to undertake the test;  and schools are still also forbidden, in most states, to express their professional views on high stakes testing if the comment is antipathetic to the program.

State Driven Child Abuse.

In parts of the US, the high stakes tests, close relatives of the NAPLAN kind,  are called Common Core Tests.  Here is one reaction to its influence on children’s health.  The teacher Beth Dimino mentions ‘Common Core Syndrome’,  a legitimately recognised affliction that such tests cause to children’s mental health.  The Australian version “NAPLAN Syndrome” is just as toxic, or more so.

Later in her talk, Beth Dimino mentions ‘Mommies” in a special way that many US folk have, of referring to parents of school children. She is directing her comments at the Superintendent of her School District.

Teachers and parents reading this Treehorn will also be impressed by these sorts of teachers who  are prepared to stand up for kids.  Here’s another who says….

“I will not distort curriculum in order to encourage students to comply with bubble test thinking,” continues her letter. “I can no longer, in good conscience, push aside months of instruction to compete in a state-wide ritual of meaningless and academically bankrupt test preparation. I have seen clearly how these reforms undermine teachers’ love for their profession and undermine students’ intrinsic love of learning.”

For children’s mental health, let’s hope that something like this happens somewhere in Australia soon.


*Rupert Murdock. It’s worth $500millions per year to his businesses.



Treehorn:           Why can’t we kids have a pupil-centred, achievement-oriented, shared-evaluation as part of the learning process, holistic-learning-based-curriculum?  Why? Why?Why?
Testucator:        We prefer the profit-based, stress-laden, teacher-squirming, unreliable test program, thanks to Murdoch & Klein.  We won’t change it. We tell you what to do.
Treehorn:           Why can’t you replace tension with challenge, fear with encouragement, ritual with creativity, teacher-bashing with professionalism, subject-hate with love-of-learning, time-wasting-tests with shared-evaluation ?

A testucator is a pretend schoolie who is unable to understand the theories and practices of learning. Unable to share positive evaluation of  children’s learning efforts,each  ignores children’s rights to healthy cognitive development.and just test them from time to time for peculiar purposes..



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

Education Readings February 20th

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!


The Pupil in the Middle of Your Eye

This article by former Queensland Director of Primary Education Phil Cullen is a must read for all teachers.

“So…since learning is institutionalised in schools, pupils need to know why they are at school and what sort of relationship is intended during the schooling efforts. Too often do we overlook this. Children believe that they go to school only because someone says that they have to go. The excitement of learning has been understated. We teach in the schools because we are more expert at the teaching act than other people in the community and we want to honour the contract of helping children to learn how to learn.”

Chile’s Charter School Experiment is Almost Over

So is New Zealand’s, it seems. Yesterday the Minister of Education advised that no new charter school applications will be sought for the rest of this year.

“This week Chile ended the education sector experiment started in the 1980s by dictator Pinochet that had led to, by 2014, around 60% of the nation’s schools becoming charter schools. Like Thatcher and Reagan, Pinochet was a devotee of Milton Friedman’s free market ideology (one that the National Party of New Zealand follows, too), and deregulating schools is key to that ideology.”

What Do We Really Mean When We Say ‘Personalized Learning’?

Good points made here – what teachers mean by personalized learning is different from what Pearson Group, et al, mean.

‘“We often say we want creativity and innovation – personalization – but every mechanism we use to measure it is through control and compliance,” Laufenberg said. “Those things never come together as long as that is the overriding moment.” She cautions educators who may be excited about the progressive educational implications for “personalized learning” to make sure everyone they work with is on the same page about what that phrase means.’

Home readers for school kids often wasted learning opportunity, expert warns

Food for thought …

‘Lecturer in literacy education at the University of Canberra Ryan Spencer told 666 ABC Canberra the home reader routine was a wasted learning opportunity if the student was disengaged.

“If they don’t have interest or excitement, or if there’s no motivation to read that book, it just becomes an onerous task,” he said.

“Reluctant readers take [their readers] home because they have to and the teacher has chosen it.

“But by the time they get home, the last thing they want to do is read this book that they’ve already read at school that day.”’

Ten things you need to know about international assessments

Lots of information here, with this quote being very pertinent.

“These assessments were never intended to line up and rank nations against each other like baseball standings.

That’s right. The statisticians and psychometricians who dreamed up these assessments 50 years ago stated explicitly that the question of whether “the children of country X [are] better educated that those of country Y” was “a false question” due to the innumerable social, cultural, and economic differences among nations. But, hey, that’s just a detail.”

One-Size-Fits-All Testing Isn’t What Our Kids Need To Succeed

The message is slowly disseminating.

“What are the skill sets that we as a society see as necessary for the future success of our children? What kind of future do we want to be shaping? Do we want well-rounded children who grow up with exposure to the arts, culture, and music? Or do we want over-tested, over-stressed children who see only the importance of achieving academic growth? Are we looking to provide our children with the skills that are necessary to instill a sense of morals, coping skills, and human compassion? Or do we continue to narrow down the focus of academics to what can be measured on a standardized test, and use that as a predictor for future success?”

The Heavy Hitters Behind a Fund Focused on K-12 Blended Learning

For all you ……….. (insert descriptor of choice) who are buying into the propaganda about blended learning, I suggest you read this blog by Susan Ohanian to see who is behind it.

“Surprise. Surprise. Look at who’s behind Blended Learning.”Blended” is, of course, a diversionary term to distract from the fact that this system of computer-directed instruction should actually be termed, at best, teacher-lite–and, at worst, teacher dumped.”

Why technology will never replace teachers

Here’s a gem from Steve Wheeler:

“When children act unexpectedly, or demand support that requires intuition, only a human teacher who knows that child can support them effectively. Comparatively, the human brain is highly complex, while the computer is a very simple tool. We are only just beginning to understand some aspects of the human brain, whereas computers are fully understandable, because they have been designed by human ingenuity.”

‘You have made us the enemy. This is personal.’ 

Seven New York State teachers write an open letter to Governor Cuomo.

“We are teachers. We have given our hearts and souls to this noble profession. We have pursued intellectual rigor. We have fed students who were hungry. We have celebrated at student weddings and wept at student funerals. Education is our life. For this, you have made us the enemy. This is personal.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Keeping alive the spirit of John Dewey

Bruce’s latest blog article which includes this sobering comment: “The student centred ideas of John Dewey have, it seems, all been lost in the country of his birth.” That’s a tragic state of affairs.

