Education Readings May 29th

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!

Hattie’s research: Is wrong Part 4 – a kind of Svengali

NZ educator Kelvin Smythe’s latest posting in his series that deconstructs John Hattie’s ‘research.’

“I predict the Holy Grail label assigned to his research will, given his personality, prove the death of his reputation pushing him on, to ever extreme expressions of arrogance and wrongness. If he claims to live by academia but does not act on it, only great harm will ensue, in the short term, though, that harm has first fallen on schools. As detailed in past postings, with further devastating ones to come, Hattie’s research can be declared rubbish, beyond merit, deep into negative territory. The difficulty in conveying this truth and having it accepted is that his research is so wrong as to be difficult to encompass and for readers to believe.”

Game Based Learning – the suspension of reality

Another article by Steve Wheeler that raises an important issue.

“They are an important part of youth culture and teachers can no longer ignore computer games or believe they are irrelevant to education. They are staring us in the face and won’t go away. Our challenge now is to discover how we can fully harness the power of these kinds of engagement and the potential for new forms of assessment in formalised settings. Each of these possibilities make learning through games playing highly motivational, but beyond this, they also enable learners to explore new ideas, reflect deeply in their actions, and ultimately, they are fun.”

Why we should focus on well-rounded young people – not exceptional grades

“… there needs to be a balancing act between academia and developing essential traits crucial in the real world. They say knowledge is power but what use is knowledge if children haven’t developed their character in a way which allows them to actually use their knowledge successfully?”

When Kids Decide What They Read, They Read More

Really? Who would have thought it?

“This simple intervention allowing students to choose their own books at [the] end of the school year had a significant positive impact. A multifaceted approach is needed to address poor child-literacy rates, but this intervention can be part of the solution.”

Why the attempt to make reading simple? A reply to Learning to Read: Should We Keep Things Simple?

Powerful article by Ken Goodman – a must read.

“There’s no way to make language learning simple. But there is an easy way to help children to learn to read. It is to make the way they found it easy to learn oral language work for them in learning to make sense of written language.  Written language is learned just as oral language is learned- in the process if using it.”

Deficit model in education: a dangerous conceit?

This article by Donald Clark is well worth reading!

“The illusory maths deficit is the leaning tower of PISAs awful legacy, branding education as a failure and wiping out huge swathes of useful knowledge and skills in favour of illusory benefits.”


“If only more people had more certificates, more degrees, more paper qualifications, we’d live in a utopian paradise of massive productivity and wealth. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. As more and more people get bits of paper, those bits of paper become commoditized and worth less.”

The Global Search for Education: The Arts Face to Face

Featuring…… Finland of course…

“First, arts subjects are essential if we think in terms of personal development. The arts are essential tools to increase self-awareness and understanding of your own and other’s experiences; the arts are a means to understanding emotions and the emotional aspects of life; the arts are also essential tools in self-expression.”

Lessons from neuroscience

“Yesterday I had the privilege of meeting Andrew Curran who delivered a two hour session on the brain and the lessons we can learn from neuroscience to inform our practice in the classroom. In this post, I wouldn’t dream of trying to replicate his vast knowledge, but thought I’d share some takeaways that might inform what you do. Please note, I’m not an expert, and this is my interpretation of what he said.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Inquiry in the Classroom: 7 Simple Tools To Get You Started

“Why Use the Inquiry Cycle?

Often used by science professionals to work through problems and research, an inquiry-based approach, or inquiry cycle, is also used in classrooms for scientific and non-scientific topics to encourage students during the learning process. In an inquiry-based approach, teachers help students generate their own appropriate questions and guide the investigation.”

Eudemic: Connecting Education and Technology

Bruce’s comment: Many teachers use the Edutopia(with its focus on project based learning) devised by Star Wars director George Lucas.  Edudemic is another rich resource for schools integrating technology into their classrooms. Edutopia’s focus is on project based learning.

Edutopia: Vision and Mission.

Bruce’s comment: Read about Edutopia’s brilliant vision.

“Our vision is of a new world of learning based on the compelling truth that improving education is the key to the survival of the human race. It’s a world of creativity, inspiration and ambition informed by real-world evidence and experience.”

Are field trips a good way to spend school district funds? Kids say ‘yes’

Bruce’s comment: A school district in California rediscover the value of field trips – will wonders never cease!!!!

“It was not abundantly clear that the trip had been a success. Certainly, no one was excitedly explaining how she’d just had an insight into how sound waves work; nor going on about the properties of simple pulleys; nor plotting the invention of an improved slow-motion camera.”

Sir Ken Robinson’s new book: ‘Creative Schools – Revolutionizing Education from the Ground Up’

In this article Bruce reviews this book and shows how it could be implemented in the classroom.

“A must read for anyone who believes in an education system that aims at developing the gifts and talents of all students. My plea is for creative teachers, particularly those in New Zealand, to share this with as many teachers and schools as they can because the message is so important. If we really believe in giving every student the opportunity to leave formal education with their love of learning intact  and with all their unique gifts and talents identified then we really have no choice.”

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

The killing of creativity by the technocrats.

