Education Readings July 10th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

This week’s homework!

What Started Treehorn?

This article by former Queensland Director of Primary Education Phil Cullen should be a must read for all primary teachers all over.

“Justice for kids is  not on anyone’s  agenda. “We ‘Care For Kids’” is expressed more often with tongue in cheek.  Expressions about children’s learning has been replaced by plenty of talk about about test results;  and it hurts as  you wonder if the kind of former great people who once ran our schools, have been replaced by others, who, wonderful people though they are, seem to have lost the plot and now work hard for a sad purpose.  It hurts because one believes in the enormous dignity and importance of primary schooling and there are now too many operatives who don’t seem to care.”

http://bit.ly/1KCsOI0

Over-focus on exams causing mental health problems and self-harm among pupils, study finds

Contributed by Phil Cullen:

‘“Parents confide that the children cry at the thought of coming to school and are often exhausted due to the stress of learning,” one anonymous primary school teacher who took part in a survey said.’

http://ind.pn/1II2sTs

Why Math?

“Why math? Why math class? Because math class can be the place where students discuss the most important and thought-provoking questions that face us as a species.”

http://bit.ly/1H89srr

Discursive or recursive? The fractal nature of education

Thought provoking article by Steve Wheeler:

“… much of our education systems are fractal in nature. Education is delivered recursively, where students are required to reproduce knowledge that is already known. It’s a safe approach to education, and learning can be easily measured. Those that become teachers continue this tradition, teaching their own students the same knowledge, in more or less the same style they were themselves taught. Assessment of learning also has fractal features. Standardised testing is based on reproducing knowledge.”

http://bit.ly/1GP8ZsX

National curriculum is damaging children’s creative writing, say authors

This is an inevitable outcome of teaching by standards; equating to paint by numbers “art.”

‘If you look at the national curriculum descriptions, they are picking up on something that happens to children’s writing as it develops – vocabulary becomes more complex, and sentence structure becomes more complex, so in that sense there is nothing necessarily wrong with what they’re saying. The problem comes when you try to turn that into a marking scheme, which says you get more marks for an unusual word than a usual word, or a sentence with a subclause rather than one without.”’

http://bit.ly/1TVE7h9

Are primary schools teaching un-creative writing?

On the same theme:

“The very essence of writing is that it is an expressive and personal outlet, so should we really be limiting it at all? Some argue that a child’s creativity is stimulated by the exploration of advanced vocabulary, but there really is a difference in being allowed to delve into the world of fancy words, and being forced to use them.”

http://bit.ly/1HEgsg5

The Trouble with Rubrics

Alfie Kohn:

“My growing doubts about rubrics in particular were prompted by the assumptions on which this technique rested and also the criteria by which they (and assessment itself) were typically judged.  These doubts were stoked not only by murmurs of dissent I heard from thoughtful educators but by the case made for this technique by its enthusiastic proponents.  For example, I read in one article that “rubrics make assessing student work quick and efficient, and they help teachers to justify to parents and others the grades that they assign to students.” To which the only appropriate response is: Uh-oh.”

http://bit.ly/1HoW58p

Lessons that Matter: What should we learn from Asia’s school systems?

Yong Zhao:

“The lessons from Asian education systems do not relate to what helped them achieve their high scores on international comparative tests, but to the efforts they have engaged in over the past few decades to transform their educational practices. These efforts are often mistaken for policies and practices designed to produce the high academic performances indicated by international tests, while in reality they are intended to create a different kind of education, an education deemed necessary for cultivating citizens in the twenty-first century.”

http://bit.ly/1TCvpEq

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Old school or new? Math teachers debate best methods as Canadian scores fall

Old way or new way?If maths scores are falling what’s the answer?

“Don’t get math teachers started on best teaching practices.The discussions are emotional, heated and they don’t agree on much – except that Canadian kids are falling behind their peers in other countries, and there’s no clear solution.There are generally two camps: those in favour of the old-school method to lecture kids with a “drill-and-kill” format that preaches practice, and another, ever-growing group that believes a more creative approach is needed to engage students.” 

Which approach develops positive attitudes towards maths?

http://bit.ly/1dL3CjV

The Stereotypes That Distort How Americans Teach and Learn Math

If there is one subject badly taught it is maths!!! Jo Boaler – teaching maths in an active way is the answer

“I have spent years conducting research on students who study mathematics through different teaching approaches—in England and in the U.S.  All of my research studies have shown that when mathematics is opened up and broader math is taught—math that includes problem solving, reasoning, representing ideas in multiple forms, and question asking—students perform at higher levels.”

http://theatln.tc/1gmSQ5u

100 Percent Is Overrated

Making mistakes in maths in style – growth mindsets count! More from Jo Boaler.

“Boaler notes that at least a small part of the forebrain called the thalamus can appreciably grow after periods of the sort of cognitive stimulation involved in mistake-making. What matters for improving performance is that a person is challenged, which requires a mindset that is receptive to being challenged—if not actively seeking out challenge and failure. And that may be the most important thing a teacher can impart.”

http://theatln.tc/1IIfLTG

What Do We Do When Students Don’t Like School

“How do we respond to students who don’t want to come to school?  I’ve seen many different responses to such a question.  “It’s the parents’ fault,” “The child just doesn’t want to learn,” “There is a personality conflict with the teacher,” “Kids in the class are mean”.    Excuses don’t help the child want to come back to school.  In fact, it makes it harder.  Instead we should think of what we are currently doing that is not working.”

http://bit.ly/1IIgggO

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Putting the heart back into teaching

“Learning is about relationships. Relationships with content and with people who help us acquire it. It is about having mind changing experiences that tap into our desire to make meaning and express what we know.To be attracted to an area of learning relates to what attracts our attention and whether or not we want to put in the energy in to learn more. Curiosity is at the basis of all learning.”

http://bit.ly/1JT6S8O

Learning styles

A common sense approach:

“Developing a ‘personalised learning’ approach, tailoring learning to the needs of each students ( as against the ‘one size fits all’), is not as easy as it sounds. In the real world, outside of school, people make use of whatever ways of learning that do the job. For many such people academic school learning is of little use to them.  It does seem their are four learning styles available for teachers to make use of in their classrooms to cater for all students.”

http://bit.ly/1GgidNa

The killing of creativity by the technocrats.

The killing of creativity by John Hattie and similar educational technocrats and accountants.

“Just because John Hattie has amalgamated every piece of ‘school effectiveness’ research available ( mainly it seems from the USA) his findings seems 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.”

http://bit.ly/WeTrMo

Time for some heresy?

