Education Readings July 7th

By Allan Alach

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

What’s Going on Inside the Brain Of A Curious Child?

Thanks to Michael Fawcett for this one.

‘Blackwell, like many others teachers, understands that when kids are curious, they’re much more likely to stay engaged. But why? What, exactly, is curiosity and how does it work? A study published in the October issue of the journal Neuron, suggests that the brain’s chemistry changes when we become curious, helping us better learn and retain information.’

8 Ways The Internet Has Changed Learning A Language

Thanks to John Hawthorne.

‘It’s no secret that the internet has changed everything, from shopping to friendship to entertainment to music. The internet is also revolutionizing the process of learning a new language. It’s opening many options that never existed twenty years ago.

This isn’t to say that it’s less challenging to understand and speak a foreign language, but the process has changed dramatically.’

Learners Should Be Developing Their Own Essential Questions

‘Although essential questions are powerful advance organizers and curriculum drivers, the problem is that the essential questions are typically developed by the educator not the learners.  The educator may find these questions interesting and engaging, but that does not insure that students will find them as such.’

The Diminishing Role of Art in Children’s Lives

‘But according to new research conducted in the Netherlands by the Dutch school inspectorate, the amount of time children spend drawing by hand both in and out of school has been reduced over the last 20 years; the study also found that their artwork has declined significantly in quality and complexity since a similar study was conducted two decades ago.’

The danger of students doing what they’re told

‘The more teachers continue to issue instructions to learners about what to do and how to do it, the more we develop completely the wrong mindsets and dispositions for the world in 2025. The world is now exponential and schools need exponential change to happen now. There is no longer time for the traditional analog and linear systems that school use when planning for change. It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee! it’s time for school administrators to reconsider how planning and decisions are made and acknowledge that within the new context, the industrial education model is now damaging our children’s future opportunities.’

Summer Break: The Least Understood And Most Maligned Aspect Of A Teacher’s Life

‘Imagine just two normal people – they seem nice enough – standing in line having a friendly conversation. It’s hot outside, so you might hear the usual topics discussed: the weather, the best place to buy ice cream, which public pool has the best prices – that an oh I don’t know, how easy teachers have it with their summers off.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Shifting Needs in a Digital World

‘With a shifting world, comes shifting needs. And along with shifting needs comes a shifting role that schools must take on in order to best prepare students moving forward. We must revisit the graphic above to explore and best support students with their changing needs in our digital world.’

Why ‘Personalized Learning’ Can Feel So Impersonal

‘Personalized learning, in its broadest application, suggests tailoring instruction to meet the needs, strengths and interests of each learner. Great teachers already do that everyday—with or without technology. It should be a goal both broad and laudable enough to unite teachers and technologists, parents and policymakers.Yet there is clearly a gap between how educators and entrepreneurs perceive “personalized learning” and many other technology-infused terms in education.’

Does Zuck Want To Be The Next Gates with Personalized Learning

‘Pediatrician Priscilla Chan and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg are gearing up to invest hundreds of millions of dollars a year in a new vision of “whole-child personalized learning,” with the aim of dramatically expanding the scope and scale of efforts to provide every student with a customized education. The power couple’s Big Initiative has announced its intent to “support the development of software that might help teachers better recognize and respond to each student’s academic needs—while also supporting a holistic approach to nurturing children’s social, emotional, and physical development.” So, slap the child in front of a screen, but somehow have the child turn out physically and emotionally well-rounded.’

Liberal Arts in the Data Age

‘From Silicon Valley to the Pentagon, people are beginning to realize that to effectively tackle today’s biggest social and technological challenges, we need to think critically about their human context—something humanities graduates happen to be well trained to do. Call it the revenge of the film, history, and philosophy nerds.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Developing a democratic curriculum.

Developing democratic schools – James Beane

‘Relating back to the ideas of John Dewey  James Beane  believes that if people are to live democratic lives they must have the opportunity to learn what that way of life means. His ideas are based on the ability of students to participate in their own education. Democratic schools share a child centred approach but their larger goal is to change the undemocratic conditions of school themselves and in turn to reach out to the wider community.’

On Knowing – Jerome Bruner

“The themes Jerome Bruner covers in his book concern the process of knowing, how knowing is shaped and how it in turn gives form to language science, literature and art. The symbolism of the left hand is that of the dreamer – the right that of the practical doer.The areas of hunches and intuition, Bruner writes, has been all too often overwhelmed by an ‘imposed fetish of objectivity’…’The lock step of learning theory in this country has been broken, though it is still the standard village dance’. Today we still have those ( usually politicians) who wish to test for learning ignoring, according to Bruner, that ‘it is difficult to catch and record, no less understand, the swift flight of man’s mind operating at its best.’”

Education Readings February 3rd

By Allan Alach

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

8 digital skills we must teach our children

‘Moreover, there is the digital age gap. The way children use technology is very different from adults. This gap makes it difficult for parents and educators to fully understand the risks and threats that children could face online. As a result, adults may feel unable to advise children on the safe and responsible use of digital technologies. Likewise, this gap gives rise to different perspectives of what is considered acceptable behaviour.

So how can we, as parents, educators and leaders, prepare our children for the digital age? Without a doubt, it is critical for us to equip them with digital intelligence.’

Information Literacy and Document Learning

‘Information literacy consists in the ability to identify, search effectively for information, locate, filter, discern the quality of information, evaluate, analyze, tag,  categorize, re-mix, create new types of information and effectively use and communicate the findings well for an issue or problem at hand.’

The Critical Thinking Skills Cheatsheet

‘Critical thinking skills truly matter in learning. Why? Because they are life skills we use every day of our lives. Everything from our work to our recreational pursuits, and all that’s in between, employs these unique and valuable abilities. Consciously developing them takes thought-provoking discussion and equally thought-provoking questions to get it going.’

Can Constructionism prevent our children turning into Stormtroopers?

‘Seymour Papert, who I had the opportunity to spend time with in those years, had developed a learning theory he called “Constructionism”. Papert had been a student of Piaget and Vygotsky who had developed philosophies about the nature of knowledge called Constructivism and Social Constructivism respectively.’

Eight Big Ideas Behind the Constructionist Learning Lab

Following on, here’s more about Seymour Papert’s constructionism.

‘The first big idea is learning by doing. We all learn better when learning is part of doing something we find really interesting. We learn best of all when we use what we learn to make something we really want.’

Why Spatial Reasoning Is Crucial For Early Math Education

‘There’s a well-known rift between those who believe the only type of developmentally appropriate early childhood education is a play-based one, and those concerned that relying solely on any learning that comes out of play could put students coming from impoverished backgrounds at a disadvantage. Research has shown that students from lower socioeconomic groups enter school with significantly less mathematical knowledge, and it is difficult to overcome that gap without intentional mathematics programming. But, at the same time, traditional teacher-led instruction often isn’t developmentally appropriate for five-year-olds.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

What Do We Really Mean When We Say ‘Personalized Learning’?

‘The idea of personalized learning is seductive — it implies moving away from the industrialized form of education that pumps out cookie-cutter students with the same knowledge and skills. After decades of this approach, it is clear that all children don’t learn the same way and personalization seems to honor those differences. However, that term has taken on several different meanings.’

