Saturday, October 18, 2014

Educational Readings - critical ideas for the educationally curious

By Allan Alach

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

This weeks homework!

Are You an Autodidact? Or Do You Need Other People To Learn?

Thanks to Heather McQuillan for this article, good for self reflection.
An Annie Murphy Paul blog

Most people are not autodidacts. In order to learn effectively, they need guidance provided by teachers. They need support provided by peers. And they need structure provided by institutions.

Reading Is About More Than Evidence
Sure is.
A few weeks later, another colleague and I were designing a reading curriculum. She suggested this daily objective: Students will categorize evidence from a nonfiction text by subtopic. How strange to think of the information we gather from a nonfiction text as evidence.Evidence of what? I thought. I suggested we keep her objective, but replace evidencewith the word information.

Curious learning
Uk academic Steve Wheeler:

Curiosity killed the cat, but it also made each of us who we are today. Without curiosity, none of us would learn very much at all. Learning is based more on curiosity than any other human characteristic. Children who are curious are always interested in discovering more. Children who lose their curiosity usually turn off and tune out. Children are naturally curious, but sadly, rigid school systems and curricula have often knocked this out of them by the time they graduate.

One size education no longer fits all
This article is from Australia.

Things like "leadership and personal development, confidence and resilience, wellness and a social conscience". God forbid that we equip our students with the latter. For might not our charges then turn bolshie and question the premise of rank materialism, the celebrity culture and democracies which are sometimes anything but.

What Happens When Education Serves the Economy?
Anthony Cody
A thoughtfully politically post by Anthony Cody - read it!

Our political system has become one that similarly revolves around making profits. There is no political will to defend the environment, because just like public schools, the common resources of the natural world including the air we breathe, the atmosphere that creates weather we can live in, and the water we drink, all must be put to maximum profitable use.

GRIT: A Skeptical Look at the Latest Educational Fad
Alfie Kohn - is any comment needed?
Alfie Kohn

Anyone who talks about grit as an unalloyed good may need to be reminded of the proverbial Law of Holes:  When youre in one, stop digging.  Gritty people sometimes exhibit nonproductive persistence; they try, try again even though the result may be either unremitting failure or a costly or inefficient success that could have been easily surpassed by alternative courses of action,as one group of psychologists explained.
The Opposite of Grit
Following on, heres Curmudgucations take on grit:

Life provides plenty of need for grit all on its own. It's not necessary to provide more on purpose. And the need for grit doesn't help get things done, doesn't help people succeed. It may call on their strength, but it doesn't create it. We know that. We understand it. When we want someone to succeed, we do as much as we can to remove the need for grit. Do we not want our students to succeed?

This weeks contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Sir Ken Robinson: What you cannot miss in the classroom.
Bruces comment: Another great interview with Sir Ken Robinson. Lots of links to other videos featuring Sir Ken.
Sir Ken Robinson, renowned in the field of education for his valuable contributions, expressed his view on the relationship between education and technology

20 Collaborative Learning Tips And Strategies For Teachers
Bruces comment: Strategies for cooperative learning building on the ideas of Vygotsky

Many consider Vygotsky the father of social learning.  Vygotsky was an education rebel in many ways.  Vygotsky controversially argued for educators to assess studentsability to solve problems, rather than knowledge acquisition. The idea of collaborative learning has a lot to do with Vygotskys idea of the zone of proximal development.  It considers what a student can do if aided by peers and adults. By considering this model for learning, we might consider collaboration to increase studentsawareness of other concepts.

The Importance of Teaching Critical Thinking
Bruces comment: Focussing on standardisation neglecting critical thinking skills.

Critical thinking is a term that is given much discussion without much action.  K-12 educators
and administrators are pushed to teach the necessities as dictated by the standardized assessments in order to catch up the students to students of other countries.  In this push for better test scores, many students are leaving the K-12 education system lacking the critical thinking skills that are necessary to succeed in higher education or in the workplace

5 Reasons Leaders Need to Encourage Teacher Voice

Being a school leader is not easy. It takes a delicate balance between knowing when to push, understanding how to pull, and making sure that you take the time to listen to all stakeholders in the school community. For too many years teachers have lacked a real voice in schools, and without their powerful and informative voices, we can never move forward to engage and encourage students to have a voice.