“John Dewey believed that the need to learn, to make sense of ones experience was the inborn innate way humans learn – until they reach formal schooling. One of his key phrases was that ‘children are people, they grow into tomorrow only as they live today’. Culture counts – for better or worse.”

Using Old Tech (Not Edtech) to Teach Thinking Skills

Bruce’s comment: Making full use of ‘old tech’ thinking skills with modern technology

“I’ve viewed classroom technology as the means to sharing knowledge, in addition to acquiring or manipulating it. Yet I find that not only has the computer itself become something of a distraction, but the students aren’t making enough use of the tech’s “share-ability” — that is, they struggle to work effectively together on it, and to have their ideas cohere in an intelligible way. It occurred to me that co-editing in a Google Doc is a skill that itself needs to be taught and practiced before it can become effective in the classroom.”

Perspectives / Five Myths About School Improvement

Bruce’s comment: Many schools subscribe to the  ASCD magazine Educational Leadership – this latest editorial will give you a taste. There are some good links to explore.

“Indeed, even those who advocate disparate visions about “what works” most likely would concur that there is no panacea that will help all schools all the time. David Berliner and Gene Glass tell why contexts matter in the social sciences. They describe the problems with replicability, transfer, and fading effects of single reforms, but they do not conclude that the reform process is a waste of time.”

How We Make Progress

Bruce’s comment: Too much of our teaching is based on linear thinking – but it seems our learning is not as simple. Well worth the read. I have aways thought that learning was spiral shaped  , ever upwards,  but at times regressing. Another great read from Anne Murphy.

“This is not an orderly ascension up an ever-rising set of steps. It’s something more like waves on a beach, where one wave overtakes another and then pulls back, overtaken in turn by another advancing and then receding wave. “Overlapping waves” is, in fact, the name of a theory of intellectual development proposed by Robert Siegler, a professor of cognitive psychology at Carnegie Mellon University.”

From Bruce’s ‘oldies but goodies’ file:

Dysfunctional Schools

Bruce’s observations on Kirsten Olsen’s book “’Wounded by School-recapturing the Joy in Learning and Standing up to the Old School Culture”

“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.”

On Knowing – Jerome Bruner

Bruce’s comment: My favourite quote from Bruner is ‘ teaching is the canny art of intellectual temptation’.Today we  have those (usually politicians) who wish to test for learning ignoring, according to Bruner, that ‘it is difficult to catch and record, no less understand, the swift flight of man’s mind operating at its best’.

“The themes Jerome Bruner covers in his book concern the process of knowing, how knowing is shaped and how it in turn gives form to language science, literature and art. The symbolism of the left hand is that of the dreamer – the right that of the practical doer.The areas of hunches and intuition, Bruner writes, has been all too often overwhelmed by an ‘imposed fetish of objectivity’…’”

Professional Reading

Treehorn:           Why can’t we kids have a pupil-centred, achievement-oriented, shared-evaluation as part of the learning process, holistic-learning-based-curriculum?  Why? Why?Why?
Testucator:        We prefer the profit-based, stress-laden, teacher-squirming, unreliable test program, thanks to Murdoch & Klein.  We won’t change it. We tell you what to do.
Treehorn:           Why can’t you replace tension with challenge, fear with encouragement, ritual with creativity, teacher-bashing with professionalism, subject-hate with love-of-learning, time-wasting-tests with shared-evaluation ?
Testucator:        Simply : We don’t know HOW.
[Please note the alteration to Treehorn’s first statement. You’ll know why.]
A testucator is a pretend schoolie who is unable to understand the theories and practices of learning. Unable to share positive evaluation of  children’s learning efforts, a testucator ignores children’s rights to healthy, happy cognitive developmen;t.and just tests children from time to time, pretending to know what they are doing in learning terms..

Aussie Friends of Treehorn

Treehorn is the hero of a children’s book called The Shrinking of Treehorn by Florence Parry Heidi. It’s about a small boy with enormous problems, who remained totally ignored by all adults, including his parents, teachers and principal during an important period in his life. Like all young school pupils, he came to learn that adults don’t take much notice of school kids, no matter how dire the circumstances. Children are left on their own to survive, despite the stress that  some very cruel adults impose on them – like the operators and users of NAPLAN the Wombat tests. The Shrinking of Treehorn is a powerful story with a morally-stunning conclusion.


Too busy to read?


‘Too busy’ is usually a lazy bum’s excuse for not keeping up with anything, no matter what the profession.  Reading articles such as those supplied by our Allan Alach is an easy way for really  busy school-based folk  to keep up with the latest.  Reading during meals, during ads. on TV, on the ‘loo, on the exercise bike, waiting at the medical centre, in the bus or train….most catch as catch can.  ‘Seasy.   Keen professional reader, Allan supplies some remarkable reading for us week-by-week [Friday]. May I draw your attention to his last Friday’s Readings? Here some short-quotes from some.
1.   A Message to Ministers and Secretaries The bottom line is this, you cannot get professionalism, compassion and commitment from teachers when you treat them like Starbucks employees. The corporate model of school reform, with it’s focus on charter schools, high-stakes testing and Common Core standards, ignores the reason the best teachers went into the profession in the first place

2.   “The Music is in the Musician” Unless you’ve been hiding in a cave for the last decade, you’ll know that Sir Ken Robinson has a lot to say about education and technology. Any one of the 100 million plus viewers of his various TED talks will tell you that his perspective on schools and learning is decidedly progressive. On the occasion of his keynote speech at the 2015 BETT Show, this was abundantly clear.

3.   Blended or Half-n-half?”  The psychology of learning screams at us, telling us that successful learning, retention and recall, that leads to good performance, needs to be sensitive to a learner’s starting state, personal needs, personalised learning, practice by doing, then spaced practice to consolidate what is learnt in long-term memory. Blended learning also screams at us to take this ‘learning’ theory seriously.

4.   33 Illustrated Problems e.g. Non-teachers telling you how you should be running your classroom.





5.   Buzzwords Let’s educate these young people with the necessary skills to react accordingly to difficult situations, both online and in person and stop hiding behind firewalls. Knowledge is power. Besides, our students see much more outside of school than we realize or like to admit via the interweb or hanging with friends.