A need for some heretical thoughts in education

If we want to develop 21st C education systems then we will have no choice but to re-imagine education dramatically. We need to implement some heretical alternative thoughts to transform current systems with their genesis in an industrial age an age well past its use by date. Strangely enough none of the idea being considered are new it is just that few school have put them all together. School are inherently conservative and some schools seem impervious to change. Those that transform themselves will be leading the way; the others will remain, like dinosaurs, relics of past thinking. Increasingly students, with access to powerful information technology will simply bi-pass schools that do not have the capability to transform themselves.”

http://bit.ly/1Cozmr3

Education Readings June 26th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

This week’s homework!

 

Hattie’s research: Is wrong Part 5 – this should clinch it.

Education academic John Hattie has been in the news recently as part of another self promotion tour. Here’s Kelvin Smythe’s latest critique of his so-called research that is being used by governments as an excuse to rip apart and privatise primary education.

“At some time in the future, Hattie’s research and his opinions will be revealed for what they are: a huge charade. But you don’t need to wait – all you need to do is read the postings in the Hattie series and clear-sightedly and undistractedly employ your critical faculties. Everything about Hattie’s research is false except for some opinions which, while true, are also false, because he claims them to be evidence-based.”

http://bit.ly/1Lbpl29

Can data really define ‘coasting’?

Think things are bad in your neck of the woods? How about new legislation in England defining and targeting ‘coasting’ schools and then using this to force schools to become academy (aka charter) schools?

‘Coasting’ suggests a lack of effort but all we have, with results data, is a statistical end product: the output numbers. Teachers could be working phenomenally hard, and yet failing to improve results as much as outsiders might wish, because schools, in reality, do not have full control over results. These are, inevitably, subject to unpredictability, from the motivation and ability of pupils to ‘perform’ on the big day to the vagaries of marking. And there may be a sense of a zero-sum game: ‘below-average’ schools will always be penalised, even if all schools are working very hard, if the indicators used are based on comparing one school’s results to others’.

http://bit.ly/1FqC8q4

1984 Arrives Thirty Years Late: Say Goodby to Privacy Forever if This Bill Passes

This article by Diane Ravitch highlights concerns in USA; however the implication for other countries is just as ominous as similar data collection systems are established and extended.

‘What it really means is that the federal government will:

 authorize the creation of a federal database of all college students, complete with their personally identifiable information, tracking them through college and into the workforce, including their earnings, Social Security numbers, and more. The ostensible purpose of the bill? To provide better consumer information to parents and students so they can make “smart higher education investments.”’

http://bit.ly/1Gw7ug5

Big Bird Can Close the Achievement Gap? Not So Fast…

Here’s a response to a recent news item that highlighted the benefits of Sesame Street.

“Don’t get me wrong: I love Big Bird as much as the next guy. But when people start talking about how Sesame Street is just as effective at closing the achievement gap as preschool, I start to worry that we’re becoming enamored with a seductively simple characterization of a deeply complex problem.”

http://bit.ly/1QK3L44

Deeper Learning in Practice

“Across the education sector, we define what students need to know and should be able to do for succeeding in college and career. We know that they need more than just the ability read and write — today’s constantly changing workforce shows that they must be able to master academic content, communicate and collaborate effectively, think critically, and become life-long learners. Supporting students as they develop these skills, understandings, and mindsets often requires a shift in how we think about classroom learning and the competencies needed by teachers to facilitate that learning.”

http://bit.ly/1MGKMqK

Debunking 10 Big Myths About Gifted Kids

“Here are myths about gifted kids and some realities, based on years of classroom observation and interaction with teachers who work with them.”

http://bit.ly/1F9hlHx

Teachers’ fightback against the destructive ideals of Germ has reached global proportions

“The fight takes different forms in different countries, but there are common threads throughout. Not only are the attacks part of the same neoliberal agenda but, in each case, resistance relies on the ability of education unions to mobilise the mass of their membership, developing their political consciousness through struggle. Teachers and their unions emerge from this process changed — stronger, more democratic and with a wider vision for education.”

http://bit.ly/1IiFGzu

Beliefs about innate talent may dissuade students from STEM

This is a lengthy article, which also includes a couple of videos, and is very worth reading.

“We need to abandon dangerous ideas that some people just can’t do math. Neuroscience and educational research flatly contradict such beliefs. As the new study suggests, valuing hard work over innate “genius” might even spur students to tackle new challenges.”

http://bit.ly/1GnuL6J

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Lessons from Finland

Finland, as ever, offers a high trust community orientated alternative to the GERM corporate  target based model the Anglo American world is taking.

“In recent years, Finland’s students have been at the top or near the top on a range of international indicators. Furthermore, Finland’s commitment to social equity has led to low levels of variance in student results from school to school.However, this has not always been the case. In the early 1990s, Finnish students achieved mediocre results on international tests such as PISA and TIMMS. Yet, they turned this around. Notably, they didn’t do this through introducing high-stakes testing, introducing charter schools, or enforcing superficial compliance with central mandates. Rather, they did it through placing teachers at the very heart of school reform.”

http://bit.ly/1J6O7Oy

How Can Teachers Develop Students’ Motivation — and Success?

Most teachers will have heard of Carol Dweck but how many implement her ideas in their rooms?

“What can teachers do to help develop students who will face challenges rather than be overwhelmed by them? Why is it that many students seem to fall apart when they get to junior high or middle school? Can the “gifted” label do more harm than good? Do early lessons set girls up for failure? Is self-esteem something that teachers can or should “give” to students? Those are some of the questions Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Columbia University, answers. Some of her responses will surprise you.”

http://bit.ly/1e4wtAk

Why Glorify Failure to Enhance Success?

The difference between mistakes and failure – and the teachers role in helping their students.

“Teachers must help  students understand that the conditions for success are within their control and that thry will help them remedy their learning errors when they occur. Teachers, must have a growth orientation to learning, and help their students develop the same orientation. As Dweck reminds us, a growth orientation creates motivation and enhances productivity. When shared by both teachers and students, it also builds positive relationships.”

http://bit.ly/1BNH65K

Academic subjects alone won’t ‘set every child up for life’

Beyond the basics! The importance of innovation and creativity

“What successful employers, big and small, hi-tech and no-tech, are crying out for are recruits who are innovative and creative, who can think laterally, communicate clearly and work as part of a team. These are all abilities that are most effectively developed for children through the arts and music.”

http://bit.ly/1GzuvyG

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Putting critical information literacy skills into action – use them or lose them

To make good use of exciting learning experiences students need a full range of literacy, numeracy observation , inquiry, and expressive skills to be in place. Real literacy requires a context, or need, so that students can see the point of acquiring such vital skills. Literacy and numeracy are all about gaining meaning and power. Exciting studies provides the context for such learning.”

http://bit.ly/1NiQn75

The artistry of the teacher

The killing of a Vikings’ chieftain’s horse – and the artistry of a creative teacher

“Teacher artistry and sensitivity is required to enter into dialogue with the individual learners to help them develop in-depth thought. Lack of depth and understanding is all too commonly seen today in students’ observational or scientific writing as well. How do you help a student get the most out of an experience? Read on.”

http://bit.ly/1eIfEvR

Write Now Read Later

“These days reading, or better still the language arts ( now called by a more technocratic title ‘literacy’) seems to have been taken over by academics who are pushing a phonemic approach onto schools – ‘P’ Pushers! This is an approach that distorts the organic relationship between experience, oral language, writing and reading – all premised on a need to make meaning and to communicate. The traditional language arts programme has also been distorted by those who are peddling an meta-cognitive approach that sees acquiring reading skills as an end in themselves.”

http://bit.ly/1IzS3Vw

Education Readings May 29th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

This week’s homework!

