Education Readings March 16th

By Allan Alach

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

Here are some links to acknowledge Sir Ken Robinson who is currently in New Zealand.

Sir Ken Robinson: creative thought leader in education

Interview on Radio New Zealand on Sunday 4th March.

Summerhill School: learning as students choose

Sir Ken referenced this school in his interview, so here is an interview with Zoe Readhead, daughter of A.S. Neill – a must listen.

‘Summerhill is an alternative free school in Suffolk, England, started by educational leader A.S. Neill in 1921. The pupils are free to come to lessons as they choose, and students and teachers have an equal voice in decision making.’

Ken Robinson: Government “Standardization” Blocks Innovative Education Reform

“I never blame teachers or schools… But there is this deadly culture of standardizing, that’s being pushed on them, politically. My core message here is that we have to personalize education, not standardize it. That all children are different, and we have to find their talents and cultivate them.”

Do Schools Kill Creativity?

If you’ve never watching Sir Ken Robinson’s Ted Talk from 2006, or if you’ve not seen it for  a while, here it is. Either way, it is a must watch.

Sir Ken Robinson – Can Creativity Be Taught?

Links to many other Sir Ken videos can also be found here.

“Modern ADHD Epidemic is Fiction” – Ken Robinson

‘Our children are living in the most intensive stimulating period in the history of the earth. They’re being besieged with information and coerced for attention from every platform: computers, from iPhones, from advertising hoardings, from hundreds of television channels. And we’re penalizing them now for getting distracted. From what? Boring stuff. At school, for the most part. It seems to me not a coincidence, totally, that the instance of ADHD has risen in parallel with the growth of the standardized testing. Now these kids are being given Ritalin and Aderol and all manner of things, often quite dangerous drugs, to get them focused and calm them down… It’s a fictitious epidemic.’

Moving on :

Does writing by hand still matter in the digital age?

Technology is having an impact on children’s handwriting ability. But what does this mean for learning and development?

‘But what of the role that handwriting plays in learning and development? And with technology changing how we live and work, what place does handwriting have in the modern classroom? These were the questions put to the teachers, academics and specialists in education and technology at the Guardian’s roundtable event on 27 February.’

But is there even a correct way to hold a pen?

‘It’s true that handwriting employs our hand muscles differently from the swiping and tapping motions we use to navigate the online world of today.

But when it comes to scrawling words on the page, the idea of ‘correct’ pencil grasp is actually way older than the iPhone – and science shows that there appears to be more than one way to correctly hold a pen.’

Arts integration: Turning teaching on its head

‘Sometimes the arts are used alongside a lesson being taught – for example, students might turn their writing into a performance and ‘act it out’ or perhaps draw a picture of what they have learned. We consider that in these instances, arts are simply being used alongside other subject areas, and while we like this idea, it is not what we mean by arts integration.  In our view, arts integration is a method of teaching, a pedagogical approach that focuses on the [non-arts] subject being taught, and not necessarily on the art form.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Learning from one of New Zealand’s pioneer teacher – Elwyn Richardson

(Author of ‘In The Early World ‘ possibly the best book written about education anywhere. ..)

Bruce’s article here is the perfect follow-on from the Sir Ken Robinson links and shows a way to achieve Sir Ken’s vision. Long before Sir Ken’s rise to fame, Elwyn Richardson took creative primary education to a new and, I suspect, still unsurpassed level.

‘Elwyn expressed concern that due to learning becoming over intellectualized ( and therefore available to be assessed), that intuitive thought was in danger of being neglected. There was, he felt, a danger of learning becoming too conceptualized and that this would result in damaging students’ intuition and creativity. That it would result in the neglect or downplaying of the creative arts.’

Bill Gates Admits His Common Core Experiment Is A Failure

This comes on the heels of New Zealand abandoning their rather similar national standards. Maybe non-educators should stick to their knitting…

‘After spending $400 million on forcing schools around the country to adopt Common Core, Bill Gates has finally admitted that the controversial teaching method is a failure, and significantly less effective than traditional teaching methods. 

Parents and teachers across the nation have been urging schools to dump the toxic Common Core curriculum, arguing that it deliberately dumbs down children and creates unnecessary and complicated methods for working out relatively simple problems.’

Assessment in the early years…

‘A recent story I heard talked about a display that pitted children against each other in a race to be reading at a certain level.  This kind of practice breaks my heart.  I don’t for a moment think that these teachers are doing this to hurt children, but I don’t think they have taken time to think about how the children feel.  How does this shape their view of what reading is or even learning is?   How does it promote a culture of shared learning and journey?  How does it speak to these children about failure and mistakes?’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Here’s a collection of all Bruce’s articles about Sir Ken Robinson.