Not to be outdone by Kelvin, here’s an article Bruce wrote back in 2009, that also casts a skeptical eye over John Hattie.

“John Hattie, professor of education Auckland University, confidante of the present Minister of Education. Is his influence undermining the creativity of our teachers? Kelvin Smythe thinks so and, after visiting a number of classrooms, I have to agree with him. Read Kelvin’s full article on his site.”


“Somehow, just because Hattie has amalgamated every piece of ‘school effectiveness’ research available ( mainly it seems from the USA) his findings, it seems, ought to be taken for read. The opposite ought to be the case – we need to be very wary of such so called ‘meta research.’. More worrying however is that the approaches he is peddling is pushing into the background the home grown innovative creative learning centred philosophy that was once an important element in many classrooms.”

What is this thing called learning?

What is this thing called learning. It seems simple enough. So why do so many ‘learners’ fail at school? Dysfunctional schools or dysfunctional learners?

“Many teachers draw on their experience, common sense, and professional knowledge as the basis for their teaching. What is sometimes missing is a ‘shared language’ of what learning is across a school so teachers can, talk to each other, their student’s parents, and also to hold themselves accountable.”

Children as scientists

“If children are always asking questions then ought not our classrooms help them in their search for answers?

That we haven’t yet created schools based on assisting students research their own questions and concerns just goes to show how much ‘our’ curriculums, what ‘we’ think is important for them to learn, has ignored the source of real motivation for students to learn.”

Fundamentals in education

Maybe it’s time to reflect on what is fundamental in education.

“So what are the fundamentals of learning? It is too simple to fall back on the default mode of literacy and numeracy indispensable as they obviously are. The real basics of learning are: perceiving, thinking, and forming and the tools to make use of these faculties are words, numbers and shapes.”

Education Readings May 22nd

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!

Increasing Student Voice in Local Schools and Districts

An article targeted at high schools, but there’s plenty to stimulate thinking at primary schools.

“Student leadership involvement should take place in every high school district. The failure to do so excludes those most affected by decisions from having a voice in that process. It also deprives school boards of some potentially valuable insights. The arguments against this role for students are weak, frequently founded on an underestimation of student maturity and perception that too often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Why Schools Need to Bring Back Shop Class

Sir Ken Robinson..

“Vocational programs – such as carpentry or welding classes, cosmetology classes or many of the other practical areas of study available in some US high schools and in the vocational schools that dot our cities and suburbs — are seen as second-rate options for people who don’t make the academic cut. As we argue in Creative Schools, this academic/vocational caste system is one of the most corrosive problems in education. It need not be.”

Classroom Practice – 10 commandments of successful innovation

“… teachers are usually willing to give everything a try at least once. This can be a positive attribute. But often, by indulging their inner magpie and hurling as many shiny ideas into the mix as possible, teachers guarantee that none of them will be successful. They will end up juggling multiple and often competing schemes, their ideas will not be well considered nor given enough time to take effect, and their students will be left confused.”

Does tinkering lead to learning?

Annie Murphy Paul’s observations on the maker movement – well worth reading.

“Making is too young a phenomenon to have generated a broad research base to answer this question. The literature that does exist comes from enthusiastic champions of making, rather than disinterested investigators. But there are two well-established lines of research within psychology and cognitive science that can inform how we understand making and help us ensure that making leads to learning. Taken together, these two strands of empirical evidence provide the best guide we presently have for maximizing the learning potential of maker activities.”

11 Ways Finland’s Education System Shows Us that “Less is More”.

Just in case you haven’t read enough about Finland’s education system, here’s another viewpoint.

Currently we believe “more” is the answer to all of our education problems— everything can be solved with MORE classes, longer days, MORE homework, MORE assignments, MORE pressure, MORE content, MORE meetings,  MORE after school tutoring, and of course MORE testing!   All this is doing is creating MORE burnt out teachers, MORE stressed out students and MORE frustration.”

Knowledge For Literacy

This is a technical article, well worth reading.

“The core definition of a word is only a tiny fragment of the meaning that makes it useful in understanding language. Neuroimaging confirms that the full meaning of a familiar word extends broadly through the mind, including associations to every trace that your experience with that word or its concept has left in your memory. For instance, your full knowledge of the word “apple” extends to the traces in your memory of the many apples in your life…”

Why teaching kids to have ‘grit’ isn’t always a good thing

“If you follow fads in education, you probably know that what passes for “character education” in this country is now dominated by the teaching of “grit,” helping students learn how to persevere and stay on task. It is taken for granted that having grit is always a positive thing, but, in the following post, scholar Mike Rose shows that it isn’t always so.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

New Zealand Schools – the Rhetoric and the Reality – and a creative future

Bruce’s latest blog post:

 ‘The current standardised approach’, writes Hood, ‘needs to be replaced by one that focusses on the individual.  Personalised learning is about creating a learning environment that responds to the needs of each individual student and their interests, talents and passions and aspirations’.

‘In an environment where there is clear vision, shared values, high expectation and a culture of challenging traditional ways of doing things, then people will work in a myriad of unplanned , unseen and successful ways; it will be a creative and innovative environment’.