Die in the Ditch – Non-negotiable Principles for Learning Design

‘An important and very rewarding part of our development journey has been sharing our thinking with the hundreds of visitors that we have hosted. This has reminded me of the passion and openness that so many teachers have to make schooling as engaging and relevant as possible for learners. Almost all have agreed that students are struggling to engage and find learning stressful. They also recognise that teaching has become a hard slog with reduced rewards. Many also acknowledge that schools are becoming more like centres of assessment rather than centres of learning.All of the visiting schools want answers to the question of what can be done at their school and, in some cases, believe that after a visit they will discover a model they can transplant into their own environment. Of course, they soon realise this is unlikely.’

Sir Ken Robinson: How to Create a Culture For Valuable Learning

“If you design a system to do something, don’t be surprised if it does it,” Robinson said at the annual Big Picture Learning conference called Big Bang. He went on to describe the two pillars of the current system — conformity and compliance — which undermine the sincere efforts of educators and parents to equip children with the confidence to enter the world on their own terms.”

How One Teacher Let Go of Control To Focus On Student-Centered Approaches

‘When Kristine Riley saw a colleague she admired and teachers she followed on social media extol the learning advantages of letting go of control in the classroom, she decided to give it a try. “I started out small,” said Riley, who teaches in Edison, New Jersey public schools. It took about a year, maybe a year and a half, to abandon her top-down approach to teaching and replace it with what she calls “structured chaos.”’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Creative Schools – an impossible dream?

‘Educators who believe that education is more of a process of creating stimulating environments to allow students to begin the process of helping the young explore what it is that they are best suited for have always been in the minority. Most teachers have little choice to put programmes into place that have been defined by their school, by those distant ‘experts’ that determine the curriculum and, most invasive of all, by those who determine the means of assessing students learning. When the latter is in the hands of the politicians supported by compliant principals then the possibility of creativity is all but lost.’

The artistry of teaching and future learning attributes

The future of learning depends on the artistry of the teacher

‘The future of education will be substantially determined by the shared perception of the purpose of learning, and that this is best expressed in terms of the needs of the learner. A focus on deep and profound learning would determine the qualities of a learner of the future. This in turn has implications for the quality of the teaching provided.’

Education Readings September 25th

By Allan Alach

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

All this week’s contributions are from Bruce Hammonds:

Providing Space for Wonder: Fostering Children’s Natural Sense of Inquiry

“Why is the sky blue? Who invented the toilet? Why do zebras have stripes? As any parent of a preschool- or elementary school–age child can attest, children are born with a natural sense of curiosity. It is this innate sense of wonder that will lead and support our students’ lifelong journeys of discovery and learning. As educators, we have a moral obligation to not only allow for our students’ inquisitiveness, but to also foster and support this powerful, often untapped potential.”

How to get children to want to do maths outside the classroom

How to get children to want to do maths – try some maths walks

“Ask adults about maths and they’ll often say: “I was never very good at maths at school”. How can we stop young children growing up today saying the same thing. One way to develop ownership is to take children on a “maths walk”, opening their eyes up to the world around them. It’s like a treasure hunt, with the treasures hidden all around us waiting to be observed.”

Three Lessons For Teachers From Grant Wiggins

This advice is offered so that each student can continue to benefit from Wiggins’ teachings and wisdom.

“While Grant is no longer with us, his spirit and ideas live on. Indeed, we can honor and celebrate his life’s work by acting on the sage advice that he offered to teachers over the years. As we prepare to meet our new students, let us consider three of Grant’s sensible and salient lessons for teachers.”

Five Strategies for Questioning with Intention

The art of questioning by Art Costa and Bella Kallick

“One of a teacher’s most important practices is designing and posing questions. Knowing that questions are the gateway into students’ thinking, masterful teachers don’t just ask a lot of questions; they purposefully design and pose questions that are appropriate for each learning goal—questions that will bring about the specific kinds of student learning they are aiming for.”

The Neuroscience Behind Stress and Learning

The real oil about brain friendly learning.

“The realities of standardized tests and increasingly structured, if not synchronized, curriculum continue to build classroom stress levels. Neuroimaging research reveals the disturbances in the brain’s learning circuits and neurotransmitters that accompany stressful learning environments. The neuroscientific research about learning has revealed the negative impact of stress and anxiety and the qualitative improvement of the brain circuitry involved in memory and executive function that accompanies positive motivation and engagement.”

Beyond the Factory Model

Blended learning – many schools are moving into personalised blended learning to move out of a factory one size fits all model.

“A foundation-funded experiment is testing whether “blended learning” can personalize instruction in eight Oakland schools. Blended learning combines brick-and-mortar schooling with online education “with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace” of learning, according to the Clayton Christensen Institute definition of the term.”

Classrooms Flooded with Devices.

Remember B.F. Skinner’s teaching machine? Are similar claims being made for today’s technology?

“By repeatedly rotating a little wheel on the machine’s side, each child was presented with a question and its answer, then another question and its answer and so on. The feedback was instant. Each child could move at their own pace. Learning was fun instead of hard work. It was obvious to Skinner that this technology was going to change the face of education forever. Except it didn’t.”

Nine of the Best Ways to Boost Creative Thinking

“When it comes to creativity, one of our biggest concerns is usually how we can be more creative, or how to come up with better ideas. Research in this area is all over the place, but I’ve gathered some of the most practical studies out there to help you utilize specific techniques that can boost your creativity.

All of these studies are useful for everyday creativity in daily life, so try a few out for yourself and see which ones work best for you.”

Don’t Assume I’m Smarter Than My Contractor: Why Schooling Helps Us Devalue the Nonacademic

It is not only what school think is worth knowing – shame teachers don’t understand this

“Whether we mean to or not, we constantly reinforce the message that only the stuff kids are taught in school counts as serious learning. Extracurriculars are fine, but what really counts is in their textbooks and homework.We send them to school precisely because we believe that’s where they’ll be taught the most important subjects. We grade them on those things, and in many ways we measure their worth (at least while they’re in school) by how well they do on tests and school assignments.”

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

New Literacies for a New Millennium

Reading has shaped our brains!

“It is hard to imagine that such an innocent act as reading could limit our thinking. After all what could be more innocuous than reading a book?

Creativity: process or product?

What’s often missing in many classrooms are the ‘voices’ and personal creativity of the students.

The point of the creative process is for each student to produce a piece of work (research, poetry, art or dance) that represents the best a learner can do; a piece of work or performance to be proud of. We are what we create to a degree.To many teachers do not understand that to develop student creativity they  need to do ‘fewer things well’ to allow their students to ‘dig deeply’ into any experience and then to express what they discover with individual creativity.

See nothing, hear nothing, don’t talk to anyone!

Time for the elites to listen to voices of the people.

The only way we will get a real change in the basic script of our society is for central government to start listening to the voices of the wider community and, in education in particular, to the voices of teachers, students and their parents.

Unlocking the treasure within

Unlocking the treasure within with regard to Maori students.

“Perhaps there is no way for schools to develop their Maori students learning unless they dramatically change their style of teaching – and if they did all this students would benefit.”