Out of Our Minds

‘A book to read for all who believe in creative education. ‘Out of Our Minds’ by Sir Ken Robinson. Introductory keynote speaker at the 07 NZPPF Conference to be held in Auckland.’

Importance of Creativity

‘Sir Ken talks about the importance of nurturing innovative solutions in the classrooms – indeed in every aspect of life. Sir Ken is now senior adviser to the Paul Getty Trust and was knighted in 2003 for his commitment to the creative arts and education in the UK.  is set to become the ‘buzz’ word of the future. Sir Ken sees creativity as essential for students as they seek jobs in the future.’

‘Creative Schools’ a book by Sir Ken Robinson

‘A must read for anyone who believes in an education system that aims at developing the gifts and talents of all students. Read this article about Sir Ken’s latest book 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.’

The need to transform schools – Sir Ken Robinson

‘One writer school leaders could get behind to give support is Sir Ken Robinson who is well known to many schools. And there are many others. It is also ironic that while Western countries follow neo liberal ideology leading to testing, standardization and privatization Asian counties are working hard to break out of high stake testing and introduce more creativity into their systems!’

National Standards gone – now it’s time for creativity says Sir Ken

‘The previous Nationals  Government was right in believing schools should do a lot better. No student should leave school feeling a failure. The trouble is their approach is wrong, and ironically, with its desire for all students to be assessed against National Standards, is creating ‘winners and losers’ environment and in the process narrowing the curriculum and encourages teaching to the tests. Sir Ken Robinson call this standardization a fast food approach; an  approach that has its genesis in the past industrial age.’

Sir Ken Robinson and Tony Wagner

‘While schools are distracted by ensuring they are seen to do well in achieving / improving their National Standards and NCEA data they are creating the very hyper-accountability conditions that make it difficult for creative teachers.’


Education Readings March 9th

By Allan Alach

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

6 Techniques for Building Reading Skills—in Any Subject

Students need good reading skills not just in English but in all classes. Here are some ways you can help them develop those skills.

‘Without a repertoire of reading strategies that can be applied to any text, students are being shortchanged in their education. In order to teach students to read effectively, teachers must be sure that they are not simply suppliers of information on a particular text but also instructors of techniques to build reading skills. Here are some ideas on how to incorporate reading skills lessons into a curriculum.’

Academic Sponge Activities

A sponge activity is a lesson that soaks up precious time that would otherwise be lost. Hint: It should be fun as well as educational.

‘When failing lessons need to be abandoned, it’s time to implement a sponge. Madeline Hunter originated the term sponge activities to describe “learning activities that soak up precious time that would otherwise be.” The best sponges are academically rich and provoke laughter. Nicholas Ferroni, an education writer for The Huffington Post, says that laughter activates dopamine and the learning centers of the brain.’

Managing the Oppositional-Defiant Child in the Classroom

‘Some of the most challenging students I’ve had to teach have been those with Oppositional-Defiant Disorder. These are the students who challenge the behavioral norms in the classroom, often show low academic achievement, and lack motivation. Thankfully, there is plenty of research behind teaching these tough nuts to crack and lots of resources out there to help you figure out interventions to support them in the classroom.’

Scaffolding Student Thinking in Projects

‘In order to skillfully embrace the challenges and opportunities they will encounter in life, our students need to develop sophisticated thinking skills that extend far beyond disciplinary boundaries. From understanding and unpacking problems, constraints, and possibilities, to identifying patterns and addressing biases, the types of thinking we should be nurturing in students are many and complex.’

STEM may be the future—but liberal arts are timeless

‘Society has therefore devalued the study of literature, history, politics, philosophy, and sociology as wasteful or pointless. Many suggest we all just should learn skills such as coding, digital marketing, and web development instead. But this is not the direction the world is heading in. Professional requirements are changing so quickly in the real world that lessons deemed relevant in the first year of college are barely relevant upon graduation—and much less early into one’s career.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Teaching in a Modern Learning Environment – with a twist!

Bruce’s latest article:

‘Modern Learning Environments must be more than an architectural innovation. Modern Learning Environments provides the means to devise learning situations which open up the potential for extending the learning of the students. It means attempting to develop within the individual learner all the skills and attitudes of a competent independent learner.’

Primary pupils’ maths skills ‘dropping alarmingly’, report finds

After seven years of national standards, on top of 27 years of a neoliberal education philosophy, the damage to NZ education is starting to become very clear. Fortunately the new government may have seen the light and so things may start to turn around. Time will tell.