Memorizers are the lowest achievers and other Common Core math surprises

Bruce’s comment: Stop the math memorization The real oil on mathematics. In a recent commentary math educator Jo Boaler writes, “We don’t need students to calculate quickly in math. We need students who can ask good questions, map out pathways, reason about complex solutions, set up models, and communicate in different forms.”

Quick, Draw a Scientist!

Bruce’s comment: What is your class’s image of a scientist? Once you have identified their prior image (stereotype) see if you can modify, or reconstruct, it. A fun activity with some serious learning implications. Consider trying ‘prior drawings’  of students ideas about whatever you are studying, for example what are their prior images of spiders- after learning experiences do another drawing to see if they have changed their minds! A great assessment task.

“Inoculating the perception of a scientist is tantamount to fixing the leaky STEM pipeline. If students don’t think that being a scientist is for them, humanity loses. A diverse workforce is a better, faster, and stronger workforce. Scientists of diverse backgrounds working together are better suited to solve complex problems, can work with greater agility, and can cure diseases that have been overlooked.”

Tech tip: Avoid blurry vision and ‘shiny objects’

Bruce’s comment: Avoid ‘blurry’ visions and ‘shiny objects’. A short but pertinent article that applies to any school.

“If your school (district) doesn’t have a clear vision for what it is and what it needs to be, no matter how “innovative” ideas taken on board are, they will not help to move it forward. Sure, there may be some great discussion and perhaps even some implementation of worthwhile initiatives. But without a vision to clarify and justify the purpose of the initiatives, they all become disparate activities.”

From Bruce’s “goldie oldie” file:

Developing a powerful school vision

This article by Bruce explores a similar theme to the one above.

All schools these days have Visions, Missions and Strategy Plans but all too often few people can articulate them let alone say what they really mean in action. No matter how well they are drawn up if no ones knows what they mean they are not worth the paper they are written on.”

Pavlov’s Dogs – an untold story.

Bruce’s comment: A new twist on Pavlov’s dogs!

“It is a shame that we need dramatic shocks for us to change. It took the carnage and unnecessary slaughter of World War One to develop in the ordinary man a distrust of god given authority – particularly of the old generals who were long past their ‘use by date’”

The artistry of teaching and future learning attributes

Bruce’s comment: And a little more on artistry and the innate desire to learn. There is a:

.‘a lust for knowledge, an ache for understanding is incised in the best of men and woman. As is the calling of the teacher. There is no craft more privileged. To awaken in another human being the powers, dreams beyond one’s own; to induce in others a love for that which one loves; to make of one’s inward present their future; this is the threefold adventure like no other.’

Artistry versus conformity in teaching.

Teacher artistry or deliverer of approved ‘best practices’?

“Teachers need to claim back their professional judgement, or ‘artistry’, and place greater emphasis on ensuring every student develops their innate gifts, talents, individuality and creativity.”

Australia – A testucator’s Paradise.

Australia – A Testucator’s Paradise

Where the ‘Minnesota Malady” flourishes

Since its first introduction to British ways of doing things, Australian schooling has been based on the notion that children attend school to learn how to read, write and calculate; nothing much more. Any other reasons for attending school have been deemed as unimportant and can be done without. That was the purpose of the early governors when they approved of and established schools ….so that the raw communication and trading exchange skills of soldiers’ children, convict and former-convict children could be used more efficiently by the traders. The cashed-up squatters and merchants’ own children needed something more in line with the noble folk in mother England. Now, our maintenance of a class structure remains more British than the British. Grammar Schools offered the model for those who could afford them, and religions wanted to make sure that their children did not lose their faith and could ‘keep up with the Joneses’ at the same time. So, modelled on British Grammar school styles of operating, Australian schooling became a pretty strict class system, based on fear of the birch and of failure. Tests had to be conducted at certain points to see how teachers and pupils were going. Those who were not coping, were ‘left down’ to a lower level or encouraged to depart from schooling. Mindless plutocratic neo-hoods described this as ‘tough love’. It was certainly tough. From Year One, children started to prepare for the HSC and other school graduation devices, invented by states. One didn’t need any variety of teacher competencies to ‘teach/instruct’ in such schools at the time. All children were treated as students who did as they were told. Direct instruction was the only kind.

Post-WW2 educators, strangely enough prompted by war experiences, started to view learning per se from a different perspective. They had found , through catch-as-catch-can modes of organising schooling that children really liked to learn in bomb shelters and the like, with only bricks and mortar for teaching aids. Teachers started to observe HOW children learn and to make the most of this learning desire by establishing caring, happy learning climates within and outside peculiar classrooms that, as raw as the buildings were, became centres of serious learning. They had found, especially in these bomb-ravaged parts of England that children were naturally curious and interested in the world around them, that they wanted to share, to handle things, to explore and to try new things. They learned by doing, observing, imitating and teaching others, with a wide mix of ages all helping each other. For them, learning was an active, individual occupation. No two pupils were the same in teaching/learning requirements. Teachers came to realise that “where the affective domain is secure, the cognitive is inevitable.” [John Settledge] and that children are as thrilled and motivated by achievement as much as they feel disappointed and rejected by failure. They don’t need to be presented with situations [like NAPLAN] that makes them fear any kind of learning enterprise. Achievement had no bounds.