Observation and imagination

Students who are taught to observe the intimate world of their immediate environment not only see more, and have more to wonder and talk about but, in the process, develop a wider vocabulary and ask more questions. From this wealth of sensory experiences arises the source for talking, drawing and early writing.”

Time to re-read John Holt

John Holt quotes on learning – more pertinent than ever

Along with John Holt I now have to admit that, after decades of encouraging school transformation, I have also come to Holt’s view about the impossibility of really transforming our antiquated education system.

Education Readings July 24th

By Allan Alach

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

*I Am Not Tom Brady*

Just when I thought we’d reached peak madness, this arrived. Warning – you’ll need a strong stomach before reading this.

“What kind of message does this send to students? I wondered. That their teachers are so incompetent that they need an ear piece and 3 people sharing a walkie talkie in the corner to tell them what to say?”

How Can Parental Involvement In Schools Improve?

“You don’t have to be an accomplished educator or a Nobel-prize winning economist to understand the benefits of familial engagement in education. Imagine the dollars saved if more families volunteered for projects involving our schools, the benefits of having more people to read, tutor and mentor and the positive long-term economic boost from smarter, more successful students which, in turn, would strengthen public education.”

Kids of Helicopter Parents Are Sputtering Out


“When parents have tended to do the stuff of life for kids—the waking up, the transporting, the reminding about deadlines and obligations, the bill-paying, the question-asking, the decision-making, the responsibility-taking, the talking to strangers, and the confronting of authorities, kids may be in for quite a shock when parents turn them loose in the world of college or work. They will experience setbacks, which will feel to them like failure. Lurking beneath the problem of whatever thing needs to be handled is the student’s inability to differentiate the self from the parent.”

Second-Hand Helicopter Parenting

Following on:

“Parents, I urge you to let your kids create and learn as kids. As hard as it can be to step back and watch it happen, it is SO important to the learning process and as it turns out, to mental health. Kids need to experience safe failures in order to learn that they are resilient. Kids need to see what they alone are capable of. They need to have the opportunity to learn independently. They need to know that they can improve because they want to.”

Philosophy sessions ‘boost primary school results’

This is rather interesting. First link is to a BBC report and the second link is to the official website.

“Weekly philosophy sessions in class can boost primary school pupils’ ability in maths and literacy, a study says.

More than 3,000 nine and 10-year-olds in 48 UK schools took part in hour-long sessions aimed at raising their ability to question, reason and form arguments.”

My wife is a lazy liar

Teachers and their partners will relate to this…

I”t’s the last day of school for my lazy, lying wife. She says teachers still have to go to work, but that can’t be right. Teachers only work when the kids are at school. I wish she would come clean and admit she is not really a teacher.  School starts around 9:00 and dismisses at 3:45.  She leaves the house before seven each morning, and it’s only a fifteen or twenty minute drive to the “school” where she “teaches.” She comes home around six or six-thirty in the evening. Sometimes later. What is she doing with all the extra time?”

What Bill Gates Doesn’t Understand About Education

Marian Brady:

“Mr. Gates, you swing a lot of weight in political circles. If you told policymakers that the current thrust of reform was blocking alternative ways of improving learner performance, and educators should have enough autonomy to explore those alternatives, those of us who have been working on them for decades might have a chance to show what’s possible.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Real Education Still Matters: Exposing the Limits and Myths of ‘Market Forces’ Education.

Bruce’s latest posting, referencing an article by Peter W. Cookson Jr “The rise of instrumentalism in education.”

“Like those imprisoned in Plato’s Cave, learners who do not have the opportunity to experience free inquiry are vulnerable to the one-dimensional images and stereotypes produced by much of the media and publishing world. The learner is hobbled, even crippled, as she or he travels the developmental path of self-discovery and critical consciousness. This disempowering of mind produces tunnel social vision.”

12 Must Read Books on Education for 2015

Twelve must read books on education for 2015.  Worth reading the information about each book to give you a sense of future directions. First in the list is a new book by Sir Ken Robinson. What books are you aware of that could be added to the list?

Design Is Eating The World

The industrial age placed efficiency number one. As Henry Ford, inventor of the assembly line, famously said ‘ you can have your car painted in any colour as long as it is black.’ Today  aesthetic design is an important factor. Would seem to apply to schools as well – a need to move from ‘one size fits’ all standardisation to the personalisation of learning. Schools need to teach and implement design skills.

“Yet our generation’s greatest entrepreneur, Steve Jobs, considered design so important that he cited a calligraphy course as his most important influence.  For him, design wasn’t just a product’s look and feel, but its function. Over the past 20 years, we’ve seen a radical shift toward design as a fundamental source of value.  It used to be that design was a relatively narrow field, but today it’s become central to product performance and everybody needs to be design literate.”

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

What’s your ‘mental model’ about teaching?

What’s your ‘mind-set’ about teaching?

“Over the years I have become increasingly aware of the different ideas people hold about teaching( in today’s terminology ‘mind-sets’)

It is also obvious that many teachers hold these ‘mind-sets’ unconsciously – it is just the way they have learnt to do things. When asked about the beliefs that underpin their teaching many such teachers find it hard to move beyond platitudes or clichés. And when they can, all too often, their actions do not match their words.”

On Knowing – Jerome Bruner

Wise words from the past – as relevant as ever. This old blog features  ideas about creativity by Jerome Bruner from a little known book of his I picked up years ago called Essays for the Left Hand. It has become one of my favourite books although a number of his essays are a little beyond me. His ideas on creativity are spot on.

“Conditions for creativity require that the learner stand back from reality and to be ‘prepared to take his journey without maps’ driven by a deep need, or passion, to understand something. The ‘wild flood of ideas’ need to be tamed, and in the process, the thing being created takes over and compels the learner to finish. The learner, Bruner writes, is ‘dominated’ to complete the task.”

Developing a democratic curriculum.

The ideas of James Beane:

“Relating back to the ideas of John Dewey he believes that if people are to live democratic lives they must have the opportunity to learn what that way of life means. His ideas are based on the ability of students to participate in their own education. Democratic schools share a child centred approach but their larger goal is to change the undemocratic conditions of school themselves and in turn to reach out to the wider community.”

Robert Fried on Seymour Sarason

Seymour Sarason is seen by educationalist Robert Fried as a ‘cautious radical’ and a pragmatic idealist who staunchly defends classroom teachers in one breathe and scolds them in another for their failure to make schools interesting places for teachers and children. Fried believes we should take him seriously. For sixty years Sarasan has agonized about why our institutions and social systems so rarely succeeded in achieving the visions of those who created them despite the hard work and sincere efforts of all involved. Sarason has relentlessly challenged conventional thinking about why schools seem so resistant to change.  Sarason has interesting ideas about school culture – well worth a read.

Education Readings June 26th

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!


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

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

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

Can data really define ‘coasting’?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deeper Learning in Practice

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

Debunking 10 Big Myths About Gifted Kids

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

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

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

Beliefs about innate talent may dissuade students from STEM

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

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

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Lessons from Finland

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

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

How Can Teachers Develop Students’ Motivation — and Success?

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

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

Why Glorify Failure to Enhance Success?

