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 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.’


Education Readings December 8th

By Allan Alach

As the New Zealand school year is coming to an end, Bruce Hammonds and I are taking a break from producing these education readings. We hope you all have a great festive season and we’ll be back at the end of January.

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

A Special Letter From Santa … Why Teachers Must Be Magic!

‘Please take a moment to read this very special letter from Santa! He takes a moment to describe the magic that you as an educator make happen every day!’

3 Signs Of Gender Discrimination In The Classroom You Need To Know

‘There are 3 signs of gender discrimination in the classroom that you need to know which are behavioral discriminations, achievement discrimination, and developmental discrimination. This articles discusses each sign and provides key components you need to know to avoid discrimination against boys and girls in the classroom.’

Why Reading Aloud Helps You Remember More Information

‘The research, published in the journal Memory, finds that the act of reading and speaking text aloud is a more effective way to remember information than reading it silently or just hearing it read aloud. The dual effect of both speaking and hearing helps encode the memory more strongly, the study reports.’

Is your school feeding inequality?

‘Education is meant to be society’s great leveller. Offering public education supposedly gives everyone a fair chance to succeed in life in any capacity they might choose, but in reality … it doesn’t. In fact, I would go as far to say that it barely tries to. Now, If you’re an educator, that might upset you as I’m sure you are thinking “I try really hard to help all my students!” I know many teachers who are inclusive, flexible and cater for individual needs, but that doesn’t stop the systems they work within, undoing much of the progress they make.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Students can own Their Learning Through Creating Questions

A simple read but important.

Dr Ann Milne – Why not White Boys’ Writing?

‘Do we think White boys have an additional writing or reading gene that our Maori kids missed out on? Or do we think they had better parenting perhaps – you know, bedtime stories, books in the home, and all that? Or, here’s a thought, could it be that the whole system, the way we set up and structure schools, our teacher training, our obsession with copying failed policy from other countries which also marginalise their indigenous learners, the knowledge we value—and measure—is also White and it, therefore, benefits the children whose values match, and whose values are embedded in and reproduced by our schools?’

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.’

‘We help them flourish and bloom’: using nature to keep students in education

‘There is evidence to back this idea up. In 2015, Mind’s report Feel Better Outside, Feel Better Inside (pdf) found that activities such as gardening boosted self-esteem, improved physical health and benefited those at risk of developing mental health problems.’

Our education systems must focus on developing underlying human capabilities, not just knowledge and skills

It is absolutely clear that better, broader education will be essential in creating a positive future of work. However we still need to work out precisely what is the education that will be most relevant for tomorrow’s world.’

‘Collaborative problem solving must be placed at the heart of our curriculum’

‘The latest Pisa rankings prove that if our pupils are to thrive in future workplaces, the importance of collaborative problem-solving, creativity and teamwork must be emphasised in schools, writes one educationalist.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Time for a rebirth of the creative spirit.

Make the most of the end of national standards.

‘The time is right for a true educational revolution! We need to listen to lost voices and rediscover our own The spirits of creative teachers, long gone, will be with us. The secret is to seek out and network with creative teachers in your own areas to share their wisdom.’

Lester Flockton. Nothing wrong with being critical!

‘Lester wisely suggest that we need to reflect carefully on the ‘over stated claims’ based on this thing called ‘evidence’. It is almost impossible these days to avoid ‘evidence based’, or ‘best practice’ whatever, in any Ministry document! ‘Best practice’, when imposed through heavy handed contracts, can ‘mutate’ into, what educationalist Dean Fink calls, ‘educational sects’ that make it all but impossible for teachers to develop new creative approaches. If we are to be creative then there will be times that we can’t wait for the ‘evidence’. Schools must feel free to create their own ‘best practice’ through their own actions. Such an approach is what some scientists call, ‘enlightened trial and error’ – or simply common sense.’

End of year survey – tapping the wisdom of your class/school/community

‘At the end of the school year it is a good idea to gather information from the students you are passing on. Not only is this a chance for you to get some insight about your teaching but it is also a great way to value the ‘voice’ of your students. What are your students’ attitudes towards areas of learning?’

Creative schools – schools as true learning communities.

‘When schools develop a culture of approved (and enforced) ‘best practices’ such schools can be defined as ‘best practice learning communities’. Where schools value the creativity of both students and teachers they fit the ‘learning organisation ‘definition.  Michael Fullan has written that it is ironic that few sc  hools are true learning organisations. A ‘community of best practice’ follows the guidance of experts from outside of the school or classroom while ‘learning organisations’ value the inspiration of creative teachers. The emphasis chosen makes a big difference.’

