Education Readings February 26th

By Allan Alach

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

Four neuromyths that are still prevalent in schools – debunked

I’d suggest that the so-called education reform movement is the biggest source of learning myths.

“Many “neuromyths” are rampant in our classrooms, and research suggests that people are often seduced by neuroscientific explanations, even if these are not accurate or even relevant. Research also shows that explanations accompanied by images of the brain also persuade people to believe in their validity, however random the illustration.”

6 Ways To Make Learning Visible

“How do we distinguish knowledge, skills, and thinking from….learning? How do we make learning visible, so that we might surface and document powerful discoveries about the influence of our teaching on learners?”

7 things Blended Learning is NOT

“What has ‘Blended Learning’ done for the world of learning? It had the promise to shake us out of the ‘classroom/lecture-obsessed’ straightjacket into a fully developed, new paradigm, where online, social, informal and many other forms of learning could be considered and implemented. This needed an analytic approach to developing and designing blended learning solutions. So what happened?”

Why England is in the ‘guard’s van’ of school reform

Andy Hargreaves contrasting Scotland and England school systems – one of these is failing. There are lessons for many other countries here.

“England no longer values these things. About half of its schools are now outside local authority control. England offers a business capital model that invests in education to yield short-term profits and keep down costs through shorter training, weakened security and tenure, and keeping salaries low by letting people go before they cost too much.”

‘Like a horror show: It is difficult to comprehend the government’s stupidity over testing in schools’

Another article looking at the dire situation in England, especially the move to test school entrants.

“It is not just the age of the children that makes baseline assessment so problematic, it is also its format: a series of yes/no statements which fail to capture the complexity of the learning process or the child’s developmental stage. Can it really be possible to judge, on the basis of observation in the first six weeks of children starting a new school, whether they are or are not “risk taking”, whether they have or do not have “curiosity” and “persistence”?”

Take exams early in the morning to get a higher score

Ponder on the implications of this:

Hans Henrik Sievertsen from the Danish National Centre for Social Research in Copenhagen and his team have looked at 2 million standardised test scores from Danish children aged between 8 and 15. Starting from 8 am, for every hour later that a test was taken, scores declined by an amount equivalent to the effect of missing 10 days of school. Children who were performing worse at school seemed most affected by the time they sat the exam.

Against the Sticker Chart

An article for parents that has implications for the classroom.

“The problem with sticker charts and similar reward systems is not that they don’t work. Rather, they can work too well, creating significant negative and unintended long-term consequences for both the kids and their families. Sticker charts are powerful psychological tools, and they can go beyond affecting children’s motivation to influence their mindset and even affect their relationship with parents.”

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Why Ability Grouping Doesn’t Work

While schools implement ability grouping, streaming or class cross grouping there is conflict with modern approaches to teaching and learning.

“In the ‘Pygmalion Study'(Rosenthal and Jacobson 1968) elementary teachers were told that the lowest achieving students were actually the highest and vice versa.  Simply because of this information and teachers’ subsequent expectations, the low achieving students showed significantly higher gains in their scores. Thus labelling or grouping students not only has a negative impact on their self-efficacy, but on teacher expectation.”

Innovate Like Sherlock Holmes

The power of observation – elementary my dear Watson

Watson: When I hear you give your reasons, the thing always appears to me to be so ridiculously simple that I could easily do it myself, though at each successive instance of your reasoning I am baffled until you explain your process. And yet I believe that my eyes are as good as yours.

Holmes: Quite so. You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.”

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

This thing called reading.

If you have never read Frank Smith then you need to rectify this asap.

“Frank Smith believes that children do not need to be taught to read instead teachers need to create the conditions for them to want to. If reading is active process, that respects their ideas and worlds, they will want to join the reading club.”

Lester Flockton.Nothing wrong with being critical!

New Zealand respected educationalist Lester Flockton encourages principals to be critical.

“Lester Flockton encourages principals to develop critical reflective thinking about what is ‘put before them from on high, or the latest offering from theorists, researchers, policy pushers, advisers, consultants, programme package purveyors and the like’. ‘Such people’, Lester reminds us, ‘often have claims that are incomplete in their perspectives and insights about the working of schools and classrooms.”

More Zen – less zest!

“Hare Brain and Tortoise Mind – think less! Guy Claxton is a thinker after my own heart. While everyone else is rushing around introducing rational thinking skills he is pushing the ‘slower’ idea of developing intuition, hence the title of his book ‘Hare Brain Tortoise Mind – how to increase your intelligence by thinking less’.Claxton is about valuing patience and confusion which he believes are the precursors of real wisdom rather than the current emphasis on rigor and certainty. It is by digging into this ‘under mind’ of our unconscious that Claxton believes creativity resides.”

Education Readings February 27th

By Allan Alach 

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 1.33.14 pm

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

This week’s homework!


Four reasons to seriously worry about ‘personalized learning’

Another gem from Alfie Kohn – a must read.

“Personal learning entails working with each child to create projects of intellectual discovery that reflect his or her unique needs and interests. It requires the presence of a caring teacher who knows each child well.

Personalized learning entails adjusting the difficulty level of prefabricated skills-based exercises based on students’ test scores.   It requires the purchase of software from one of those companies that can afford full-page ads in Education Week.”

Steve Hargadon: Escaping the Education Matrix

“What are most kids getting out of 12 years of school?” he asks. “The honest answer is they’re learning how to follow, and that was the original intent. Public schools were based on the belief that what was needed was a small group of elites who would make the decisions for the country, and many more who would simply follow their directions” — hence a system that produces “tremendous intellectual and commercial dependency.”

How Learning Artistic Skills Alters the Brain

‘The art students specifically increased “their ability to think divergently, model systems and processes, and use imagery,” the researchers write. The results suggests that, in a matter of a few months, “prefrontal white matter reorganizes as (art students) become more able to think creatively.”’

The Corruption of Learning

The biggest challenge facing schools is that the modern world amplifies our ability to learn in the classic sense, and increasingly renders the official, school based theory of learning pointless and oppressive. While our kids’ love of learning can flourish outside of school, it’s extinguished inside of school as we take away agency, passion, connection, audience, authenticity, and more.”

Three lessons from the science of how to teach writing.

So much for teaching by standards…

“Traditional grammar instruction isn’t effective. Period. Six studies with children in grades three to seven showed that writing quality actually deteriorated when kids were taught grammar. That is, graders scored the essays of students who’d been taught traditional grammar lower than those of students who had not received the lessons.”

What Comes First: the Curriculum or the Technology?

“It’s important to never force fit technology – if it’s not supplementing what’s already happening in the classroom or a teacher’s goals for the school year, the addition will become more of a barrier to learning than a catalyst.”

Why Slowing Down Stimuli to Real Time Helps a Child’s Brain

Suggest you read this and reflect….

“The pacing of all programs, both adult and child, has sped up considerably. Part of the reason for that is that the more rapidly sequenced the scenes, the more distracting it is. It’s taxing to the brain to process things that happen so fast even though were capable of doing it. And there’s emerging science now in older children that watching such fast-paced programs diminishes what we call “executive function” immediately afterwards. It tires the mind out and makes it not function as well immediately after viewing it.”

False Choices and how to Avoid Them

This came to me from Phil Cullen who found it on an Alfie Kohn tweet…

“The lesson “accept your children for who they are rather than for who you want them to be” is clear. Loving your kids for who they are is the only real choice.”

Is There School Today?