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

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

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

Beyond the basics! The importance of innovation and creativity

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

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

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

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

The artistry of the teacher

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

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

Write Now Read Later

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

Teachers and professionalism

Teachers and Professionalism

By any measure of professionalism, teaching has to be, far and away, at the top end of the totem pole of the caring professions. Recruits from an academic background, with special knowledge and abilities denied to others, especially a high esoteric mastery of all elements of teaching and learning, they are also conformers to strict self-regulatory codes of conduct, usually members of a learned society that is dedicated to professional development…..and, in particular…… contributing to society’s welfare in large measure, claiming high levels of autonomy of performance, engaging in creative and intellectually enlarging work, and ideologically neutral in the work-place. Although a high standard in maintaining these criteria can be very difficult and demanding, parents can feel very proud of Australian teachers who do,… Sam Pidgeon, below.

If one listens to talk-back radio or attends public meeting that focus on educational topics, however, one will know of the increasing public assault on teacher professionalism and pupil performance which the Australian profession has tolerated since 2008 when corporate power took control of education policy. It’s no coincidence. It’s now a popular pastime . It will increase in exponential proportion to the gimmickry that comes with NAPLAN testing, as we all know, because degradation of teacher performance is an essential part of the Klein design. We knew that from Day 1. Our professional societies knew that. The general public knew that; and have made the most of it. One cannot help but feel that the assault on teachers is actually enjoyed by our testucators, the on-the-job proponents and approvers of NAPLAN testing. .

Our reactions, sadly, are always passive. We don’t resist because it is not in our nature. Despite the enormous damage to the spirit of schooling we remain dumb. We are a placid, compliant group. Some say that timidity is part of our cooperative nature, a teaching requirement; and our school leaders are of little help because they more disposed towards brown-nosing than to ‘sticking-it-where-it-belongs’.

Canadian Cory Steeves, in a telling article concerning the de-professionalizing of teachers suggests that de-professionalization of the teaching force is essential to the corporate attack on public education. The consequence of our mild-mannered interest in the policy of education makes it easy for them.
“If teachers are not involved in the creation of the policy, and yet are held accountable for its results, then clearly this is something that is being done to teachers rather than with them, and thus represents on attack on public education. As Steeves puts it, “I believe that if teachers are not meaningfully influencing policy-level discussions about what constitutes teachers’ work, then public schooling might be seen as under attack, or ‘terrorized’.” Teachers become ‘technocrats,’ objects of policy which is determined by business interests, and are held ‘accountable’ via the surveillance of testing without ever being asked for their input. This ‘accountability’ disperses power through teachers (and their evaluations based on test scores, for instance). The professionalism of teachers, which assumes the ability to make decisions, is thus greatly denigrated. Teachers become the tool for increasing test scores, which Steeves calls ‘accountingization’, rather than professional decision makers concerned with the complexities of educating (not the simplicity of ‘achievement’) the students they are entrusted with.”

If teachers are not involved in the creation of the policy, and yet are held accountable for its results, then clearly this is something that is being done to teachers rather than with them, and this represents on attack on public education.


Steeves turns to E.Wayne Ross to provide a useful description of accountability : “ Accountability is an economic interaction within hierarchical, bureaucratic systems between those who have power and those who don’t. {It is} a means of dispersing power to lower levels of hierarchical systems. Those who receive power are obligated to ‘render an account’ of accomplishing outcomes desired by those in power. … Accountability schemes obfuscate identity of higher authority ; serve the interests of status quo/unequal power relations.”

In other words, corporate interests, particularly school authorities and their others agencies, duck-shove responsibilities for test results on to teachers and pupils who are the victims of policy that usually has weird origins and nation-threatening outcomes. There are no mechanisms for professional examination of the integrity of the innovation, too often borrowed from an alien culture and may have even failed there [e.g Klein’s SBTesting]. In accordance with such political manipulations, blame [aka accountability] has to be accorded to those at the lower end of the system’s hierarchy who quietly acquiesce. “ Yes,” says Ross: “Teachers need to be accountable, BUT to the learners.” There is a major difficulty when teachers do not have a big belief in their own level of professionalism. In such cases, the only ones who lose are the learners. Those teachers who lack professional ethos and personal standards are as threatening to social justice, learnacy achievements and the country’s future as official card-carrying corporate testucators are. We all need to join our classroom peers, like Sam Pidgeon, and recapture our profession.

At the nitty-gritty level, Ms Sam Pidgeon put it clearly in a Queensland Teachers’ Journal article VOL 120 No 2 of the Queensland Teachers’ Journal of 1 March 2015. Sam Pidgeon is Vice-President of QTU and titled her article…

Sam Pidgeon

We need to strike a balance between accountability and transparency and having trust in teachers’ professional autonomy and capacity.

If you are wondering if you are the only person currently experiencing an unprecedented level of supervision, interference and micro-management of your day-to-day work in the classroom, the answer would appear to be an emphatic ‘”no”. If you’re in this position, should you work with your colleagues to reclaim your professional space? The answer is an emphatic ‘yes”!

Whether it’s instructions on when and how subjects will be taught in the classroom or expectations that data will be gathered and recorded so frequently that makes it hard to conceive of when the actual teaching and learning that will lead to improved student outcomes might take place, the anecdotes appear to be consistent across the state. No, it’s not just you. It’s not just your school or your region. And it doesn’t look as though it is going to stop anytime soon.

Technology, education research, curriculum, curriculum support materials and the ever-growing data sets available to us mean that we’ve never before experienced a time when so many people outside of the classroom seem to have an idea about what should be going on inside them. It would seem that gone are the days when teachers were presented with professional learning or exposed to new ideas or strategies and then given time to go back to our classrooms and try things out, to see what fits with our own style and what works best in our context with our students. It’s ironic that in these time of unrelenting focus on differentiation, we find ourselves confronted with the expectation that one-size-fits-all prescriptive approaches will be implemented in the classroom and enforced through regular checks.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with focusing on a particular area of pedagogical practice or raising student achievement in an aspect of learning or curriculum. In fact this can work well for students in providing consistency, and can be a powerful way of developing the capacity of the whole staff as they try new things togetr and share their reflections on what worked and what didn’t.

The problem emerges when instead of creating a culture of trust and professionalism in the school, a culture of mistrust, low morale and in some cases fear emerges. Teachers are highly skilled professionals who deserve to be given professional autonomy to go about their work within the context of the school-wide curriculum plan and strategy. When we demand that schoolwide change is undertaken in a culture of respect and trust based on the premise that everyone wants students to do well, we can do great things and sustain them long-term. When schoolwide change is undertaken in an environment that fails to trust teachers and focuses more on making sure we are complying and conforming rather than building understanding and capacity, it is doomed to fail.

This is not a suggestion that teachers should simply be let alone to “get on with it”, but assuming that they are getting on with it, and treating them as trusted professionals by giving them some time and space to try things out, reflect on their effectiveness and plan for what to do next would go a long way to building goodwill and morale.

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

Australian State starts afresh.

Pupil Treehorn:     Why can’t we kids have a test-free, pupil-centred, achievement-oriented, holistic-learning-based-curriculum?  Why? Why?