Perspectives / Do-It-Yourself Learning
This issue of Educational Leadership addresses the question, How do students learn for the long term? Our authors' research-based answers, although familiar enough, also pack some surprises.

Why Don't Whales Have Legs?
Following on from the above article:
Time and again, long-term student feedback, program reviews, and end-of-year student reflections cite these two guided inquiry lessons as the most memorable. Posing lessons as questions, or problematizing them, allows students to learn and practice science in ways that make it stick.”’
From Bruces oldies but goodiesfile:

Disorganisation.Why organisations must 'loosen up'!
From a creative individuals point of view there is a desire for greater autonomy and flexibility. Such people want a greater say in the future of the organizations they work for. In short they want organizations to disorganize!

This weeks contribution from Phil Cullen:

Theres more to education than spelling and numbers
We need to go beyond the economic, rote-learning mindset, which is singularly concerned with the acquisition and regurgitation of facts. There is great concern that the race to the top in PISA rankings is undermining the education our children and our country really needs. What is the point of top marks in all subjects if you are unable to live a fulfilling life?

Testing Teacher Professionalism

Members of the teaching profession are trained to accept each pupils natural desire to learn and to develop each ones learnacy potential at the same time as each one accumulates knowledge. There is no greater kind of care; no greater profession.
There is no greater professional ambition. But we know that we have been turned around. We are under instruction to ignore the best-known teaching techniques and to use the soft bigotry of low expectations[Newkirk] caused by judgemental tests.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

North and South Magazine:What’s Wrong with National Standards?

The October ‘North and South’ Magazine featured an education essay on National Standards  written by Jolisa Gracewood who has seen the results of standard based assessment in her son’s primary school  in the United States where small children face a battery of tests. She asks if that’s want we want for Kiwi kids?

The essay is well worth a read.

This blog shares some of the main points.

National Standards are National’s flagship education policy and in the wings wait league tables, performance pay and Charter Schools.

At a pre-election meeting held at Ponsonby School Peter O’Conner ( School of Education Auckland University) said, echoing the findingsof a recent Nigel Latta TV programme on education, ‘there isn’t a crisis in education’ and then introduced the elephant in the educational equation – poverty.

When her turn came Hekia Parata (Minister of Education) introduced her catch cry for the transformative power of education, ‘decile is not destiny’ and that National Standards are a ‘proudly democratising tool.

National Standards got off to   bad start, writes Gracewood, introduced as a post-election surprise and rolled out with minimum consultation they were ‘opt in ‘at first but then made compulsory. The process was a blow to the co-operative spirit established between the sector and the Ministry.

The idea of National Standards is simple enough: for Years 1-8 schools must report twice a year how well children are doing in reading, writing and maths, relative to a given standard.

Children are ranked in four categories: above standard, at standard, below, or well below. As Gracewood writes, ‘at first blush, there’s an old fashioned straightforward appeal – it’s the Three Rs in modern dress’. Gracewood has two reservations – there is no category for well above and if the whole curriculum is crucial, why require reporting on only those basic skills?

Parata has said that National Standards ‘are to education what pulse and blood pressure are to a GP’ Gracewood  checked with some doctors who said that they mostly confirm what they knew already and that they are an incredibly narrow part of an overall assessment.

Gracewood reflects on how much of National’s plan for education hangs on the framework of National Standards. The spectre of performance pay looms in the offing and the Minister has hinted that ‘performance’ could be measured by student progress against National Standards. 

Meanwhile, third parties have complied league tables that compare schools according to their National Standards results. And if you’re not happy with how your local schools perform charter schools await to ‘provide parents with choice’, as the government tells it.

Gracewood writes with the experience of her own children experiencing the effect, while living in the United States, of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB)

 In the US children experience compulsory multiple –choice tests that begin in Year Four. The original goal of the NCLB was – like National Standards- was to identify struggling children and lift their achievement. The NCLB offered a simple proposition: test children on basic skills, and make sure the numbers go up year by year.