‘A new report has found schools that improve maths teaching and remove streaming were more successful in reversing a “worrying” downward trend in children’s maths abilities.Schools that abolish classes specifically for talented pupils have a better chance of addressing declining achievement in maths, a new report has found.’

Critical thinking in an age of fake news

‘In a post-truth era of alternative facts and fake news, the ability to discern what is true is an increasingly important skill.

Learning the skills to apply reason to claims is something built into New Zealand’s school curriculum as one of five key competencies required for living and lifelong learning. Critical thinking involves questioning evidence, the validity of sources of information and reaching conclusions based on evidence.’

This Yale Psychiatrist Knows How to Shut Down the School to Prison Pipeline: So Why is He Ignored?

‘What Dr. Comer has demonstrated, is that the academic success of children (especially those from poor neighborhoods) depends on educators building good relationships with their parents and truly caring about the students. It begins by first focusing on transforming the social environment of a school community.

Successful change does not begin with national standards or standardized testing (though test scores will also rise significantly, as an outcome of the cultural changes).’

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

So much for WALTs, success criteria, teacher intentions, worksheets, phonics, heavy teacher feedback /forward ~ formulaic standardised education….

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

If Only We Could Find A Way To Not Un-Learn It

‘It’s a truth that I feel in my own heart, even if I often struggle to live it, but the more time I’ve spent with young children, the more I stay out of their way, the more I see that they are the ones who truly understand it, not intellectually of course, but by simply living in the “Now,” regarding their fellow humans in their toils or trails, and making a decision to help them. This is why I can never consider adults as more intelligent than children.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Why schools don’t educate.

‘We live in a time of great school crises, Gatto began his presentation, ‘and we need to define and redefine endlessly what the word education should mean. Something is wrong. Our school crisis is a reflection of a wider social crisis – a society that lives in the constant present, based on narcotic consumption’

What’s the Point of School?

‘The purpose of education’ Claxton writes, is to prepare young people for the future. Schools should be helping Young people to develop the capacities they will need to thrive. What they need and want, is the confidence to talk to strangers, to try things out, to handle tricky situations, to stand up for themselves, to ask for help, to think new thoughts’ .’This is not to much to ask’, says Claxton, ‘but they are not getting it’.

Education Readings March 2nd

By Allan Alach

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

Better together

‘Social learning is one of the vital components of contemporary learning and development. None of us lives in a vacuum, and we are better, stronger and wiser when we learn and work together. Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky (1978) argued that we learn best when we are immersed in a socially rich, culturally relevant environment.’

Secret Teacher: social media makes it impossible to switch off from work

‘Social media and messaging apps are a blessing and a curse for teachers. While it has broadened our horizons and inspired new ideas (thank you, Pinterest), it has also increased the intrusion of work into our personal lives. We are always contactable, and in many different ways. What starts off as a message containing a funny aside or lighthearted remark can quickly become a virtual planning meeting.’

What students know that experts don’t: School is all about signaling, not skill-building

‘There is a massive gap between school and work, between learning and earning. While the labor market rewards good grades and fancy degrees, most of the subjects schools require simply aren’t relevant on the job. Literacy and numeracy are vital, but few of us use history, poetry, higher mathematics or foreign languages after graduation. The main reason firms reward education is because it certifies (or “signals”) brains, work ethic and conformity.’

Storytelling – A way into writing

‘I have taught writing both ways…formally through modelling and experience, and informally through play and storytelling.  The marked difference between the two environments is the amount and type of writing and the level of engagement.  You know those reluctant boy writers everyone goes on about?  Well they don’t exist in this environment.  They access writing at their own developmental stage, they do what they can and feel successful….even better after the initial teacher directed time (which feels more like a narrative) they are free to finish and move back to play.’

What Is a ‘Quality’ Curriculum?

‘Curriculum is a special case, however. Designing and delivering lessons—a.k.a. curriculum and instruction—are what teachers do. Nothing is more central to being an effective teacher (and by that, I mean a teacher whose students are paying attention and learning) than control over the what and how of the work.

Once we’ve totally lost those, there is no profession left. Teachers will be technicians, dispensing pre-selected knowledge using pre-determined methods and materials. Autonomy, creativity and purpose? Gone.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

The New Zealand Curriculum (2007) – was lost but now is found.

With the end of national standards, it’s time to dig out those dusty copies of the New Zealand curriculum, as Bruce has done in this article.

‘I envisage classrooms as true learning communities of scientists and artists exploring their concerns, the local environment and the wider world past and present. Such classrooms I see as mini Te Papas ( or perpetual science, art, maths technology fair  type exhibits) with every available space covered with displays/exhibitions of quality research, art and language based on the themes, studies, topics and investigations.’