Klein testucators:     Why can’t we have a profit-based, stress-laden, teacher-squirming, unreliable test program.  That’s what we have. We can’t change it.

Treehorn:     Why can’t you replace tension with challenge, fear with encouragement, ritual with creativity, teacher-bashing with professionalism, subject-hate with love-of-learning, time-wasting-tests with shared-evaluation ?

Testucator:    Simply : We don’t know HOW.

Essential Reading/viewing : 

Standardized Testing is not Teaching

Aussie Friends of Treehorn

Treehorn is the hero of a children’s book called The Shrinking of Treehorn by Florence Parry Heidi. It’s about a small boy with enormous problems, who remained totally ignored by all adults, including his parents, teachers and principal during an important period in his life. Like all young school pupils, he came to learn that adults don’t take much notice of school kids, no matter how dire the circumstances. Children are left on their own to survive, despite the stress that  some very cruel adults impose on them – like the operators and users of NAPLAN the Wombat tests. The Shrinking of Treehorn is a powerful story with a morally-stunning conclusion.

An Australian State Starts Afresh

An Australian state, say Queensland, has been presented with an opportunity to re-examine its duties to its citizens.  The provision of quality compulsory schooling is at the top of its list as it should always be. That’s where a state’s future lies.

If it started by surveying the present situation, it would find that

  1. The curriculum for its schools has been controlled for six years by stressful testing procedures that indicate a high level of ethical malpractice. No matter what is in each school’s subject list of literacy, history, art, geography, I.T., music, language and the rest, the concentration on NAPLAN success has been an all pervading and time-consuming occupation of each school.
  2. The purpose of such a  program has been  to create tension, fear and concern amongst pupils and teachers, and parents. This is based on the mediaeval belief that fear of failure promotes better results in tests.
  3. Parents, teachers and pupils are now [2015] banning the bum program in droves. May God bless their concern and their principles.  4000 school pupilsare adding to those already giving NAPLAN the bum’s rush. Click and read about it.

The emerging ‘new’ state will find that its existing kind of approach that treats children as robotic instruments for the gathering of test scores is a clear breach of the Rights of the Child :

Children must be treated as human beings with a distinct set of rights

instead of as passive objects of care and charity.

{UNESCO Convention 2014}

So…what does the state do?

Where to from here? If this particular right is clearly accepted by the state representatives in parliament and they are prepared to treat  children as human beings, then what does the state do to provide the kind of schooling that emphasises and encourages love,  care, learnacy, acceptance of challenges, high levels of achievement, achievement according to ability, and holistic learning in the state’s schools; the whole box-and-dice of school learning?

Forget about recriminations for the unfortunate 2008-2015 mistakes, referred to above.  Here’s what might be done…

  1. Gather together the states three or four of the state’s most lateral-thinking practitioners – people actually working in schools – don’t ask associations or groups – side-thinking schoolies are easy to find – and let them discuss what they think the states’ schools should look like. Get them to record a summary of their thoughts.  {in my time, ancient as it is, I would have chosen from practitioners like Jack Christiansen, Les Treichel, Derek Hedgecock, Paul Thomson or people like them. There were plenty]
  1. No matter what it costs, the state should then try to engage asap :-  Prof. Robin Alexander{Cambridge Review of England’s Primary schooling],  Pasi Sahlberg[Finland leading Educator of distinction], Kelvin Smythe [Former Chief Inspector, New Zealand], Marion Brady [US educator and commentator] and Sir Ted Robinson [Anglo-American Educator] either individually or combined to visit and comment on what they think the state’s schools should do to have the best educational institutions on the globe. No speech circuit or side-issues. Serious talk. Each should only meet with the state’s own selected monitors [above] for intense discussions.


Select a dozen or so of the state’s best teachers, innovative ones who think laterally and have exciting learning classrooms. They are easy to find.  Just ask around.  Bring them together for a couple of weeks. Ask them to describe what they would like to see in an achievement-based, pupil-centred, tension free, holistic learning school. Then : Leave them alone. Turn them loose to share their thoughts with each other. …. no politician or bureaucrat to be allowed anywhere near them. If they need something [ a visit to somewhere, reading material, videos, anything] to enliven their thinking, try to provide it.

It works. It’s been done before. Sound professional, well-read, active  teachers are amazing. I know. I’ve seen this sort of group in action. Trust me. Trust them. They know how. They won’t let their profession down.


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

Derek Hedgcock : Dangerous Ideas

The Treehorn Express

Derek Hedgcock, a primary school principal with a penchant for expressing what schooling and teaching and their many layers are all about, deals here with the most important aspect of classroom behaviour that there is : the stability of emotions in the teaching/learning process. It forms a trilogy with the two previous Treehorn Express articles. In the first, I tried to point out that the deliberate political damaging of children’s emotions, part of the forlorn attempt by compromised testucators to gain better scores on blanket tests, is cruel and nasty…a product of the shared neoliberal ideologies of our Liberal and Labor controllers . Kelvin Smythe then pointed out the dreadful evils that have been perpetrated by these tormentors in the name of ‘school reform’, and especially by their defilement of the curriculum. Derek here explains that there is no excuse for this politically based defilement, nor for the hard-hearted, ignorant dismissal of the supremely important connection between learning, its durability and childhood emotions.
“Learning is a form of memorised behaviour that is shaped by experience and is entirely determined, in its durability, by emotional connectivity to its stimuli.”

Dangerous Ideas

Derek Hedgcock

I vividly recall from my school principal days, the need to counsel a pupil about the dangers of leaving his classroom to seek refuge in a large urban park, adjacent to the school. The park was a notorious “stranger danger”, no-go area of which the local children were well aware. The school community was constantly vigilant and therefore it was unusual for a pupil to venture into the park at all. However, as this child was relatively young and new to the school, I spent some time detailing the relevant safety issues, with particular emphasis upon the “stranger danger” risks that existed, along with the hazards associated with taking a dip in the lily ponds.

Despite the thoroughness of my counsel, it was obvious that I was not making the required impression that might convince the boy to cease his escapades. His repeated response in broken English was something like…. “That place not dangerous!”

Perhaps now, I should reveal that the eight-year-old lad in question was Sudanese, had spent almost two years in a refugee camp in Egypt, prior to his family’s sponsorship to Australia. In his previous life, he had witnessed an older sibling hacked to death with machetes and no doubt had drunk water far more foul than the turtle infested lily ponds in which he was delighted to “swim”…. He couldn’t swim a stroke. Danger is, I then realised, a concept of variable relativity.

It also reaffirmed to me, that there are certainly dichotomous viewpoints of the very same thing. It got me thinking. At the time, I was applying scientific principles of the physiology and psychology of human emotions in lieu of the traditional “behaviour management” approach, common place in our schools. It was necessary, even more so in this case, to abandon rational argument, and apply an emotion based trigger to alter this boy’s extremely powerful emotions-charged view of the world. In short, unless there is some form of emotional connection that overcomes the emotional connections of prior learning, little if no behaviour change occurs.

Emotions determine what we learn and what we forget. It makes sense that there has to be some mechanism of mind and body that sorts the trivial from the salient, the ho-hum from the bass drum, the urgent from the later-will-do….