“Kindergarten, literally a “children’s garden” was traditionally a place focused on playing, singing, and otherwise imagineering. Over the past 20 years, a myopic focus on reading and math has turned the children’s garden into a factory, a place where unique beings go for standardization, followed by 12 more years of it. This standardized approach to learning supposedly prepares them for placement in an economy that no longer exists.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Welcome to Concept to Classroom!

Bruce’s comment: For teachers who want some practical knowledge about :Constructivist Teaching,Multiple Intelligences,Cooperative and Collaborative Learning, Inquiry Learning, Interdisciplinary Learning, Assessment and Evaluation and Web Based Learning,  and practical ways to implement them this is the link for you. Highly recommended.

“The site features a series of FREE, self-paced workshops covering a wide variety of hot topics in education. Some of the workshops are based in theory, some are based in methodology – but all of the workshops include plenty of tips and strategies for making classrooms work.”

16 Ways Your Brain Is Sabotaging Your Effort To Learn

“The human brain is our best friend, and our worst enemy, and unless we keep one eye peeled, it can hijack our learning completely.

In this article I’d like to examine some of the “traps” the brain sets for us during the course of our academic careers, and what we can do to avoid them.”

Welcome back to a new year of learning!

Bruce’s comment: I think this NZ site Discovery Time is well worth a plug.

“Discovery Time is the perfect opportunity to excite children’s curiosity, discover their strengths and stand  back and observe how they work together.  Keep your ‘Key Competencies’ focussed on ‘managing self’ and ‘relating to others’ i.e. looking after equipment, sharing, taking turns, cleaning up when you have finished, trying something new, working with someone you don’t know…”

Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching – a New Zealand perspective

Bruce’s comment: The challenge of developing a 21st C education system. Some NZ thinking about personalising learning. Well worth the read.

“It is widely argued that current educational systems, structures and practices are not sufficient to address and support learning needs for all students in the 21st century. Changes are needed, but what kinds of change, and for what reasons? This research project draws together findings from new data and more than 10 years of research on current practice and futures-thinking in education.”

Personalisation and Digital Technologies

Bruce’s comment: Download this document for a UK view of personalising education.

“The logic of education systems should be reversed so that it is the system that conforms to the learner, rather than the learner to the system. This is the essence of personalisation. It demands a system capable of offering bespoke support for each individual that recognises and builds upon their diverse strengths, interests, abilities and needs in order to foster engaged and independent learners able to reach their full potential.”

Personalising learning – what does it mean?

Not to be outdone, here’s Bruce’s take in personalised learning. Bruce mentions a book called ‘In the Early World’ by Elwyn Richardson. All teachers should have this in their library,

“Once ‘child centred’ was commonly heard phrase but it  now seems dated . ‘Student centred’ seems more relevant – is this personalised learning? If students are helped individually some might call this personalised but , if it is moving through a pre-determined curriculum at the students pace this is simply a more an extreme form of ability grouping than personalising learning.”

Education Readings January 30th

By Allan Alach

Another New Zealand school year is about to start, so I guess that means I need to unpack my brain and get started on this year’s education readings.

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

This week’s homework!

Can Lego Help Return Play to Children’s Lives and Education?

Peter Gray commenting on a Lego Foundation conference – a good read.

“..there was no real discussion of the meaning of “play” (at least none that I heard), and I wish there had been, because many speakers used the term to refer to activities that neither I nor most children would class as play. They used the term to describe activities that teachers could bring into the classroom for the explicit purpose of teaching certain lessons, lessons that are part of the school curriculum and would ultimately be measured by scores on tests.”

When you innovate are you a puzzle builder or quilt maker?

Interesting video:

“When you don’t ‘get’ something, when there’s something you’ve not got that gets in the way of building your idea, do you put your hands up and wait until the next piece in your puzzle becomes available, or do you just make stuff happen with the resources you’ve got – are you a puzzle maker who struggles when a piece is missing or a quilt maker who makes the best out of what you have?”

Workload forcing new teachers out of the profession, survey suggests

An article from England, however from what I read online this is a widespread concern.

“Almost three quarters (73%) of trainee and newly qualified teachers (NQTs) have considered leaving the profession, according to a new survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. Heavy workloads are wreaking havoc among new recruits as 76% of respondents cited this as the main reason they considered quitting.”

What’s Worth Learning in School?

Thanks to Ivon Prefontaine for the link to this. Ivon’s Leadership, Innovation, and Creativity site is well worth following.

‘“You’ve been teaching long enough to be pretty sure that hand is going to go up as soon as you got started on this topic, and so it does, with an annoying indolence. All right. You gesture toward the hand, Let’s hear it.

The student: ‘Why do we need to know this?’”

Seven ways schools kill the love of reading in kids — and 4 principles to help restore it

“This post by Alfie Kohn explains all the ways that school actually kills a desire to read in many kids, and how that can be remedied.”

Great Research

Jamie McKenzie:

“Students must make answers. The research is like a shopping trip to find the raw ingredients that will be chopped up and combined to cook a great stew or sauce. Cooking should involve more than heating up “store bought” dishes in the microwave.”

5 Devastating Facts About Charter Schools You Won’t Hear from the ‘National School Choice Week’ Propaganda Campaign

“Children who are better resourced with more family support are the winners in the school choice game. Children from disorganized families don’t even enter the lottery. Children with significant special needs are not well served in charter schools that lack the appropriate resources. The privatization of our schools puts public schools at a huge disadvantage, stranding the least advantaged and disabled in underfunded, under-resourced schools.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Beginning the school year with the end in mind ( Steven Covey)

Bruce wrote this article for New Zealand teachers who are about to enter the fray for the new school year; however it has relevance all over.

“A few years ago Steven Cover wrote a popular book called ‘The Seven Habits of Effective People’. One of Covey’s effective habits  was  to ‘begin with the end in mind’.I think it very important advice for teachers starting with a new class. What would you like the class to be like at the end of the year? What habits, dispositions, attitudes, competencies and behaviours would you ideally like to be in place?”

Insights into Student Motivation

“Motivating students is always a hot topic among education writers and researchers, but never more so than the last several years. This MiddleWeb Resource Roundup gathers blog posts, interviews and studies centering on some of the recent commentary on intrinsic and extrinsic sources of motivation.”

My Longstanding Beef with Instructional Leaders

Bruce’s comment: Are principals really’ instructional leaders’  or’ lead teachers’? Do you go to your principal for help or to an admired fellow teacher? The reality of the principal’s role is to create conditions to encourage creativity and to trust teachers.

‘When the mic finally came to me, I pushed back at the notion that principals are truly the instructional leaders of any school.  “How can you REALLY be the instructional leaders,” I argued, “when no one has ever seen you teach?!”’

The Past, Present And Future Of High-Stakes Testing

Bruce’s comment: The state of testing – is USA the model to follow? This testing obsession must never take over New Zealand schools!

“I’ve just written a book on this topic, The Test: Why Our Schools Are Obsessed with Standardized Testing — But You Don’t Have to Be, and Steve Inskeep sat down with me to ask me a few questions about it.”

Andrew McAfee: What will future jobs look like?

Bruce’s comment: This  TED talk by the author of The Second Machine Age  is a must to watch about the future of jobs in the coming decades. It is a positive message. Schools need to be about encouraging exploration, imagination and creativity – not the current push towards standardisation ( which has more to do with the first Industrial Age. Be great to show to staff and senior students.  Andrew Mcafee gives a powerful quote about education ‘I learnt in Montessori school that the world was interesting and it was my job to explore it. Then I went to public school – it was like being in the Gulag’.

