Education Readings November 10th

By Allan Alach

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

What every teacher should know about … memory

‘There is a wealth of psychology research that can help teachers to improve how they work with students – but academic studies of this kind aren’t always easy to access, or to translate into the realities of classroom practice. This series seeks to redress that, by taking a selection of studies and making sense of the important information for teachers.’

Walking backwards into the future

Steve Wheeler:

‘When we consider the future we tend to strain our minds to imagine what will come next. And usually we fail miserably. Perhaps instead we should follow the Maori tradition and build our own future on the shoulders of giants. In the case of education and the future of learning we should consider what those who have gone before us have achieved, the lessons they learnt and the trajectory they have set us on.’

Listening, Not Testing, Will Improve Children’s Vocabulary

‘While we may actively teach our children to read, oral language skills (the ability to learn words, form sentences and to communicate abstract ideas) is a defining human characteristic and, of these, it is vocabulary which is the pivotal skill. Children grow up acquiring these skills driven by, in Canadian telly-don Stephen Pinker’s words an “instinct” for language.’

Mouldy cheese and minibeasts: tips for teaching science in primary schools

‘Classroom teachers have a lot of freedom to teach investigative science frequently and creatively, and some do so beautifully. However, in general, there is not enough help for teachers in this area, with just under a third of primary school teachers saying they had no support for science in the past year, and a quarter saying they were concerned they might not be able to answer pupils’ science questions. So what can teachers do to increase the focus on science at primary level?’

Math Class Doesn’t Work. Here’s the Solution

‘Until we change the way we teach math to emphasize learning and exploration, rather than performance, we’ll continue to produce students who describe their math experience as a hamster wheel, or worse, a prison. We’ll continue to produce anxious students who experience fear when they see numbers. The performance culture of mathematics has destroyed a vibrant, essential subject for so many people.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Modern Learning Environments … innovation or disaster?

‘With glass walls, funky furniture and 60 children in a big open plan room where two teachers share the space, education consultants’ will explain the trend in classroom

design as an open, flexible learning environment in which inquiries are shared and interventions are devised collaboratively. Ask some of the men and women at the coal face of the modern learning environment about their experience teaching in buildings like this, and the answer is often less complicated.’

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

‘Learning is about discovering your purpose and passion in life. Schools should provide diverse pathways and opportunities for students to develop and unleash their special abilities and unique talents…not standardize them.’

Change, Beliefs, And The ‘F’ Words

Some advice if you are serious about transforming your school. Here is a summary of the main messages of the latest  uLearn Conference. The new Minister is removing National Standards and lightening the assessment load but if this is all that happens it will be a lost opportunity.

‘The annual uLearn conference is over for another year, and as the new term begins it’s worth taking a little time to reflect on the ‘big ideas’ we came away with — the overarching themes and messages that persisted through the various keynote, spotlight, and workshop presentations. I had the privilege of doing a quick summary at the end of this year’s conference, and want to share that in this blog post as an ‘aide memoire’ for those who are interested. For me, there were three ‘big ideas’ that kept surfacing (four if you count my two “F” words) which are expanded on below:’

How School Leaders Can Attend to the Emotional Side of Change

‘“All of us respond to a change that someone says or does not because of what it is, but in terms of what it means to us,”“Resistance to change is normal and necessary,” Evans said. “If you are part of some big change in your school and you aren’t expecting resistance, there’s something wrong with your plan.” But he also points out that resistance can be overcome when leaders understand its source and empathize with teachers. Evans shared several tips on how to manage change.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

The rebirth of education – a real Renaissance

‘If we want to be recognised as a creative and innovative country, a country at the leading edge of change, then the most important asset we have is the talent and creativity of our citizens. Once such a vision has been defined then schools can follow the lead or better still be seen as leaders.’

Learning to be ‘creatively rebellious’. The importance of the Three Ds: being Different, Disruptive and Deviant.  

(This blog not for traditional school principals!)

‘Organisations that want to develop innovative cultures that enable leaders to be intentionally disruptive and deviant will flourish in the 21stC. And schools should be at the forefront  of developing innovative cultures. Risk adversity and fear of failure gets in the way of embracing disruption and deviance as the basis of developing innovation.’

Joyful Learning

‘Wolk introduces his article by saying, ‘joyful learning can flourish in your school if you give joy a chance’. John Dewey, in 1936, wrote that ‘to what avail if students absorb prescribed amounts of information…. if in the process the individual loses his own soul’. More recently, in 1984, John Goodland in his book ‘A Place called School’ after surveying high schools, wrote that he found an ‘extraordinary sameness’ and that ‘boredom was a disease of endemic proportions, ‘ he asked, ,why are schools not places of joy?’

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