Gracewood worried that the school her children attended, chosen because of its inquiry based approach, noted that the inquiry approach was being edged out by a test based focus. As the stakes were high students were being trained in test taking and the school struggled to make the mandated ‘adequate yearly progress’. On top of this there was the risk of being put ‘into administration’, or being supplanted by a charter school. Despite the teachers’ best efforts the learning of every child in the school was subtly shaped by persuasive test anxiety, to the detriment of other kinds of learning. 

The testing cart was driving the teaching horse, and worse; it was running over the children who most needed the lift. And it was driving the bright kids bonkers.

Reluctantly Gracewood shifted her children to a school in a more prosperous area where the tests were more a passing nuisance.

Gracewood’s experience led her to question where National Standards might lead New Zealand education and wondered at what point would the ends might shape the means – and whether people would notice the incremental transformation. Maybe, she wondered, National Standards wouldn’t be as bad as NCLB. Or maybe it was the thin edge of the wedge.

Moving back to New Zealand her children’s experience of their
Sandra Aitken
primary school (Point Chevalier) ‘blew my children’s mind…there was joy in the air, and creative energy in the classrooms. ‘National Standards results appeared on their report cards but there were no compulsory tests results. Point Chevalier, like the Gracewood’s second well off (high decile) American school had little to worry about. Point Chevalier’s principal Sandra Aitken commented, ‘we have the luxury of our kids achieving pretty well’.

Although less than impressed with the way National Standards were imposed she conceded one positive aspect: ‘It was the first time that overall teacher judgment, based on multiple sources of evidence was recognised in writing’.  Primary schools had always already gathered and shared such information with parents and used it to inform their teaching.

 As for the standards Aitken says ‘she doesn’t have a problem with the idea of having some signposts about roughly where we would like kids to be but I’m just not a 100 per cent convinced that the child who’s always "below" needs to hear that time after time. Often we’ve made a significant difference, but they’re still below standard.

A level playing field?

The joke amongst schools is that National Standards are neither national nor standard and Gracewood wonders if this system might lead to an induced demand for some kind of universal nationwide test. 

Aitken doesn’t want national testing nor league tables even though her school would come out pretty well and she is vigilant that her school does not let an emphasis on standards narrow the curriculum something she sees as a real risk for schools that are worried about being unfairly compared to other schools.

Gracewood wondered about the effect of National Standards  reflecting on her children’s first American school? 

To find out she visited May Road School in Mount Roskill a decile 2 school where three quarters of the students have English as a second language.  Principal Linda Stuart states while that they have a number of issues associated with poverty the school’s families do the very best they possibly can with very little. 
Lynda Stuart May Road School (Decile 2)

Is decile destiny for these children and their families?  Stuart reckons with political will and proper support they can be raised up educationally but neither National Standards nor league tables are helping the process. Stuart worries that the introduction of National Standards has hindered the holistic approach that has been wonderful in addressing the needs of her pupils.

‘The thing is’, says Stuart, ‘success looks different according to where you are working from. Many of our kids are on the back foot to start with... the data  doesn’t capture how much progress students have made…they are measured against the benchmarks that every other child is measured against, which gives it a false perspective about where the school as a whole is at.

 Stuart believes the answer is to emphasize the children’s accomplishments and by providing opportunities the children wouldn’t get otherwise. ‘If we could get that happening throughout the country we could shift a lot of things....My students are just as eager to learn but they are starting from a much harder place.’

Profoundly democratic - yeah right!
Gracewood recalls Parata’s line about the ‘profoundly democratising’ effect of all schools being held to the same standard; no child being left behind but as one teacher says, ‘it is not a level playing field- so why measure and report as if it is?’

At the meeting Parata had spelled it out.

 ‘The students who have been left behind are Maori, Pacifica, come from poorer homes, have special education needs, or a combination of all four. Our challenge is both to lift up those who have been left behind, and push up those who are already doing well to do better.’ None of which is news to anyone Gracewood spoke to. But on the evidence, it wasn’t clear that National Standards was doing anything more than measuring the field again.

 Decile nneedn't be destiny, but it is a powerful factor.