8 Myths That Undermine Educational Effectiveness

Bruce’s comment: The real truth – myths about education. How many apply in NZ? (or in your location, wherever that may be).

“Certain widely-shared myths and lies about education are destructive for all of us as educators, and destructive for our educational institutions. This is the subject of 50 Myths & Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools: The Real Crisis in Education, a new book by David Berliner and Gene Glass, two of the country’s most highly respected educational researchers. Although the book deserves to be read in its entirety, I want to focus on eight of the myths that I think are relevant to most teachers, administrators, and parents.”

Treehorn Is Every Child.

Treehorn is Every Child


 Click here to download……….NOW

TREEHORN, the name given by Florence Parry Heide to a little lad who kept shrinking but nobody noticed, represents all boys and girls. Nobody notices school children; adults indifferently ignore almost every single child from the day it starts going to school. NOBODY cares…..really…. about the way that schooling should be conducted for Australian children. Our historically petrified, pest’em-test’em State Theory of schooling stresses–out keen learners…. socially, emotionally and intellectuality; and ,so, their cognitive capacities are not stretched to any decent extent. Some of their more zombic mentors even think that test-stress itself is good for children; in the same way that measles are good for their complexion. SO, Treehorn and his friends keep shrinking intellectually, emotionally and academically. Nobody worries.

Read this booklet if you think that schooling is important..The material contains topics that those with a genuine interest in schooling like to talk about. Each topic and each cartoon in this little booklet has meaning. Each helps each one of us to think about schooling, and learning. Please feel free to print it as a booklet and share or its parts with others.

P.2    This inside-cover tableau has its genesis in Pasi Sahlberg’s [Finland] original comparisons between the aims of the Australian National GERM and the aims of LEARNING systems of schooling, like Finland. It’s not complicated.

P.3    This first cartoon’s origins are uncertain. It represents a meeting of ‘stockholmed’ principals, many of whom hold high positions in teacher organisations, high on the hierarchical scale of a state, church or other school system, are hard workers; and generally considered to be regarded as ones who ‘run a good school’. They’re immobile and sterile in an educational sense. When it comes to the exercise of professional ethics and belief in children as learner-children, their professional mind finds refuge under the soil.

In milder terms, Kelvin Smythe describes such ‘educators’ as Dr. Strangeloves after the doctor played by Peter Sellars in How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb [Substitute ‘NAPLAN’ for ‘bomb’ and you get the picture], “..strangegloving principals do not, at base, have to learn to love the government lines; it is inherent in their intellectual and moral make-up. That is because we have much less free will than we think. Strangeloving principals, while often very competent principals, feel morally lost going against authority, they need someone to trust and believe in – so feel impelled to strangeloving.” .

P.4    The photograph of the message on the pupil’s shirt says it all in a few words. There are a few thinking C2000 schools around Australia and America with parents who are prepared to go to these lengths for their kids. God bless them and their spunk.

P.5   Inspired by Freeman Butts – Assumptions Underlying Australian Education – 1955 – this page displays how little we have learned about ourselves over the past 60 years. Great book. Sad. Still relevant. We still ignore all decent research into teaching and learning; and blindly follow the quantitative modes of mediaeval times. Stress and test .

P.6   This page contains a sincere and serious prayer: “Please revitalise our professional dignity…” [Pray sincerely at this point]; then there’s a telling comment from a mother ; and then a model of Australia’s testing factories spewing Creativity, Disciple and Intelligence out of the system as waste; replaced by mortar-boards. Who’s got the best stress and test factory? That’s the purpose, right?

P.7    Here are some more serious assumptions. For instance, we often forget that: how Australian teachers teach and what to teach, whether good or bad, is in the hand of just one person in Australia, usually a politician whose experiences of schooling are negative in terms of knowledge and experience. Yes. One person only decides….based mostly on whims of the moment. The present one subscribes to the ancient chalk-talk theory of schooling without reference to classroom research nor to holistic learning.

P.8-12    Kelvin Smythe describes, in this brilliant summary, the basics of a realistic school system that (1) keeps the pupil in the middle of each teacher’s eye, (2) is based on high ethical principles and (3) encourages the freedom to learn without limits.

P.13-14    Who is Treehorn? As Florence Parry Heidie says…..he’s every little child. What have we adults done to him?

P. 15    ‘ N.A.P.L.A.N. ‘ – the poem by Ray Kelley.

P.16-17    If parents are not allowed to decide for themselves whether their child is to be kleinised or not, school systems of the future should reserve a few billion dollars for some push-over anti-test-stress litigation.

P.18-20   A proper Head Teacher aka Principal talks about the way that his/her school will progress using the humanity, the challenge and the pleasure of the learning experience.

P 21   “I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think “ [Socrates]

P.22    Quotable Quotes

P.23 A Case Study in ‘ethical’ political command by the Federal Minister for Education.

P.24    A teacher-aide describes how she navigated life at school.

P.25    A series of “What if?” questions, the most telling of all : “What if Julia Gillard had not shared cocktails with Joel Klein in New York in 2007?”

P.26    The true origin of the Australian system of schooling aka Testucation 2007.

Phil Cullen […..not too late? ]41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point Australia 2486 07 5524 6443

The elephant in the room

The Elephant


In 2009, The Great Aussie Politico-Curriculator, who was in total charge of every single schooling thing, following a visit to a NY education zoo, subsequently imported monstrous elephants [mammothius gillardus] and installed one in each Australian classroom at considerable cost. The behemoths have remained mostly unnoticed for six years. Those in charge of each classroom know that they are there, but they have not been allowed to talk about them. Principals, who care more about their public position than their ethical esotericism, have been deliberately blindfolded by this maverick curmudgucator and her successors and instructed to do as they were told. Most did so as soon as they were bid, unimpeded by ethical or professional considerations , because it was the easier path. They just don’t talk about the ridiculousness of test-based schooling. It’s too esoteric. Parents have not been told of the effect that the elephants have on classroom activities, either . It’s called ‘mushrooming’. The outcomes have become calamitous…..for children.

The animal in each room has grown larger and larger and dirtied the precinct abominably, but, is now being noticed….a little. Teachers, with noses held tightly, are speaking out and asking questions in public. They’re starting to ‘bang on’. They want to get on with the job and clean out the room for learning action. The present condition of each animal is poor, even according to the maverick/arithmetical zoologists’ own standards. The learning room certainly stinks. Dumbo is failing and will pass on ….. soon.

Euthanasia has to be a undertaken. It’s urgent. The sooner the better. Fear, failure, depression, pandemic dyspepsia and congenital stupidity are incurable.

Phil Cullen [……banging on] 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point Australia 2486 07 5524 6443

Testing Teacher Professionalism

The Treehorn Express

Testing Teacher Professionalism

About 5 years ago [10 Jan.2010] I wrote an article called TESTING TEACHER PROFESSIONALISM.

Its revised version is offered below. The article, universally ignored by those ‘on the job’ at the time, is presented to you again with the comment that I do not enjoy being so prophetic. The teaching profession, by its feline obeisance to a crazed political obsession, itself driven by an ideological allegiance to the money-hungry neocons at the big-end of town, seems to have lost its way.


When the USA Joint Chiefs of Staff gather for formal occasions, their chests are covered with medals for killing people. Susan Ohanian an American author and teacher suggests that teachers should be awarded similar medals for killing children. She says, “If testing takes over your school, demand similar medals for killing children.” Susan O is a fierce advocate for the abolition of National Testing in the U.S.  She is referring, of course,  to the killing of children’s learning spirit, because that is what happens when such blanket testing controls each school’s curriculum. As a member of a caring profession, she is concerned about the influence of non-caring politicians in the U.S. on hers.