We need a new story for our future.

‘What we need, as we make our way into the new millennium, is a new way of thinking to align our thoughts behind. We need a new story, myth, narrative, or metaphor, to replace current thinking – thinking based on a mechanistic emphasis on economic progress, exploitation and short term thinking.’


Education Readings November 17th

By Allan Alach

Now that the curse of national standards is being removed from New Zealand education, the way is clear for schools and teachers to really let loose. Bruce Hammonds’ two articles on Elwyn Richardson provide a really good insight into this teaching genius of the 1950s, whose work is very relevant today in the post national standards world.

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

The Northland school teaching with art

‘There is a place for the arts in the teaching of all subjects across the curriculum. Teaching becomes lively and fun; children are ‘doing’ rather than sitting, and the classroom becomes an environment where students love to learn. This is a simple definition of ‘arts integration’ which is being researched by educators globally: A small school in Northland has taken the ideas on board and the results are proving remarkable.’

Teaching to Forget

Much of the ‘learning’ children do at school each day is gone by the time they walk out of the school gate…

‘The truth that we all know but are loathe to discuss is that the vast majority of what kids “learn” in our classrooms will soon be forgotten. We know this because we ourselves forgot the vast majority of what we learned in classrooms when we were in school.

And the other truth that we don’t want to admit is that the grades that we give that are supposed to show what a student has “learned” are pretty meaningless considering that student will forget most of the “learning” once the grade is given.’

Engaging Practice: Making in English Language Arts

Use creative technology tools to engage struggling readers and writers.

‘Creative multimedia tools allow for multiple forms of representation, providing an opportunity for students to demonstrate understanding while practicing literacy skills through writing (text), reading (audio), and illustration (picture walks and visualization). “When students publish their own books, you tap into their innate desire for recognition as they learn to connect to literature, play with language, and beam with pride at their accomplishments,” shares California educator Linda Oaks.’

It’s Time for a New Core Curriculum

‘If we were starting the American school system from scratch today, knowing what skills our students will need, we could change the subjects and not base them on what big-time publishers want us to focus on with our students.  Building on some of the great work from, the ISTE NETS for Students and keeping in mind those most desired future job skills from above, I would propose the development of the following 7 courses for every student:’

6 Strategies For Dealing With ‘Difficult’ Students

‘As a new school year approaches, the guidance offered by six “pillars” can help you stay at the top of your game by dramatically influencing even your most challenging students to want to behave and achieve. Each pillar is explained followed by a few hands-on suggestions. Add or substitute other methods within each pillar to reflect your style and preference.’

A Surprising Strategy Makes Kids Persevere at Boring Tasks

‘With the onset of early childhood and attending preschool, increased demands are placed on the self-regulatory skills of kids. Children need to start completing tasks that may be much less interesting than the myriad of entertaining distractions around them. Researchers have been interested in how to develop self-control and perseverance in children by teaching them tactics like averting their attention away from distractions.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Use Einstein’s Educational Philosophy to Boost Your Learning

‘Although he overall did well in school, Einstein was skeptical of the schooling system and strongly disliked academia’s restrictions on learning. Here are 10 things we can learn from Albert Einstein about school and education: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”’

Why This Second Grade Handout Should Be Your New Creative Manifesto

‘Last week, I attended curriculum night at my daughter’s school. In discussing the things the kids will be learning this year, the teachers handed us the chart above. My first thought was, what an amazing thing to give a bunch of second graders. I am sharing it with you. I feel like this is as good a guideline for a creative department I’ve ever seen. A simple chart for all teachers at all levels.’

How This School Library Increased Student Use by 1,000 Percent

‘To adapt to changing student needs, some school libraries are reinventing themselves as makerspaces, but this Ohio library took a slightly different approach. Now they’re seeing incredible results. A library as a place where students did hands-on work, an extension of what was happening their classrooms toward more personalized learning.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

What’s the Point of School?

What’s the Point of School asks Guy Claxton

‘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.’

Reclaiming the joy of learning 

and also

A new inspirational book about Elwyn Richardson – New Zealand’s pioneer teacher

Two articles about the great NZ teacher Elwyn Richardson that all teachers should read.

‘What matters is a curriculum that places children’s natural curiosity at the heart, so that they are encouraged to explore who they are and the world around them.This is evident in Elwyn’s use of an integrated curriculum, focusing on intriguing questions that motivated children to pursue avenues of enquiry. He encouraged the freedom to explore, the opportunity to observe closely, and the discipline to record findings in various ways. He also upheld the value of the arts as a vivid means of expression and not secondary to other subjects. He also realised that one subject informs another; that scientific understanding is enhanced by the aesthetic, and vice versa.’