 6.   Enough is enough. Seriously   Forcing any, and all, children to endure the harmful effects of high stakes standardized testing because some state or federal mandate requires all children be tested, ironically in the name of providing equitable and quality education, is the greatest insult ever hurled upon public education and children.

7.   Bruce Hammonds supplied this extract from Simmerman  and hosts of hints as usual.




8.  So let’s talk about that last question, and specifically, direct instruction versus facilitation. When considering various teaching approaches, balance is the key word. If we turn to the work of educational researchers Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, and their seminal book, Understanding by Design (UbD), they make a call for educators to reflect on how they balance the following three teaching roles:

  • Facilitation: open-ended questioning, problem posing, Socratic seminar, and guided inquiry
  • Direct instruction: demonstration, modelling, and lecturing
  • Coaching: providing feedback, conferencing, and guided practice
Phil Cullen, 41 Cominana Avenue, Banora Point  2486    07 5524 6443

The Pupil in the Middle of Your Eye

Treehorn:           Why can’t we kids have a test-free, pupil-centred, achievement-oriented, holistic-learning-based-curriculum?  Why? Why?

Testucator:        We  prefer the profit-based, stress-laden, teacher-squirming, unreliable test program, thanks to Murdoch & Klein.  We won’t change it. That’s it.

Treehorn:           Why can’t you replace tension with challenge, fear with encouragement, ritual with creativity, teacher-bashing with professionalism, subject-hate with love-of-learning, time-wasting-tests with shared-    evaluation ?

Testucator:        Simple : We don’t know HOW.


The Treehorn Express


Treehorn is the hero of a children’s book called The Shrinking of Treehorn by Florence Parry Heidi. It’s about a small boy with enormous problems, who remained totally ignored by all adults, including his parents, teachers and principal during an important period in his life. Like all young school pupils, he came to learn that adults don’t take much notice of school kids, no matter how dire the circumstances. Children are left on their own to survive, despite the stress that  some very cruel adults impose on them – like the operators and users of NAPLAN the Wombat tests. The Shrinking of Treehorn is a powerful story with a morally-stunning conclusion.


Friends Peter & Horrie have reminded me of a talk that I once gave to a Primary Principals’ Conference in the pre-NAPLAN era when Australian schooling was teetering on the edge of greatness, but, sadly, it was the early days of managerialism. Client capture made sure that  the course of schooling became based on fear.  Murdoch and Klein took over. The smarties went with them.  We’re  now stuck with  whatever it is. 

Here’s a re-play of my talk. It’s long. It was a keynote address.   It’s a pity we went the wrong way, don’t you think? 


 Phil Cullen

“In schools, the continuity of development of children’s conceptual and existential knowledge is paramount. Schooling should ignore, as far as possible, any age/grade year classifications and any arrangement that infers block/ development. The school program should be based on holistic, pupiparous modes that maintain correlative and interactive processes of teaching and learning for students during their vital years of compulsory schooling. There needs to be a development of aspects of associative, replicative and interpretive knowledge in a non-graded, seamless fashion through the use of motivational strategies that range from the didactic modes to the maieutic.”

How about that ?

These words constitute an  only-slightly-altered group of words originally composed for a public document by a successful non-educated, bureaucratic educator, who was anxious to be promoted.  He was.

Such meadow mayonnaise doesn’t have the fertilising qualities that the author intended. Little wonder!  Despite its quality, mushiness has its limits. If he had said what he intended to say – that schools need to provide the kind of spirited teaching that suits the learning styles of the unique individuals within – we would have understood him. We would have agreed with him; for the questions that we ask ourselves are about how to provide such teaching and, especially how to adjust our  own attitudes so that we can feel satisfied that we are helping our clients in the best way possible.

As practising teachers, we do review our personal philosophies, when we feel like it. We have changed our attitudes over the years, and we try to hold on to our  more precious commitments no matter how severe external pressures would have us return to the drastics of former  years. Society is slow, sometimes, to understand what we do and why we do it, but it slowly becomes accepting.

We know the content of the present day messages from industry, for example. At present, industry’s support becomes more heartening each year. The near disappearance of employment from the rural industries, the sharp overall decline in most secondary industries and the startling increases in the information and service industries means that the world is now appreciating the different kinds of brain power it needs to exploit. (The way you say this last sentence is important)

The world undoubtedly needs citizens who can think.. The education fraternity has been trying to provide these for a long time, and it is getting better and better at doing so. It could do even better if it was able to sort itself out from its present stalemate instead of trying to copy inadequate models of organisation from inappropriate sources.

Restructuring a human enterprise on business lines has been a disastrous intrusion to the present time.

The education industry will eventually receive big blessings from the profit-oriented industries and from the general public when it universally undertakes activities that far-sighted practitioners have been doing for years.  Nevertheless there are still some of our colleagues who have yet to take notice of those who have held to a vision of the true role of schools in a society that keeps changing over the years. By ‘true role’, I mean to infer that the school’s role is seen as part of the life process itself….a school as a place of beauty, challenge, pride and joy wrapped around the pleasures of learning.

In contemporary society, schooling is conducted in an artificial setting – in the sense that it attempts to actualise learning processes in a more rapid way than they would if children were not forced to go to school. Compulsory, institutionalised learning is a factor of modern society.

Attendance at school is a modern day, industrial economic imperative. Schools have been established to secure the continuous development of the kind of society that we live in at the time. Crash-bang-wallop techniques were in vogue through the thirties and forties., and, as they faded during the period of ‘Biggles…long division and multiplication tables’ (Steinle), didactic teacher-dominated techniques changed to the sponsorship of active self-motivated learning. Proudly, one can state that our generation of teachers took the greatest step ever undertaken in the history of schooling.  We unscrewed the desks….but let me not dwell on the implications of what we did..  That’s a tome in itself..

Schools have always been centres of learning – and we have been re-discovering the real purpose of them.  Confused ? Let me illustrate this, first by reference to some of the terms that we use.