Australia totally ignores Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. Human indignities are piled on young children during NAPLAN time with the full knowledge that self-actualization, self-motivation and high achievement can never by reached under such circumstances. Trevor Cobbold’s recent mega research has clearly demonstrated that NAPLAN is plainly useless for what it thought it might do.

Schools and school designs altered; and Australia, by copying what was learned, became known throughout the world, in the 50-80s period, for the kind of products that emerged from the school system ….thinkers, innovators, amazing scientists and mathematicians, first class entrepreneurs and business leaders who have made enormous contributions to world welfare and advancement. You will know of at least one of these giant Aussie graduates of the period . It is unlikely that we shall ever see their like again…… while NAPLAN is around.

The notions of the Harvard-prone managerialists imbued with peculiar contrary-business models stuffed up everything big-time, starting about 1990. It set the platform for kleinism, the fear-based NAPLAN system’s essential element. As a consequence, the political control of classrooms brought forth a strain of thinking-resistant humans who inhabited positions of importance in schools and boards and authorities, all of whom seemed anxious to deprive the world of ethics, integrity and the yen to think. Scientists at the University of Minnesota have identified the strain within their own profession, especially as it applies to climate-change. “These humans appear to have all the faculties to receive and process information, and yet, somehow, they have developed defences that, for all intent and purposes, have rendered those faculties totally inactive.” More worryingly, as Davis Logsdon, one the the scientists, points out :As facts have multiplied, their defences against those facts have only grown and multiplied.” Refer to Cobbold’s indisputable data.

Learning receptors –eyes, ears, and mouth – have connections to the brain which are unused by the testucating fraternity at NAPLAN time. It could be added that, where all connections from receptors to the brain do exist, but are switched off by fiat or voluntarily, then eichmannism develops.

While he and other Minnesota scientists confess that they do not have a clear understanding of the mechanisms that prevent the fact-resistant humans from absorbing data …..[ the NAPLAN supporters and engineers in our case]…they theorise that the strain may have developed the ability to intercept and discard information en route from the auditory nerve to the brain. “The normal functions of human consciousness have been completely nullified,” Logdon notes.

How this malady has developed so easily down under in Australia is obvious. Our exam-based culture was ripe for manipulation. Learning is regarded as a passive undertaking. It’s what someone else does to you, not what you can do for yourself. We were bred to believe that attendance at school was for passing exams, so we will teach you how to do this. We Aussies have seldom ever, except for the fifties to eighties period, diverted from this cultural hangover of believing that fear based testing is THE dominate mode of teaching because, they think, the stress factorworks. Just as the Gordon Gekkos of this world screamed “Greed is Good!’, so our masters screamed, “Stress is good!” When evidence is presented that learnacy is far more effective than such kleinist practices, the connectors between the receipt of information and the brain close down.

Never before, in my lifetime have I heard some many young families openly state that they are thinking of not sending their children to school at all. And, despite my tendency to be a state primary school protagonist, I now find myself agreeing with them. Never before, in Australian history, have children been denied the right to learn without fear to the maximum in happy, stress-free circumstances at school, even though we have a work-force that can educate children in the true meaning of the word. They aren’t allowed. We have quality teachers who are absolutely controlled by sufferers of the Minnesota Malady. The kind of learning that produces giant thinkers no longer exists. Unschooling and Home Schooling – there is a difference – will be the saviours of many.