 Even in a well off area, socio-economics matter. ‘They talk of one in five kids failing’ says Sandra, ‘and one in five live in poverty. Can we not see the connection?’ And she points out, ‘even in decile 10 schools have decile one families’ who fall between the cracks.

One criticism Gracewood heard of National Standards was that, like No Child Left Behind, it tends to encourage a focus on children just below the line. If schools can bump some of that group into the ‘at’ category their profile instantly looks better on a comparison chart.

Time for a conversation
Standards also send mixed messages about the value of a school as a whole too. Schools in which half the children meet or exceed the standard can still be read as ‘failures’ , even if they’re helping their students and communities to be the best they can be.

Schools are being given huge responsibility for outcomes beyond the school gate.

National Standards, league tables and charter schools were presented as being things parents asked for – but did we asks Gracewood?

What is wanted is a proper conversation about education not just with the government, but with parents and the wider community. ‘When we have that conversation’, says Linda Stuart, ‘when politicians really listen to what we’re saying, then we will have the most wonderful education system in the world’.

As the meeting concluded Gracewood thought back to Peter O’Conner’s image of one in five children setting off to school from homes suffering from poverty - ‘the elephant in the room trumpeted soundlessly’.

(For anyone wanting to experience the consequences of   national tests and league tables need look no further than the Australian school system)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Educational Readings - creativity/on-line learning?/inspiring quotes

By Allan Alach

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

This weeks homework!

The Perils of Plans: Why Creativity Requires Leaping into the Unknown
Which is a pretty good reason why standardising education is a step back into the past.
Keats termed the willingness to embrace uncertainty, live with mystery, and make peace with ambiguity negative capabilityand argued that its essential to the creative process.

A valuable book

Integrating the 16 Habits of Mind
The habits themselves aren't new at all, and significant work has already been done in the areas of these "thinking habits." However, in a 21st century learning environment -- one often inundated with information, stimulation and connectivity -- there may be a newfound context for their application.

The Maker Movement: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants to Own the Future
From constructivist theories of psychology, we take a view of learning as a reconstruction rather than as a transmission of knowledge. Then we extend the idea of manipulative materials to the idea that learning is most effective when part of an activity the learner experiences is constructing a meaningful product.

Teachers on naughty step over pupilsbad behaviour, but Ofsted report is unfair
More teacher blaming from England.
The reports headline that a failure of leadership in tackling poor behaviouris costing pupils up to an hour of learning a daywill, of course, worry parents. But, even a cursory reading of the survey data invites scepticism.

What Happens When Your Teacher Is a Video Game?
More moves towards the corporate vision of computerised instruction to replace humans.
Rocketship's model is based on four principles. First, the company cuts costs by eliminating teachers. Starting in kindergarten, students spend about one-quarter of their class time in teacherless computer labs, using video-game-based math and reading applications. The company has voiced hopes of increasing digital instruction to as much as 50 percent of student learning time.

Online Learning is Just as Effective as Traditional Education, According to a New MIT Study
On the other hand, Tony Gurr tweeted a link to this article. What do you think? 
But a new study from MIT suggests naysayers should think otherwise. Massive open online courses are not only effective, researchers have discovered, they are as effective as what's being traditionally taught in the classroom regardless of how prepared or in the know students are.

How teachers sometimes fool themselves
Another Alfie Kohn article to make you reflect
You have to look harder and think deeper to realize that what appears to be progressive instruction sometimes turns out to be more traditional and less impressive than it seemed at first glance. And if its your classroom, then acknowledging that possibility may require courage as well as insight.

This weeks contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

30 Ideas To Promote Creativity In Learning
Much of the blame for a lack of creativity, and therefore innovation, can be traced to our traditional educational systems. It relies on teaching to the correct answer.  An innovative thinking model is needed. Robinson recently tweeted an article about a new study that suggested 80% of educators surveyed preferred creativity to be included as part of learning standards.

What the Marshmallow Test Really Teaches About Self-Control
One of the most influential modern psychologists, Walter Mischel, addresses misconceptions about his study, and discusses how both adults and kids can master willpower.