Are you a member of this caring profession? Used to be? What is your view of your ‘job’?

Australia introduced national blanket testing in 2008 in a ‘ruddy blush’ with malice-before-thought. Following advice from a New York legal eagle, who has little-to-zero school experience, Federal politicians, educrats,  pundicrats and arithmetical academics started telling Australian members of the teaching profession how they must teach by setting tests that determine certain styles of instruction and gave their blessing to the corruption of the school curriculum. . The year 2008 needs special mention in history books. It’s a first.  2008 – Australian introduced schooling system based on fear. [Refer: Nelson, Gillard, Klein, Pyne, Murdoch]

There is a difference between the ethical standards of each profession, of course. Soldiering follows the business of killing. The gentlest of soldiers are provided with sophisticated weapons and are trained to kill and destroy. As a rule, they remain loyal to the more regal aspects of their profession. Members of the teaching profession are trained to accept each pupil’s natural desire to learn and to develop each one’s learnacy potential at the same time as each one accumulates knowledge. There is no greater kind of care; no greater profession.

There is no greater professional ambition. But we know that we have been turned around. We are under instruction to ignore the best-known teaching techniques and to use “the soft bigotry of low expectations” [Newkirk] caused by judgemental tests..

A profession is defined as “…A disciplined group of individuals who adhere to high ethical standards and uphold themselves to, and are accepted by, the public as possessing special knowledge and skills in a widely recognised, organised body of learning derived from education and training at a high level, and who are prepared to exercise this knowledge and these skills in the interests of others.

Inherent is this definition is the concept that the responsibility for the welfare, health and safety of the community shall take precedence over other considerations.” [Australian Council of Professions}

The imposition of immoral [yes], high-stakes devices on law-abiding, institutionalised pupil-citizens, by politicians and efficacy hawks, challenges the professional attitudes of Australian teachers in a way that the profession has never before been challenged. Never, in Australia’s history of schooling, have totalitarian methods been used to demand compliance on such a wide scale. Political intolerance for views from the professionals at the chalk-face has seldom been expressed so dictatorially by any Australian government, with the exception of the Bjelke-Petersen regime in Queensland, way back when.  Naomi Wolf describes such a movement as a ‘fascist shift’ from democratic ideals.

Teachers have endured some pandemic curriculum assaults in times past, such as the minimal competency movements of the 1980s, but none as potentially destructive as this present one, nor as other-controlled.

Testing in various formative and summative forms is part of the everyday evaluation of pupil progress organised by each school, shared on a pupil-personal level so that parents can also share at the grass-roots and in step with their child’s level of competence at the time. Each head teacher aka principal is an expert at evaluation techniques that embed challenge with process. It’s each pupil’s personal business to evaluate progress…more than the business of anyone else; and each can be taught to share self progress with its parents and teachers. Shared evaluation and sensible curriculum time-limits ensures no ceiling to standards and achievements. It enlivens the ‘hunger for knowledge, insistence on excellence and reverence for language, science and math.” [Obama] and excellence in other learning areas as well. When tyrannical testing controls the curriculum, as it now does, it is dangerous and evil and, according to Martin Luther King, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetuate it.” Teaching’s professional ethics and the exercise of protection for their clients in the face of heavy fire-power is presently  being tested as never before.

This puts our present-day teachers in a position that older colleagues have never had to face. Teachers usually do as they are told and try to ‘do the right thing’ by covering an enormous range of learnings through their day-to-day activities. They are usually the busiest of the caring professions. Susan O suggests that they are placid and complacent because they come from a culture of people-pleasers who are always trying-to-be-agreeable. They need to overcome this disposition towards conciliation and compromise. “They must learn to refuse.” she says.

If they do not, they can be accused of gross passivity or creeping Eichmannism, named after the gent who organised the Holocaust because he was told to do so. There’s a similarity. . It’s a truly worrying professional ethics dilemma.  There needs to be determined support from much bigger and ‘higher’ professional power-sources to support the true blue; perhaps some professional organisations and subject associations that truly believe in their own ethical circumstances, and are prepared to shout loudly and exercise some political clout.

During 2009, in Australia, the notion of classrooms as sparkling learning centres was neutered. There is already abundant evidence that testing factories will soon dominate the landscape. Sadly it seems the only way to go while the various professional organisations remain timid and compliant, and the fourth estate exercises its selective scrutiny and preference for controversy.

While the press ignored the visit of Finland’s Professor Jouri Vaijari to Australia and the outcomes of the world’s most comprehensive report the world has seen on contemporary primary schooling for four decades: the Cambridge Primary Review, in October, there was a glimmer of hope in a November 2009 publication of the Queensland Teachers’ Union. Its magazine ‘Professional Magazine’ was a stand-out and provided sufficient detailed, definitive evidence for each professional organisation, Principals’ Association, and Teachers’ Union to tell the federal Minister for Education to desist….to jump in the lake. . If she wants to produce standard-setting tests, then she should send them to schools to use as they see fit or sell them to testucators on the street corner. They are a waste of money.

The evidence fell flat on its face. Nobody noticed. Nobody was told.The bozone layer was too thick.

When the various Principals’ Associations have had high level conferences with ‘world’s best’ speakers over the past decade, their advices have been totally ignored by the Australian media. The public has been mushroomed. It should be expected that such Principals’ Associations would have provided the most dominant leadership roles until now, because they are closer to the action and should know, more than most, the effects of rearranged school time just to cater for coercive accumulation of bits of static knowledge. When the Minister met with 150 Primary Principal representatives on 10-11 November,2009 our puppeteer  controlled them with a simple buz-baz conferencing technique. She was good. Like Charlie Chaplin in ‘Modern Times’, the principals’ associations  got caught in the big wheel and became part of the machinery.  Patient and passive, almost fawning, they joined the powerful sciolistic number crunchers in maintaining  rational order for the purveyance of political quackery; arranged so that any resistance by them  from then-on would be regarded as wilfulness. Under instruction, they are now forced to ignore any advice from any true professionals like Pasi Sahlberg, Sir Ken Robinson, Marion Brady, Kelvin Smythe,  thousands of other true-blue professional;  and even close their eyes to the use of  underhand  means for preventing  little Treehorn to talk to his tormentors.

A general educational apostasy is a probable outcome. It’s on the way.

Being professional should not be such a heavy burden. Principals of this decade,  at all levels of schooling,  face a dilemma of extraordinary proportions. They know of the outcomes of the damage being perpetrated on people who are forced to attend school, and they have a special duty-of-care towards them because of their detention centre circumstances. Principals as head teachers have always claimed top-billing amongst the caring professions, but their attitude towards caring is now under scrutiny. Ever cautious of doubting the intentions of those on whom they rely for organisational advice, for financial and technical support, for employment and placement and usually dutiful to a fault, they are slower to refuse or to question directions than most other professional people. Politicians and non-teaching-professional folk are now talking down to them; ordering them to interfere with healthy child development. That is profoundly clear. So, the principals of those schools that conduct blanket national testing for politically-based publication or for boasting purposes are in a real maelstrom between a rock and a hard place. The betting is that their associations will freeze their professional ethics as they search for a reasonable escape or excuse…..or capitualtion.

It’s a shame.