Whilst we often use the word ‘pupil’ to refer to primary school attenders and ‘students’ to post-primary, the words have far deeper meaning – real life meanings. A pupil is not a young student

The word ‘pupil’ has no age relationship at all.  Melba was a pupil of Madame Marchesi.; Michelangelo a pupil of Bertoldi; Greg Norman of Charlie Earp. The relationships were based on the understanding : ‘I will teach. You will learn.’ This important contract establishes a close relationship based, first and foremost on learning and teaching. Two people are involved.  Whereas the pupil may have greater potential than the teacher, the teacher is clearly the authority figure, the leader, the curriculum determiner – expertly guiding the learning experiences of the pupil.  It is a very, very serious business.

So…since learning is institutionalised in schools, pupils need to know why they are at school and what sort of relationship is intended during the schooling efforts. Too often do we overlook this. Children believe that they go to school only because someone says that they have to go. The excitement of learning has been understated. We teach in the schools because we are more expert at the teaching act than other people in the community and we want to honour the contract of helping children to learn how to learn.

Of supreme importance is the classroom message that says,’ We are here as a group to learn how to learn about Science    or Art or…..’ whatever  words we use to describe a subject  that deserves our combined attention. We are not here to ‘learn science’. The teacher is not here to provide fish, but to teach pupils how to catch them.. This is the real purpose of schooling , which slips from our focus at odd times, but undoubtedly the world depends on our ability to get it right. Of course there are schools where mere management of ritual and time-serving is the end-all and be-all.  “Within such mechanistic organisations, “ says Doug Ogilvie, “people are socialised to behave normally (rather than uniquely), to accept authoritarian directions and authoritative interpretations (rather  than being self-responsible), to seek extrinsic rewards (rather than intrinsic pleasures), to value institutionalised status (rather than personal development) and to be ignorant of the alternatives that are disguised from them in the process.” (Doug Ogilvie:’The Purpose of Schooling’ Unicorn,Vol.14 No.2, May ‘88, P.103).  Doug describes such schools as ‘Schools for Retardation’.

Schools of today need to accept clients, quite sincerely, as pupils , and endeavour to maintain the pupilling for as long as possible during the twelve years or so that they are involved in institutionalised learning. We can come to grips with real personal development by assisting pupils to develop their learning potential so that they become self-motivated human beings who become students of those aspects of  our civilisation (perfect or imperfect as it may be) that they find most interesting – whether these aspects be vocational or recreational or academic.


Primary schools are essentially pupilling institutions. They are usually organised for a teaching-learning one-to-one relationship that lasts for a full school year or more. It is an extremely difficult and highly responsible arrangement.  The pupilling role extends into secondary schooling for the pupils do not suddenly become self-propelled students from their first day of entry.  But there are difficulties  – for an increasing emphasis on some fondly regarded subjects-for-discourse, demands new organisational arrangements. Teachers and pupils have to tolerate …..

* isolation of subjects from each other, handled by an expert in a particular subject.

* a responsibility to assessment procedures imposed from beyond the classroom.

* having to establish a pupilling  arrangement  with  different groups whom they see only for brief sessions..

At all levels of schooling there is real difficulty in balancing the attitude of ‘teaching a subject’’ and ‘teaching a person’, even though each teacher realises that teaching the child to love a subject is the best way to teach the subject. Good teachers aim to make themselves dispensable as their pupils surge ahead towards student-hood..

Dewey recognised the difficulties that teachers have when he spoke of their efforts ……’to keep alive the sacred spark of wonder and to fan the flame that already glows. The problem is to protect the spirit of inquiry, to keep it from becoming blase from over-excitement, wooden from routine, fossilised through dogmatic instruction, or dissipated by random exercise upon trivial things.’

Given, then, that keeping these sparks alive can be dampened by over-subjectisation and assessment – a couple of institutional villains and bullies – what reasonable measures can be taken to enable a thinking school or a thinking classroom to fan the glowing learning embers  ?

Institutional teaching and learning places enormous power in the hands of each teacher. Each shares with parents, for an important period of time, the development of the lives of growing human beings who are going to take over this world from us. Do we reflect, often enough on this power and how we use it ?


Kathleen A. Butler (“Learning & Teaching Styles’ Maynard,1984)

says, ” I’ve came to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humour, hurt or heal. In all situations it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanised or dehumanised.’

Suppose we are able to give some of our thinking time to the consequences of some of our actions ?  You do this, don’t you ?

Really ? Surely we can afford the time ! Can’t we give some of our time to forgive ourselves for some of our previous actions and to try something more positive ?…have a mea culpa moment and soldier on? Have we a plan, a strategy that    might, at least, help us to maintain the stimulating atmosphere that we that every pupil deserves ? We muck it up sometimes. It happens. How do we compensate ?….

Or…don’t we bother ?

A teaching nun once told me of a pupil who had told her , “Get f…..!” My instinctive reaction would have been to flatten him. (I’m a product of the 30s /40s schools of retardation).  Our present day teacher, however, said, “That’s not a nice thing to say to someone who loves you, Danny.”

“Nobody loves me.”

“I love you Danny.”

Wisely, it seems to me, the conversation with Danny did not go much further than this. When she was telling me about it, she was searching for ideas on how to show Danny that her love was genuine – without over-doing it. She was planning for the next encounter that would provide a happy, non-disruptive learning climate for Danny and all of his (future) friends.

This teacher was exhibiting great power  and was using it in a healing way on a being who had been severely injured.


It is likely that Danny really didn’t want to be at school. The school and classroom situations do not hold an enormous attraction for all pupils.

In the language of today, schools and classrooms need to possess robust cultures with attractive , well-resourced learning centres. The marginal, test-crazed stake-holders aren’t too fussed about this. They say, with confusing rhetoric,    that they want ‘performance indicators’ and ensured ‘standards of excellence’ to be revealed during ‘environmental scans’ and ‘periodic testing’ so that their ‘strategic planning’ can be best served. They want to have their bet both ways and if they don’t say things this way, people will think that they don’t know what they are talking about. Would they ever dream of scanning from the pupilling-needs level ?

Back at the school, teachers are trying to cope with enormous odds as they search for ways to improve their classrooms and the activities that take place within them .

They want to put that sparkle into the everyday activities, so that pupils will want to come to school; and will be anxious to get into the classroom because of the challenging learning experiences that are offered there…not to muck around; not to have fun just for the sake of having fun; not to seek some boring relief from the excitement of the extra-mural activities.

Indeed, if they don’t know that they are at school to organise their learning abilities with a particular person or persons, their schooling is a waste of time.