Personalized Learning: What It Really Is and Why It Really Matters

‘Let’s be honest: as an academic term of art, personalized learning is horrible. It has almost no descriptive value. What does it mean to “personalize” learning? Isn’t learning, which is done by individual learners, inherently personal? What would it mean to personalize learning? And who would want unpersonalized learning?’

The Six Must-Have Elements Of High Quality Project-Based Learning

‘The framework is built around six basic elements that the framers believe must be present: intellectual challenge and accomplishment, authenticity, public product, collaboration, project management and reflection.’

The Best Ways to Shift Learning Responsibilities to Our Students

‘Teachers are in the position to foster engagement and develop necessary skills and self-

motivation. Alongside this they can model persistence in the face of challenges to achieve a desired goal. Let’s talk about how teachers can shift learning responsibilities from them selves to their learners.’

Setting pupils ‘incompatible with social justice’

‘Research by the UCL Institute of Education finds that setting by ‘ability’ is a ‘pernicious tool’ that reinforces social hierarchies

Grouping pupils into sets is “incompatible with social justice” as it entrenches the dominance of the middle classes at the expense of disadvantaged children, according to the latest findings from a major research project.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Kids from Chaos – our achievement tail?

‘I have always thought that it is the lack of authenticity about our programmes that all too often create the various categories of failing students in our society. Such students do not fit into ‘our’ preplanned programmes – success being assessed as students going along with what is offered. ‘One size fits most of the students’ – the rest are sacrificed; standardization only suits standard kids!’

‘Superkids’; the hurried generation!

‘Two basic metaphors have underpinned learning but now we have third. The first (and oldest) is the idea of the blank slate, or tabular rosa.   Much of the current school curriculum developments, imposed on schools, continues this metaphor with its obsession on educational measurement and the need to demonstrate the ‘added value’ the students have gained from their teachers. The second metaphor is that of a growing plant. This is seen best in junior schools. This metaphor is based on providing a stimulating and supportive environment to encourage the learner to grow and to develop their gifts and talents appropriately .The latest metaphor, and one with unhealthy consequences, is that of the ‘super kid’. This has resulted in what Elkind calls the ‘hurried child’. Arising out of an ideology of individualism and competition, this metaphor puts pressure on parents to hurry their children through childhood to give them an advantage in the future.’


Education Readings February 23rd

By Allan Alach

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

How Children Learn Bravery in an Age of Overprotection

Peter Gray:

‘I doubt if there has ever been any human culture, anywhere, at any time, that underestimates children’s abilities more than we North Americans do today.  Our underestimation becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy, because, by depriving children of freedom, we deprive them of the opportunities they need to learn how to take control of their own behavior and emotions.”

Reasons Today’s Kids Are Bored At School, Feel Entitled, Have Little Patience & Few Real Friends

‘I completely agree with this teacher’s message that our children are getting worse and worse in many aspects. I hear the same consistent message from every teacher I meet. Clearly, throughout my time as an Occupational Therapist, I have seen and continue to see a decline in kids’ social, emotional, and academic functioning, as well as a sharp increase in learning disabilities and other diagnoses.’

My Pedagogic Creed (1897)

by John Dewey

‘I believe that much of present education fails because it neglects this fundamental principle of the school as a form of community life. It conceives the school as a place where certain information is to be given, where certain lessons are to be learned, or where certain habits are to be formed. The value of these is conceived as lying largely in the remote future; the child must do these things for the sake of something else he is to do; they are mere preparation. As a result they do not become a part of the life experience of the child and so are not truly educative.’

‘It’s given the children a love of wildlife’: the schools letting nature in

‘But the children have been taking an active interest in the wildlife at their school for a while. Since creating a garden in an unused corner of their field more than two years ago, the pupils have attracted a variety of birds. They’ve planted wildflower seeds, created a vegetable plot, made bird nests, and learned about biodiversity. The school has a wicker bird hide and has bought binoculars to encourage bird spotting all year round.’

To foster a love of art in children, we must teach it at primary school

If we want children to value art, we must give them access to it early on in life. Here’s how primary schools can make space for creativity.