We must note:-

  1. NAPLAN, at present costing over over $50million per year, soon to rise to billions was, deliberately, it would seem, not mentioned by any political or media commentators during the recent budget debate. Its uselessness could have been provided as a budget savings. Don’t you find that strange? Is someone manipulating things? Surely folk who have all their receptors well wired to their brain can see this as shameful.
  2. Serious indicators, such as those revealed by Cobbold, that NAPLAN testing has failed to produce any positive results for children’s learning, have been ignored. No professional association, no politician anywhere, no part of the media empire had anything to say about such revelations.
  3. NAPLAN has seriously damaged the desire for teachers to teach creatively. It’s fast becoming just a job. Follow directions.
  4. Now that testucation replaces education, there is little need for teacher education that promotes quality teaching. It must be noted that Mr. Pyne sees teacher education as a way of ensuring that his views of instruction are carried out, having already arranged for millions of dollars to be given for some schools to adopt Direct Instruction.
  5. NAPLAN is in total control of the curriculum for far too many months each year. Nobody seems to have noticed.
    The use of NAPLAN in its present style is a form of child abuse.
  6. Comments exposing the deleterious effects of NAPLAN by notable world educators have been shamefully ignored by the press, politicians and testucators, so much so that it is highly likely that ACARA has already ordered or are ready to order without open discussion, the supply of millions of tabloids at a cost of billions of dollars, to perform the tests quicker and to practice for tests easier, before taking stock of whether the program is actually working now or ever will. Should true believers in kids, capitulate? The forces of evil are big and powerful, control nations and have conditioned a wide group of supporters of procrustian data-miners.
  7. Bill Shorten promised to bring Digital Language Teaching as a subject into a curriculum that is already overwhelmed by NAPLAN and should have to take its place in the queue of endless lobbies that are presently lined up for a piece of school time. Worthy proposal….but… Here’s Minnesota Malady in action. No connection. No discussion with teachers. Something will have to go from the curriculum to make room. What would you suggest? Maths, Social Studies, ESL, Reading, NAPLAN? One doesn’t have to be very bright to understand that it makes common sense to discuss this issue with classroom teachers. If the idea is sound, something has to go. They are the experts. The curriculum is far too over-packed now. Didn’t you know this? Disconnected? Wasteful, useless, damaging NAPLAN, the greatest of all disruptors must be discussed in any case in relations to its control of curriculum matters.
  8. The silence surrounding NAPLAN week, 2015 indicates a level of control from a particular source that has extraordinary power; and further indicates that the good guys, parents and the true believers have no chance, now that the machine age is on order. The big boys have won. No need for open debate.
  9. The installation of tabloids so that the tests can be done with greater speed means the completion of the publishers’ jihad. Murdoch, Pearson and Klein are rubbing their hands rock pushingwarmly together and exchanging big fives. Mission complete. While the cost to Australia is a few billion dollars, Mr. M. has said that it is worth $500billion per year in the U.S. alone to him. That’s big bickies and highlights the fact that the attempts committed educators to rewire the Minnesota Malady sufferers makes the Sisyphus task look like apiece of cake.

If professional organisations such as principals’ groups do not suffer from the Minnesota Malady, they suffer from Eichmannism. As guardians of Australia’s teaching professionalism they seem to be immune to anecdotal and serious research…..and just don’t care. Kids have no advocates anywhere, anymore.

Read The Shrinking of Treehorn again. The Underachieving School by John Holt is also worthy of an hour of your time.

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

Footnote : A clear demonstration of the existence of The Minnesota Malady, is this. Any teacher, worth knowing, is familiar with various tried and tested rules and laws of sociology whose undeniability is as sound as any of the laws of any of the physical sciences. Campbell’s Law, Goodhart’s Law, the Lucas Technique and McNamara’s Fallacy can be applied to social circumstancs with much more reliability than any Testucator’s theories such as the NAPLAN OBSERVANCE which states:-. Testucators’ views of classroom behaviour including learning and diagnosis can be recorded on the back of an old postage stamp in bold type and large font [Hefferan].

Education Readings May 15th

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!

What Happens When Students Boycott a Standardized Test?

“These protests should also serve as a reminder for decision-makers that parents and students are stakeholders in education policy and that community outreach must be part of any reform. Just as third-grade students need to explain why, for example, three-fourths equals six-eighths on the PARCC, education leaders should also answer the “why?” question: Why should students take standardized tests?”

In Australia, a School Designed to Excite and Engage

There are still beacons amongst the gloom…

“From the outside, Wooranna Park, built in 1971, looks boxy and old school. That impression changes as soon as you step inside and see that the original walls and halls have been moved and reconfigured. There’s room here for all kinds of learning — individual, collaborative, hands on, digital. Children and teachers move from space to space throughout the day, depending on the situation or activity.”

The 10 Biggest Breakthroughs in the Science of Learning

“While we still have a long way to go before we truly unravel all the mysteries the brain has to offer, scientists have been making some major breakthroughs that have gone a long way in explaining both how the brain functions and how we use it to organize, recall, and acquire new information. Here, we list just a few of the biggest and most impactful of these breakthroughs that have contributed to our understanding of the science of learning.”

Can reading comprehension be taught?

“Can reading comprehension be taught? In this blog post, I’ll suggest that the most straightforward answer is “no.” Reading comprehension strategies (1) don’t boost comprehension per se; (2) do indirectly help comprehension but; (3) don’t need to be practiced. Let me elaborate on these claims.”

Teaching Reading: No Magic Wand Required 

“Teaching children to read seems to be a mystery to everyone except primary school teachers. Someone recently asked: Is it true that it is not necessarily a teacher’s job to teach children to read? Is our job to give them the skills to make them better readers? Does any teacher have the time to teach all their students to read?”

The knowledge economy is neither

These days we are bombarded with the phrase ‘knowledge economy.’ This article deconstructs that.

“The knowledge economy is about extracting as much goods and services from the people who do the actual work of extracting what we need.”

Education Reformers Are So Gullible

This article is applicable all over.

“The thing voters need to ask themselves is: Who do they believe has the best interests of their child in mind more — the person who interacts with them every day and is part of their local community, or the corporate CEO 500 miles away who answers to an unelected board and investors? Because right now, the only ones really benefiting from the litany of education reform sweeping the nation are the corporations.”

Sir Ken Robinson: ‘The education system is a dangerous myth’

More from Sir Ken’s latest book.

