Education Readings April 3rd

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!


Would you try competency-based education in your class?

“Time is the first element of individualization of learning — or at least it should be. We all have our own ways of processing the information that is thrown at us in formal education. It is foolishness to imagine that all students would take exactly the same time to process things to be learned. This is exactly why I LOVE competency based education: when you are done learning one concept/topic, you can move on.”

There Is No ‘Proper English’: Never mind the grammar scolds. If people say it, it’s the right way to speak.

Interesting article that makes the idea of English ‘standards’ even more unsound.

“The grammatical rules invoked by pedants aren’t real rules of grammar at all. They are, at best, just stylistic conventions: An example would be the use of a double negative (I can’t get no satisfaction). It makes complete grammatical sense, as an intensifier. It’s just a convention that we don’t use double negatives of that form in Standard English.”

The Writing Paradox

“I started looking at the responses of the survey that OUP ran regarding writing in the classroom, the comments from around the world had a similar theme, ‘they don’t even write in their own language’, ‘pace of life is very fast and they don’t have time to write’, ‘writing is a bore’.  This created a curious paradox in my mind.

The written word is becoming more and more important in terms of communication – emails, texts, tweets, Facebook updates, YouTube comments all require writing skills. Yet students don’t see a link between these and what they are doing in class.  So what are the differences?”

Learning in Flocks, Hives and Swarms

In a world of new tools, evolving curriculum expectations and innovative learning strategies, the learning of any single teacher triggers ripple effects that impact the entire learning community. Now more than ever, there is incredible potential for the inspired individual to influence the whole. Using models of group behaviour from the natural world, let’s consider the many ways an individual might participate in and subsequently impact a learning community.”

How to design a primary school where learning has no limits

Interesting article from Cambridge, England.

“Taking inspiration from the book Creating Learning without Limits, based on a Cambridge University project focusing on teaching and learning without ability labelling, Barfield sought to create a school with a strong presence at the centre of its community, and democratic feel within where every voice mattered. The desire to ensure the school had a “heart” led her to the notion of a courtyard, linking the school architecturally to the Cambridge college courts.”

The tip of the iceberg

This article looks at the contrast between public perceptions of teachers, and need for ensuring the best quality teachers work in our classrooms.

“Teaching needs to be seen as a profession not a job so that teachers themselves are responsible for making the best decisions for learning and teaching.

As Finland has demonstrated, minimum academic standards for teaching are just the tip of the iceberg.”

For the Love of Reading: Engaging Students in a Lifelong Pursuit

“Reading will hold little appeal if a student has trouble decoding or has problems with comprehension.

But what if a student is a fluent decoder and generally understands texts that she tackles? What if she just doesn’t often choose to read? What might be done to motivate her, both at school and at home?”

The idea you can put a number against a child’s ability is flawed and dangerous

“This is not about being soft and fluffy. It’s about believing that listening to pupils matters,” she says. “The assumption that you can reliably put a number against what a child is capable of is flawed and dangerous. Potentially, it leads to the individual and the people around them having a very limited set of expectations.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

101 Things I’ve Learned So Far In Teaching

Bruce’s comment: This is a great list to quickly read – what would be your top 10 or 20?

“The title is self-explanatory and the context is fairly clear. Well, actually it probably should’ve been title “101 things I think I think about teaching,” because what I think I think changes almost daily. Here we are nonetheless.”

Fostering Critical Thinking Skills with Online Tools

Bruce’s comment: ICT and thinking skills

“Fostering critical thinking skills is always a challenge in teaching. Educators still honor Bloom’s Taxonomy as the basis of learning. But with that giving way to its revised and updated interpretations, we now have tools that can help in all of the key components of critical thinking skills.”

12 Ways to Teach Critical Thinking Skills

“Here’s a question to critically think about: What exactly are critical thinking skills, anyways? It’s more than just thinking clearly or rationally—it’s about thinking independently.

The idea with critically thinking about something is to formulate your own opinions and draw your own conclusions about it, regardless of outside influence. It’s also about the mental discipline of analysis, and being able to see the connections between ideas.”

Why Creativity Now? A Conversation with Sir Ken Robinson

Bruce’s comment: One more to throw into the mix – an interview with Sir Ken Robinson.

‘But creativity isn’t just about coming up with new ideas; some ideas might be completely crazy and impractical. So an essential bit of every creative process is evaluation. If you’re working on a mathematical problem, you’re constantly evaluating it, thinking, “Does that feel right?” If you’re composing a piece on the piano, part of you is listening to what you’re doing and thinking, “Does that work? Is that going in a good direction?”’

 Why Arts Education Is Crucial, and Who’s Doing It Best

Bruce’s comment: The importance of the arts as ‘basic’ to school achievement.

‘”Art does not solve problems, but makes us aware of their existence,” sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz has said. Arts education, on the other hand, does solve problems. Years of research show that it’s closely linked to almost everything that we as a nation say we want for our children and demand from our schools: academic achievement, social and emotional development, civic engagement, and equitable opportunity.’

Nine Dangerous Things You Were Taught In School

And now for something different …

“5. There is a very clear, single path to success.
It’s called college. Everyone can join the top 1% if they do well enough in school and ignore the basic math problem inherent in that idea.”

From Bruce’s oldies but goodies file

Guy Claxton – building learning power.

Bruce’s comment: Guy Claxton, well known to many NZ teachers, provides good advice to engage learners- to help them see ‘the point of school’ ( the title of his excellent book)

“I agreed with Guy Claxton when he said that much of what is seen in many classes makes little impact: thinking styles -we all have our own style; de Bono’s hats – more displayed than used; and mind maps – poorly used. Not that, he said, they all can’t be useful. And all that drinking of water! With much isolated thinking skill teaching their is little evidence of transfer into new situations. Teachers have to help their students develop this facility in new situations; use it or lose it.”

Power through reading!

Bruce’s comment: Literacy is all too often these days is reduced to measuring achievement levels and arguments about the place of such things as phonics when really it is all about empowering learners. It is as much a political act as it is an educational one – in reality it ought to be one and the same thing. Dictators know about the power of reading – that’s why the first thing they do is burn books and hunt down alternative thinkers. Creative teachers see reading as a means to an end – ensuring all students see themselves as meaning hunters.

“In New Zealand, one such pioneer, was Sylvia Ashton Warner who developed her ideas in the 50s. Thankfully there are still some creative teachers who still utilize aspects of her ideas. She called her approach ‘Key Vocabulary’ and started her students reading and writing with words from their own experiences. She saw her young students as having a mind ‘inhabited by instincts; wants, fears, desires and loves, hates and happiness.”

Are you a creative thinker?

Bruce’s comment: Recently I attended a stimulating presentation in my home town by a visiting lecturer whose thesis was the value of the integration of the arts and the sciences. This ‘old’ blog reflected his ideas. Prof Bruce  Sheridan   ( born in our own province) is now the Director of the biggest media centre in the US ( Chicago). His studies showed that brain research shows integration , creativity, making, play and collaboration are vital to develop modern thinkers. That schools do not feature such things is a real concern – they unintentionally mis-educate. More about his ideas to come.

“Schools ought to be about fostering creativity of all students rather than focusing on academic achievement. If they were to foster creativity they would value their students curiosity, passions and talents and to assist them push the boundaries of their own personal discoveries.”


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