Hattie’s research: Is wrong Part 4 – a kind of Svengali

NZ educator Kelvin Smythe’s latest posting in his series that deconstructs John Hattie’s ‘research.’

“I predict the Holy Grail label assigned to his research will, given his personality, prove the death of his reputation pushing him on, to ever extreme expressions of arrogance and wrongness. If he claims to live by academia but does not act on it, only great harm will ensue, in the short term, though, that harm has first fallen on schools. As detailed in past postings, with further devastating ones to come, Hattie’s research can be declared rubbish, beyond merit, deep into negative territory. The difficulty in conveying this truth and having it accepted is that his research is so wrong as to be difficult to encompass and for readers to believe.”

http://bit.ly/1FhoK98

Game Based Learning – the suspension of reality

Another article by Steve Wheeler that raises an important issue.

“They are an important part of youth culture and teachers can no longer ignore computer games or believe they are irrelevant to education. They are staring us in the face and won’t go away. Our challenge now is to discover how we can fully harness the power of these kinds of engagement and the potential for new forms of assessment in formalised settings. Each of these possibilities make learning through games playing highly motivational, but beyond this, they also enable learners to explore new ideas, reflect deeply in their actions, and ultimately, they are fun.”

http://bit.ly/1QNN8GN

Why we should focus on well-rounded young people – not exceptional grades

“… there needs to be a balancing act between academia and developing essential traits crucial in the real world. They say knowledge is power but what use is knowledge if children haven’t developed their character in a way which allows them to actually use their knowledge successfully?”

http://bit.ly/1FnJYHI

When Kids Decide What They Read, They Read More

Really? Who would have thought it?

“This simple intervention allowing students to choose their own books at [the] end of the school year had a significant positive impact. A multifaceted approach is needed to address poor child-literacy rates, but this intervention can be part of the solution.”

http://bit.ly/1bNIqK0

Why the attempt to make reading simple? A reply to Learning to Read: Should We Keep Things Simple?

Powerful article by Ken Goodman – a must read.

“There’s no way to make language learning simple. But there is an easy way to help children to learn to read. It is to make the way they found it easy to learn oral language work for them in learning to make sense of written language.  Written language is learned just as oral language is learned- in the process if using it.”

http://bit.ly/1Jj37dJ

Deficit model in education: a dangerous conceit?

This article by Donald Clark is well worth reading!

“The illusory maths deficit is the leaning tower of PISAs awful legacy, branding education as a failure and wiping out huge swathes of useful knowledge and skills in favour of illusory benefits.”

And:

“If only more people had more certificates, more degrees, more paper qualifications, we’d live in a utopian paradise of massive productivity and wealth. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. As more and more people get bits of paper, those bits of paper become commoditized and worth less.”

http://bit.ly/1bVj5NE

The Global Search for Education: The Arts Face to Face

Featuring…… Finland of course…

“First, arts subjects are essential if we think in terms of personal development. The arts are essential tools to increase self-awareness and understanding of your own and other’s experiences; the arts are a means to understanding emotions and the emotional aspects of life; the arts are also essential tools in self-expression.”

http://huff.to/1d80LCg

Lessons from neuroscience

“Yesterday I had the privilege of meeting Andrew Curran who delivered a two hour session on the brain and the lessons we can learn from neuroscience to inform our practice in the classroom. In this post, I wouldn’t dream of trying to replicate his vast knowledge, but thought I’d share some takeaways that might inform what you do. Please note, I’m not an expert, and this is my interpretation of what he said.”

http://bit.ly/1PqDZGO

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Inquiry in the Classroom: 7 Simple Tools To Get You Started

“Why Use the Inquiry Cycle?

Often used by science professionals to work through problems and research, an inquiry-based approach, or inquiry cycle, is also used in classrooms for scientific and non-scientific topics to encourage students during the learning process. In an inquiry-based approach, teachers help students generate their own appropriate questions and guide the investigation.”

http://bit.ly/1L2t0wN

Eudemic: Connecting Education and Technology

Bruce’s comment: Many teachers use the Edutopia(with its focus on project based learning) devised by Star Wars director George Lucas.  Edudemic is another rich resource for schools integrating technology into their classrooms. Edutopia’s focus is on project based learning.

http://www.edudemic.com

Edutopia: Vision and Mission.

Bruce’s comment: Read about Edutopia’s brilliant vision.

“Our vision is of a new world of learning based on the compelling truth that improving education is the key to the survival of the human race. It’s a world of creativity, inspiration and ambition informed by real-world evidence and experience.”

http://www.edutopia.org/mission-vision

Are field trips a good way to spend school district funds? Kids say ‘yes’

Bruce’s comment: A school district in California rediscover the value of field trips – will wonders never cease!!!!

“It was not abundantly clear that the trip had been a success. Certainly, no one was excitedly explaining how she’d just had an insight into how sound waves work; nor going on about the properties of simple pulleys; nor plotting the invention of an improved slow-motion camera.”

http://bit.ly/1HmpmgF

Sir Ken Robinson’s new book: ‘Creative Schools – Revolutionizing Education from the Ground Up’

In this article Bruce reviews this book and shows how it could be implemented in the classroom.

“A must read for anyone who believes in an education system that aims at developing the gifts and talents of all students. My plea is for creative teachers, particularly those in New Zealand, to share this with as many teachers and schools as they can because the message is so important. If we really believe in giving every student the opportunity to leave formal education with their love of learning intact  and with all their unique gifts and talents identified then we really have no choice.”

http://bit.ly/1Q9HOLt

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

The killing of creativity by the technocrats.

Not to be outdone by Kelvin, here’s an article Bruce wrote back in 2009, that also casts a skeptical eye over John Hattie.

“John Hattie, professor of education Auckland University, confidante of the present Minister of Education. Is his influence undermining the creativity of our teachers? Kelvin Smythe thinks so and, after visiting a number of classrooms, I have to agree with him. Read Kelvin’s full article on his site.”