Inspire Thoughtful Creative Writing Through Art
Bruces comment: For teachers who believe in integrating the arts into their curriculum check out this excellent link.
Children naturally connect thoughts, words, and images long before they master the skill of writing. This act of capturing meaning in multiple symbol systems and then vacillating from one medium to another is called transmediation. While using art in the classroom, students transfer this visual content, and then add new ideas and information from their personal experiences to create newly invented narratives.

Letting Go and Gaining Understanding
Bruces comment: Sensible stuff.
Rather than completely overhauling ourselves as teachers, we need to simply feel safe to reexamine how we do things. As I prepare for this school year, I will return to the three big ideas I gleaned from last spring: understanding drives learning, reexamination precedes revolution, and collaboration depends on trust. This school year, reference these concepts to reexamine your differentiation practices in your own classroom.

30 Inspiring Quotes To Help You Get Through Your Work Day
Bruces comment: Some inspirational quotes to share with staff

From Bruces oldies but goodies file:

Educational Quotes 5: Leadership and Teamwork
A collection of quotes on leadership.
Imposed bureaucratic 'top down' changes have resulted in school being 'over managed and under led.' Now is the time for courageous leaders, at all levels, to emerge and add their 'voices' to the debate. There are no experts with 'the answer' - we will have to invent the future ourselves together as we go along.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Vision.Looking towards a better future - escaping the present

We need to develop a future consciousness.
The elections are over - now it is time to think of where to next..

The National Government has been returned with a resounding victory. The Labour opposition is in disarray and now faces the necessity to both consider the reasons for their defeat and to elect a new leader.

All sorts of ideas are being expressed to explain Labour’s  defeat: that as the opposing a party they made little attempt to discredit the government; that Labour’s  policies were distracted by extraneous developments around Dot Com and Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics’; and issues of leadership failure. The truth is that Labour has been struggling for several years as the polls clearly indicated.
More from Pope Francis

My own feeling is that Labour ought to have pointed out that the market reforms (that the government has followed and in truth governments since the 1980s) have not, as promised success for the benefit of all. The ‘trickle down’ phrase, often quoted in the past, has been a myth and increasingly has made the ‘rich richer and the poor poorer’. The market reforms were premised on getting the government out of the equation through reducing regulations and encouraging privatisation of services with the intent of developing grater innovation. As Ronald Reagan said, ‘the government is not the answer it is the problem’ At the same time Margaret Thatcher said, ‘there is no such thing as community’ and added ‘there is no alternative’ (TINA). We have seen, over the past thirty years worldwide, the democratic power of the state to protect its citizens being passed over to control by international corporations and vested financial interests.
Wrong - there is always a choice

As the neo-liberal ideology colonised Western counties thecitizens of such countries shifted to the centre away from a belief in the welfare state; the ‘left’ was no longer felt a good place to be.

The election ought to have been contest between a rising concern about the bigger issues of environmental degradation and the possible effects of climate change and   the present status quo. It was no contest. The Greens held their own but Labour failed to grab the imagination of the people who saw little sense of shifting from the security and certainty of the current government. Why worry about such issues if the government, as represented by the Prime Minister, seem not to be concerned?
Don't listen to the scientists!

The big question for opposition parties is to face up to the shift from the left to the centre by people who once might have voted Labour.  Being left is no longer something successful people want to be allied with; the current government has sold the idea of the aspirational society (‘winners’) and, associated with this, there is little empathy for those not able to succeed (‘losers’). Sadly even those who have most to lose under a continuation of the present government couldn’t even be bothered to vote!

Maybe it is time to forget the left /right issue and focus on a present versus future orientation?

The National Party focussed  simply on the need to be allowed to keep doing what they had been doing – ‘working for all New Zealanders’ , the Greens focused on a qualitatively different future but one that might well have frightened off many people and Labour’s ‘Being Positive’ was vague to say the least.

Future success for any opposition must be to focus not on left or right but the present or the future.

