Education Readings July 31st

By Allan Alach

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

Making Learning Visible: Doodling Helps Memories Stick

“The practice also makes student learning visible and provides a valuable formative assessment tool. If a student sketches an interesting side note in the lesson, but misses the big themes, that will show up in her drawing. And when students share their drawings with one another, they have the chance to fill in the gaps in their knowledge, and drawings, while discussing the key ideas. Going over the drawings also solidifies the information for students.”

Divide and Rule

Why are we stuck with politicians who think they are education experts?

“A mark of a successful primary school career is, according to the Conservatives, the ability to do long division. As our privately-educated Education Secretary Nicky Morgan explained, long division is at the heart of giving ‘every child the chance to master the basics and succeed in life,’ something that is a ‘fundamental duty’ of government.”

Secret Teacher: Elizabeth is 12 and homework is stealing her childhood

What are we doing to our children?

“I received a phone call from one of my tutees, Elizabeth, at 10pm one night last week. She was crying, panicking about an end-of-year assessment she was due to take the next day. She apologised for calling so late, but said she needed to run through a topic we’d covered a few weeks back – she knew she wouldn’t be able to fall asleep otherwise. She is 12 years old.”

Education: the Next Corporate Frontier

Wake up people.

“Education has profound implications for the economy, for human wellbeing, and for the future of life on this planet. It is about both what and how we teach children. Do we want private investors and corporations to decide that? If not, then those of us in the new economy and environmental movements need to join our voices to those of the education activists and resist further privatization.”

Noam Chomsky: Bubble Tests Yield Meaningless Rankings

“So you’re giving some kind of a rank, but it’s a rank that’s mostly meaningless, and the very ranking itself is harmful. It’s turning us into individuals who devote our lives to achieving a rank, not to doing things that are valuable and important. It’s highly destructive. This is elementary education, so you are trying to train kids this way, and its very harmful. …”

More on My Beef with the Term “Instructional Leader.”

Another Bill Ferriter article:

“Can I push your thinking for a minute?

I’d like to suggest that learning teams — NOT school principals — should be the primary source of instructional leadership in PLCs.  I’d also like to suggest that using titles like “the instructional leader” to describe the role of the principal in a PLC is incongruous with the core principles of professional learning communities.”

Why the Drive to Prepare Students to ‘Compete Globally’ Entirely Misses the Point

Another hard hitting article by Peter Greene about the USA but which is applicable everywhere else.

“We aren’t losing jobs because we can’t “out-innovate, out-educate or out-build” the rest of the world, but because we don’t have enough people willing to work for far less money in far crappier conditions. (Even if we were, you don’t raise people who can out-innovate anyone by forcing students through a one-size-fits-all, test-driven straightjacket of an education program; even China understands that.)”

Can a quick auditory test predict future reading ability?

This article by Stephen Krashen debunks yet another dubious idea. Reading expert Brian Cambourne’s pithy summary: “Another example of absurd research drawing absurd conclusions resulting in what Ken Goodman calls ‘the pedagogy of the absurd’.”

Beware – we can expect non-educators driving education reform to seize upon this as an another reason to test young children.

“The claim has been made that a short, 30 minute test, can predict future reading success. I argue here that this test “that can look in to a child’s (reading) future” (Turner, 2015) only predicts the child’s performance on measures of phonological awareness and other non-reading tasks, not reading comprehension.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Project-Based Learning vs. Problem-Based Learning vs. X-BL

Project based learning and problem based learning – how different are they?

“The term “project learning” derives from the work of John Dewey and dates back to William Kilpatrick, who first used the term in 1918. At BIE, we see project-based learning as a broad category which, as long as there is an extended “project” at the heart of it, could take several forms.”

Special Topic / “Best Practice”—The Enemy of Better Teaching

‘Research and practical experience suggest that focusing on continual improvement of teaching is more effective than imitating best practices.

The term best practice is widely used in education by practitioners, researchers, politicians, and product advocates. “We believe in using best practices.” “Our teachers need more access to best practices.” “Our product is based on best practices.” These claims sound good, except there’s no consensus on what practices are “best.”’

Methods that Matter: Six Structures for Best Practice Classrooms

And in contrast ‘Teaching Best Practices’ – a readings study guide for an excellent book.

“Methods that Matter argues passionately that teaching does matter and that the methods teachers employ not only affect student achievement but also condition the quality of human relationships in the classroom—and beyond.”

Teaching Best Practices – a book in line with creative teaching in contrast to most current ‘best practice’.

Bruce’s latest blog posting:

“This is, as mentioned, a very practical book based around the world of ‘real’ experts – classrooms teachers who develop their programmes around their students experience and expression. For schools who want to develop personalised authentic teaching this is a book that will help them to develop quality learning that will be hard to criticize.”

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

The learning brain

An oldie, referencing Guy Claxton:

“Although the structure and how the brain works are interesting to learn about what is more important is to consider how we can create the conditions, or the environment, to ensure we develop all the potential that lies within each individual brain. The brain is now seen as a open system that is continually learning, for better or worse, through continual feedback. And, to make teaching challenging, no two brains are alike.”

Do leaders prefer ‘dogs’?

“The dog is usually the first to get lots of affectionate attention. When questioned why, the reply is, ‘the dog is always so happy to see me’, ‘the dog never talks back’.In other words the dog is a ‘suck up’. 

It seems if we aren’t careful we can treat people at work like dogs by rewarding those who heap unthinking admiration upon us. In return people learn to ‘suck up’ to us.”

Too much reliance on ‘experts’ and not enough common sense

Too much reliance on ‘experts’?

“It seems that teachers respect what real people, like themselves, do in classrooms. All too often today’s facilitators are presenting ideas designed by a distant group of ‘experts’ who have long since forgotten the white heat and creative confusion that teaching all too often is. They even imagine teachers would sit down plan how they will teach whatever, and will have time to calmly evaluate it. This is without even considering first, that whatever little bits they are recording, are actually worth the time to do so.”

Together principals can do it

“Principals have been too passive the past decades busying themselves with complying with demands placed on them from those on high. In this process they have become stressed out, not sure what is expected, and this is exacerbated by the Ministry continually adding new requirements.It is time they added their collective voices to the debate and this is easiest done by groups of courageous principals, defining what is important, and sharing it with others. And what they decide ought to focus on the needs of their students and communities and not the whims of politicians.”


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