By Allan Alach
Another year is ending, which means in New Zealand and Australia, it’s also the end of the school year, and time for teachers and children to have a long summer break away from the trials of teaching and learning. Make the most of the break – it’s the only real chance teachers get to have a ‘normal’ life. I will be taking my own advice and also having a break from sourcing education articles for these reading lists, until the end of January 2017. However I’m not letting you off that easy, so this week’s list is a bit longer than usual.
I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Brain-Based Learning: Pushing Children to Learn Faster—Why?
‘Brain-based learning promotes the idea that children learn faster if they are taught differently. But why push children to learn faster than ever before? Why turn children into adults before they are ready? What’s the purpose?
What right do educators and parents under the spell of indiscriminate brain-based learning hucksters have to destroy childhood?’
CRITICAL THINKING versus CRITICISM: Helping students know the difference
Recent world events suggest critical thinking is a skill that is sadly lacking.
‘Critical thinking is about thinking for yourself rather than accepting, without questioning, the thinking someone else presents to you. Critical thinking identifies and examines underlying assumptions and biases about a concept, a discourse, a work of art or written expression, or some other abstract idea. It involves judgement – your judgement, which is justified with reasons and evidence.’
Why schools should not teach general critical-thinking skills
‘Of course, critical thinking is an essential part of a student’s mental equipment. However, it cannot be detached from context. Teaching students generic ‘thinking skills’ separate from the rest of their curriculum is meaningless and ineffective.’
Play: The Four Letter Word in Primary School
‘Decades of research provides evidence that play is the most valuable and successful way in which children engage in learning. Through play, children can build all the necessary skills and knowledge required of them in readiness for adulthood. Social-learning theory, constructivism, cognitive development theories, socio-emotional theories and physical development theories all uphold the power play has in the holistic development of children.’
What does the post-truth world hold for teachers and educational researchers?
‘I wonder about the correlation between increasing systems of surveillance and control over curriculum and pedagogy and the growing number of high stakes testing regimes, audit and accountability technologies, and the narrative of slipping standards, declining outcomes and an education system in crisis.’
The most important thing schools don’t do
By Marion Brady
‘On my list, one aim is paramount: “Maximize learner ability to make sense.” Not only does it enable every other legitimate aim of educating, it gives schooling its proper focus—maximizing human potential. No one needs to be taught how to make sense—to think. We’re born equipped to do it. The challenge is to do it better, to radically improve what are sometimes called “higher order” thinking skills, particularly those involved in tracing complex causal sequences and anticipating possible unintended consequences of well-intended policies and actions.’
21st century challenges
Let’s face it “21st century skills” are a bit meh! Especially when they have no context.
‘So frequently is this phrase used in the discourse on education today that when uttered it generates involuntary winces amongst those listening. On the education conference circuit “21st century skills” is the certainty on the buzzword bingo card. Never mind that we’re almost at the end of the second decade of a century that is the only one that every child in school has ever known. To be fair, it’s a well-intentioned phrase used by well-intentioned people. I’m sure it’s a phrase that’s passed my lips on more than one occasion even before I saw the foolishness of it.’
My Dream Job Destroyed My Dream: An Unoriginal Statement About Education
A sad story from USA which will ring true to teachers all over.
‘Five years ago, I got my first job as a teacher. My dream job. My dream school. I could not have been happier: life was good. Then, five months ago, despite my passion and idealism, I broke down and accepted that my dream for an education focused on divergent thinking, individuality, and genuine learning was horribly unrealistic, hindered by bureaucratic disconnect and systemic devaluation. It became clear that the job which originally brought me so much excitement, wasn’t at all as I thought. In fact, genuine creation and effective collaboration would be forever secondary to administrative agendas, systemic mandates, and a tireless effort to maintain the status quo.’
How useful are standards in helping teachers’ professional development?
‘Governing texts such as national professional standards and a national curriculum can have the unintended effect of constraining opportunities for teachers to learn about their work. This occurs when they are interpreted in ways that encourage coverage of individual standards. However, I believe, when teachers are supported to engage in authentic, contextually appropriate professional learning that is focused on their learning needs in relation to the learning of their students, they can transform their practice.’
Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:
How to Integrate Growth Mindset Messages Into Every Part of Math Class
‘Catherine Good has experienced stereotype threat herself, although she didn’t know it at the time. She started her academic career in pure math, expecting to get a Ph.D. But somewhere along the way she started to feel like it just wasn’t for her, even though she was doing well in all her classes. Thinking that she’d just chosen the wrong application for her love of math, Good switched to math education, where she first encountered the idea of stereotype threat from a guest psychology speaker.’