That mechanism is emotion of which there are basically seven; universal across all the human species…. anger, fear, surprise, happiness, contempt, disgust and sadness. These are considered to be the background or landscape, against and through which our lives constantly exist.

Unless an event or part of an event elicits an emotional response that is more significant than those prior, during or after, memory of that event or its components will not endure. In fact, awareness itself will fail to arise unless emotional salience exists in relation to the incident.



There is little excuse for educators not to consider the significance of emotions to learning, now that the science is out and unequivocal in its explication of this essential principle of learning.

For that’s what learning is…. a form of memorised behaviour that is shaped by experience and entirely determined in its durability by emotional connectivity to its stimuli?

So… learning has a duality. There is both a physical- metaphysical interdependency that comprises emotional connection AND salience, before an enduring lesson will be formed and manifest itself as behaviour.

Memory is a manifestation of learning. Behaviour is the only tangible evidence of learning. Emotion determines it all.

Gardner described intelligence as a bio-psychological potential, a view very close to my own and perhaps the most concise and accurate definition I have encountered. However, intelligence does not qualify learning in any formal school sense. On most if not all systemic, school-based tests of learning, the Sudanese lad would have failed. His NAPLAN scores were low indeed. Did he have the capacity to learn? Certainly! It was amazing how quickly he learned to speak English. He had certainly learned what danger truly can be and accordingly, in the nicest possible way, put me in my place in that regard…. “There no man with machete, no crocodile in water…. That park not dangerous!”

This to me was a salutary lesson and accordingly an emotional experience.

The most significant of all learning qualifiers is emotion. To have this young man change his behaviour, it was necessary to resolve the emotional trigger, the button that was firing the flight response causing him to seek refuge in the out-of-bounds park. After all, he had sought refuge before and in far more dire circumstances. He could fight; proven the day he sorted out a racist, a year seven bully with great physical skill and panache! What was it that stirred his emotions and why was he running away, seeking solace in a lush, verdant parkland the local kids thought to be so dangerous, they did not go there? Let’s think about it.

3 Ss

There are three genetic imperatives we all possess….. Succour, Success, Survival…. the 3 S’s.

We all crave acceptance in the company of others. We all aspire to succeed at least some of the time. We all need basic comforts and sustenance. Whenever one or a combination of these imperatives is compromised – real or perceived – a flight or fight response arises according to the emotional state associated with that compromise. The states prevail within the scope of the seven human emotions…. fear, surprise, happiness… etc, singly or in combination. The behaviour defaults arise from those states. For example, racism is most probably a combination of fear and contempt, which when exercised might bring happiness to some!

I have already illustrated the significance of prior experience and the relative assessments we each make with respect to any given context. Sheltered,middle-class, middle-aged Aussie male conception of danger varies widely in comparison to that of an eight-year-old, Somalia refugee male. My three genetic imperatives had never been as severely compromised in my life, as had his. Both beauty and ugliness are in the eye of the beholder…. a fundamental by which all educators might do well to hold dearly when they apply policy and practice!

Further to these salient three, there are I believe, three dimensions across which we all traverse with mixed degree of attachment, from context to context and from role to role in our daily lives.

These dimensions, I propose as …. Social. Novelty, Convention.


…… Imagine this….

Way back on an ancient, prehistoric African savannah, a family group meted out their existence, in competition not only with neighbouring family groups, but also against large predator cats, vagaries of the weather…. Within the group an individual had a strong disposition to keep the group together, socially convivial, insightful, cohesive…… Another individual was disposed to trying new ideas, always tinkering with rocks and sticks to invent more efficient weapons, hunting tools, cooking methods…. Another individual was disposed towards remembering the weather patterns, the habits of plants and animals, the pathways to favourable locations at key times in the annual climate cycle…

Would the group’s survival be compromised if any one of these dispositions weren’t preserved genetically? Which of these dimensions of emotional connection could be lost to the human species by way of natural selection? …. I like to socialise and maintain family cohesion…. I enjoy experimentation and challenging the status quo…. I love to keep to the rules and help others to do so as well…..

Alternatively, is it fortunate that natural selection has preserved these dimensions of emotional connection to the extent they are recognisable traits among us all to this day?

Some classroom teachers never bother to open windows each morning because they are required to close them again before afternoon departure. If you’ve ever entered such a classroom in North Queensland, on a summer’s day, after lunch when thirty or so kiddies have returned after madly running about and their tummies have begun processing the sardine sandwich that made up lunch…. you will accept that any class group is indeed a heady mix… a primordial broth?

Beneath that obvious layer of complexity lies a simple dynamic. There is a variance of dispositional mixes across the three dimensions of emotional connection.

Some children most obviously consider school a social experience. They are there to be with their friends and, at the extreme boundaries of this dimension, are those who know the most detailed trivia about the other kids in the class and those across the school population.

Some children find it surprisingly difficult to conform to “the rules”. They display an amazing propensity for innovation and variation from routine, not simply because they have had poor training at home, but more so, because they are innately possessed of a dispositional character for looking at the world outside the box. They are usually the first to notice an unexpected visitor to arrive at the classroom door, gaze constantly outside with fixed attention upon any novelty that presents itself….. the busiest bees in a bottle they are.

Some children will respond with…. “Why are we doing reading now Miss? It’s not afternoon yet!” They know where everything is kept and most willing help tidy up. They do not cope well with alterations to routine.

Each post schooling vocation has an inbuilt requirement for a bias towards one of these dimensions of emotional connection…. however…for example…. not a good idea when approaching to land in a large passenger aircraft to have the captain announce…. “We are approaching to land. We will be on the ground in about five ot ten minutes and I am going to try a new way of landing… something never attempted in this particular aircraft ever before…..”


  • When pupils are confronted by a learning expectation, imposed by the school at some systemic level or another…. how much of the emotional aspects that underpin learning are considered?
  • Does the current, so-called developed, world trend in education adequately consider the ancient roots of our species as emotion-dependent-for-learning individuals?
  • Do schools and their shakers and movers ever give due consideration to the significance of emotions to learning as a fundamental, human behaviour?
  • Do school curriculum designers and enforcers give due regard for the emerging scientific knowledge and understanding of how our species’ mind and body functions undertake learning – the most fundamental of all human behaviours?

Or conversely, do they adhere to anachronistic fundamental, security-blanket, power conserving, freedom constraining, self aggrandising, miserly-wealth accumulation indulgences that are not at all about education in its purest opportunities and liberating forms?

Should the powerful, who currently hijack education for their own self-serving interests, ever, ever consider that, among the teaching profession, there is a significant proportion of individuals possessing a dispositional preference for the Novelty dimension of their emotional connection. Furthermore, should the imposers of fear based compliance, recognise that the Novelty dimension is the one most liable to spawn creative innovation… the very essence of an ever expanding diverse knowledge based economy…. the very thing that may best guarantee their hegemony in a rapidly changing, global economy?

Should not our political “masters” ensure the Novelty dimension is nurtured as least as equitably as the other two, if for no other reason than to ensure our national 3S’s remain robust?