And:

“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.”

http://bit.ly/WeTrMo

What is this thing called learning?

What is this thing called learning. It seems simple enough. So why do so many ‘learners’ fail at school? Dysfunctional schools or dysfunctional learners?

“Many teachers draw on their experience, common sense, and professional knowledge as the basis for their teaching. What is sometimes missing is a ‘shared language’ of what learning is across a school so teachers can, talk to each other, their student’s parents, and also to hold themselves accountable.”

http://bit.ly/1PuA2B3

Children as scientists

“If children are always asking questions then ought not our classrooms help them in their search for answers?

That we haven’t yet created schools based on assisting students research their own questions and concerns just goes to show how much ‘our’ curriculums, what ‘we’ think is important for them to learn, has ignored the source of real motivation for students to learn.”

http://bit.ly/1roDtd8

Fundamentals in education

Maybe it’s time to reflect on what is fundamental in education.

“So what are the fundamentals of learning? It is too simple to fall back on the default mode of literacy and numeracy indispensable as they obviously are. The real basics of learning are: perceiving, thinking, and forming and the tools to make use of these faculties are words, numbers and shapes.”

http://bit.ly/13b5vRO

Education Readings May 22nd

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

This week’s homework!

Increasing Student Voice in Local Schools and Districts

An article targeted at high schools, but there’s plenty to stimulate thinking at primary schools.

“Student leadership involvement should take place in every high school district. The failure to do so excludes those most affected by decisions from having a voice in that process. It also deprives school boards of some potentially valuable insights. The arguments against this role for students are weak, frequently founded on an underestimation of student maturity and perception that too often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

http://bit.ly/1H5wsIY

Why Schools Need to Bring Back Shop Class

Sir Ken Robinson..

“Vocational programs – such as carpentry or welding classes, cosmetology classes or many of the other practical areas of study available in some US high schools and in the vocational schools that dot our cities and suburbs — are seen as second-rate options for people who don’t make the academic cut. As we argue in Creative Schools, this academic/vocational caste system is one of the most corrosive problems in education. It need not be.”

http://ti.me/1cx4idd

Classroom Practice – 10 commandments of successful innovation

“… teachers are usually willing to give everything a try at least once. This can be a positive attribute. But often, by indulging their inner magpie and hurling as many shiny ideas into the mix as possible, teachers guarantee that none of them will be successful. They will end up juggling multiple and often competing schemes, their ideas will not be well considered nor given enough time to take effect, and their students will be left confused.”

http://bit.ly/1RmDlIS

Does tinkering lead to learning?

Annie Murphy Paul’s observations on the maker movement – well worth reading.

“Making is too young a phenomenon to have generated a broad research base to answer this question. The literature that does exist comes from enthusiastic champions of making, rather than disinterested investigators. But there are two well-established lines of research within psychology and cognitive science that can inform how we understand making and help us ensure that making leads to learning. Taken together, these two strands of empirical evidence provide the best guide we presently have for maximizing the learning potential of maker activities.”

http://bit.ly/1RByLGP

11 Ways Finland’s Education System Shows Us that “Less is More”.

Just in case you haven’t read enough about Finland’s education system, here’s another viewpoint.

Currently we believe “more” is the answer to all of our education problems— everything can be solved with MORE classes, longer days, MORE homework, MORE assignments, MORE pressure, MORE content, MORE meetings,  MORE after school tutoring, and of course MORE testing!   All this is doing is creating MORE burnt out teachers, MORE stressed out students and MORE frustration.”

http://bit.ly/1AZZodZ

Knowledge For Literacy

This is a technical article, well worth reading.

“The core definition of a word is only a tiny fragment of the meaning that makes it useful in understanding language. Neuroimaging confirms that the full meaning of a familiar word extends broadly through the mind, including associations to every trace that your experience with that word or its concept has left in your memory. For instance, your full knowledge of the word “apple” extends to the traces in your memory of the many apples in your life…”

http://bit.ly/1PJjtvR

Why teaching kids to have ‘grit’ isn’t always a good thing

“If you follow fads in education, you probably know that what passes for “character education” in this country is now dominated by the teaching of “grit,” helping students learn how to persevere and stay on task. It is taken for granted that having grit is always a positive thing, but, in the following post, scholar Mike Rose shows that it isn’t always so.”

http://wapo.st/1PJsd5k

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

New Zealand Schools – the Rhetoric and the Reality – and a creative future

Bruce’s latest blog post:

 ‘The current standardised approach’, writes Hood, ‘needs to be replaced by one that focusses on the individual.  Personalised learning is about creating a learning environment that responds to the needs of each individual student and their interests, talents and passions and aspirations’.

‘In an environment where there is clear vision, shared values, high expectation and a culture of challenging traditional ways of doing things, then people will work in a myriad of unplanned , unseen and successful ways; it will be a creative and innovative environment’.

http://bit.ly/1JZ9WiC

Memorizers are the lowest achievers and other Common Core math surprises

Bruce’s comment: Stop the math memorization The real oil on mathematics. In a recent commentary math educator Jo Boaler writes, “We don’t need students to calculate quickly in math. We need students who can ask good questions, map out pathways, reason about complex solutions, set up models, and communicate in different forms.”

http://bit.ly/1e65957

Quick, Draw a Scientist!

Bruce’s comment: What is your class’s image of a scientist? Once you have identified their prior image (stereotype) see if you can modify, or reconstruct, it. A fun activity with some serious learning implications. Consider trying ‘prior drawings’  of students ideas about whatever you are studying, for example what are their prior images of spiders- after learning experiences do another drawing to see if they have changed their minds! A great assessment task.

“Inoculating the perception of a scientist is tantamount to fixing the leaky STEM pipeline. If students don’t think that being a scientist is for them, humanity loses. A diverse workforce is a better, faster, and stronger workforce. Scientists of diverse backgrounds working together are better suited to solve complex problems, can work with greater agility, and can cure diseases that have been overlooked.”

http://bit.ly/1PsXTkr

Tech tip: Avoid blurry vision and ‘shiny objects’

Bruce’s comment: Avoid ‘blurry’ visions and ‘shiny objects’. A short but pertinent article that applies to any school.

“If your school (district) doesn’t have a clear vision for what it is and what it needs to be, no matter how “innovative” ideas taken on board are, they will not help to move it forward. Sure, there may be some great discussion and perhaps even some implementation of worthwhile initiatives. But without a vision to clarify and justify the purpose of the initiatives, they all become disparate activities.”

http://bit.ly/1eacu3w

From Bruce’s “goldie oldie” file:

Developing a powerful school vision

This article by Bruce explores a similar theme to the one above.