‘Robust art curricula should cover a range of artists, styles, genres, websites, books and galleries. Look to design lessons that build on prior learning, can be connected to a wider context (historical or geographical, for example) and provide opportunities to further develop visual literacy. Teachers can be encouraged to help children to think critically about images by asking open and closed questions, and giving them sentence starters as a way to talk about art. For example, “I like the way the artist has … ” or “In this artwork I can see … ”’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Great Pedagogy Trumps Ideology

‘Political ideologies may have indirect impacts on schools by the social and economic policies they enact and the impacts these have on learners’ lives, but the pedagogical approaches of teachers have so much more of an influence in schools. Teachers and schools have always looked at the constraints placed upon us by governments and then continued to design curriculum and learning in the best way they see fit.’

The Real Agenda of “So-Called” Education Reform

‘What if I told you that the hidden agenda of those controlling public education policy has actually been to crush innovation, make children more obedient, force teachers to “dull & dumb down” their instruction, and do whatever else is needed in order to snuff out young people’s natural creativity, curiosity, independence, freedom of thinking and love of learning?’

The Pedagogy Of John Dewey: A Summary

‘John Dewey is one of the giants in the history of educational theory, and it’s difficult to isolate one of his specific theories to discuss here. He was influential in so many areas of educational reform, that to choose one theme would do him a disservice, so I will highlight several of the areas in which he was ahead of his time.’

How should we group students in primary maths classrooms?

Grouping students in maths classrooms based on their ability or prior attainment is a notion that is increasingly being challenged by research (see also here and here). When we have engaged in so-called ‘ability grouping’ practices for so long, why should we think about changing? And what would the change involve? These are big questions that are concerning many teachers at the moment,  spurred by a nagging concern that traditional ability grouping may be missing the mark for a large group of students, along with wider conversations about equity issues in our school system.’

On the Edge of Chaos: Where Creativity Flourishes

‘If it’s true, in Sir Ken Robinson’s words, that “Creativity is not an option, it’s an absolute necessity,” then it’s that much more imperative to find ways to bring creativity to learning.But first, we have to understand what conditions foster true creativity. One definition that scientists have agreed upon for creativity is the ability to create something that’s both novel as compared to what came before, and has value. “It’s this intersection of novelty and value, a combination of those two features that’s particularly important,”’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

The forgotten genesis of progressive early education

‘My own experience has taught me that all the best idea have come from those who teach the very young children rather than with those working at the ‘higher’ levels  but this seems to have been forgotten. As children move up through the school system their experiences, their sense of agency and voice are replaced by subject requirements and teacher intentions. At the secondary little has changed in hundred years.’

Seymour Papert : The obsolete ‘Three Rs’ – blocking real change in education

All this Victorian emphasis on the ‘three Rs’  according to people like Professor Seymour Papert, a highly respected MIT expert in learning and computers, ‘expresses the most obstinate block to change in education’.’ The role of the basics’, he writes, ‘is never discussed; it is considered obvious’. As a result other important educational developments are being ignored.


Education Readings February 16th

By Allan Alach

If you are a creative teacher who wants to do the best for their class, I strongly suggest you read Bruce’s article (below) “Creative teaching:Learning from the past – John Cunningham teacher 1970s”

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

‘The Cult of Hattie’: ‘wilful blindness’?

Yet another ‘debunking’ of Hattie – got the message yet?

‘Unfortunately, in reading Visible Learning and subsequent work by Hattie and his team, anybody who is knowledgeable in statistical analysis is quickly disillusioned. Why? Because data cannot be collected in any which way nor analysed or interpreted in any which way either. Yet, this summarises the New Zealander’s actual methodology. To believe Hattie is to have a blind spot in one’s critical thinking when assessing scientific rigour. To promote his work is to unfortunately fall into the promotion of pseudoscience.’

Five Ways To Shift Teaching Practice So Students Feel Less Math Anxious

‘Rather than focusing on the algorithms and procedures that make mathematics feel like a lock-step process — with one right way of solving problems — Boaler encourages teachers to embrace the visual aspects of math. She encourages teachers to ask students to grapple with open-ended problems, to share ideas and to see math as a creative endeavor. She works with students every summer and says that when students are in a math environment that doesn’t focus on performance, speed, procedures, and right and wrong answers they thrive. They even begin to change their perceptions of whether they can or can’t do math.’

Why forcing kids to do things ‘sooner and faster’ doesn’t get them further in school

‘Why do some children who learn to read earlier than their peers do so poorly in ways that matter later on? Why do children for whom every aspect of their education, from kindergarten onward, is tailored toward graduating from college often struggle to graduate from college?’

