Education Readings August 14th

By Allan Alach

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

Choice Stifles Learning for Educators

“What is it about a mandated, contractually obligated, professional development conference that inspires some teachers and completely turns off many others? Why do some teachers glow with excitement at conferences and many others complain as they go through the motions? Is it the conference itself, or the attitude of the educators attending, or a combination of both?”

‘Nothing you learn at university has any relevance in a classroom’

This article doesn’t reflect the title….

“But teacher education in Australia has become a zombie discipline. Its brains are being eaten by ‘experts’ that hold no proficiency in teaching and learning, but are offering a view because they attended school at some point. These ‘experts’ are instructing universities – holders of self accrediting authority – about the necessity to return to the ‘basics.’”

Why Dyslexia Is No Bar To F1 Champions

This isn’t strictly educational but then again it shows how people can succeed at the highest level in spite of their reading disability.

“Vancouver neurotherapist Mari Swingle insisted there’s scientific basis for Stewart’s theory, saying that dyslexics’ brains have an affinity for things like racing.

“There’s a different form of spacial perception that dyslexics have, so it’s almost fundamentally what hurts them in their learning to read actually helps them on courses and tracks,” said Swingle.”

7 things that doodling does for you that will probably make you want to start doodling again

Seems we should allow to doodle in class… can you cope with that?

“Shelley Paul and Jill Gough, two learning design educators, have taken the call to doodle into their classrooms. Armed with research and some colored pencils, they’ve come out with some hands-on experience that really illustrates why doodling is the jam.

So here are seven things doodling can do for you.”

Too much too soon? What should we be teaching four-year-olds

Young children with oral language deficiencies are becoming a very common problem in New Zealand schools and this article suggests that the first schooling experiences should focus heavily on redressing this.

“We need to develop children’s oral language skills early and leave formal classroom instruction until children have the foundation skills they need to achieve. This should raise the attainments, and esteem, of all children.”

Climbing a tree can improve cognitive skills, researchers say

Get children outside as much as possible!

“The study, led by Drs. Ross Alloway, a research associate, and Tracy Alloway, an associate professor, is the first to show that proprioceptively dynamic activities, like climbing a tree, done over a short period of time have dramatic working memory benefits. Working Memory, the active processing of information, is linked to performance in a wide variety of contexts from grades to sports.”

Signing off: Finnish schools phase out handwriting classes

I’m in two minds about this. I can see the logic but then again there’s evidence to support the value of handwriting to children’s learning.

“While purists mourn the loss of personality and the “human touch”, some neuroscientists stress the importance of cursive handwriting for improving brain development, motor skills, self-control and even dyslexia. French education officials took heed of these findings and reintroduced cursive writing classes in 2000 after a brief hiatus but in Finland, there’s been little response to the proposed scrapping.”

How the Arts Prepare for a Life’s Work in any Discipline

“Here is an outstanding keynote by Dr. Root-Bernstein, who after researching over 200 biographies of outstanding scientists found a correlation between their sustained art and craft avocations to their achievement in other disciplines, especially the sciences.  His talk begins with a quick display of childrens’ art which quickly reveals a playful and powerful connection to some great minds.  In other words, this is not a passive Art Appreciation class here, folks, but a case for active and continuous making, doing, tinkering (especially in high school).”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Seeing Struggling Math Learners as ‘Sense Makers,’ Not ‘Mistake Makers’

I recommend you all read this.

“Teachers and schools that are capable of creating real-world, contextualized, project-based learning activities in every other area of school often struggle to do the same for mathematics, even as prospective employers and universities put more emphasis on its importance. This struggle may come from a fundamental misunderstanding about the discipline and how it should be taught.”

New Zealand’s all but forgotten science research about valuing the both the views students hold and the process of learning to clarify their thinking – The Learning in Science Project. 

“Science teaching in primary classrooms cannot be ignored or forgotten. Primary schools need to provide worthwhile challenges to stimulate and challenge children’s’ present ideas as well as providing  opportunities to ‘learn how to learn’. Primary science, above all else, needs to encourage children to take an interest in their environment and their own learning, explore ideas, and seek and develop understandings about their world.”

My Longstanding Beef With Instructional Leaders

Principals as instructional leaders – yeah right!

Two articles by Bill Ferriter:

“But the truth is that despite working for some remarkable principals over the past 22 years, I’ve never turned to them for help with my instruction — and they never volunteered any instructional strategies that challenged my practice in a positive way.  Instead, I have always turned to my peers for that kind of professional challenge because I know that my peers are wrestling with instruction on a daily basis.  The expertise that I need to change my teaching rests in the hearts and minds of other practitioners — not my principals.”

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

The Geranium on the Window Sill Just Died…

The Geranium on the Windowsill just died but Teacher you went straight on.

A book to encourage teachers to listen to the variety of voices of their students and reminded them of what it was like ‘to be small, penned up, bossed around’; and for students retain a sense of resiliency and joy during the time they are at school.”

Schools – so last Century

Schools so last century – still…

“At the end of the nineteenth century schools were developed to meet the needs of an industrial age to transfer knowledge to often reluctant students and, in many ways, they have changed little since those beginnings. In contrast almost every other aspect of our lives has been changed through technological advances. Roland Barth, from the Harvard Leadership Centre has written, ‘many of our schools seem en-route to becoming a hybrid of a nineteenth century factory, a twentieth century minimum security penal colony and a twenty-first century Education Testing Service.”

Whose learning is it?

“Without meaning to many teachers not only diminish their student’s authentic sense of self but miss out in inspiration to develop engaging personalized programmes. As DH Lawrence wrote, ‘you have to know yourself to be yourself’. At school students learn to fit into a world designed by teachers and not all students will thrive in such an artificial environment.”

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