The children have no advocates of any consequence. While the present school day remains overcrowded with some non-essential chic subjects and some that could be left to un-trained teachers in non-school time; while the curriculum is based on whim and the latest fashion; and while governments refuse to standardise age-years and the number of years of schooling throughout Australia and an Explicit Instruction cult has started to infiltrate,  the pupils will have to get used to this kind of  attack on their natural love for learning, forget about learning how to learn more, and, as they have done in ages well past,  continue to consume large doses of educational baked beans. Professional ethics are being held in abeyance while dictatorial ministers and their  eminence grise tell the-once-upon-a-time great, ethical teaching profession  what to do and how to do it..

As a profession, teaching  is on its last legs. Teaching is changing rapidly into being just a job, a well-controlled occupation. Being told what to do and how to do it[by one person only – the federal minister for education – it must be noted],  requires little reference to “high ethical standards….accepted by the public as possessing special knowledge and skills in a widely recognised, organised body of learning derived from education and training at a high level, and who are prepared to exercise this knowledge and to use these skills in the interests of others.” [See above]…. Its demise is devastating.

I repeat. School children in Australia have no advocates. The professional ethics of teachers were their best chance. Gone.


Phil Cullen […….sad, very sad] 41 Cominan Avenue  Banora Point Australia 2486   07 5524 6443

Education Readings September 12

By Allan Alach

I’m early with this week’s readings list. As I’m still travelling in Croatia, it pays to make use of good wifi reception when I find it!

There are so many good articles floating around at the moment that I could post next week’s list as well, but I will spare you from that torture!

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

This week’s homework!

STEM is incredibly valuable, but if we want the best innovators we must teach the arts

“A foundation in STEM education is exceptional at making us more efficient or increasing speed all within set processes, but it’s not so good at growing our curiosity or imagination. Its focus is poor at sparking our creativity. It doesn’t teach us empathy or what it means to relate to others on a deep emotional level.”

The Fatal Flaw Of Education Reform

“Nevertheless, I believe that this “movement” (to whatever degree you can characterize it in those terms) may be doomed to stall out in the long run, not because their ideas are all bad, and certainly not because they lack the political skills and resources to get their policies enacted. Rather, they risk failure for a simple reason: They too often make promises that they cannot keep.”

Boys Learn to Interrupt. Girls Learn to Shut Up.

“When boys and girls play together, boys interrupt more. A lot more.”

“The more boys there are in the group, the less often girls in the group interrupt.”

“When girls play together without boys, they interrupt more. A lot more.”

Why replacing teachers with automated education lacks imagination

The corporates behind GERM have this fantasy of classroom where computers do the ‘teaching’ with adults available purely as backup. All to make money, of course, and nothing to with actual education.

“The belief that technology can automate education and replace teachers is pervasive. Framed in calls for greater efficiency, this belief is present in today’s educational innovations, reform endeavours, and technology products. We can do better than adopting this insipid perspective and aspire instead for a better future where innovations imagine creative new ways to organise education.”

Are You Ready to Join the Slow Education Movement?

Education must be personalized – responsive to the real needs of each student. This could mean the abolition of grade levels based on age. When education is personalized, it emphasizes student interests, teaches skills using worthwhile content – and most important – shows kids how to tap into their own innate motivation to learn. It puts the onus of learning on those who have the most at stake in school: students.”

Beyond Caricatures: On Dewey, Freire, And Direct Instruction (Again)

This week’s ‘heavy duty’ article but don’t let that stop you from reading it! This is important.

“The empowered student necessarily requires the classroom offered by the empowered teacher. Any who teaches must first work through the philosophical evolution that Dewey and Freire represent—as well as continuing beyond the possibilities offered by Dewey’s progressivism and Freire’s critical pedagogy.”

Dispelling the Myth of Deferred Gratification:What waiting for a marshmallow doesn’t prove

By Alfie Kohn:

“Underlying self-discipline and grit is the idea of deferring gratification—for example, by putting off doing what you enjoy until you finish your “work.” The appeal to many educators of transforming kids from lazy grasshoppers to hardworking ants explains the fresh wave of interest in a series of experiments conducted back in the 1960s known as the marshmallow studies.”

Gifted primary school children need more than special classes

“Many gifted boys and girls find the gifted label stigmatising, and go out of their way to dodge the dreaded nerd status. Would these children be better off in specialised school environment? The gifted education community is sharply divided about this issue with some educators perceiving that the specialised school environment is the ideal setting for gifted children, whereas others believe that they would be better off in the regular school milieu.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Common Core’s Five Big Half-Truths

Bruce’s comment:The US has a Common Core Standards that are neither  common nor core (Sir Ken Robinson calls them a ‘race to the bottom’) New Zealand has National Standards that are neither national or standard. Both are political and populist. Both narrow the curriculum, encourage teaching the tests and side-lining of creativity and  the arts. Both are the equivalent to the ‘McDonaldisation of education’.

School is back in session, and debate over the Common Core is boiling in key states. As governors and legislators debate the fate of the Common Core, they hear Core advocates repeatedly stress five impressive claims: that their handiwork is “internationally benchmarked,” “evidence-based,” “college- and career-ready,” and “rigorous,” and that the nations that perform best on international tests all have national standards. In making these claims, advocates go on to dismiss skeptics as ignorant extremists who are happy to settle for mediocrity. The thing is, once examined, these claims are far less compelling than they appear at first glance.”

4 Big Things Transformational Teachers Do

Bruce’s comment: Are you a transformational teacher – read this then decide.

“Transformational teachers don’t react. They anticipate and prepare. Lee Shulman, as reported by Marge Scherer, suggests that expert teachers demonstrate the following, despite enormous challenges:”

Planting the Seeds of Innovation in Education

Bruce’s comment: An innovative high school class/teacher.

‘Don Wettrick is on a mission: revolutionizing the world of education by training the next generation of innovators. A reformed teacher (he taught to middle and high school students for 17 years), Don started planting the seeds of innovation at the Franklin, IN High School 3-and-a-half years ago, having found inspiration in Daniel Pink‘s book “Drive”.’

Leading the Shift to Digital: School, System & City

We’re living through the most significant shift in how human beings learn—it’s bigger deal than the printing press and happening a lot faster. Almost everyone has a stake in the quality and speed of transition from the old model organized around birthdays and books to personal digital learning. In the near future, in cities and across networks that lead the shift, we could see a significant improvement in career readiness and economic participation.”

From Bruce’s oldies but goodies file…

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.”

Creativity – its place in education

Wayne Morris’s essay on education for creativity. Brilliant  – from one of Bruce’s closest associates.

“Creative students lead richer lives and, in the longer term, make a valuable contribution to society. Surely those are reasons enough to bother. Creativity in the classroom – what does it look like?”

Howard Gardner on creativity – are schools encouraging creativity? The challenge of creativity.

“By definition all life is creative and schools ought to be the best place to develop the creativity of all their students but this is currently not the case.”

Told You So

A History of Blanket Testing

“The only thing we learn from history is that we never learn for history.”

Did I hear you say that things are different these days? Well. This is a personal account from back when. .
In 1980, I visited the USA and the UK for the express purpose of studying the Minimum Competency Movement in the USA and the Assessment of Performance Unit in the UK, both politically-produced ordurous reactions to the Back to Basics meme of the 1970s. The 70’s “standards debate” had been a vicious attack on schooling that was lasting far too long. In Australia, it was led by “The Bulletin” and one or two conspicuous non-teaching attention-grabbers in each state. It died in Australia as it deserved to do before the the educational dementia of national blanket testing set in. Not so in USA. Sad consequences there as reported below. [ Australia made up for it in 2008. ….in spades.]