“The issue in a nutshell is this: most developed countries did not have mass systems of public education much before the mid-19th century. These systems were developed to meet the labour needs of the Industrial Revolution and they are organised on the principles of mass production. The standards movement is allegedly focused on making these systems more efficient and accountable. The problem is that these systems are inherently unsuited to the wholly different circumstances of the 21st century.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Most states lacked expertise to improve worst schools

Bruce’s comment: So much for top down school change! After all the money and compliance requirement one third of schools showed no change (on standardised tests I presume) and one third got worse.

“Although turning around the worst schools was a priority for nearly every state, most did not have the staff, technology and expertise to pull those schools out of the bottom rankings, according to a brief released Tuesday by the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Education Department.”

7 Ways to Use Technology With Purpose

“In order to make sure you are using technology the right way, you must first “start with why”. If your students understand the “why” behind your technology use, then the class will have a purpose and technological glitches and issues can be worked through. If they don’t understand the “why” then any small issue could turn into a major problem.”

21 Fun (and Simple) Formative Assessment Tool

“Eyes bugging out when looking at endless lists of formative assessment strategies? Head spinning trying to figure out which one to use? Like a good librarian, we’ve put things in order to help you find what you’re looking for. First, we will define the characteristics of effective formative assessment. Then we will give examples of the quickest no-nonsense (and fun) formative assessment tools.”

Characteristics Of A Culture of Learning

Bruce’s comment: An excellent run through of the elements that contribute to a positive learning culture. How does your school/class stack up?

“Schooling is a system designed to move students from one grade to the next. Once students earn enough high school credits, they are rewarded with a high school diploma. Schooling focuses on teaching, while a Culture of Learning focuses on the whole child and student understanding.”

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Howard Gardner – developing a disciplined mind

Bruce’s comment: Gardner’s ideas of the disciplined mind continues Perkin’s ideas of in depth learning. Gardner calls ‘the disciplined mind’ a mind that knows how to work steadily over time to improve skill and understanding ad writes, ‘Without at least one discipline under his belt, the individual is destined to march to someone else’s tune.’

“Rather than the current diversion of focusing on literacy and numeracy, with its inevitable consequence of narrowing the curriculum, schools should get back to providing Perkin’s ‘threshold experiences’ so as to develop disciplined  minds and the gifts and talents of all their students. With such gifts firmly in place students will be equipped to make a positive contribution to whatever areas of learning/occupation that have attracted their attention.”

Guy Claxton – building learning power.

Bruce’s comment: More on the theme of real learning from Guy Claxton. Both teachers and students need, according to Guy Claxton, to know what habits of mind ( learning muscles) that they need to exercise, stretch and strengthen. These ‘learning power’ capacities need to be part of all learning. They must be a permeate of the culture of the school. ‘Messages’ that learning power is important ought to be obvious to all.

“At centre is the belief that all students can develop their learning power? How do your students see their ability – one one fixed by birth and set for life ( a ‘fixed bucket’) or one that can be continually expanded ( a ‘learning muscle’). The ‘mindset’ a student holds will effect all their future learning – or non learning.”

Advice from David Perkins to make learning whole

“’Play the whole game’ not fragmented bits says David Perkins.The problem Perkins says is there is too much problem solving  teachers problems and not enough problem finding – or figuring out often ‘messy’ open ended investigations.’Playing the whole game’ is the solution resulting in some sort of inquiry or performance. It is not just about content but getting better at things, it requires thinking with what you know to go further, it is about finding explanations and justifications.It involves curiosity, discovery, creativity, and camaraderie. It is not just discovery learning – it needs strong guidance gradually faded back.”

Education Readings May 8th

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!

How to really change education — excerpt from Sir Ken Robinson’s new book

“I’m often asked the same questions: What’s going wrong in education and why? If you could reinvent education, what would it look like? Would you have schools? Would there be different types? What would go on in them? Would everyone have to go, and how old would they have to be? Would there be tests? And if you say I can make a difference in education, where do I begin?”

We’re teaching our kids wrong: Steve Jobs and Bill Gates do not have the answers

“A close look inside the classroom door suggests that in the past 150 years we have come to think, perhaps without realizing it, that the purpose of education is to make money. Though going to school hugely increases a child’s chance of earning a decent wage in adulthood, that fact need not, and should not, define our thinking about what and how children should learn. Decent wages may be a very desirable outcome of attending school. But that doesn’t mean that money should be the goal of education or the measure of its success.”

The myopia boom

This article has ramifications for children during school hours.

“Ian Morgan, a myopia researcher at the Australian National University in Canberra, estimates that children need to spend around three hours per day under light levels of at least 10,000 lux to be protected against myopia. This is about the level experienced by someone under a shady tree, wearing sunglasses, on a bright summer day.”

Learning Modalities

Another rebuttal of the learning styles myth.

“What the research has shown is that when you use all modalities all learners learn better! This is really a boon for teachers, since instead of feeling like you need to test each of your students for their strengths and then designing separate lessons for each type learner, now what you are best off doing is designing lessons that utilize all modalities. The more modalities you use, the more all students will do better.”

Abracadabra! Put The Magic In Teaching

“Let’s use the wonder of creation for children to have magical experiences that may or may not be tied to standards, even for an hour a month? A week? A day? I guarantee my students will always remember having live spiders in the classroom, building a giant peach, and conducting a pumpkin museum. These experiences bring the magic back into learning.”