Looking back

Dr Beeby and the first Labour Government set an example for today

‘Today teachers need to look back to ideas that have been sidelined by the imposition of the current technocratic curriculums of the 90s and to appreciate that it is these curriculums that have caused our current confusion and distress. Dr Beeby believed in a creative role for education. He reminded those present in 1983 that the most important thing realized about education in the previous decades had been the discovery of the individual child. It is not that individuality wasn’t appreciated earlier but that the school system was based on a mass education vision which made realizing such an idea impossible.’


Education Readings October 13th

By Allan Alach

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

More than bricks and mortar: A critical examination of school property under the National-led Government

An article I posted last week referenced an article by Dr Leon Benade, School of Education, Auckland University of Technology. Here is Leon’s full article.

‘Teachers are largely unprepared for flexible learning spaces that bring together multiple teachers and students (see my earlier blog on MLE/ILE). These (enforced) changes require students to master new learning habits and routines, while parents’ most recent school memory may have been of sitting in rows or possibly in grouped desks, in so-called ‘single cell’ classrooms with one teacher and no more than 30 or 35 students. So, where has this policy come from, and what does it look like in action?’

Is Math Art? Dream or Nightmare?

‘I was blown away by this remarkable (and strangely empowering) critique about math education:  how we view it as a culture; how teachers are teaching it (or not teaching it); how and why some students struggle with it; how some students who apparently “get it” don’t; how parents perceive it; how testing may not be showing us what we want to know, and how we can change math education for the better.’

FORCE & FLUNK: Destroying a Child’s Love of Reading—and Their Life

‘A frenzy surrounding reading is caused by school reformers and the media, claiming children are not learning to read fast enough. Kindergarten is the new first grade, automatically making preschool the new kindergarten. If we aren’t careful, obstetricians will show newborns an alphabet chart immediately after babies are born! We’re told that reading is an emergency, and if it’s not addressed by reading programs produced by individuals, companies, and technology, children won’t learn to read—and they won’t be ready for the global economy.’

Most everything you need to know about creativity

‘It is about knowing what and how to observe and directing your attention accordingly: what details do you focus on? What details do you omit? And how do you take in and capture those details that you do choose to zoom in on? In other words, how do you maximize your brain attic’s potential? …Everything we choose to notice has the potential to become a future furnishing of our attics.’

Stop Forcing Introverts To Speak In Class. There Are Better Ways.

‘Class participation is often a significant portion of a student’s grade, and I have felt pressured to force myself to speak in order to meet the participation requirements, as do many introverts. But I was fortunate to have a teacher who offered an alternative, and I strongly encourage other teachers to do the same. How can a teacher recognize an introverted student and support him or her?’

What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong?

‘Negative consequences, timeouts, and punishment just make bad behavior worse. But a new approach really works.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Malcolm Dixon: Time to discuss primary school education

‘I don’t know if anyone else noticed but primary school education was seldom mentioned throughout the election campaign and yet for everyone with children or grandchildren education plays an extremely important part in their lives. Why didn’t the Government mention it? In my opinion it was the legacy of the Parata regime and there is very little to celebrate and the current minister is completely out of touch with reality.’

This Is What Teachers Need And Aren’t Getting

‘An important category of educators: teachers with a high level of professional freedom will be extinct by 2033 if the current rate of loss continues. Like most endangered creatures, their habitat is threatened. When you were a child they were present in every city and town in the United States, but now their world has changed. They can be found only in rare, hospitable environments’

Raising the bar with flexible grouping

‘Professor Christine Rubie-Davies, a leading researcher in the field of teacher expectations, is based at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Education and Social Work. In this blog Christine challenges the practice of grouping students by ability, arguing that it constrains learning.’

We Need to Trust Teachers to Innovate

‘If we want to see innovation happening in our schools, we need to trust, encourage, and empower teachers to transform their practice. Too often, teachers are forced to teach inside the box and it can feel frustrating. In this post, I explore why teachers are the innovators, what’s getting in the way, and what we can do about it.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Einstein, Darwin, da Vinci & Mozart et all – lessons from the Masters. Based on the book ‘Mastery’ by Robert Greene.

An education to develop the gifts and talents of all students.

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

Does your classroom have the ‘wow’ factor?

The first sign of ‘wow’ is the overall first impression the room gives you. The feeling you get is that you are indeed in special place. There is a feeling of positive relationships between teacher and learners and often parents are to be seen quietly helping students. Other students seem to be working without supervision. A quick look around the walls, covered with students creativity gives an impression that this is a room dedicated to the students themselves.’