Education Readings March 20th

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!


How teachers are taught to discipline a classroom might not be the best way

“Research clearly shows that students learn best in engaging environments that are orderly. However, all children are different; they respond to discipline in different ways. So how do we teach our teachers to manage all types of behaviour?”

Put Working Memory to Work in Learning

“…working memory is a key cognitive skill for students and their teachers. As an educator, you know well how you must to be able to maintain the mental skillfulness and agility to process many variables in everyday teaching practice, such as students’ prior knowledge, the primary purpose and goal of a lesson, sequence of learning activities, time constraints, interruptions throughout the school day, and on and on.”

The Triumvirate of Upheaval in Our Classrooms

“Teachers are being asked to scrap what they know about teaching and children and start from scratch with really bad materials. This means throwing out volumes of craft knowledge that these teacher collectively hold and doing so for no good reason.

Why would you make teachers who are doing amazing work completely change what happens in their classrooms? This is the short answer – tests and money.”

Secret Teacher: don’t let spineless school managers drag you down

“I don’t believe these invertebrates started life without their spines. They were probably born with them and maybe even showed a bit of it in their early careers. Back then they had vision, drive and the desire to make the world of education a better place. They planned lessons, did playground duty and even gritted their teeth through the next tome of paperwork to land on the doorstep from the DfE. Yes, my friends, they were like us. They may have spoken out against the “machine”, railed against it even.”

The 47% Solution: Playing Musical Chairs With Our Children’s Futures

Is this the unspoken intent behind current education policies in USA and elsewhere?

“We are adding one twist to the game of musical chairs we are imagining as our children’s future, where a seat represents a job. Before our young graduates can begin their hunt for a chair, they have to prove they are “college and career ready” by passing a Common Core test. And those tests have been designed so that only about 30% of our students will pass.”

 What neuromyths do you believe in?

“…people do not perform any better in their preferred learning style, rather they perform better in the learning style that best matches the material being taught. People are in fact poor judges of what form of learning will be best for them, in reality often a mixture of learning styles is the best solution…”

Reconnecting Adults With Playful Learning

Following on from previous articles about the importance of play for children and teenagers, here’s one for adults.

“… incorporating playful learning into their trainings with educators is a very practical approach. It has helped them achieve major turnarounds in the quality of education, making the learning process more engaging to help young people pick up the life skills they’ll need to succeed in the classroom and beyond.”

What Makes Great Teaching and the Role of Technology

Hmmm …

“Most teachers have agreed wholeheartedly with its findings, but other teachers and academics have cautioned that reports such as this may be simply propounding strategies for which it is easier to find evidence while eschewing others, which may be equally beneficial to learning, but for which the evidence base is not yet strong enough. Trying to measure the relationship between teaching and learning is notoriously difficult, chiefly because nobody actually knows how learning takes place in the brain.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

#26 – “Without Government Schools, Most People Wouldn’t Get an Education”

Bruce’s comment: An interesting read. I think it comes from a libertarian source but it criticizes the one size fits all American system obsessed with standardised testing and suggests more variety is needed.

“Today’s schools have become standardized, homogenized and regimented. The unhealthy obsession with testing (coming from remote politicians and bureaucrats) drives the incentives of teachers and administrators alike. The result is a perverse factory model governed by one-size-fits-all curricula and five-year plans reminiscent of the failed central planning of now-defunct socialist regimes. Of course, such plans are at odds with local experimentation and innovation.”

What Charter Schools Can Teach Us About Teacher Voice

Bruce’s comment: Interesting!

Charter schools were originally proposed as vehicles to give teachers more leadership opportunities; however, the sector has evolved to focus on empowering management over teachers, and today just 7% of charter schools are unionized. This commentary piece explores what lessons can be drawn from the experiences of charter schools, both positive and negative, and how to run schools and structure the teaching profession to build and retain strong teachers.”

In An Ideal World, How Would You Measure School Quality?

Bruce’s comment: How to measure an ideal school – ideally! A short but insightful read. Few current schools would measure up.

“Together, we the educators can and must be unwavering in our attempts to turn the discussion of school quality back to the Whole Child. Then and only then can we be sure that school quality is being measured by what matters most— how well students’ needs are being met every day. “

6 Awesome Blogs for Project Based Learning

Bruce’s comment: Seems like a set of useful blogs to integrate ICT with project based learning including one of my favourites Edutopia.

“When you feel like you’re too bogged down (we know how busy teachers can be), it’s easy to feel alone in your quest for affording your students the best 21st century learning opportunities. To save you the trouble of searching on Google for websites to help you with implementing project based learning, we’ve listed some of our favorites and what they have offer.”

Creating Innovators – Tony Wagner, Sir Ken Robinson and Kirston Olsen’s plea for change.

Bruce’s comment about this article that he wrote last year: Not so old but a ‘goody’ – Wagner’s book is well worth acquiring if you want a classroom or school facing a future requiring innovative creative thinkers. How to extend the innate curiosity of the very young through passion, play and purpose.

“Wagner identifies patterns that educators could emulate in their classrooms. The innovative individuals all had a childhood that involved creative play and the fostering of deep-seated interests which eventually blossomed into deeper purpose for career and life goals. Play, passion and purpose are the forces that drive such innovators.”

From Bruce’s oldies but goodies file

The Interactive Teaching Model

This is a MUST READ.

Bruce’s comment: My impression is that today’s NZ teachers  do not feature in depth inquiry studies as central to their classroom programme . With the imposition of the Literacy and Numeracy National Standards,  and the time they require, such inquiry topics are limited. The answer is to ‘reframe’ literacy to introduce the appropriate information research skills to allow students to work independently  on inquiry learning. Thirty years ago teachers were making use of the below, all but lost,  excellent NZ research.

“Learners from birth do their best to make sense of any learning situation that attracts their attention but all too often develop misconceptions. At school they ‘learn’ to provide the ‘right’ answers while at the same time still holding on to their hidden personal views. If this process of a mismatch between teacher and students’ knowledge goes unchallenged then students gain, what some call, ‘fragile’ learning.”

30 Years ago – so what has changed?

Bruce’s comment: My teaching philosophy from the mid 70s – and a link to a brilliant letter written by a past student. Nothing much I would change in my beliefs except to make use of modern information technology.

“Education is a means of helping all students achieve their full potential…this includes the development of interests that might lead into personal fulfilment or a career. As well we need to broaden each child’s awareness of their immediate environment and the wider world.The key to any success will be seen in the attitudes of each learner to their own education.”

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