Stop Penalizing Boys for Not Being Able to Sit Still at School

“In an attempt to get at what actually works for boys in education, Dr. Michael Reichert and Dr. Richard Hawley, in partnership with the International Boys’ School Coalition, launched a study called Teaching Boys: A Global Study of Effective Practices, published in 2009. The study looked at boys in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, in schools of varying size, both private and public, that enroll a wide range of boys of disparate races and income levels.”

Children with ADHD ‘learn better when fidgeting’

Following on…

“The actions of fidgeting children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have frequently been labeled as disruptive in the past, but a new study suggests that they may be essential for these children when it comes to learning at school. Children with ADHD could perform better at school if they are allowed to move, the study suggests. Researchers from the University of Central Florida (UCF) have found that excessive movement characteristic of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) helps children with the condition to retain information and work out complex cognitive tasks.”

Are We Training Our Students to be Robots?

This article isn’t as depressing as the title might suggest; however it does flag issues that need to be considered.

“If you take personalized learning to its logical positive extreme, technology will educate every student as efficiently as possible. This individual-centric agenda is very much rooted in American neoliberalism.

But what if there’s a darker story? What if we’re really training our students to be robots?”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Resources for Developing Questioning Skills in Your Students

Bruce’s comment: Resources for developing questioning skills with your students – aligns well with the NZ Curriculum ideal of ‘students seeking, using and creating their own knowledge.’

“Teachers are always on the lookout for ways to foster great questioning skills. Here are some useful and fun sites, an infographic, and some apps to help you along.”

What is a Performance Task?

Bruce’s comment: It would seem that in the US state and federal politicians introduce all sorts of standardised assessment tests and core standards which have a range of both intended and unintended consequences – narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the tests and, putting it plainly, cheating. With this mind it was refreshing to come across the below blog written by an educationalist Jay McTighe  encouraging performance tasks and, even more so to read, a number of excellent practical examples.

“When used as assessments, performance tasks enable teachers to gauge student understanding and proficiency with complex processes (e.g., research, problem solving, and writing), not just measure discrete knowledge. They are well suited to integrating subject areas and linking content knowledge with the 21st Century Skills such as critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication, and technology use. Moreover, performance-based assessment can also elicit Habits of Mind, such as precision and perseverance.”

5 Great Educational Resources for Modern Classroom

Bruce’s comment: For those involved in technology in the classroom – 5 great educational resources to consider.

“In the digital age, many innovative organizations have branched off into educational initiatives, and their timing couldn’t be better. Recognizing the need for visual literacy, digital citizenship practices, and guided ed-tech implementation, many of these organizations strive to offer our students and teachers versatile tools and the most rewarding experiences possible with them. The following 5 educational resources in this article represent exactly the types of learning environments that are meant for today’s students.”

4 Terrific Blended Learning Projects for Your Students

“There are many benefits of using the blended learning methodology in the classroom, but many teachers lack the experience of using technology to help their students. For these teachers, incorporating blended learning projects into the classroom can be a difficult and frustrating experience. Here are four ideas for easy ways to start implementing blended learning projects into the classroom.”

From Bruce’s “goldie oldie” file:

Fundamentals in education

Ask most people what they would consider fundamental in education and they would probably say ‘the three Rs’ or, in,today’s, speak literacy and numeracy. Certainly this is the view of our current conservatist government. But , like most simplistic answers , if people give the question more thought, more enlightened answers come to mind. Learning to interpret and express ideas about ones experiences is the basis of all learning from the moment one is born.”

Principals suffering from HAS Syndrome?

“Schools now suffer from the label they give to their their students ‘ADD’ – ‘Attention Deficit Disorder’ unable to focus on what is important to them – or, more importantly, what is important to the wider community if we want to develop a sustainable creative country. All too often schools have become inward looking and competitive, turning themselves in to ‘Christmas Tree – look at me schools’ with fancy brochures and doubtful narrow success achievement graphs.”

Are you a risk taker? Either you are or you aren’t. It seems who dares wins. What might this mean for schools?

“In a blame culture people are scared to step outside the norms. So it is only brave organization that takes on the brilliant mavericks and they are wise enough not to want them to fit in. They want them to help them see the world with new eyes. So it seems it is important to develop cultures which makes challenge possible.”

Education Readings May 1st

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!

Hattie’s research: Is wrong Part 3 – meta-meta analysis a monster

The latest instalment in Kelvin Smythe’s deconstruct of john Hattie’s ‘visible learning research’:

“While what follows points out fundamental statistical and mathematical errors in Hattie’s research, I want to emphasise that the central error in Hattie’s research is not in his mathematics and statistics but in his lack of control over the variables. All other errors, such as the mathematical ones that follow, are symptoms. In a bizarre sense, the errors were ‘necessary’ – necessary to cope with the massive lack of control of variables.”

Great teacher = great results? Wrong

“Does that mean that teachers don’t matter? Of course it doesn’t. We need teachers who help children to get the most from their time in school. It does, however, mean that the common assumptions about what schools can achieve are based on a fallacy. Because learning is done by the child, and not by the teacher, and no education system can exceed the desire and capabilities of its children.”

