Education Readings September 4th

By Allan Alach

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

I know what I like

Here’s your new word for the week: heutagogy.

‘We live in a rapidly changing world that requires people to have the ability to adapt much more quickly than in previous times, where events moved much more slowly. Education is not immune from these changes even though it is an inherently conservative system. In the face of significant innovation in educational practice and as espoused in self-determined learning (heutagogy) and other perspectives, there are new skills to adopted by learners and learning leaders alike.’

Learning spaces: The subconscious teacher

“The spaces we inhabit have a profound effect on how we inhabit them. Space induces a particular way of feeling, of being. What are we saying to our children with we line them up in 5×8 rows facing the same direction toward a voice of authority? What do we say about desks that lock us in place, where the majority of movement within our gaze is eyes forward, eyes down?”

“Sit Still and Face Forward”: How the Myth of Teacher Control Undermines Classroom Management

Good article on that essential teacher attribute – helping children manage their behaviour.

“Because teachers are responsible for the behavior in their classrooms, we fall into the trap of believing that they (we) can control the behavior in their (our) classrooms. The reality is that no human being can control the behavior of any other human being. We can attempt to influence it, certainly. Offers of rewards or threat of punishment might influence people’s choices, as do respect, trust, and good relationships. But even young children are still able to make choices about their behavior.”

The Common Core Can’t Speed Up Child Development

This article is about the USA; however it’s transferable to all countries using a standards based education system.

“Educational attainment is part of human development, and fundamentally this is 

a biological process that cannot be sped up. We cannot wish away our biological limitations because we find them inconvenient. Children will learn crawling, walking, listening, talking and toilet training, all in succession at developmentally appropriate ages. 

Once in school, for skills that require performing a physical task, that are in what 

Bloom’s Taxonomy classifies as the “psychomotor domain,” it is understood that 

children will only learn when they are physically and developmentally ready.”

The “Mindset” Mindset

This is a must read – Alfie Kohn’s observations on Carol Dweck’s ‘growth mindset.”

“Even when a growth mindset doesn’t make things worse, it can help only so much if students have been led — by things like grades, tests, and, worst of all, competition — to become more focused on achievement than on the learning itself. Training them to think about effort more than ability does nothing to address the fact, confirmed by several educational psychologists, that too much emphasis on performance undermines intellectual engagement. Just as with praise, betting everything on a shift from ability to effort may miss what matters most.”

No Clarity Around Growth Mindset…Yet

Following on.

“So – is growth mindset the one concept in psychology which throws up gigantic effect sizes and always works? Or did Carol Dweck really, honest-to-goodness, make a pact with the Devil in which she offered her eternal soul in exchange for spectacular study results?

I don’t know. But here are a few things that predispose me towards the latter explanation. A warning – I am way out of my league here and post this only hoping it will spark further discussion.”

Affirmative Testing Blog: What Students Do With Feedback

On the other hand, here’s Annie Murphy Paul’s observations on growth mindset.

“A passing acquaintance with the notion of mindset—though an excellent start—doesn’t fully convey the richness of Dweck’s idea, however. The influence of mindset shows up in students’ thinking and behavior in so many ways, one of which I want to focus on today. That is the effect of mindset on how students handle feedback.”

Sugata Mitra and the Hole in the Research

Some weeks back Mitra published research which showed that children, using the internet, could teach themselves at a level several years above their ages.

Well, not quite …

“You’ll forgive me for not being particularly impressed by hand-picked students taking part in a test where they’re made to feel special, given a thin slice of a syllabus to work on, and then tested for that exact piece of syllabus…and then scaling up that work into a magic GCSE grade. Give me a page of quantum physics to memorise, then ask me about it. Can I have a PhD?”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Start the School Year by “Awakening Your Dreamers”

Something to start the year but good for any time – awakening student dreams

“When your students return to the classroom this fall, how many will bring along the interests, talents, and dreams that inspired or delighted them over the summer months? Will they see any connection between school assignments and their own passions?”

Kids Speak Out on Student Engagement

‘A while back, I was asked, “What engages students?” Sure, I could respond, sharing anecdotes about what I believed to be engaging, but I thought it would be so much better to lob that question to my own eighth graders. The responses I received from all 220 of them seemed to fall under 10 categories, representing reoccurring themes that appeared again and again. So, from the mouths of babes, here are my students’ answers to the question: “What engages students?”’

Growth Mindset: How to Normalize Mistake Making and Struggle in Class

Is there anyone out there who hasn’t heard of Carol Dweck and the idea of ‘mindsets’?

“Carol Dweck’s research on growth mindset has become essential knowledge in education circles. The Stanford psychologist found that children who understand that their brains are malleable and can change when working through challenging problems can do better in school.”

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Developing real literacy: Margaret Mahy

“Margaret Mahy, one of New Zealand’s most accomplished children’s writers says we are not changed by experiences as common wisdom has it. What changes us are the stories we tell about our experiences. ‘Unless we have formed our lives into story, structured it with words, we can’t contemplate the meaning of our lived experience’ This is done by turning the raw material of our life into stories, and in the process, ‘it can be creatively transformed and given meaning’.”

Developing natural learners

Natural born learners – before the word the experience . Have we forgotten this in our schools?

“Literacy is built out of, and from, the emotional or felt experiences children have as they play and explore their environments – preferably in the company of others and, even better, a perceptive adult.This understanding was the basis for the language arts experience that was as once such a feature of New Zealand Primary schools. The idea that early literacy should arise from children’s own thoughts from exploring their environment (and their own personal life experiences) was developed early in New Zealand.”

Tomorrows Schools had their day?

“Good people poor system’ it was said when the Labour Government introduced ‘Tomorrows Schools’ in the mid eighties. These changes were part of the transformation of the New Zealand’s economy under an ideology that came to be known as ‘Market Forces’.School changes were ‘sold’ to the public as a means to develop greater community democratic control and authority over schools. In reality there was no real dissatisfaction or desire to change things at the time. It was later to be seen as part of the above ideology; all about the advantages of efficiency and competition.”

Don’t touch the bananas!!!!

The power of culture – learning not to touch the bananas!

“It is always amazing to see how exposure to an environment, or culture, can change how we think without us even knowing – I guess this is called conditioning. New ideas always rely on those individuals who can see reality without the blinkers.”


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