The Joy and Sorrow of Rereading Holt’s “How Children Learn

‘This clearly is a corollary of the point that children learn because they are motivated to do the things they see others do.  They are, of course, motivated to do whole things, not pieces abstracted out of the whole.  They are motivated to speak meaningful sentences, not phonemes. Nobody speaks phonemes.  They are motivated to read interesting stories, not memorize grapheme-phoneme relationships or be drilled on sight words.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Creative teaching:Learning from the past – John Cunningham teacher 1970s

‘John wrote “It was the students themselves who effected the changing nature of the classrooms and I had to accept the children as who they are than what I wanted them to be”. Those who visited John’s classroom could not but be impressed with the quality of students work on display and of the way they were able to work independently.’

Teaching: Just Like Performing Magic

‘Education, at its most engaging, is performance art. From the moment a teacher steps into the classroom, students look to him or her to set the tone and course of study for everyone, from the most enthusiastic to the most apathetic students. Even teachers who have moved away from the traditional lecture format, toward more learner autonomy-supportive approaches such as project-based and peer-to-peer learning, still need to engage students in the process, and serve as a vital conduit between learner and subject matter.’

Personalized Learning Vs Personalization of Learning

‘Before she started speaking, I was skeptical because I have seen the idea of “personalized” learning happening in many schools where a student jumped on a computer and based on the information they share, the technology creates a pathway for that student.  Although the technology is impressive, it doesn’t mean that it is good.  Seeing a student completely zone out in front of a screen and letting the computer lead the learning is not where I hope education is moving.’

Technology can hurt students’ learning, research shows

‘Giving school students access to iPads, laptops or e-books in the classroom appears to hurt their learning, new research has found.

However, putting this technology in the hands of a teacher is associated with more positive results.’

Non-Math Essentials for Learning Math

Focusing on these five qualities of thriving classrooms can help foster confident young mathematicians.

‘As a math consultant, I’m in many classrooms, and I get to witness lots of math instruction. I find that there are similar qualities among the classrooms that are really thriving—and those qualities quite often don’t really have much to do with math. There are five non-math qualities I see in the best-run classrooms.’

The New Preschool Is Crushing Kids

(USA): Today’s young children are working more, but they’re learning less.

‘Until recently, school-readiness skills weren’t high on anyone’s agenda, nor was the idea that the youngest learners might be disqualified from moving on to a subsequent stage. But now that kindergarten serves as a gatekeeper, not a welcome mat, to elementary school, concerns about school preparedness kick in earlier and earlier. A child who’s supposed to read by the end of kindergarten had better be getting ready in preschool.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Control your own destiny – do something!

‘The answer is for principals and schools to work to share their expertise and insights and to develop a group consciousness able to stand up to outside pressures. There will need to be courageous individual principals prepared to start the collaborative ball rolling. I can see problems with so called ‘successful schools’, or the competitive, ‘look at me’ schools, wanting to share, and as well schools who are struggling ‘owning up ‘and agreeing to being helped. But, if someone starts the ball rolling then, as Dean Fink writes, schools can, ‘shake off the shackles of conformity and compliance and imagine and create…. do something. ‘So the answer to stress is to work with others to ‘do something’ and to develop, what Fullan calls, ‘local creative adaptability.’

A new metaphor : Assessment tasks as performance.

“It is somewhat surprising that some educationalists have only just picked up on this way of assessing learning, one used naturally in the real world. The problem is that schools have been diverted from such an understanding by believing in tests, written exams divorced from reality, and an obsession with assessing atomised bits of learning. Such educationalists have not been able to see the wood for the trees. It is exiting to read, in a recent Ministry pamphlet ‘Assessing Key Competencies’ (written by Dr Rosemary Hipkins), that one way to think of assessment is to consider the demonstration of competency as a complex performance’.”


Education Readings February 9th

By Allan Alach

If you’re still a John Hattie fan I suggest you carefully read the article “The Politics of Education Policy: Even More Beware the Technocrats.

The first reference listed at the foot of the article attempts to link to an article by Kelvin Smythe. This link no longer works and has been replaced by this one: Horizons, whirlpools, Sartrean secrets, John Hattie and other symptoms of the continuing education tragedy

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

Why I Want to Karate-Chop the SmartBoard and 19 Other Rants

‘I worked for a district who had the nicest SmartBoards and projectors around. I liked them, they were easy to use, and they were only there a few years. But, the darndest thing happened: the same year we took a forced pay freeze, the district purchased new equipment – because if they didn’t they’d lose the money. Socrates, one of the world’s greatest teachers, stood at a stone podium and gave his students one question to discuss for the entire day. Just give me the $5,000 it cost for that new tech equipment and let me be Socrates.’

Piles of paperwork stopping teachers doing what they’re good at

‘At the top of the list of the roadblocks are the piles of paperwork that increasingly stand in the way of good teaching. The teachers starting out this week didn’t become teachers to fill in endless forms; they became teachers to change lives.’