All schools these days have Visions, Missions and Strategy Plans but all too often few people can articulate them let alone say what they really mean in action. No matter how well they are drawn up if no ones knows what they mean they are not worth the paper they are written on.”

http://bit.ly/1BS0n5k

Pavlov’s Dogs – an untold story.

Bruce’s comment: A new twist on Pavlov’s dogs!

“It is a shame that we need dramatic shocks for us to change. It took the carnage and unnecessary slaughter of World War One to develop in the ordinary man a distrust of god given authority – particularly of the old generals who were long past their ‘use by date’”

http://bit.ly/1Hm6Ftl

The artistry of teaching and future learning attributes

Bruce’s comment: And a little more on artistry and the innate desire to learn. There is a:

.‘a lust for knowledge, an ache for understanding is incised in the best of men and woman. As is the calling of the teacher. There is no craft more privileged. To awaken in another human being the powers, dreams beyond one’s own; to induce in others a love for that which one loves; to make of one’s inward present their future; this is the threefold adventure like no other.’

http://bit.ly/1PsoX3j

Artistry versus conformity in teaching.

Teacher artistry or deliverer of approved ‘best practices’?

“Teachers need to claim back their professional judgement, or ‘artistry’, and place greater emphasis on ensuring every student develops their innate gifts, talents, individuality and creativity.”

http://bit.ly/1PPc0eI

Education Readings April 17th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

This week’s homework!

 

Report debunks ‘earlier is better’ academic instruction for young children

Are you surprised? New Zealand has a wonderful early childhood curriculum (Te Whāriki ) but how long will it survive under the present government?

‘Rather, she says, the research suggests that “preschool programs are best when they focus on social, emotional and intellectual goals rather than narrow academic goals” and provide “early experiences that provoke self-regulation, initiative and …sustained synchronous interaction in which the child is interactive with others in some continuous process, rather than a mere passive recipient of isolated bits of information for stimulation.”’

http://wapo.st/1EJdNAJ

For Pearson, Common Core is private profit

While this article discusses the USA, Pearson Group is a major threat to education all over. Do you want your country’s education to be defined by a multinational corporation? A definition that just happens to include both their testing and instructional products?

“Taking inspiration from Margaret Thatcher’s motto “Don’t tell me what, tell me how,” Barber rarely discusses what schools should teach or cites scholarship on pedagogy. Instead, the book emphasizes again and again that leaders need metrics — e.g., standardized test scores — to measure whether reforms are helping children become literate and numerate. Of course, Pearson just happens to be one of the world’s largest vendors of the products Barber recommends for building education systems.”

http://alj.am/1bqYsZO

In the Digital Age, How to Get Students Excited About Going Outdoors

Thanks to Innes Kennard for this.

“Louv has since become famous for coining the term Nature-Deficit Disorder — not as a medical diagnosis, but as shorthand for what’s happening to kids who stay, for the most part, inside, away from nature, for the majority of their young lives. He uses strong research to support his claims that rising rates of obesity, depression and anxiety, and ADHD symptoms could well be linked to kids’ disconnection from trees, fields and streams.”

http://bit.ly/1EF1ukx

Demystifying the Muse: Five Creativity Myths You Should Stop Believing

Another one from Innes – I may have posted this before …

“We’ve built up an image of what creativity is that is completely wrong. If you don’t believe me, here are a few of the biggest myths about creativity that most of us still believe:”

http://bit.ly/1NdARrm

How Bad Journalism Is Driving the Collapse of Our Once-Great Public Education System

This USA story is easy to transfer to other countries.

“Be afraid, be very afraid, any time you see a reporter in the business media turn his or her attention to education and public schools. What will likely follow is a string of truisms used to prop up a specious argument, steeped in biased notions that were themselves picked up from ill-informed conversations promoted by other clueless business news outlets.”

http://bit.ly/1H08f6n

Modern Learning Environments – the underlying philosophy to success

“Modern Learning Environments (MLE) are all the talk in educational circles right now. Schools, around the world, are knocking out walls and creating bright stimulating classrooms with multi purpose furniture and giving students access to technology. On the surface it looks fantastic, however I am concerned that without a big pedagogy shift, students will be simply just learning the same way many teachers have been teaching – just in bigger classrooms with new furniture.”

http://bit.ly/1IKSZbw

MLE and MLP- a returning fad, or something that could be truly transformative?

In a similar vein:

“If nothing else changes except collaborative spaces and collaborative teaching then the end result will not change. You are just repeating the open plan experiments of the 70s and 80s and it will fall over sooner or later. If you are still taking reading groups and writing groups and math groups in the same way, just on a bigger scale with more teachers and with several classes, then you are just streaming and making more work for everyone, because of the communication and organisation required. You are teaching traditionally in a shared space. You are using a MLE, but not practising MLP.  There is a huge difference.”

http://bit.ly/1axFakV

Go Team: Why Teacher Teams Struggle To Work Effectively Together And How Schools Can Create The Conditions For Success

Following on, teacher teamwork will be vital if any modern learning environment is to have any chance of working.

“Even when schools recognize the potential of teacher teams to have a measurable impact on improving teaching and learning, many teams fail to achieve the results they seek. Is it simply a case of good or bad chemistry, or are there concrete steps schools can take to cultivate collaboration that works?”

http://bit.ly/1FIYkiz

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Why Talking About the Brain Can Empower Learners

Bruce’s comment: Every teacher should know about Carol Dweck

“Stanford University professor of psychology Carol Dweck, who has been leading the research in this field, discusses “The power of believing that you can improve” in this TED talk.”

http://bit.ly/1xOUPqD

The NMC Horizon Report: 2014 K-12 Edition examines emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning, and creative inquiry in schools

Bruce’s comment: An easily read but challenging document about technology and its transformational implication for education. My advice – set aside a wet afternoon to read and think about the implications. The diagram on page three is a good summary.The report is  all about in-depth learning; technology enhanced learning; authentic learning; user friendly technology ; user friendly technology, the changes  (for some) of the role of the teacher; new modern learning environments  and personalised learning;  and other considerations.

http://bit.ly/1xZP61k

A Brave New World for “Personalized Learning”?

Bill Ferriter:

‘”Relax, Bill!” I’ll say in the middle of my incoherent ramblings and cold sweats.  “SURELY there are good people at big corporations who are developing products with PURE intentions.  It’s NOT about capitalizing on fears and making a fast buck. It’s about improving schools FOR THE CHILDREN!”’

http://bit.ly/1GU5EcL

Effective Communication Needs Common Language and Goals

Bruce’s comment:

To develop a quality learning across a school you need agreement on common goals/ teaching beliefs – a common language to align all teaching behind and to evaluate teachers progress and to provide appropriate feedback and help. A great idea as long as it encourages individual teacher creativity as well. To greater enforcement of consistency (of Common Cores or National Standards)  can be counter productive.