Would the designers and enforcers of NAPLAN and/or correspondingly restrictive, scripted curriculum impositions, not be better agents of education efficacy and fairness, were they to consider the emotional aspects of learner behaviour and the emotional aspects of teacher behaviour? Shouldn’t they resile from such Kleinsian platitudes as…. “Failure is something with which we all need to cope…. Failure is part of life’s journey” etc, etc”?

Just as I considered the park a dangerous place whilst failing to consider another’s perception of danger, is it not reasonable to assert that NAPLANers hold scant respect for the perspective of others who are less empowered to compensate their fears or relegate them to a form of relative triviality within the ordinal scope of their, as yet unknown and un-encountered, vicissitudes of future lived experiences?

Should they understand that because learner variation exists across emotionally connective dimensions as a compelling, ineluctable, genetically inherited disposition, only modified and ameliorated by nurture as opposed to coercion, that one-size-fits-all assessment and instruction strategies are morally reprehensible in an age when scientific discovery reveals more just and diversely accommodating alternatives for education to explore, apply and refine?

Should the powers that always want to be, and the bureaucratic wannabes, understand that both the Social dimensions and the Novelty dimensions of emotional disposition to learning and connection to any learner’s world, are equally as salient as the Convention dimension? In fact: without an equal measure of all three, the human world as we know it, will descend into chaos?

Do they comprehend as convention- compliance mongers, that they in fact rely upon the influence that the other two dimensional dispositions bring to the world?

Same emotional landscape, same buttons, same dimensions of connection apply to us all.

They are not only the architects of the demise of others who have a right to a fair and proper EDUCATION, but also inadvertently, the makers of their own downfall. Perhaps they may, one day, come to realise that the very button that drives their own power mongering and greed (greed; borne of fear) … the Success imperative, with extremely limited disposition to connect to others who function outside the Convention dimension….. They may realise, then, their own self imposed peril?

Somehow, I doubt it! They keep the pressure on the wrong button.

Because their Convention disposition has served their Success perception well: because their narrow, self-obsessed view of what comprises fear has seldom strayed into the perceptual realm of those less fortunate or privileged : because their knowledge of learning as a behaviour remains in an age of uninformed and cloistered hegemony of but one dimension, as opposed to a balanced dichotomy of the physical and the metaphysical (Gardner’s bio-psychological)…. NAPLAN and its ilk are the only idea they have.

That’s why it is so dangerous!

By the way…. the Sudanese boy ceased his flight induced escapades once his default, fear button was identified within the Success imperative. Another boy in his class teased him repeatedly about his language inadequacies, especially when came reading time. The teaser displayed perceived compromise regarding his soccer prowess which by comparison with that of the Sudanese boy, was obviously inferior. Same button, similar fear based, fight/flight response pattern, variable perceptual context.

When the whole class was made more aware of the Sudanese boy’s life experiences, empathy and sympathy prevailed as is almost always the case among young children who remain largely untainted by the bigotry and racial biases of adulthood. When the boys were encouraged to help each other by imparting their skills by mutual exchange, the Success button was restored and escapades to the park ceased. Yet another layer of peace descended upon the school community.

Education is the way to social harmony. Emotional connectivity is an essential element of learning stimuli. Emotional wellbeing is the essence of beneficial learning.

In this day and age, there is no excusing, whatsoever, the emotions based ills that NAPLAN and its brethren perpetrate upon modern education!

Phil Cullen [….for kids. They have feelings too.] 41 Cominan Avenue Banora point 2486 Australia 07 5524 6443

Teacher Proofing

 FELLOW EDUCATORS : Please send this along to people in schools as extensively as you can. Those who already do…..thanks from Treehorn and the other kids.

The Treehorn Express

[Not available by email from Treehorn Central to schools in Queensland, Australia]

Teacher Proofing

USA has a penchant for branding and packaging things as neatly as possible.  As far as schooling is concerned,  a canny money-hungry educator can extract bits from the regular school curriculum, invent a catchy vogue-word to describe what-ever-it-is that needs attention,  then wrap the contents up and peddle it to the gullible. Bingo! Legs 11 ! Holidays at Waikiki.  If it cannot be wrapped up, it is branded and sold in bulk…. as ‘Models’….. by sweet-talking peddlers at conferences and seminars;…. and cocktail parties..

This comes as little surprise when it is a fact of life that schooling in America is owned and dominated by well-heeled corporate plutocrats., whose political influence in the other three English-speaking GERM countries is becoming as extensive as it is in the old US of A. The teacher-proofing edubusiness is big time and is exercised in many forms. Its enormity and  influence is far, far more extensive than the ordinary Michael Dundee Aussie would believe.

Sage educators in the UK and in NZ don’t usually do this. Despite the heavy hand of neoconservatism that all countries share, they have always tended to treat  teaching as a noble profession that actually pupils [aka teaches]children according to each child’s frame of reference. The child is the package. The teacher’s role in the act of teaching and evaluating and moving ahead is total. Unsubstantiated, untested, unprofessional, gimmicky quackery stops at the classroom door of their lively learning centres, where the child is treated as the centre of the universe and its performance is judged by its interest in learning. Diagnosis and evaluation is part of each activity. A school’s  reputation is based on the way it treats children. If parents want to know about the best school around, they go to a reliable source…..the shopping centre…get the real deal……certainly not to unreliable, crooked test results, used by the unwitty for comparative purposes..

Of the four English-speaking, politically-controlled education systems – the GERM countries – Australia religiously follows what the USA does; no matter what… blindly as a rule. It’s all  high stakes data-laden emotion-free performance-testing stuff which Americans love. Aussie unemotional, couldn’t-care-less, morally corrupt testucators now use it without second thought. Bugger the feelings of kids. Obediently, we followed the ‘Kleinist Model’ holus-bolus, called it NAPLAN, and continue to maintain its demonic philosophies with the sternest controls possible…. Iraq-like.

How many of us teachers have tried and become enthused – for a while – by some such package, only to find that the package takes over the teaching?  Precious school time is devoted to completion times and corrections while our own professional judgement and modes of evaluating take a back seat? In ancient times, I was an SRA structured reading and IMP specialist. Mea culpa. I hope such indiscretions are forgivable.

How often have we been seduced by brand names for special movements and innovations; and have crossed swords with colleagues until things settled down and the next craze came along? We have discoursed about….  open and traditional…. phonics and whole-word….new maths and maths…persuasive and traditional…..child-centred and subject centred….composite and multi-aged….charter and mainstream… and testucation….child-based and didactic….?

There is a new list on the way from up-above… instruction,  blended learning, differential learning, closing the achievement and talent gap, student-centric instruction, yap, yap. Makes one ever wonder what ever  happened to classroom teaching as a descriptor?

In America it is said:  Schools nationwide continue to adopt student-centric instructional models that use data to empower teachers and engage learners. Data-driven instruction has moved beyond the education-buzzword sphere to educators’ daily lexicon.”  So, Kleinism aka Naplanism is now permanently embedded in many of that nation’s schools…..more so in ours. The article continues : In this ASCD Smartbrief Special Report, we provide a round-up of news about recent trends in data-driven instruction, blended learning and stories about how some schools are preparing the next generation of data scientists.”  Getting everybody ready to be rocket scientists! Thinkers and learners?