Children have to appreciate, dignify , honour and enjoy their role as PUPILS. They have to know what the word means before the teaching-learning contract can be effective. “Pupil’ is not just a name for a school attender. The name confirms that learning is an absorbing, stimulating activity that goes on for all of the waking hours, but, at school there is a teacher in a resource rich environment who has a special place in each pupil’s learning life.

If children do not know that they are at school to learn how to learn, they are not at school.  IT ISN’T A SECRET ! If they are anxious to be there because of this then, quite simply, you have an effective school, a school of excellence.  Such a school usually possesses a rich culture that openly  pronounces those items of pride – the mottoes, messages, icons, heroes, traditions – that enrich and encourage the learning process.  If they don’t do this,we have to throw them out and start again.

The intention of the teacher reigns supreme and needs to be openly shared with everyone. Again, put simply, the teacher is there to empower pupils, just as administration is there to empower, genuinely, all the people on the campus – children, teachers, ancillary staff, visitors.  In the long run, everyone is dedicated to helping everyone else to improve the quality of their lives.


Empowerment may be a contemporary vogue-word but it describes one the most crucial roles of the teacher and of administration.  Its meaning is not simply to authorise actions, but to put meaning into them. Certainly, in the school, pupils are the foci. It is the school that endows the pupil with the power to take control of their  own lives, to put quality into it, to learn how to learn about life and its crucial stepping stones……to become students eventually.  Thinking about ways to help Danny to respond to love, to help him to love other people and things, to teach him about cope-ability are important parts of the learning-to-learn process. The unloved, after all, need your love the most ; the unmotivated need your care the most. When you empower others like this, you are teaching.

Not only the Dannies of this world are in need.  Each pupil has an equal right to your time, your affection and your teaching, even though some may seem more demanding than others. Each innately wants to be an Elisa Doolittle. Each wants to live up to your expectations of them.  Each of us in this room, in fact, is good at something simply because someone once told us we were. This power of the self-fulfilling prophecy is now being applied in fair-dinkum ways as an integral part of teaching and learning. It’s such a powerful motivator. Only fear of failure can quell it.


Much is made of teaching styles. There are style differences. You know this and I know this. There are some things that Mary does with her class better than I do. Jim seems to get more positive cooperation than I do. I am more authoritative    than most of my colleagues. I command situations well.  What I am really searching for are more effective classroom management techniques to make my learning centre sparkle. I need more hints, perhaps more coaching in certain aspects, more help, more suggestions. As a teacher I need to expand my repertoire of abilities and seek for a greater variety of learning situations. Perhaps I am too comfortable with some strategies and haven’t assiduously tried others.  I know that I can improve myself by working at it, but I do need help.

This is the major challenge for administrators of today – how to help fellow teachers to teach better. It ought to be the all consuming passion of all administrators from class teacher to director-general. The most important administrator of all- the school principal – has the most important and busiest role of all. I wonder do principals realise the responsibility that they possess and the power that they have ? Really do?

Our personality is integral to our teaching style and our leadership style, isn’t it ? Have a look around this room…you appreciate the different personalities…you know how successful some have been, perhaps because of some aspects of their personality. Personality cannot be easily changed, but attitudes can adjust.

Perhaps there is some difficulty in trying something new if we are the kind of person who runs a comfortable disciplined classroom.  Why should we change ?  Who dares influence us ?  We are the hard-working, ‘experienced’ members of the staff. In terms of changing our attitudes, we are very hard nuts to crack.

Quality teachers usually share some common traits.  Have you noticed certain traits as being evident in teachers whose teaching activities are the most effective ?


They are usually happy people, able to hide the frustrations that they have brought to school with them or those that arise during the day. They are busy people who do not mind what school task they undertake. Their hours at school and at home on planning, preparation, resource design and construction are endless. They are friendly to all, especially to children, and they elicit cooperation because they are prepared to cooperate. They set high standards in a cheerful way and convey the message that they expect high standards – of courtesy, effort, presentation and achievement.

They realise that each child is different, so their expectations are related to the social, moral, aesthetic and academic level of each child. They can challenge the high flying eagles, urge the patient plodder and kiss the forlorn frogs. At whatever level they teach, they know what sort of activities appeal to children of that level and they share with children the creation of a learning environment that appeals to its occupants. They love learning themselves, talk about it constantly and infuse pupils with a desire to learn how to learn. Their inquisitiveness in their efforts to solve problems and seek new challenges becomes infectious.

They search constantly for new ideas and try them out. If they don’t work so well, they try something else. At the end of each day, they say, ‘That wasn’t so bad. What’s on my plate for tomorrow ?’

In their planning, there is little doubt that they will describe their activities in terms of known subjects – Mathematics, Art, etc. –

‘ covering the syllabus’ we used to say.  They know the importance of planning strategies for cognitive activity, and we do it better these days than it has ever been done before.. We use better descriptors, too – because we know what we are talking about..


But – for the remainder of this century – we shall probably continue to use the word ‘subject’. It’s a funny word. I wonder  how it started ?

Probably as a shortened version of ‘ a subject for thought, discussion and investigation .’

In the future we shall probably call our ‘courses  of study’ by different names.  If our pupils have to learn how to learn, why can’t we study  Process, Affects and Concepts ?   New age subjects ? Let’s look at them and their possibility for being termed ‘subjects’ in our new age curriculum.

Processes have common ground in various sorts of learning, don’t they ? Efficiency in various processes rounds off our    abilities to think. Problem solving is an integral part of life, for instance, and its elements need to be taught even though people may solve some problems differently.  Inferring, organising, classifying, validating etc. are some of the processes that need to be taught in all kinds of learning activities.

Affects refer to those personal attributes that teachers also teach. Children have innate qualities that form the building blocks for their attitude towards learning and for fulfilling their  need for self-esteem.  Confidence, persistence, initiative, creativity, enjoyment, cooperation are some of the things that need to be supported, enlarged and prophesied about.

Concepts are the bones of any area of thought or study or investigation.  They become part of each pupil’s personally organised store of knowledge and understanding. Concept acquisition incorporates impressions, actions, thoughts, feelings and sharing with others.