“So, how can schools ensure that all leaders are communicating effectively and keeping the school on the right path? By making sure that everyone—teachers, administrators, and support staff—uses a common language to work toward common goals.”

http://bit.ly/1O0eh66

Evolution of the “good” teacher

Bruce’s comment: A great read for the thinking teacher!

“What is good teaching? Does any body really know? The below link struggles with some possible answers. What is clear is that no approach fits all students.Teaching is in the middle of a change, an evolution, a revolution — the intensity of the description depends on whom you ask. One could argue that this change is natural and part of an ebb and flow cycle, but this change feels faster, and possibly more frenetic — likely due to technology’s role in the change. Is good teaching now for the 21st-century markedly different than it was previously?”

http://bit.ly/1IRY7tF

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Creative teaching

Bruce’s comment: Elwyn Richardson’s thought are more relevant than ever. We have standardised teaching (or in Elwyn’s words ‘normalised’) and as a result creativity has been all but lost. Even art, the most creative of learning areas, is now clone like – the result of zealous over teaching of criteria and oppressive feedback. Poor old Vincent van G wouldn’t last 5 minutes. It’s now a paint by numbers education system and no colouring outside the lines.

“A ‘good’ classroom should develop in students a personal commitment to their learning. Teachers can do this through: talking, discussion, focusing students’ attention, helping them look closely at things,by taking trips into the immediate environment, and by tapping their personal experiences. From such activities students develop ideas to research and share and emotional feeling to express through words, poems, paintings and other art media.”

http://bit.ly/1GMqaxl

Education for a Creative Age

Bruce’s comment: ‘Teacher the Geranium on the Windowsill just Died and you kept on Talking’ – more on the death of creative education.

“At the very least schools talk about the ‘Information Age’ but, according to perceptive commentators, this ‘age’ has already passed its ‘use by’ date. According to Juan Enriquez, in his book, ‘As the Future Catches You, the ‘future belongs to countries who build empires of the mind’.”

http://bit.ly/1ayuZMv

Importance of Observation.

Bruce’s comment: And an antidote might be to return to encouraging focused observation – interesting that some of schools where Silicon Valley parents sent their students to are computer free!

“Drawing is an ideal way to break through habitual ways of thinking. All too often our students see but they do not look. Observational drawing has long been an important means for some teachers to develop deeper consciousness in students – to assist students see through their habitual ways of seeing and to develop new awareness.”

http://bit.ly/1GMrhx3

Educational Readings June 7th

By Allan Alach

Thought for this week:

‘Rote repetition can result in some information being retained, although it is not  a particularly effective method of encoding information into memory. Why, then, are so many kids forced to learn this way?’

 The Truth About School

Your thoughts?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAZqMaBY2MI

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allan.alach@ihug.co.nz.

 This week’s homework!

 What can we learn from children’s writing? (via Michael Fawcett)

‘A BBC Radio 2 short story competition aimed at children up to the age of 13 has had 90,000 entries. It’s an exercise in creativity but the words they used have also been put into a database which gives us an insight into the way they think. Every one of the 40 million words from the story-writing competition has been collated and analysed by lexicographers at the Oxford University Press, in order to monitor and track children’s language.  Here are some of the findings.’

Warning: not necessarily compatible with standardised education….

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22714629

Noam Chomsky on Democracy and Education in the 21st Century and Beyond

Chomsky is always worth reading…

http://bit.ly/11whdy0

 New data shows school “reformers” are full of it

‘Reality, though, is finally catching up with the “reform” movement’s propaganda. With poverty and inequality intensifying, a conversation about the real problem is finally starting to happen. And the more education “reformers” try to distract from it, the more they will expose the fact that they aren’t driven by concern for kids but by the ugliest kind of greed — the kind that feigns concerns for kids in order to pad the corporate bottom line.’

http://bit.ly/132nG6o

 Lesson for Our Leaders: The Best Defense is a Good Offense

Criticism of educational sector groups for ‘roll over and scratch my tummy’ attitude towards the school ‘reformers’ is rather frequent. This article suggests that the alternative approach would be more productive.

‘Educators and our representatives have been on the defensive for so long, many of us have forgotten one of the lessons of the great strategist Sun Tzu – the best defense is a good offense.’

http://bit.ly/11efcqj

Revising the questions that shape learning (via Bruce Hammonds)

‘In thinking about the current slate of policies shaping education, I can’t help but feel we are asking, and attempting to answer, the wrong questions — questions rife with assumptions; questions that limit thinking; and questions that quell curiosity rather than fuel it.’

Some very good questions are raised here.

http://bit.ly/14qqcmt

 How outdoor play inspires independent learning for early years (via Bruce)

Bruce’s comment: ‘Sounds like the good old days”

http://bit.ly/16Oj36B

The Next Generation of Assessments Can—and Must—Be Better (via Bruce)

Bruce’s comment: ‘What’s going wrong in the US and soon NZ by Linda Darling-Hammond ( great educationalist).’

http://bit.ly/11kRgSd

Leading the way in education – instead of following the failing neo liberal agenda

by Bruce Hammonds

Reposted from Leading-Learning.

Yong-Zhao‘Education in America  is at a crossroads’, writes American educator Yong-Zhao

Ironically while China is busy trying to transform its test orientated education into a talent orientated system, writes Chinese born but now a respected American educator Yong- Zhao, America ( and now New Zealand) is moving towards a standardized test driven culture.

Why right wing politicians in New Zealand would want to follow the failing neo-liberal agenda of the USA is more to do with politics than education.

In America they have the No Child Left Behind testing programmes based around literacy and numeracy and in New Zealand we have National Standards.

Why we follow the failing approaches of the USA, the UK and Australia when we could be leading the world into developing a system that focuses on developing the talents and gifts of all students shows a lack of direction by those who profess to lead our schools. Schools cannot just be simply against such standards, which increasingly sound like whinging, they need to be leading by articulating a creative alternative.

To thrive inrapidly changing world countries like New Zealand needs to cultivate adiversity of talents of all citizens if we really want to be seen as an innovative country. Cultivating this student creativity and imagination is one thing our New Zealand schools have never done with the exception of a few creative teachers.

Yong- Zhao, in his book  ‘Catching up by Leading’, points out the damage being created by the American NCLB, and even more strongly, writes that schools that comply ‘are actually undermining their strengths by overemphasizing high-stakes testing and standardisation’.

There are lessons we can learn from America (and the UK and Australia) – of what not to do! Particularly as we rate higher in international testing than such countries. We need to lead rather than follow.

In America the NCLB has resulted in school teaching to the test and the reduction of time for subjects not tested. As well teachers, to score well, have changed their instructional focus and teaching styles. Some American schools have even resorted to cheating.