What Do Schools Fostering A Teacher “Growth Mindset” Look Like?

‘Yet, school leaders and teachers scarcely talk about how to adopt a growth mindset for themselves—one that assumes that educators, not only the students they teach, can improve with support and practice. Many teachers find it hard to imagine working in a school with a professional culture designed to cultivate their development, rather than one in which their effectiveness is judged and addressed with rewards and sanctions.’

A Recipe for Inspiring Lifelong Learning

A veteran teacher reflects on his quest to inspire intrinsic motivation and curiosity in his students.

‘It made me reflect over my career as an educator, and what kinds of impressions I have left in the hearts and minds of the many students I have taught. I would like to hope that the impressions I left were favorable, even memorable. One of the impressions I hope to have left is that students had success in their learning when they were in my class.’

The Politics of Education Policy: Even More Beware the Technocrats

‘Coleman and Hattie work to control what counts and what matters—the ultimate in politics—and thus are welcomed resources for those benefitting from inequity and wishing to keep everyone’s gaze on anything except that inequity.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

8 Ways to Help Older Kids Develop a Sense of Imagination

‘Because imaginative thinking hones creativity and improves students’ social and emotional skills, it’s something that teachers and schools should fold into their planning. Ostroff identified several strategies teachers can adopt to encourage older students to activate their dormant imaginations.’

Blue Sky High – five things every secondary school should implement…now

‘I believe that implementing the following five things would be a relatively easy way for any school to evolve so as to ensure students are gaining the skills needed now (not 100 years ago) and in the future. Whether you refer to them as the infuriatingly named “21st century skills” such as collaboration, problem solving and critical thinking, or simply as a way of genuinely fostering what the New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) refer to as key competencies, particularly relating to others, managing self and participating and contributing.’

Real Learning is a Creative Process

‘Real and meaningful learning is a creative process. Skills and knowledge cannot be downloaded like computer software, they must be acquired, constructed and mastered– through long-term application and effort.

Those who have studied successful skill mastery describe a common process that is followed, one that requires practice, effort, patience, experimentation and deep concentration.’

7 Reasons Why Differentiated Instruction Works

‘Differentiated instruction (DI) begins with an accurate understanding of what DI is—and is not.   You may be surprised how easy it is to incorporate into your classrooms.’

The Man Who Will Save Math

Dan Meyer, the most famous math teacher in America, wants to radically change the way we learn math.

‘Imagine aliens have abducted you. They’re kind enough creatures, however: Theirs is the slow-motion torture of trying to make you understand them. They flash their strange alphabet at you and prompt you with esoteric questions: Are you allowed to put this symbol here? To rearrange this into that? At first you struggle. Soon enough, though, you start to see patterns; eventually you begin to answer correctly.

This, Dan Meyer says, is how too many students experience mathematics.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Living at the Creative Edge: School transformation

An Australian school that caters for ‘disadvantaged students’

‘Education is difficult in disadvantaged situations where it is pretty obvious that the old ways are not working so it was great to read about a school that seems to be beating the odds. The approaches they have developed provide guidance for all schools but particularly middle and secondary schools. And it is not that the ideas are even claimed to be new – the school involved just had both the leadership and the courage to put them into practice. Their approach is in opposition to the market driven imposed reforms of the past decades.’

The Power of Biography!

‘Too often personalized learning is missing; lost in all the teacher imposed curriculum and assessment requirements; too much teacher ‘delivery’ of curriculums and not enough ‘designing’ personalised studies. One idea to remedy this situation is to study the significant and personal greatness of our student’s lives through biography. This could lead into, or emerge out of, a study of the biography of famous people, or the recording of the oral history of their parents, or of local people of interest.’


Education Readings January 26th

By Allan Alach

The New Zealand school year is about to begin, so Bruce Hammonds and I are back again with our education readings. Hopefully New Zealand schools are well prepared to make the most of the opportunities provided by the dumping of national standards, although we have our concerns that too many principals and teachers will struggle to break their mindsets free from the raising achievement focused dictates of the the previous nine years.

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

Assessment too often fails to prioritise learning – let’s change that

‘By relying less on data and more on teachers’ judgment, schools can give student assessment greater meaning while also cutting workload.

Often the focus is on what tracked data tells us about student progress, but I know of no large-scale study that demonstrates the positive impact of data-tracking systems on learning. My hunch is that you could delete all this data and the students would never notice the difference in terms of the education they receive. The majority of teachers have excellent knowledge of their students, with or without the data.’