After learning new words, brain sees them as pictures

Implications for the way children are taught to read:

“The visual word form area does not care how the word sounds, just how the letters of the word look together,” he says. “The fact that this kind of learning only happens in one very small part of the brain is a nice example of selective plasticity in the brain.”

Judgement Day: The Double Standard of Teacher Evaluation

‘The plangent perversity of this process is, perhaps, best summed up by Michael Fullan in a recent interview in which he remarked: “A huge apparatus is in place to identify the five to seven percent of teachers who shouldn’t be teaching. One hundred percent of teachers are involved in a superficial system in order to catch five percent. If you reverse that and say you want to catch the 95 percent in the collaborative culture, then you can do appraisal on teachers who are struggling.’

8 Characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset

“Building upon Carol Dweck’s work, I have been looking at the traits of the “Innovator’s Mindset”, which would be summarized as follows:

Belief that abilities, intelligence, and talents are developed leading to the creation of new and better ideas.”

10 very real teacher ailments and diseases

Such as:

Endoftermitis: This disease normally occurs at the end of term but sometimes afflicts teachers at half-term breaks too. Symptoms vary but usually include exhaustion, shattered nerves and a common cold.

Britain should be wary of borrowing education ideas from abroad

Pasi Sahlberg:

“One thing is true. No country should aim to replicate the educational models of others. Finland is no exception. What governments need to get right is the big picture for the educational landscape of their nation. The road to a better education for all our children is not to return to the past but to build schools where curiosity, engagement and talent can be discovered and nurtured. That calls for integrating research-informed international lessons into local needs and capacities.”

Misconceptions about Mindset, Rigor, and Grit

Beware of bandwagons…

“Among the educational ideas that have gained momentum in recent years are the concepts of Mindset, Rigor, and Grit. While all of these ideas may have merit, as with all shiny new objects that attract our attention we need to proceed with caution and think about whether and why these concepts fit into our personal pedagogy. Being willing to implement the hot new thing is admirable, but not if it is done feet first with our eyes closed.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

The Problem With Math Problems: We’re Solving Them Wrong

Bruce’s comment: Confused about maths then is worth a read. Getting ‘stuck’ on a maths problem is real maths – or the essence of problem solving or creativity. Not knowing  drives knowing and not giving up.

“There really ought to be problem solving and imaginative thinking all the way through while kids master the basics. If you’ve never been asked to struggle with open-ended, non-cookbook problems, your command of math will always be shaky and shallow.”

Why on Earth Do We Need Teacher Training? 

“Much of the teacher training I’ve encountered has been fundamentally top-down in approach; follow the example of the trainer (like the mentor educator), and you too can learn how to work in class.  I’d favor a flipped approach, in which educators tried to listen to their learners and reshaped their classroom strategies accordingly.”

Time to create a positive learning epidemic/virus – says Andy Hargreaves

“In education antiquated educational cultures and structures are increasingly being found wanting and becoming part of the problem. And any new change can no longer rely on central educational architects with some master ideology or plan to provide roadmap into the future.”

Shifting Mental Models in Educators

Bruce’s comment: An excellent read – our mental models (often unconscious) determine how we treat students.

‘If we’re intent on transforming classrooms and schools, if we are truly committed to seeing equitable outcomes for children, we’ll need to take a long and hard look at our mental models. This is hard and scary work, because we need to poke around in the beliefs that we hold about education and children and their ability to learn’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Creative Leadership: A Challenge of our Times

Bruce’s comment: Schools need creative leadership – are there any around? If schools are to break out the crushing conformity that has resulted since technocrats and politicians captured the education agenda creative leaders will have to emerge.Creative leadership is the challenge of our times. Can you think of any leaders you know of?

“This means principals being brave enough to take sensible risks so as to help teachers open up possibilities for thinking about things in different ways. This represents a new form of leadership, one that ‘isn’t top down: leading a team in such a way that it’s not dictating and yet still scaffolding and supporting’.”

Bring back the Jesters!

Bruce’s comment: We need modern Jesters to tell us the truth. Time to bring back the role of the jester – the only person in a medieval court to tell the truth.

“Modern boards of directors are a bit like mediaeval courts where no one questions the king or the senior courtiers because they have become far too important to challenge. And as long as they can’t possibly be wrong, they can continue doing the wrong things all the time and never know it.”

The dark side of Literacy and Numeracy

“It would seem heretical to suggest the current obsession with Literacy and Numeracy is limiting the learning of our students. Every classroom you visit is full of the current approaches as introduced by ‘contracted’ advisers following their written scripts; all passing on the John Hattie message of intentional teaching, feedback and the dogma of ‘evidence based teaching’. Not that it isn’t a good message but to restrict it to literacy and numeracy is to limit the potential power to develop students’ talents in equally, or more important, areas. Literacy and numeracy are ‘foundation’ skills. They do not ‘drive’ learning – learning is driven by students’ interests and talents and their deep desire to make sense of their lives.”