Education Readings March 26th

By Allan Alach

You’ve probably noticed that I’m posting this one day earlier than usual, as I will be out of internet access for the next few days.

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

This week’s homework!


The battle for education

Interesting article by Steve Wheeler examining the differences between education philosophies derived from Socrates and Aristotle. Readers of Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance may notice familiar themes.

“A battle of words and ideals is raging about which is the most effective, and indeed, the most appropriate approach to adopt for the needs of today’s society.”

Battle lines

Steve Wheeler’s follow up to the above article.

“I have visited schools that are fully traditional in their approach and I have also been to schools where the ethos is wholly progressive. The differences are stark. Individual teachers do have a choice to determine their approach in the classroom, but realistically, these choices are limited, particularly if they are expected to tow the party line of their leadership. One of the most marked distinctions between traditional and progressive approaches – and a battle line that will play increasing importance as the debate continues – concerns the role of the teacher.”

The tower of PISA is badly leaning. An argument for why it should be saved.

Pasi Salhberg:

“Just think for a moment what would global education look like if PISA had never been launched? There would be, as there was in the 1990s, a number of countries that mistakenly believed their education systems are the best in the world and should set the direction for other nations. Were it not for the fact that these weaker performing countries that include the United States and England have not been successful in PISA, the worldwide pressures for more market competition between schools, less university-based training for teachers, and more standardization of the curriculum, would have had a far easier ride.”

6 Myths Of Digital Technology

For the record I’m a keen proponent of educational technology; however we need to be mindful of the cliche, that a teacher who can be replaced by technology should be replaced.

“… it is clear technology alone does not make a difference to learning. Rather, how well the technology is used to support teaching and learning is the key determinant of its impact. There is no doubt that technology engages and motivates young people. However, this benefit is only an advantage for learning if the activity is effectively aligned with clear learning objectives.”

5 Reasons standardized testing won’t slow down

“While we subject our offspring to endless measurement, what is really being tested? It’s our values as parents—the kind of kids we want to raise and the kind of society we want to have. The testing obsession is damaging our children. But our society is locked into a testing arms race.

The parents who have the most time, energy, and resources are afraid to stop playing the testing game for fear their children will be left behind. ”

Challenging the Cold War Pedagogy of Common Core

This article discusses the situation in the USA; however perceptive readers will be able to link this to their own country.

“Common Core’s creators seems hyper-focused on measurement outcomes, while showing a lack of willingness to listen to and collaborate with education professionals who point out the flaws in this approach. For them, test scores are all that matter and charters schools are the solution to all our problems.”

Robert Putnam: When Did Poor Kids Stop Being ‘Our Kids’?

“If it takes a village to raise a child, the prognosis for America’s children isn’t good: In recent years, villages all over America, rich and poor, have deteriorated as we’ve shirked collective responsibility for our kids.”

Teachers overworked and undervalued but still dedicated to education, survey suggests

This is from England but I suspect the findings would apply in many countries.

“One teacher wrote: “I am happy to work hard, but the current level of scrutiny in my school makes it impossible to make professional judgements about the best way to do things, which is extremely stressful. I have been happiest at times when I have had some control over my workload.””

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

How Do Digital Portfolios Help Students?

Bruce’s comment: I have always liked the idea of students keeping evidence of their achievements in a folder, file, in their study books or a portfolio..  the idea of extending this digital portfolios is an obvious modern extension.

“It means students can save their work in the form of a web page, CD or disk. Kids respond better when they’re able to share their work because they have a valid audience and it does not go onto the pile on the teachers’ desk. Kids today can create and share their work with the world through digital portfolios; they have an authentic audience who will not only read it, but also care about it.”

16 Ways Your Brain Is Sabotaging Your Effort To Learn

Bruce’s comment: Another article useful for staff to read one and share with others. Read how your brain can sabotage learning – and some antidotes .

“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. Psychologists have already done the hard work of realising there’s any hijacking going on at all; what’s left for us to do is pay attention.”

Six Things We Learned At South By Southwest EDU

Bruce’s comment: Flick thru this – implications for the future?

“Student data and privacy will only grow as a bone of contention.

The capture and use of student data from prekindergarten through college is increasing with the adoption of software platforms where every homework problem a student does can be recorded in bits and bytes.

The flipside of the power of analytics and prediction is concerns about privacy. Who owns this data? Who should have access to it? What can be done with it?”

Chinese teachers bring the art of maths to English schools

Bruce’s comment: Well worth a read. UK politicians  are introducing a ‘Chinese’ approach to maths. Not as an art but as training. I like the Chinese ( Asian ?) idea of a belief  that all can learn maths, that they don’t believe in ability grouping  and that they do fewer things well but as for the rest! You read and make up your own mind. Ironically  the Chinese are looking towards the West to develop more creativity in their education system.

Why are we blindly following the Chinese approach to teaching maths?

Bruce’s comment: And for a contrary point of view – and mine as well.

“A one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to improve children’s learning. Worse still, it undermines more important features of our culture and heritage, where we punch above our weight in creativity and celebrate originality and difference rather than uniformity.”

From Bruce’s oldies but goodies file:

Learning styles

Bruce’s comment: I have my concerns about learning style ideas but by the use of focussed group work the various personal preferences can be catered for. Group work is used successfully in reading programmes but, in my opinion (and considerable research) less successful because of the destructive use of ability grouping.

“In traditional teaching teachers presented their ideas to the whole class… Today, with an appreciation of the diversity of student learning styles, the idea of multiple intelligences, the modern emphasis on active learning, and the need for all students to gain success, such a simplistic pedagogy will no longer do.”

Teachers as artists.

Bruce’s comment: A real oldie but ain’t it the truth!! Creative teachers a lost resource.

“Isn’t it time that people in power realized that the real insights about teaching comes from the work of ‘master’ teachers. That teaching is more about the artistry and the craft of teaching, than following any prescribed approach.The trouble is these days no one is even bothering to look for such teachers – and of course they are liable to be outsiders, mavericks and idiosyncratic. The very traits those who like to control things hate, but paradoxically, the very same traits required for progress in any field of endeavour.”


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