IXL: Caveat Emptor & Personalized Misery

NZ may have been saved from this by the change of government, but …

‘As the computerized version of personalized [sic] learning continues to gather steam, we can anticipate increasingly aggressive marketing. Remember – you don’t win in a free market by having the best product, but by having the most effective marketing. Marketing for these algorithm-driven software packages of mass-produced custom education belongs to a special class of marketing – marketing that is designed to sell a product to people other than the actual end users… Education has always suffered from this problem– teachers get stuck using products that are purchased by district administrators who will never have to actually work with them.’

This is the one skill your child needs for the jobs of the future

‘Every child begins their journey through life with an incredible potential: a creative mindset that approaches the world with curiosity, with questions, and with a desire to learn about the world and themselves through play.

However, this mindset is often eroded or even erased by conventional educational practices when young children enter school.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

‘A World of Difference’: the philosophy of a Taranaki pioneer creative teacher – Bill Guild

‘In 2003 Bill Guild attended the Frankley Road 150th Jubilee, a school he had been principal of for 28 years from 1959 to 1986. An accomplished photographer, Bill complied a book ‘A World of Difference’ of the experiences and creativity of the students he taught to share with past students attending. Later an edited booklet was shared widely with teachers throughout New Zealand who knew of the quality of teaching he was well known for. Maybe it’s time to share his ideas again?’

Creative teaching:Learning from the past – John Cunningham teacher 1970s

Uncovering ideas worth sharing

‘The other day I was visiting my old friend John Cunningham. He had been recently sorting through old notes ( John is a bit of a hoarder) and had found some photos from his 1970 classroom and I suggested they might make an interesting blog.  In all areas of life we need to look backwards to move into the future; ‘ Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it’ (Santana).’

Starting the year right – building learning-focused relationships

‘If we want students who are confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners, how do we maximise the beginning of the school year to ensure this happens? We often use words such as ‘learning’ and ‘learner’ with our students, yet how often do we stop and check that they understand what these words actually mean? It seems to me that with a new year before us we have an opportune time to unpack these concepts with our students. Learning-focused relationships with and between students will not happen by accident; they need to be nurtured through careful planning and design.’

Why Are Kids Impatient, Bored, Friendless, And Entitled?

‘I am an occupational therapist with years of experience working with children, parents, and teachers. I completely agree with this teacher’s message that our children are getting worse and worse in many aspects. I hear the same consistent message from every teacher I meet. Clearly, throughout my time as an Occupational Therapist, I have seen and continue to see a decline in children’s social, emotional, and academic functioning, as well as a sharp increase in learning disabilities and other diagnoses.’

Teachers celebrate the end of National Standards

‘Primary teachers sound excited after the sudden announcement of the dropping of National Standards, and their New Year’s resolutions for teaching in 2018 are about re-discovering the New Zealand Curriculum, and locally relevant learning. They’re talking about passion-based projects, vision, and innovation; about drones and gardens, marine reserves and whakapapa. The romance has been re-ignited.’

Ken Robinson – How Schools Kill Creativity

Now that national standards have been dumped in the rubbish bin of history, it’s timely to bring back Sir Ken Robinson.

‘And the third part of this is that we’ve all agreed, nonetheless, on the really extraordinary capacities that children have — their capacities for innovation… And my contention is, all kids have tremendous talents. And we squander them, pretty ruthlessly. So I want to talk about education and I want to talk about creativity. My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status… ‘

Who should learn most about White Privilege—Māori children or Pākehā children?

Ann Milne:

‘Although, internationally, there is a significant body of research on Whiteness and White privilege (for example, see here, here, and here), in Aotearoa New Zealand we have been largely silent about White spaces in our “Whitestream” schools. The racist backdrop that is pervasive in our education system creates and perpetuates the White spaces that marginalise and alienate our Māori learners, yet it is a backdrop that we rarely name as being a problem.’

Secret Teacher: why can’t my school just trust us to do our job?

‘When I started my career in teaching, I was encouraged to be creative and experiment. I loved that freedom and I think it helped to make me a good teacher. I got used to reading around my subject and trying out different ideas. I made some mistakes, but I was always thinking, always learning, always trying to do better with my students. I got good results. I enjoyed my work. Contrast that with the situation I and many of my colleagues face today. My job and so much of what happens in my classroom is being controlled and my teaching hindered by excessive micromanagement.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

What messages does your school pass on to students?

‘It is important if students are to become active learners for them to tell their own stories, to pose their own questions and to make their own interpretations of what they experience. If their ‘voices’ are not recognised there will be many who will continue to disengage from their learning.’