Schools in America (and other Western countries who follow the same neo- liberal agenda) spend valuable teaching time on test preparation (another form of cheating?). Already schools in New Zealand are, disturbingly, ensuring their teaching focuses on their ensuring test results are impressive – and this self- interest can only get worse. And if you read KelvinSmythe the Ministry is ensuring the ‘shonky’ National Standards results show improvements to ‘prove’ their value.

If schools do not make a collective stand and present an alternative beyond objecting to National Standards it will be too late.

The reasoning behind the NCLB in America resonates to what is happening in New Zealand under this government.

According to Zong Zhao it goes like this:

  • American education is in a crisis.
  • This crisis is proved by the ‘achievement gap’ (ignoring, of course, poverty issues).
  • The ‘achievement gap’ results from poor teaching; teachers who hold low expectations of their students. (John Key said as much as this prior to the elections). This is not helped by self-interested teacher unions.
  • Teachers are to be seen as complacent or lazy.

The solution is hold educators accountable for producing measurable outcomes including publishing of school performance data thus providing information for parent school choice and the possibility using performance-based teacher pay.

Standardisation and centralisation of curriculum and assessment are essential ingredients for obvious reasons.

All students have to be held to the same standards and need to be assessed by the same tests otherwise it is impossible to compare how much students have learnt or to distinguish good teachers and schools from poor ones. Until tests are standardised as in the UK and Australia results will remain ‘shonky’.

The consequence of such standardised teaching leads to the homogenisation of student outcomes and a diminishing of student talents in areas not being tested.

National Standards practically define what ‘good ‘education is; they become the default curriculum. A ‘good’ education is defined as a school being able to show good scores in a literacy and numeracy. Such a ‘good education’ deprives students the opportunity to develop talents in other areas. In addition children who do not perform well will be shamed and seen ‘at risk’ doomed to get more of what they cannot do while their unique gifts are ignored.

Theoretically schools can teach more than defined by the Standards but in reality schools will ensure they do well in areas that affect their reputation by focusing on areas that ‘count’.

As a result of such a narrow agenda schools will produce students with a narrow range of measurable outcomes. Yong- Zhao writes that this approach in America will limit the production of creative and imaginative individual with a wide range of talents the very people China is determined to produce!

New Zealand educators need to confront such a narrow interpretation of education and present an alternative based on an education that develops the talents and gifts of all students.

It is morally wrong, Yong-Zhao writes, ‘to place all responsibilities on schools and teachers. While schools can definitely do a lot to help children overcome certain difficulties, their influence has limits.’

Worse still, Zhao writes, the NCLB is ‘putting America in danger’….into a deeper crisis ‘because it is likely to lead increasing distrust of educators, disregard of students’ individual interests, destruction of local autonomy and capacity for innovation, and disrespect for human values’.

We are well on the way  in New Zealand to follow America into such a depressing scenario.

Martha-Graham-quote

Now is the time for schools to see the big picture and to collectively present an alternative vision; a vision implicit in the all but side-lined 2007 New Zealand Curriculum which sees students as ‘seeking using and creating their own knowledge.’ All it needs is a greater emphasis on developing the gifts and talents of all students.

Yong-Zhao believes ‘American education is at a crossroads’ and ‘we need to change course’. ‘We need to move away from focusing on the past and move towards focusing on the future’  We need to leave the test driven road and move towards the road to innovation and creativity.

New Zealand should be a leader in developing this new discourse not a follower..

Einstein, Darwin, da Vinci & Mozart et al

Based on the book ‘Mastery’ by Robert Greene.

By Bruce Hammonds

Reposted from Bruce’s Leading-Learning blog.

I listened to an interview on National Radio with Robert Greene about his book Mastery and felt inspired to acquire his book.

greenDeveloping an education system premised on developing the talents and gifts of all students has always been my vision. Unfortunately schooling has been more about standardisation and conformity – sorting and grading of students. National Standards with its emphasis on literacy and numeracy at the expense of other areas of endeavour, is the most recent iteration of this standardised approach.

The alternative is an emphasis on personalisation of learning; an education premised on masterythe centrality of developing student creativity – building on the default way of learning innate in all learners.

Although there have been individual teachers who have developed creative classroomsmost classrooms could be classified as benign environments where students achieve success by achieving teacher determined objectives.

Robert Greene’s fascinating book, by using examples of masters past and present, illustrates vital lessons about how teachers could develop their classrooms as true creative learning communitiesThe power he outlines is the process that leads to mastery – one that is available to all of us.

Essentially in whenever we are learning something new at the beginning we are outsiders and the process of achieving mastery seems confusing as we realise how much there is to learn. Many people, living in a world of instant gratification, give up at this point.

einstein If we get past such feelings, and by following the lead of others, by observing, by practice and effort we gain basic skills and in turn gain some success and gain in confidence. As time goes by mastery is developed.

There are three stages in this processThe first is apprenticeship where we are outsiders, watching and learning. The second stage, through much practice and immersion we gain a more comprehensive understanding and in the third we internalise what has been learnt and can apply ourselves intuitively. We have moved from novice to relative expertise.

We all had this intuitive spontaneous way of learning when we were young but it is generally drummed out of us by an overload of information, by a conformist education system, and by the belief that only a few geniuses achieve mastery and that these people have ‘natural talent’ not available to the rest of us

Greene’s thesis is that mastery is a latent power in all of us and that we can reverse bad learning habits and recover from misconceptions about our ability to learn.

boxGreene shares fascinating insights from a number of ‘talented’ people to show that their success was down to a process we can all access.  The beginning of success is an early identification of areas of interest, an interest that allows them to stand the pain of practice. Successful people rely on desire, persistence and practice rather than reasoning power.

Too many of us simply don’t try. The less we attempt the less chance of failure. It is important to understand that other people’s success is due to their actions not genetics and privilege.

As teachers we need to focus on what it is that individual students are interested in. It was an interest in nature that drove Darwin, an obsession with observing that drove Leonardo da Vinci and an interest in magnetic force as a five year old that drove Einstein – Darwin , Einstein and da Vinci becameobsessed with the search and the process of creating. The 2007 New Zealand Curriculum echoes this process by saying every student should ‘seek, use and create their own knowledge’.

Teachers need to reconnect their students with their inclinations – we need, it seems, ‘learning recovery’ and do adaptation-charles-darwin-quote-02everything to help students to develop areas of personal interests to contribute to ensuring purpose in their lives.

Teachers need to provide a varied diet of experiences to provide opportunities to attract and engage student’s attention. Creative teachers know this. Real curriculums emerge through shared inquiry not delivered by outside experts.

Once students involve themselves in their own learning they need to value their strengths not their limitations and to value the importance of effort and practice.  Stickablity. Many examples of those referred to in the book who have achieved mastery did so by ignoring their limitations and by building on their strengths.  It would seem important for teachers to assist their students achieve a sense of mastery by doing fewer things well and to allow their students to dig deeply into areas of personal concern so as to produce results of personal excellence.