Minimum Competency Testing  – 1980

Fresh from my trip, I was asked to write an article for The Canberra Times. It was printed on 4 August, 1980 and headlined : Minimum Competency Testing: A Spreading Educational Malignancy in the United States. An extract from the article was repeated and highlighted : “Since the future of a country depends on the attention that it gives to its greatest resources, spare some tears for 21st century USA. Its destiny is clear and the news is not good. For Australian children’s sake now and for our country’s sake in the future – pray that the malady does not spread across the Pacific.”


“I don’t like the Minimal Competency movement. It’s bad psychology; it’s bad measurement; it’s bad thinking. It’s rooted in the fiction that we know what skills in school ensure success in life”.
These are the words of Professor Gene Glass, meta-analyst, who is well known for his research into class size. He is one of many who are reacting to the spreading educational malignancy in the United States. It is called Minimal Competency Testing.

The movement was spawned by the “decline theorists” of the 1970s who were enormously successful in perpetuating their myths of a decline in standards in most Western countries.

Their calls were based on a simple nostalgia for an unknown golden age, when each student was supposed to have been as competent as Greg Chappell is with his cricket. Their credo was taken up by legislators who called for proper surveillance of the school system. Laws have been introduced in many US States that have called for testing of students, especially those graduating from high schools. In most States, if a student does not pass the test, a graduation certificate is not issued.

What have been the consequences?

Where the minimal competencies are listed as basic survival skills [e.g. changing a tyre, knowledge of first aid], the curriculum becomes a farce and students are not extended. Where the list includes higher-order skills [e.g. a good knowledge of calculus], teachers concentrate on the most difficult aspects; and the important aspects of the curriculum are neglected.
Test-publishing firms are having a field day. A contract for a State or school district represents big business and lobbying is intense. Whether a contract is won or lost, publishers move in on schools hawking audio-tape presentations that promote “beating the test”. Current prices are around the $200 mark.

When a state or district issues its list of competencies, it makes promises. These can be tested in court and the American notion of democracy encourages such litigation. Civil-rights lawyers are having a field day ….”for that same reason that Willie Sutton robbed banks. That’s where the money is”, Professor Glass says. Within the courts, judges make decisions about the activities of schools. They tend to direct school districts as to what they must do.

Educationists, many retired from schools, establish private firms selling seminars, workshops. lecture tours and packaged kits on how to cope with the achievement of basic competencies.

A Mess

All in all, it means that the test publishers, the legislators, the judiciary and a host of middlemen take control of the school curriculum. Parents and teachers are left out in the cold. It’s a mess.

Patriotic American are most concerned, for the future of their country is seen to be at risk. The essential aspects of education that are required for the citizens of the new century are seen to be in jeopardy. Children are seen to be basically lazy and a loose confederation of “back-to-basics” pressure groups are jealous of the freedom to learn, that society in the 60s and 70s had extended to its young. Children need to be smartened up, threatened with failure and reminded of their incompetence to fill today’s jobs.

Actually, one needs a strong will to suggest that schools and children are growing worse. Some groups, businesses and individuals have that twisted will. They seek to ensure that public school systems break down and given to free enterprise. They are determined; and assume a divine right to claim ownership of a centralised curriculum which is easy to control and peddle.

Blanket testing of competencies doesn’t solve anything. Testing of any kind , when necessary, needs to have a human, encouraging tone that disposes children to upgrade their learning styles with confidence.

The children of the United States are compelled by law to endure great stress for some years, as this innovation works itself to death. Currently, the love for learning is being converted to the drudgery of work and punishment for failure.

Since the future of a country depends on the attention that it gives to its greatest natural resource, spare some tears for 21st century USA. Its destiny is clear and the news is not good. For Australian children’s sake and for our country’s sake in the future, pray that the malady does not spread across the Pacific.


This was 34 years ago! It is difficult to understand how anyone who had anything to do with schooling, with an E.Q. ‘above room temperature’ would allow the same conditions to re-emerge or to spread anywhere south of the equator. MCT, using blanket testing devices, has been shown to be an abomination. That was 30 years ago!

In Australia, serious educators, with a reasonable E.Q., of course, have known about its foul intent for decades. They just have no power.

But then in 2008, twenty-eight years after this warning, low E.Q. scatophagic politicians, middlemen testucators and money-hungry child-molesters took control.

[E.Q.: Education Quotient is a measurement of educationism determined on the same sort of scale as I.Q.]


APPENDIX I have been most fortunate with my experiences as a primary education freak. This 1980 trip was dedicated to trying to find out as much information as possible about minimum competency testing and large scale assessment of pupil performance. I started by re-visiting UCLA and I/D/E/A in Los Angeles where I had spent some time ten years earlier.

I caught up with an old pal from that period, who had just resigned from the superintendency of a school district where there was a large weapons research facility. Scientists controlled the school board and had decreed that no child would be given a graduation certificate who had failed to pass a calculus test. Sol Spears argued through the media that the notion was crazy. He had a doctorate, but did not know the first thing about calculus. He was forced out. It was an extreme [one hopes] example of what can happen when child-molesting testucating sciolists take over the curriculum.

I visited other groups and people who were pursuing an interest in MCT : North West Lab. in Portland, Oregon; Gene Glass at the University of Colorado, whom Barry McGaw of ACARA was also visiting in an academic measurement capacity; and AASA [Bill Spady] at Washington DC.

I left the US sharing the abhorrence of many, many high-octane educators there of the notion of blanket testing being used as a fearsome weapon of much destruction. As a weapon of accountability, it was entirely useless. As a diagnostic tool it set individual progress back many years. It was a gung-ho, crazed approach, carelessly conceived. As Gene Glass summarised : blanket testing is based on a minimum lethal dose attitude, on payment by results, on making pupils feel inadequate. “…nothing to do with science and technology; not with psychology; not with measurement. It has to do with politics.”

I then headed for the Assessment of Performance Unit – APU – established by Margaret Thatcher, Minister for Education in England. This unit was divided into sub-units, each independent and removed from each other; each employing methods of assessment that varied. I visited each sub-unit – Mathematics, Literacy and Science. Each ,it seemed to me, was trying to avoid, as much as possible, the pen-and-paper mode of testing even though the assignment of a value to each testing exercise was tricky.

There were some innovative ideas, but I gathered that there was a general feeling of despair and frustration at trying to find the magic formula for mass testing….already conscious of the futility of the same-moment-in-time blanket mass pen-and-paper mode. Tests were random, but each sample involved endless techniques and modes of scoring. As one testor asked, “How do you test the efficiency of each component of a space rocket when its hal-way to the moon?”

The units saw the futility of treating school subjects in isolation.The only conclusion that was common to each unit was: that primary school classrooms were such complicated operations, so intense, and so different from each other that any mass testing debauched individual intellect, was a serious threat to each person’s cognitive development and an enormous waste of time….especially for those who needed more closer and warmer support than the average.

I was especially disappointed with the deterioration in the level of enthusiasm shown by England’s teachers for the spirit of teaching itself, that had been the key feature of my observations in 1970. It had been a child-focussed, busy, achievement-centred, exciting place of learning then. No more.

The only thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history.

