Education Readings August 12th

By Allan Alach

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

Writing Junk

‘Mediocre writing starts with the wrong questions, and a focus on a set, proscribed structure and process encourages students to ask the wrong questions. Hammer them with writing templates, and students start to see an essay as a slightly more involved fill in the blank exercise. “I have to have five paragraphs– what can I use to fill up the five paragraph-sized blanks?” “I need three sentences to make a paragraph– what can I use to fill in the the three sentence-shaped empty spaces.” This gets you junk.’

Why We Need to Move Away from SMART Goals and Towards New Forms of Classroom Assessment

Use SMART goals? Maybe you should read this article.

‘We need to align our purpose. We can’t continue to restrict student assessments to a simplified, out-dated system and expect to prepare them for an ever-changing employment environment of complexity and “abundance.”’

Stop asking whether laptops improve learning outcomes

‘Simply having students using laptops for learning is not enough. It is the type of activities that are being used and the depth of learning that occurs that is important. The laptop is simply a window to the learning. If the “view” is poor, the results will be poor. If the view is rich and meaningful, the results will be rich and meaningful.’

What Makes an ‘Extreme Learner’?

‘Cueva-Dabkoski is considered an “Extreme Learner,” a designation applied to just 12 individuals by the Institute for the Future, for her radical and gutsy approach to learning. Extreme Learners are self-directed, wide-ranging in their interests, comfortable with technology, and adept at building communities around their interests.’

Hands-Off Teaching Cultivates Metacognition

‘All that thought goes into a lesson, and still there are students spacing out during class or seeming to fall behind. Working so hard and still not reaching every student can be frustrating. And you have no one to blame but yourself — you’re hogging all the best learning in your classroom.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

When We Listen to Students

‘As you are beginning to think about returning to school, I have a suggestion that can drastically impact your year (and it’s simple): brainstorm questions to ask your students.

The kids right in front of us often have the most useful information within them — information that can help us reach and teach them, help us engage them, and that can help us have a fantastic year together.’

3 Challenges As Hands-On, DIY Culture Moves Into Schools

‘This hands-on, DIY culture of inventors, tinkerers and hackers is inspiring adults and children alike to design and build everything from sailboats and apps to solar cars.And this fall, more of these chaotic workspaces, stocked with glue guns, drills and hammers, will be popping up in schools, too.But the maker movement faces some big hurdles as it pushes into classrooms.’

Using STEAM to reverse teacher-directed mindsets

‘Integrating content isn’t a new idea. Integrating STEAM, on the other hand, can take educators into uncharted territory while they work to master “learning by doing.” Teachers are more apt to teach the way they were taught, which means roughly 80% of teachers typically use a teacher-directed approach while introducing one subject matter at a time.

The first step to reversing a teacher-directed approach is to change this mindset from the top down:’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

The killing of creativity by the technocrats.

‘I have become increasingly concerned about the use of a number of strategies as defined by John Hattie and promulgated by the contracted advisers spreading the word about his ‘best practices’.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.’

An idea whose time has come; schools and teachers working together

‘Principals who can share leadership with their teachers and then with other schools will be seen as the real future leaders. Crowther calls this ‘parallel leadership’ – connecting principals and teachers through mutual respect. Up until now, Hargreaves states, teachers have been marginalised but we all know a school is only as good as its teachers.’

What do good learners do?

What do good students do? Be worth asking your students for their thoughts.

‘Postman and Weingartner in their book ‘Teaching as a Subversive Activity’ gives an excellent outline of a good learner.First, good learners have the confidence in their ability to learn. This does not mean they are not sometimes frustrated and discouraged. They are …..but they have a profound faith that they are capable of solving problems, and if they fail at one problem they are not incapacitated in confronting another.’

 Messages about education.

‘I have been reading an article on the web about the pressures being placed on young children and their teachers in the United States to achieve expectations set by standardized tests. In the process teachers have had to narrow their curriculum to ensure their school does well when results are published. And as well, I guess, they would be worried about their tenure?’

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