Whilst we persist in emphasising the teaching of ‘courses of study called subjects, it is important to convey their attractiveness for study by actually indicating their beauty….. and their challenge to our cognitive abilities. Each is, in itself, a journey of exploration that involves a search for meaning within each topic or sub-topic. Each enriches our conversations because we accumulate easily understood terminology that enlarges meaning. Indeed , the excitement that quality teachers arouse through their teaching of learning processes and affects attached to concept development, enhances the excitement of attendance at a thinking school or learning centre.

It is absolutely essential that we concentrate on teaching ‘the how’ and impressing our young friends with the beauty and joy of things (subjects) that others enjoy ——others, such as teachers, whose enthusiasm  for and joy in learning experiences is contagious. It is a daunting challenge, but it is needed if we have to shape up to the needs of the citizens of this coming new 21st century.


Enjoyment does not imply a sort of giggle-headed approach to learning and teaching.  Learning needs to be a pleasurable undertaking that is serious in its outcomes. It needs to be openly discussed as this.  The activities associated with learning need to be of a kind that do not hurt your feelings ..especially those that are associated with inadequacy. They need to convey a sense of pride in accomplishment where errors constitute a challenge and do not sponsor  despair ; where the desire to pursue an interest seeps into your being – not a passionate hedonistic crazy pursuit – but a balanced desire to want to learn and keep on learning about learning.

The institutionalisation of schooling ( aka pupilling) ought to mean that this joy of learning has been centred in one place  – where it has to be, because that is where the experts in teaching processes, affects and concepts attached to learning how, are located  Their pupilling strategies focus on extending this joy so that, after ten, twelve or whatever  years’ presence in the institution, they will exit school with a googolplex extension of the enthusiasm that they had when they entered school.

You know how enthusiastic the little pupils are in their early days at school. Holt, The Underachieving School , suggests that schools inhibit this enthusiasm for learning.  “It’s a rare child” he says, “who can come through schooling with much left of its curiosity, independence or sense of its own dignity, competence and worth.”

Well, we have to turn that sort of opinion around.

Parents want their children to learn and we all want them to love learning. Why ? When you love learning, the individual acquisition of knowledge is limitless. The partnership between teachers and parents has taken enormous positive strides during the past couple of decades. Still has a fair way to go, mind you.  Perhaps few of us have a real vision of what dedicated pupilling in a school context is capable of achieving. Ask some parents what their view is of what a school should contribute. Ask some parents who have survived their children’s adolescence . Ask some whose children have settled down to their place in the world and have children of their own. You can be sure that each generation may have a different view of schooling, but the common ground would be their belief in pupilling as a basic concept.  Ask them, too, to describe a school as a pupilling institution.


A simple description of a school would be ‘pupilling institution’, that would be in accord with some famous comment on schools.

John Goodlad, in a article called “The School I’d Like to See.” said that he would encourage processes of thinking  in a school (Shades of De Bono !). Learning to think would be the prime focus of the entire school   His school would be arranged in phases, not grades or year levels. It would be multi-aged to give every child the chance to be amongst the oldest and the youngest in a group. Phases would be guided by teams, composed of more than qualified teachers. The literacy of learning would transcend any other form of literacy. There would be different adult models available.  There would be a great deal of self-selection of activities – no scores, marks or grades ; no report cards; no external rewards. The school would be a 24 hour school, reaching out to all children and youths. The school would be concerned with the processes of personal realisation and fulfilment of individual identity, the development of individuals able to participate in all the richness that could lie ahead.

Sir Alec Clegg sees a school as a place of orderliness, involvement and courtesy….where anger would be minimal….with constant sharing and mutual help….with surroundings that add interest and stimulus, places where work is a joy, where there are full opportunities for conversation. There would be an emphasis on play   ( with physical skill being available to all but not ruined by excessive competition);….‘ a haven from fear where honesty prevails, a place to be shared where thought, reason and logic will be pursued in the desire to discover, a desire which will be shared by the teachers who have a similar liveliness of curiosity. Standards of excellence will be pursued by all.’  (Sir A.Clegg: “Some Primary School Matters”)

I have seen some schools that would gladden the hearts of these northern hemisphere commentators. Placed in an emerging context in our great south land, we Queenslanders could summarise a generalised view of pupilling in a learning situation called school as being a place where .

  • definitions are clear and meaningful.
  •  all adults on the campus think about their place in the scheme of thing. Thinking time is a part of each person’s time-table.
  • progress through school is marked by increasing joy in   the acts of learning as new thresholds are crossed. Such thresholds are not marked by school years but by growth in experiences.
  • there is plenty of shared opinions about activities and efforts. The sharing of helpful opinions represents  the limit of evaluation processes. Shared opinions between teacher and  pupil lead to positive forms of self-evaluation.
  • ways are found to develop talents as part of the normal learning processes. Times for unique interests are found but not over-ritualised.  Pupils exit school  with a great love for a skill or interest.
  •  when decisions are made, they are based on a simple Four Way Test, not unlike the Rotary Test…………….
  1. Does it help children to learn better ?
  2. Does it help teachers to teach better ?
  3. Does it economise on efforts in the teaching/learning act ?
  4. Does it provide the greatest good for the greatest number?

So, there are three opinions.


How would you describe a good school ? Describe your  own !


When you have the pupil in the middle of your eye, you can’t miss describing an effective, quality pupilling institution. You’d also end up describing three major aspects :-








If I could conclude with the question with which I started, ‘How can we help our clients in the best way possible ?’ I should end with this summary…….


We can help best by……

¨      Thinking more about how we teach;

¨      Eliminating those things that are not learning focussed;

¨      Seeking some help in improving our teaching repertoire;

¨      Sharing our plans, desires, strategies and intended outcomes with our pupils, no matter what age they are.




  • Institutionalised pupilling is here to stay.
  • Pupilling is the only real mandated responsibility of schools,
  • Pupilling means that somebody teaches somebody else how to learn.
  • Pupilling is about loving, caring, motivating, knowing …..
  • Pupilling develops overall learning capacity.
  • Achievement is an outcome of desired and developed learning capacity.
  • If pupils don’t know that they are at school to learn how to learn, to learn and to achieve, they are not at school.
  • Teachers are curriculum experts with special power and ability to teach their pupils how to learn.
  • The joy of learning increases, the longer the pupilling processes persist.
  • The joy of learning has a profound positive effect on the other pupilling processes.
  • Pupils are anxious to be at school because of the expanding levels of joy, ability, self-esteem, confidence and challenges presented by the learning act.
  • Pupils know that such pupilling processes will expand, and they will expect greater things.
  • Isolation of subjects, assessment procedures and large class numbers can close on this expansion.
  • Pupils, at some stage of their late-adolescent or adult life, become self-motivated students of some self-selected interest(s).