Phil Cullen 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point Australia 2486 07 5524 6443

Teaching Strategies

Treehorn Express

Teaching Strategies

A Practitioner’s View
Phil Cullen

Any observer of a primary school in action will see a number of different teaching strategies in use during the course of the day.  Many are planned to suit the topic in hand and many spontaneously arrive as particular circumstances arise. There is an enormous assortment. Let’s arrange the kind of  strategies that you might see……

Didactic                                                Group                                                  Maieutic


Adult Controlled                                   Inter-active                                           Child-centred


This continuum is meant to represent individual gradations of teaching styles stretching from didactic styles of teaching to the maieutic.  Between the two extremes, there are hundreds of techniques. In days past, folk would refer only to the use of ‘traditional’ techniques [the left-hand end of the continuum] or ‘progressive’ [right-hand]. It was a mindless distinction, and gave little credit to those who were skilled at strategies located anywhere on the continuum. Good teachers understand the use of all techniques. They move up and down the gradations at different times of the day.

Try this. Visit a school on a Sunday or any holiday. Try to identify the prevailing strategies used in each classroom from the arrangement of the furniture and equipment . If all desks face in orderly rows towards one end of the room, you can be assured that adult-controlled didactic strategies prevail. Think twice about sending your children to a school that has all its desks facing in the same direction. This  statement is not  intended to rubbish the technique itself, even though the furniture setting indicates that didactic chalk-talk methods, overloaded with boredom,  are used for most of the day.  Of course, didactic strategies have to be  used at some stage during the course of each school day; when the teacher needs to be dominant or needs to explain matters in a general fashion or has to use the ‘board’.  As a constant or prolonged  pupilling device, however, such methods are limited in their effectiveness.

With pride, I would claim that my generation was the first in endless decades to remove the screws embedded in static desks, firmly attached to the floor, all facing the same way. It was the ‘enlightened sixties’.  Slow as we were to learn and confined by bureaucratic and exam-based procedures, we adjusted our cojones and went for it. We had started to take the child as the point of reference, and tried to come to terms with the differences between children. We started to recognise the need for active participation and conversation and laughter and fun and freedom to enhance genuine learning and healthy cognitive development..

Until then,  pupils, subject to explicit, direct instruction, in almost every classroom in the country, were expected to sit still on a  chair or a form, all day, every day, for a full year….for twelve years! Yes. The style that schools are now being encouraged to return to.

Didactic Strategies

The left-hand extreme above represents the sermonising strategy. Priests and Ministers use this technique regularly during their weekly instruction at church, when they talk to a large group of sitting people. A good test of its efficacy is to stand outside a church on any Sunday morning at the completion of a service, and ask members of the congregation what the sermon was about. Never-the-less, sermonising is a legitimate, oft-used, didactic-teaching technique in classrooms, and some are better than others at using it. Instructional techniques at this end of the spectrum are favoured where there is a large group to be instructed or when one is preparing a class for a blanket test and wants each one in the class to be at the same level.  On such occasions, there is little choice. ‘Jug to mug’ process of instruction are favoured. Add plenty of practice and a fear-of-failure to the class culture and approved scores will be ejected at the same time on test day…..sometimes with the morning breakfast..

Usually, there is no place for the expression of emotions or basic humanity. Didactic techniques are  usually gradgrind/hard-grind that expect clear, formal, testable outcomes.

A didactic strategy can be improved upon as a teaching technique if a chalkboard or whiteboard is used… or an OHP or a Power-point presentation or a computer program or some other appropriate teaching-aid. Just listening has limitations; so, as one moves along the continuum towards the right , learning-attention is increased. Eyes and hands join the ears.  Packaged schemes, often described as ‘teach-proof’, can be used by the instructors. I used to love the SRA Structured Reading kits!

In my own time as a student-teacher, we were instructed in ‘school method’. All were didactic techniques; and the textbooks of the time emphasized only adult-controlled methods. We were obliged to practise our blackboard writing as often as possible. We were instructed on how to write on the black-board while keeping alert for misdemeanours that might be committed behind our backs. [In many authorities at the time, left-hand writers were not employed as teachers even though they had an advantage. As they moved across while writing, they did not stand in front of the screed.] We also learned not to repeat the reply to our questions because children must learn to remember what we tell them. I don’t recall learning much more than this from our lecturers. Direct teaching was the only mode, it seemed. We learned some useful tricks of the trade from teachers at our practising schools, but were  never taught to use a variety of teaching strategies. We should have been.

When the study of the use of all teaching strategies is combined with the knowledge of teaching and learning research as revealed by Dunkin, by Gage, by Biddle and others [i.e. about what really happens in the teacher-pupil exchanges], the topics used at teacher-preparation institutions became more academically rigorous. They became ones of high academic calibre, practicality and of prolonged practice-based study. I think.

As one describes teaching techniques, using the above framework,  moving from left to right one can also see that teachers are moving off the stage and, as pupils are allowed to talk to each other, the pupils start to believe that they have more control over their learning. Group practices are brought into play. There is an enormous number of group settings [5. Learning in Small Groups] and, as we move along further, the teacher’s role starts to become one of confidence trickster. They ‘set up’ the learning exchanges. As they move more to the right, pupils undertake learning with greater enthusiasm because they start to believe that they have control, that learning is their business; and they want to learn more about the topic-in-hand and share personal achievements with their teacher and others. Learning becomes personal. Evaluation is a serious part of it. The act of learning per se becomes important. Each has a different way of ‘doing it’.

The desire to learn is a natural thing for pupils and has been from birth.  When they feel that they have control over the choice of what they are learning, the world is theirs. As for teachers, they are teaching learnacy at the same time as they are pupilling knowledge because child-centred efforts are more effective than any other kind. The two-way exchange, called ‘pupilling’ is a serious affair. I will teach; you will learn. It’s why schools are established.

As pupils and teachers  move along the continuum of teaching strategies towards the more affective end [repeat AFFECTIVE],  the strategies become much more complex and demanding. The school day usually provides a healthy mix.

Let’s now consider consider the maieutic styles, keeping in mind that true learning resides in each individual. It has to emerge. It cannot be forced with the likes of fear of examination failure, heavy didacticism and  other crippling personal, stress-ridden  distortions. The emergence of learning confidence through true learnacy techniques is paramount. The teacher’s pupilling task is to draw it out and refine it.

Maieutic Strategies

Maieutic strategies convey midwifery roles to teachers; and the strategies towards the right-hand end of the continuum imply that a child’s natural desire to learn is helped to manifest itself as the child develops. The teacher is there at the birth of learning of something new and nourishes the child’s personal control of it. Learnacy is part of a child’s psyche from birth and its development is the real business of the concerned teacher. The pupilling processes accelerate cognitive development with genuine concern for achievement. As one moves to the right along our continuum, [towards ultimate Emile-type activities] the methods become more inter-active, more pupil centred. The pupil starts to take centre-stage. Since there has to be close one-to-one contact as much as possible, this style of interaction requires intense effort. It is extremely physically demanding and mentally challenging on the teacher. The smaller the class, the greater the interaction and more purposeful the learning and sharing of effort. Smaller classes do not mean easier teaching, as smart-alec, ‘ne’er-do-anything’ critics are wont to espouse. The closer one gets to one-on-one pupilling the more intense the interaction becomes and the greater the learning outcomes.

There are schools that try to operate on the premise that pupils should believe in full control of learning.  It’s a hyper-version of confidence trickery. When pupils feel that they are learning what they want to learn, even though the teacher has ‘set them up’, the world is their oyster, so the classroom becomes learning-attractive and achievement-effective in every sense. I have only ever visited one school that verged on the extreme right-hand maieutic strategy. It was a splendid infant school in a suburb of Bristol, England [Sea Mills] where quality teachers performed extraordinary confidence tricks. The children really believed that they were doing what they wanted to do. They arranged their own curriculum – what they wanted to learn – and the school took it from there. Extreme? Yes. Successful? Yes. Popular with parents? Outrageously so. Children learn?  Amazing achievements.