Learning Goals… Success Criteria… and Creativity?
‘While I am aware that setting clear standards are important, making sure we communicate our learning goals with students, co-creating success criteria… and that these have been shown to increase student achievement, I can’t help but wonder how often we take away our students’ thinking and decision making when we do this before students have had time to explore their own thoughts first.’
If there’s a magic bullet to fix education outcomes, it starts with equity
Things aren’t good in Australia either.
‘Kids are disengaged, results are declining, school only works for a third of students. And in fortuitous timing, education ministers are meeting this week. With the end of the school education year comes the ritual release of end-of-school exam results. Once again we’ll parade the names of the top 100 schools and marvel at those that seem to do so well.
At the risk of raining on their parade it is all very predictable: two thirds of the top 100 are still there when the schools are ranked by the socio-educational level of the parents. Even the public/private school comparisons are largely spurious: results coming out of schools enrolling similar students don’t vary much between the school sectors.’
From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:
John Dewey – New thinking 1897!
‘John Dewey’s famous declaration concerning education was first published 1897 and is still as pertinent now as it was then. All school communities ought to declare their beliefs about education and then work towards aligning all their teaching to achieving what they believe in. If they do not determine their own destiny someone else will. Having clear beliefs provides both security and the basis of making all choices – or simply saying no as appropriate. The following are excerpts from Dewey’s declaration.’
The corporate takeover of society and education.
‘Since the early 90s society has been reshaped by a neo liberal corporate ideology. An emphasis on private enterprise and self-centred individualism has replaced an earlier concern for collective good of all members of society. As a result of this ideological shift a wider gap has been created between the rich and poor causing a number of social concerns. Schools as part of this shift have been transformed from a community orientation to being part of a competitive cut throat ideology.’
The surprising truth about what motivates us.
‘Daniel Pink’s latest book, ‘A whole New Mind: Drive’, subtitled ‘the surprising truth about what motivates us’, is truly exciting. He writes that for too long school have relied on an extrinsic ‘carrot and stick approach’ (or ‘name and blame’).The three things, he writes, that motivate us all are: autonomy, mastery and purpose. Real learning is achieved when the joy of learning is its own reward.’
Signs of a creative classroom
‘One thing seems obvious to me, after several decades visiting primary classrooms, is that real innovation only comes from creative teachers and not from imposed programmes. Unfortunately, all too often, creative teachers are the last ones to be listened to in this era of school consistency and formulaic ‘best practices’. It seem we are moving towards a standardised approach to learning at the very time when we need to value (and protect) our creative teachers and their creative students.’
For New Zealand readers (but may be of interest elsewhere):
Given the changes in New Zealand politics recently, such as the sudden resignation of prime minister John Key (my pet theory, which I’ve been espousing for many months, is that he timed this to ensure he would get a knighthood before the election next year), as well as a stampede of government ministers for the exit door, here are few articles from a few years back about the government’s national standards based education agenda.
A teacher’s response to National’s ‘Education in Schools’ policy
Those of us who spoke out against national standards (and in some cases losing their careers as a result) in 2010 and 2011 are being proved correct. There is an increasing amount of evidence that is demonstrating that the main outcomes has been harming children’s educational and therefore life opportunities. How immoral is that?
‘I am saddened that this is the direction National want to take with our education system. We have a world-leading curriculum and (as National agree) excellent performance from our top students. However, we also have a long tail of underachievement, primarily from our Maori and Pasifika students and those from poorer backgrounds. Teacher input is only one aspect of learning – it is difficult to learn if you are hungry, tired or worried.’
John Key and Mrs Tolley turn education into a McDonalds – principals will now become managers complying to franchise regulations.
‘Time will show John Key and Mrs Tolley to be the simplistic wreckers they are. In the meantime creative teachers will have to cope by going underground and if the remainder can’t see the problem then they will be seen as complying with the destruction of an education system once held in high esteem by educators (if not politicians and technocrats) around the world.’
National’s ‘brighter future’ doesn’t include the students or their teachers!
‘The current National Government has ignored educators worldwide and opted for an accountants view of education turning students into products and schools into factories so as to give consumers a choice – but what a choice!What many feared has come to pass. Populist political simplicity has won the day!If you repeat a half truth (one in 5 students are failing) without also factoring in the effects of poverty and poor health of unknown in other civilised countries. One fifth of our students live in distressing poverty (that is, of course, 1 in 5).’