There’s a pupil in the middle of your eye.


Postscript: While I said these words at the time with confidence in the reactions of participants, I feared that, by 21st Centurry, I’d end up with  that elderly Jew at the Wailing Wall.

You know and I know that pupils do not need to be threatened to achieve to the highest limits . You know that test results are, more often than not, artificial outcomes unrelated to achievement.



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

Education Readings February 13th

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!


Why Corporate School Reform will Eventually Fail

Ministers/Secretaries of education all over – take note.

‘It’s not going to happen with top-down testing and “teacher-proof” curriculums developed by people working in companies like Microsoft and Pearson who, in an effort to reboot the Factory School model, have no clue about the children into who’s lives they are intruding, but only wish to be able to “measure” schools, teachers and children so they can manipulate what goes on there, and profit financially from their education “investments.”’

The music is in the musician

Here’s the first article from Steve Wheeler for the year – you can be sure there will be more. Here he references a talk by Sir Ken Robinson.

“One of his most memorable one liners was about teachers using technology, where he said: ‘The music is in the musician, not the instrument.’, and he was also caught channeling Marshall McLuhan with his remark that ‘we amplify our tools and then our tools amplify us.’”

7 tests that expose Blended Learning as actually Blended ‘Teaching’

“‘Blended Learning’ is so often just ‘Blended Teaching’, a half-hearted attempt to retain a mixture of classroom and online. It’s Velcro learning, slamming just a few of things together to satisfy a need to hold on to some of the old and look as though you’ve embraced some of the new. A poor singer doesn’t sound any better when in a duet.”

33 Problems That All Teachers Will Understand: It’s not all apples and summer holidays.

Some light relief…. or is it frightening that there are some truths hidden amongst the jokes?

Pedagogy Before Technology – 10 Ideas to Consider

Something to reflect on …

“Buzzwords are bad. They are intimidating and make educators lose sleep over practices they already do but with a new term coined by someone corporate or selling book. Am I wrong? Principles and ideas are good but buzzwords? However, buzzwords elicit change through intimidation. Now even I am confused.”

When Will We Finally Say Enough? Seriously.

“Forcing any, and all, children to endure the harmful effects of high stakes standardized testing because some state or federal mandate requires all children be tested, ironically in the name of providing equitable and quality education, is the greatest insult ever hurled upon public education and children. To force a child like Ben, whose educational needs are so far removed from that which such a test can provide simply for “compliance sake,” is just heart breaking. It reveals how deeply flawed the system of accountability is, how failed our policies are, and how compliant in the face of insanity we have become … and most of all, how enmeshed we are as a society with a turn- a- blind- eye- faith in the testing mentality. How outraged do we need to be before we put an end to corporate-driven reform?”

Virtual Preschool: Yes, That’s Now a Real Option

The ultimate educational obscenity?

“Now an option for parents of young children: a “virtual” preschool with digital learning materials, activity guides, learning analytics, and “homeroom teachers,” all accessible online through your computer, tablet, or smartphone.”

Really. This is not satire…

Inside Training Document Reveals How Test-Supporters Want to Talk About Testing

Antony Cody spills the beans on the ways pro-test supporters manipulate public perceptions. Notice any similarities to the political spin in your own backyard?

“With this in mind, it is informative to see how supporters of test-driven reform are seeking to shore up their eroding position in the public debate. The document I received is presented in bright colors with cartoon illustrations. I will share some of the main messages here, and you can download the whole thing here: HowToTalkAboutTesting.

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Thinking: Beliefs Versus Actual Creativity

“Most of us are creative and innovative when it comes to solving problems, we really are. But it would also appear that most of us go through a phase where we lose that potential or the motivation to push the boundaries and think of alternative possibilities for what we are doing. And you have to work to get it back once you get into those lazy habits of going through the motions of thought.”

How Do We Raise Critical Thinkers?

Bruce’s comment: A short article about the future skills students will need – with a link to free e-book on project based learning.

We now live in an interconnected world, where the Internet and global communications are simultaneously uniting and isolating us as a society. How do we raise critical thinkers to best face the challenges that face our modern society? What changes in education methods should be implemented to  create a better learning environment for these budding minds?”

7 Ways to Boost Your Creativity

Bruce’s comment: Excellent advice to develop creativity.

“Creativity can seem innate, but like many things, it is actually a delicate balance of nature and nurture. In other words, creative thinking can be enhanced by external forces, and isn’t necessarily reliant on “good genes” or natural ability.

Luckily, new research points the way to a variety of mental and environmental approaches that can help us improve our creative output.”

To Get Students Invested, Involve Them in Decisions Big and Small

Bruce’s comment: Purpose before iPads. Importance of students asking their own questions.

“The hardest part about using design thinking in class is getting the question right and staying in the question. Educators regularly notice how challenging it is for students to stay in the question.  Student conversation can veer off track and the students can lose focus. It takes discipline for students to learn how to dig deep with focus on a design question.”

How Inquiry Can Enable Students to Become Modern Day de Tocquevilles

Bruce’s comment: The importance of open ended inquiry – a contrast to teacher determined studies. Plus some interesting links to inquiry projects.

‘The students are so much more connected to their work and passionate about it that they’re actually doing work that’s higher quality than they’ve ever done before.’

How Student Centered Is Your Classroom?

Bruce’s comment: Is your classroom student centred – some good questions to ask. I would add do you still use ability grouping/ streaming – features of a 19th C industrial age  system of sorting?

“…you need to tell them stuff and show them how to do things, but you also need to let your learners discover, experiment, and practice even if they miss the mark or target. Educational research tell us time and time again that all learners (young or old) need time to muddle through and make meaning of new content, ideas, and concepts with some coaching and guidance, but also independently.”

Ten Contemporary Assumptions Underlying Australian Education

Revisited in the hope that some testucator will challenge any of these assumption…… now that Australian parents are said to be refusing NAPLAN in their thousands; that states are reclaiming their right to take the decisions about NAPLAN’s continued existence; and are likely to take the advice that Butts offered 60 years ago [see postscript below], it is incumbent on us to think very, very seriously …..