Higher up the school, one has difficulty in imagining a present-day Huntingdale Tech., Victoria, kind of secondary education where attendance at classes is completely voluntary…a school that really believed that “Learning resides in the individual. It is a voluntary act.” and it shaped its curriculum to suit… graduating examinations….advice offered  to post-school occupations and institutions [e.g. Universities] when requested?  The laws of compulsory education insist that children attend school….and say nought about attendance at classes.

Some people used to think that the term ‘open education’ or ‘alternative schooling’ referred to these child-centred activities to the right and, because some classrooms appeared as if there was little adult-control and too much freedom…children allowed to walk around and talk to each other… they did not like it. The term ‘open’ however was meant to apply  only to school architecture , in places where teachers shared large spaces. The use of ‘open’ as a learning descriptor was a monumental misuse of the English language. Use of terms such as  ‘traditional’ and ‘progressive’ teaching styles, ‘direct’ and ‘child-centred’ instruction are sterile terms when used in a classroom context. It’s a plain, fair-dinkum pupilling place with the pupil in the middle of the teacher’s eye. Critics just did not appreciate the distinction, nor the terminology, nor what was happening in  schools. Still don’t.

If official judgements are based on misused terminology, the future is bleak.


Phil Cullen [….still looking for more humanity in the classroom]

41 Cominan Avenue, Banora Point Australia 2486

07 5524  6443

Education Readings July 18

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!

Creativity is rejected: teachers and bosses don’t value out-of-the-box thinking.

“Unfortunately, the place where our first creative ideas go to die is the place that should be most open to them—school. Studies show that teachers overwhelmingly discriminate against creative students, favoring their satisfier classmates who more readily follow directions and do what they’re told.”

“It’s ironic that even as children are taught the accomplishments of the world’s most innovative minds, their own creativity is being squelched.”

Poverty and the Moral Imperative of Education

An important article by Peter Greene, dismantling the neoliberal claim that education is the cure to poverty.

“This is the “education fixes poverty” mantra. If we get everybody through high school prepared for a good job (defined in many PD sessions as “a job with an above-the-poverty-line” wage) then nobody will be poor and everybody will be healthy and happy and successful. There are two huge problems with this argument.”

“Failing school does not cause poverty. And it’s not even right to say poverty causes failing school. The high level of failure among students living in poverty is a sign that our schools are not meeting the needs of those students.”

Sweden’s School Choice Disaster

Neolibs – take careful note…

“Advocates for choice-based solutions should take a look at what’s happened to schools in Sweden, where parents and educators would be thrilled to trade their country’s steep drop in PISA scores over the past 10 years for America’s middling but consistent results. What’s caused the recent crisis in Swedish education? Researchers and policy analysts are increasingly pointing the finger at many of the choice-oriented reforms that are being championed as the way forward for American schools. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that adding more accountability and discipline to American schools would be a bad thing, it does hint at the many headaches that can come from trying to do so by aggressively introducing marketlike competition to education.”

Great technology requires an understanding of the humans who use it.

“MIT BLOSSOMS, one of the most exciting and effective uses of educational technology to help high school students learn math and science, doesn’t boast the latest in artificial intelligence or adaptive algorithms. Its secret weapon is, rather, a canny understanding of human psychology—both students’ and teachers’. Technologically speaking, its basic model could be executed with an old television and VCR.”

How can schools feed student appetites for sourcing sustainable produce?

“Thankfully the workshop leaders were undaunted by the challenge of slowly unpicking the jargon to help students understand why it’s important to think about how their meals got to their plates. From food miles and Fairtrade to the environmental and health benefits of becoming a vegetarian, no aspect of the journey from soil to supermarket shelf was unexplored. At the end of the class, the penny finally dropped. Asked what they can do to source more sustainably, the response from pupils was emphatic: “Grow my own vegetables,” shouted one girl. “Buy foods locally,” offered another.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Transforming School Culture Through Mutual Respect

Bruce: “Importance of valuing mutual respect.”

“A pivotal aspect of fostering mutual respect among teachers, students and staff is adhering to the following eight expectations, which I’ve witnessed fundamentally change the way schools function.”

Study: Too Many Structured Activities May Hinder Children’s Executive Functioning

Bruce: “Over structuring results in students missing out on social skills – is this happening in NZ classrooms?”

“When children spend more time in structured activities, they get worse at working toward goals, making decisions, and regulating their behavior, according to a new study.

Instead, kids might learn more when they have the responsibility to decide for themselves what they’re going to do with their time. Psychologists at the University of Colorado and the University of Denver studied the schedules of 70 six-year olds, and they found that the kids who spent more time in less-structured activities had more highly-developed self-directed executive function.”

From Bruce’s oldies but goodies file:

The transformative Power of Interest : Annie Murphy Paul – Dan Pink and Carol Dweck

Bruce’s comment: “I really like the message of this blog. There has been a recent Education Review Office Report on Secondary school achievement saying the most impressive school was one where the school tailored the curriculum to students’ interests e.g. linking maths to information technology. Seems obvious to me. Personalised learning is the pedagogy of relationships.  We need to focus on what students are thinking – they are too often a neglected resource ignored by teachers to busy teaching to listen to student ‘voice’..The blog below is about the transformative power of interest.  The future is about learning not education. Education is what someone gives to you – learning is what you do yourself. We need to focus on ‘teaching’ students ‘how to learn’ – to ‘seek, use and create their own knowledge’ as it says in the 2007 New Zealand Curriculum.

Children as scientists

Bruce: “An oldie – something written in 1947 which is reflected in 2007 New Zealand Curriculum”

“I recently came across an extract from an article called ‘Children are Scientists’ written in 1947 by Herbert Zim. 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.”

More ‘Magic’ of Teaching

Bruce: “Evolution of computer use in classrooms by a creative South Island principal”

“It would seem to me that if we want to develop a creative education system, able to develop the talents of all students, then we need to listen more to those teachers who have gifts they could share with others. All too often ‘we’ think that all good ideas come from ‘on high’ but hopefully this myth is losing its power as current curriculums are being found wanting – ironically by the very people who introduced them.”

The killing of creativity by the technocrats.

In this posting Bruce references an article by Kelvin Smythe about “St” John Hattie.  This is a must read, as Hattie and others of his ilk threaten true holistic child centred education.

“As I visit classrooms 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. Overseas experts aways seem to know best – or those that return with their carpet bag full of snake oil.”

This week’s contributions from Phil Cullen

Want to improve teaching? Ask a teacher

“The media has been full of complaints about poor-quality teachers. But does the answer really lie in choosing teachers with better academic marks? Teacher Chris Fotinopoulos is not convinced.”

There are many ways of being smart… Headteacher writes to pupils saying not to worry about exams.

“You might hope that every school would want pupils to work their very hardest – and pass any exams with flying colours.

But one primary head has decided there is more to life than educational achievements, and has written to her final-year pupils to tell them not to worry about their results.

Headmistress Rachel Tomlinson and her head of year six, Amy Birkett, told children that there are ‘many ways of being smart’ in the message, which was included with their Key Stage Two results.

They asked the 11-year-old pupils to remember that the scores ‘will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything’.”