Read this? ……some schools in Utah have lengthened the school day from six-and-a-half hours to eight to cope with data collection and marking. There is a national lobby for longer school hours.  “The National Center on Time & Learning (NCTL) is dedicated to expanding learning time to improve student achievement and enable a well-rounded education. Through research, public policy and technical assistance, we support national, state and local initiatives that add significantly more school time for academic and enrichment opportunities to help children meet the demands of the 21st century.”  [Using didactic instruction for eight hours per day shouldn’t be very exhausting, compared to three or four hours of serious teaching, should it? Good idea?]

Whatever happened to test-free composite-strategy teaching ?  [That’s a new vogue word that I just invented to keep up with the Yanks]

The sorts of initiatives that we have imported [e.g. charter schools]  and embedded in the data-laden environment of NAPLAN and its hellfire cobbers are a serious threat to our future. Such restrictions to serious school learning will continue (“The whippings will continue until morale increases” policyin Australia while we continue to adopt the American mind-set. Schools in Australia are not run by teachers any more, but by remote control.

Political control of national testing programs is the most successful method of isolating teachers from effective teaching known to mankind; and that kind of conditioning suits the package-deal spirit of teacher-proofing.

Coercion always induces low level acceptance of a profession as a profession, so the outcome is that better teachers are quitting;  neophytes with potential don’t last long; and better-quality applicants don’t want to join the profession because of our leaders’ grossly unprofessional attitude to children and their teachers.  Make no mistake. This is a critical issue.

The Desert News of Salt Lake City makes this point following an America of the future conference: “The level of despondency within the profession is too high for our future to be safe. A fairly dispiriting conversation, to be sure, but the response to the host’s penultimate question left me feeling downright sad at first, and, then, upon reflection, a bit confused. Replying to the query ‘Do you think the quality of teaching will decline in the years to come?’ each panellist explained her sense that the profession and, thus, the state of education were in decline. To paraphrase the veteran teacher of the group, ‘I’ve encountered many great teachers in my years in the profession, but it’s getting harder and harder for these folks to hold on. At the same time, it’s getting more difficult to attract new people into teaching.’ Listening to that assessment about a core element —the core element?— of our public education system, how can you not become despondent?” 

With the teacher-proofing of Australian schools based on the American MODEL, how can we not feel even more  despondent down under?  Let’s bring the child back into the equation, get rid of the rubbish and start TEACHING.  {PLEASE NOTE. Those teachers who fly in the face of the coercion and teach without reliance on data…..please hang in there. The kids need you.}


If you wish to receive The Treehorn Express direct, please contact me.


Phil Cullen {… and their teachers first}  41 Cominan Avenue  Banora Point 2486 Australia    07 5524 6443    0407865999                      

“Good morning, class.                                                                I was good at everything. Honest. Everything

Today I will prepare you for the future.                                 Until I started being here with you.

Listen carefully                                                                           I was good at

And do not interrupt!                                                                   Laughing

Are there any questions?                                                             Playing dead

None?                                                                                        Being

Good.”                                                                                        Yeah. I was good at everything

 But, now I’m only good at everything

On Saturdays and Sundays”

“The Geranium on the Window Sill Just Died, But Teacher, You Went Right On” : Albert Cullum

Born in 2014

The Treehorn Express

(Unable to be read in schools in Queensland, Australia)

Born in 2014

Children born this year will be my age at the end of this century*. I do hope that their teachers and principals [the real classroom curriculators] understand what will be going on in the years up to 3000 [and up to 2020, 2030, 2040….], so that we can help the children in a better way than we do now, during the schooling part of their preparation for the unknown. If teachers don’t understand how to prepare for the unknown, Australia and the rest of the world have a super-problem. School-and-child-oriented folk in authority will have think very seriously, very soon, about better ways to handle schooling….if the concept of schooling lasts much longer. The time to think is NOW – for serious reasons.

If, anyone in the general teaching fraternity in 2014 believes that politically controlled standardised blanket testing is, in any way, appropriate for the school children of the remainder of the 2000s, they should quit right now. Get out of the way. A test-based attitude is a serious menace to society.

If the future is unknown, shouldn’t we think about what we teach and how we do it? Isn’t this an important issue? Should Australian schools persist in teaching NAPLAN first and then other things from a left-over centrally-controlled, categorised curriculum list OR should we teach Learnacy wrapped around the things that the local and larger society require? Think about your own schooling.

I wish that I had been pupilled in Learnacy…how to handle learning. It’s an essential for all circumstances, for every bit of living….right through to old age….like 86.

I went to school to pass exams. There was no other purpose. The exams were paper and pencil type. If I didn’t write down what my teachers required of me on a piece of paper on one particular day of the year, I would not get a proper job. That was what life was about. I had to learn what to write down.

Things have changed. Children now go to school to learn how to tick the right bubble.

I had to learn things that I didn’t want to learn about; and some teachers were not too good at persuading me to show any enthusiasm; and their persuaders stung.

Things have changed. It’s more difficult to create the fear of failing; but caning the intellect instead of the hands creates more stress.

I had to pass exams in a limited number of subjects, whose relevance I did not understand.

Things have changed. Only NAPLAN in Australia; NCLB in the USA; ‘National Standards’ in NZ and UK are relevant…..says Gestapo head quarters.

Has anything else changed much in the world of learning? Don’t we still indulge in the hardening of the categories, as Weingartner called it….the way in which we compartmentalise knowledge. Art is not maths, and history is not music and language is not history; and maths and literature are important and art and music are unimportant? Years and years of Latin used to be important because everybody at ‘good’ schools should prepare for an Arts degree at a university in accord with some crazed linguist who had persuaded the intellectual body politic that Latin was an essential requirement for all human beings.

I hated it. Also, because I couldn’t see the intelligence behind crippling beautiful English sentences with Parsing and Complex Analysis, I hated Grammar and suffered great stress for the first hour after lunch every day. It was hell. Because I went to a non-state school, I did have not much experience with Art or Music [Choir, yes] or Dance or those categories that did not matter much at exam time. I know. The school’s reputation depended on the number of exam successes, not on how it taught children..

Aren’t you mystified by the way we organise schooling?

Sir Ken Robinson asks educators if they know what the world will look like in five years time. Listen to him for a few minutes.

Postman & Weingartner suggested, many years ago, that people at school should be issued with ‘crap detectors’. I hope that they are handed out at the door of all ‘conversations’ and Accord meetings, fast becoming the new way of entrenching the embedded.


Meanwhile, back at the ranch….


Naplan test today



weigh elephant

*I have a g-grandchild to be born this year. I am truly concerned that, in five or more years’ time, the poor little bugger might go to a school that still ‘runs’ NAPLAN. I appreciate that the local neighbourhood school, the best kind of school, might still be forced by the government to use this learning-destructive device. It’s scary to think that what NAPLAN does to young children and the collateral damage that it does to every pupil at a school, will affect one of mine. Since private schools copy state schools, there’s nowhere to go. I’ll recommend home-learning if the malady is still around.

Phil Cullen […..looking for concerned adults with crap detectors] 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point Australian 2486 07 5524 6443 0407865999