Ten Contemporary Assumptions Underlying Australian Education


Freeman Butts wrote the original set of assumptions about Australian education. Since Australia has always followed  the British tradition of schooling with uncontested resolution, the ACER, which sponsored his six months’ survey, had invited him to comment.  Butts was a renowned American scholar, and the Head of ACER, Professor K.S. Cunningham, in defining the cultural differences, opened this definitive treatise with “ …British education starts from the universities downwards, while in America they start with the masses to be educated and work upwards.  The Americans have adopted the view that no stage of education is to be subordinated to the one above.” 

This feature of our schooling system needs to be noted.  Our test-based British/Australian system concentrates on branding primary school pupils’ intellectual prowess by about eleven years of age, so that the elite scholars may progress through a hierarchy of educational trials that find their destiny in the university tradition. The left-over kids don’t matter.  It was, and remains, a most peculiar method of school learning. The notion needed a check-up at the time. It needs a big check now.

“There has been no examination from the ground up of what Australian education is aiming at, where it is going, or whether it is providing an education really suited to, and adequate for the needs of , its future citizens,”  he said.  “Australian education somehow lacks vitality and adaption to its own environment.”

YES. Yes. Freeman

The purpose of the Butts-ACER  project was to sponsor self-examination by Australian educational institutions.  Nobody took any notice, even though the report was read by millions.

Butts made one serious recommendation : Australia needs a great education revival and awakening. It is moribund as it is.


He concluded with the challenge, “Dare Australia build a better school?”  and he encouraged Australians to take the bolder course. He suggested that our universities should stay in their own ivory towers and stick to their own goals of intellectual discipline; and eschew the life of social responsibility as far as schooling is concerned. ”I miss  a widespread  feeling of ferment or dissatisfaction or criticism. I do not see a bubbling up of ideas and experiments. I do not sense that strong professional organizations are constantly at work promoting discussion and exchange of ideas, criticizing practices and theories, and stimulating new procedures and new probings. “

Okay…. these days…. we have tried the Klein additions to the exam-based British system,  and are hell-bent on expanding its top-down British-based bang-crash-wallop principles. Nothing useful has been tried.  I’d suggest that Butts would recommend. these days, that we just drop the whole package asap and get about the business of working out what we want for our children. Start from the classroom up.

He certainly would agree that the contemporary assumptions listed below are being steadfastly maintained. What do you think? Has much changed for the better in the last 60 years? Really?

  1. What is taught and how it is taught in Australia, is decided by one person –  the politically appointed representative of the major party in the federal government.
  2. There is no legislated safeguard against maverick counter-cognitive, imported curriculum innovations [e.g. kleinism, DI].
  3. Historically, the only essential element of the general Australian curriculum is the maintenance of a Kleinlove fear  of failure at annual public examinations and periodic standardised tests of onlythe testable parts of the curriculum.
  4. The end goal of Australian education is to get good marks in the 3-yearly PISA contest for 15 Year-olds conducted by UNESCO of far-away Paris. Three years of mass anguish for results on one piddling test! [It was Julia G., who said, “We’ll must in the top 5 by 25” ?]
  5. Judgements as to the quality of teaching and of schooling itself are made on the outcomes of such mass testing!
  6.  The purpose of fear-based testing is to provide an ordered list of candidates for the selection of the better products by  employers and tertiary institutions. It is unrelated to learning prowess.
  7. There has never ever been any expressed desire by representatives of any major political party for an holistic, integrated curriculum that aims at developing the personal skills and cognitive abilities of all individuals at school.
  8. Simplistic numeracy and literacy skills have a higher priority than learnacy skills, especially of the kind that dispose the whole person towards high individual achievement.
  9. Schools are divided into private and public kinds because it is thought that private schools are better, but they aren’t. [See Cobbold S.O.S. Research]. Until the rigorous Scholarship primary school examination for Year 8s was abolished in the earl 1960s, most children attended church or private schools for secondary schooling.  As part of the British tradition, state secondary education was meagre. It’s efforts with real pupils in need of learnacy are now superior.
  10. The principles of neoconservatism, namely that the will of the big business unions [ like the  B.C.A. and N.F.F.], much more powerful than trade and professional unions, prevail in all major decisions made by every major political party,  affecting the Australian schooling landscape.

“I was thinking” Alice said, very politely,

“Which is the best way out of this wood.

It’s getting so dark. Would you help me, please?”

But the fat little men only looked at each other and grinned


POSTSCRIPT  Freeman Butts conducted his survey in 1954. ACER published it in 1955.  Now, sixty years on, another such  survey would demonstrate to him, that nothing much has changed. Right? At least as far as basic beliefs about the stratification of schooling, trust in didactic modes of teaching, examination-based assessment procedures, the maintenance of a fear of failure, state public schools regarded as low-performance units,  passivity of professionals in the work place and the disinterest of parents are concerned. He would see that we have continued and enlarged the duality of schooling in Australia that is deliberately used to perpetuate class, religious and economic divisions in society.

He would observe. if he was around today, that the dominance of  politics in educational decision-making has grown immensely, which itself, he had observed, contains the ‘seeds of a totalitarian society. He said that he heard little mention of ’democracy in education’ during his visit.

The ACER publication “Assumptions Underlying Australian Education.” was reprinted endless time between 1955 and 1967. For over a decade, it was prescribed reading in almost every education course in almost every university and CAE of the era. As students at the time, some of us got a bit sick of it. Who was this Yank daring to criticise what we did?  We knew that he knew what he was talking about, but we still didn’t like it. We were  grimly conditioned to the pass-fail Grammar School system! What was he on about?  He also carried on with that child-centred learnacy business that our testucating controllers abhor…..

  1.  “The educational programme must take account of the emotional, social, aesthetic and physical needs of learners as well as their intellectual development;
  2.  The curriculum should be responsive to the claims of the learners, of the society, and of the resources of organized knowledge;
  3.   Teaching methods should enlist the interest and active participation of the learners, should take account of their recognised stages of growth and development and should steer guidance and sympathetic understanding of the learner as well promote achievement towards  adult goals of knowledge.”  he said.

We didn’t take any notice……    _________________________________________________________________

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