‘Hardwiring of creative power’ cannot occur in classrooms where students are constantly distracted moving from one task or class to another. Once an action becomes automatic, through experience and practice, students gain the mental space to reflect on their action – to work on areas needing improvement – which in turn brings greater skills and more pleasure.

There is research that shows that anyone who achieves a high level of skill have put in over 10000 hours of focussed practice and this applies to composers, chess players, writers and athletes.

And once skill and confidence is achieved through time and practice then it is possible to move to experimentation and true creativity – learning has become second nature.

Unfortunately schools, as they are currently arranged, values reasoning with word and numbers above making and building. Academic success is valued above practical hands on exploring. Creativity is limited to superficial decorative ideas. As a result many creative students have little opportunity to value their talents and worse still feel disengaged from learning and leave feeling failures.

Greene’s book writes about the importance of mentors in the lives of creative people. A good mentor (or teacher) does not shortcut the learning process but streamlines it. They observe and give real time feedback making practice time more efficient. Ideally, if you are creative teacher practicing in creative activities yourself students absorb from you the essence of creativity. Mentors provide support, confidence and allow students time and space to discover things for themselves. This is in conflict with the deterministic and formulaic teaching models most schools seem to base their programmes on.Mentors also practice ‘tough love’ by providing constructive criticism. Students while needing to be receptive to their mentor’s ideas must also avoid falling under their spell. Students need to cultivate some distance to develop their own unique ideas. A look around many schools shows an unsettling conformity of student learning – even in such a creative subject as art.

Greene’s book explores the full range of human talents including social intelligence writing that empathetic skills are as important as reasoning ones – it is notable that such vital skills are ignored by the National Standards which limit their judgments to success in literacy and numeracy. Those who show empathy mastery are able to immerse their minds in the world of others. An acceptance of every learner’s backgrounds and cultures is a vital skill for teachers.

One feature of creative individuals Greene mentions is what the poet John Keats called ‘negative capability’ – the ability to live through uncertainty and doubts. Current pre-determined school programmes are in conflict with this acceptance of uncertainty. The human mind is naturally creative, it wants to explore but it is easily killed when we grow afraid of making mistakesBut it is equally true that we all possess the potential to recover the potential to be creative which ought to give hope to all teachers.

The secret is to widen the view of creativity and to get learners to appreciate the importance of time and effort. Students need to learn to face up positively to the inevitable failures and setbacks that are part of learning, to learn to cope with uncertainty, and most of all not to give up. Students also need to choose realistic tasks, ones which they have the requisite skills in place, and then to let go of the stifling need for certainty and security. Teachers can do much to encourage such attitudes.

The creative process goes through several stages that students to appreciate. The first is thing is to let the mind absorb ideas without judgement. This is Keats’s negative capability – the need for certainty is the greatest disease the mind faces.

It is interesting to learn that many profound discoveries occur when the mind is not directly concentrating on the problem. At such moments ideas unexpectedly enter the mind. Such chance associations are known as serendipity but this only occurs after information has been entered into the brain. Chance favours the prepared mind. Many creative masters find it valuable to go for walks, listen or play music but when a new idea enters consciousness then it is time for full attention.  As Greene writes discoveries are, ‘like seeds floating in space, require the soil of a highly prepared mind and an open mind to take root and sprout into a meaningful idea’.

In many classrooms, particularly teachers trying to get students to understand maths, we push understanding onto our students that make little sense to them. Students need teachers who listen to them, who understand what they are thinking and feeling, and who see the importance of more fun, less abstract, experiences to feed the minds need for connection. Most importantly such learners need to be given a new perspective about maths to allow them to enjoy and learn. Unfortunately students are taught by teachers whose approach to maths (and other learning areas) is negatively coloured by their own previous experiences.

There is a pattern in the lives of creative people.First there is the initial excitement coming from personal involvement. Then they gather all sorts of information followed by a shaping and narrowing of possibilities but such individuals are not easily satisfied with what they are doing, they entertain doubts but they plow forward.  They might take a break and temporarily work on something else. It seems that temporarily losing the initial excitement provides motivation to look at our work objectively and not to settle too early on an easy solution.

Greene suggests that the key is to be aware of this process, to live with doubts and to work towards solutions. If students think that learning is a simple linear process they will not succeed if they come across difficulty. Time is required, going slow is a virtue but so it seems are deadlines – with deadlines the mind rises to the occasion.

The premise Greene puts forward that if we can get our students creativity involved in learning that they are interested in they will not be so attracted by drugs alcohol and other dangerous activities. If this were the case our schools suffer from an ‘opportunity ‘rather than an ‘achievement gap’.

To become creative schools need to  focus on identifying students’ talents and gifts , to value their ‘voices’, and to ensure all students retain their innate learning identities. To ensure at all costs learners love learning for its own sake, to have open minds, to start out in unstructured manner and then to search and dig deeply about what attracts them.

In all areas of life, Greene writes, ‘we suffer from dead forms and conventions’ that detract from creativity. Schools, as currently structured, come to mind.

When you look at the creative work of Masters, you must not ignore the years of practice, the endless routines, the hours of doubt, and the tenacious overcoming of obstacles these people endured’.

Creativity is not the step by step rational evidence based learning schools often follow; the achievements of the Masters cannot be reduced to a formula but the process they go through is accessible to us all. The amazing abilities of the Masters has been achieved, it has been shown, by minds altered after approximately 10000 hours of practice and hard workAt this point they are able to act intuitively.

For students to achieve such high levels of mastery they need to be provided with qualitatively rich learning experiences where students are inspired to be engaged and where they are able to see personal connections – difficult in  current traditional fragmented school programmes where they are exposed to simplified ideas of reality and conventional ways of thinking. ‘Why’, writes Greene, ‘should any individual stop at poetry, or find art unrelated to science, or narrow his or her intellectual interests? The mind was designed to connect things, like a loom that knits together all of the threads of a fabric’

Greene writes that the greatest example is the Renaissance where the ideal was to connect all branches of learning and where there was no division between the arts and the sciences. ‘Perhaps today’, he writes, ‘we are witnessing the early signs of a return to reality, a Renaissance in modern form’ with ‘the artificial barriers between the arts and the sciences will melt away’.
Imagine if students were immersed in a creative personalised culture at school rather than the increasingly standardised experience we have today?

hiresMastery’, Greene writes, ‘is not a question of genetics or luck, but by following your natural inclinations and the deep desire that stirs from within. Everyone has such inclinations…something (that) marked you from birth as unique.’

Imagine if schools were premised on the need to develop the gifts and talents of all learners.