Nash - asking the right questions.
One of the prospective contestants for Labour leadership during a TV interview Stuart Nash talked about the need to consider ‘a vision for New Zealand thirty years into the future’ and that there is a need ‘to create a mood for change’. 'What sort of country', he asked, 'do we want to be seen as'? Values to underpin such a vision should for the benefit and protection of all and not just the well off? Vision provides direction but values provide a moral compass. Once direction has been established, and values clarified, then all actions need to be aligned to achieve the vision. Such a clear vision has the power to pull people into the future and to see that more of the same, or looking back to the past, is
Chris Trotter

This is naturally easier said than done and  would require multiple conversations with as many individuals and groups as possible  both to educate people about the challenges we need to face up to and some positive solutions  to work towards. Maybe, as the people of Great Britain found out in 1939 when the threat of Nazi Germany could no longer be ignored, there will be no choice.

In a paper written by Chris Trotter (published in the Press 22 April 2014) he stated that the challenges of the future cannot be ignored. The Green Party (‘it’s not easy being green’) wouldn’t need to exist if other parties grasped the sheer size of the paradigm shift needed to deal with global warming, resource depletion and the despoliation of the natural environment.’

The tragedy of our times is that the politics of ecological denial has some extremely powerful backers. Trotter believes that the history of the 21stC will be shaped by an increasingly bitter
struggle between neo-liberal market forces ideology and the need to develop sustainability in all aspects. This boils down to the belief of individualism versus the interrelatedness of all living things. In short, he says, 'between I and we'; individual self-interest versus protection of the common good.

This is the issue of the present versus the future. The Green party focussed clearly on sustainability - economic and environmental, with its smart economic policies.  The Green’s position was easily understood – if feared (and hence ridiculed) by those ‘winning’ under present policies. National, in the recent election, focussed on the competitiveness of our market system while at the same time colonising some of the traditional territory Labour claims – free medical visits up to 13 and extending maternity leave. This could be interpreted as ‘tweaking’ the present scenario.  Labour position, although having much in common with the Greens, was unclear.

So my advice is to drop the left /right descriptions and to develop a future versus present argument. Both the Greens and Labour could work together to develop this positive future scenario by developing policies both to alleviate and prosper in a world focused on sustainability.

A future orientated vision has the power to provide a sense of hope for those who are currently being left behind or only managing to hold on their position in society of ‘winners and losers’.

Sooner or later the choice will become clear but now, as Stuart Nash said, is the time to develop a mood for change; to focus on the kind of New Zealand we want to work towards.
A strong vision pulls us out of the present!

According to Chris Trotter if Labour does not pick up the challenge of defining a possible exciting future, one that is inclusive of all, then labour could be ‘consigned to the dustbin of history.’

Trotter believes that many Labour supporters indicate that working closer with the Greens is their preference. This would have to include myself.

The NZ elections - more of the same or a chance for transformation

The NZ Elections - are we missing the big picture?

The future of capitalism - Lester Thurow


 Do we need a new balance between Central and Local Government.

The neo-liberal market forces ideology believes in minimal or small government with business friendly regulation often at the expense of protection of the environment and the common good The Labour Party, in particular, has been seen as representing a centrist state determined party summed up in recent years by the National Party (and in turn a majority of people) as the ‘nanny state.’  The big business world , particularly international corporations, believe that governments and public service bureaucracies restrict their success and support  ‘small ‘ government and minimal regulations.

Maybe it time  to reflect on the role of government in an information age?

When New Zealand was first settled by Europeans a system of provincial governments was established – difficulty of communication made this sensible. With inequality, created by wealth created through the discovery of gold in the South Island, and the difficulties resulting from the land wars in the North, as well as a need for a national approach to developing expensive infrastructure, provincial government was abolished and central government, as we now know it, established.  The state, particularly as a result of the reforms of the First Labour Government became all powerful.

The welfare state established post World War 2 was finally replaced by current neo-liberal ‘small government’ ideology in the 80s – introduced ironically by a Labour Government.  The state was increasingly seen as part of the problem to be solved by privatisation of state services – this is increasingly being extended into such area as education (charter schools) and health.

Perhaps a new vision for New Zealand could consider a re balancing of local and central government responsibilities?

 Local government currently has a lower voting turnout than national politics. A future vision might well consider empowering local government with a greater share of the tax take and as part of this move to create connections at the local level between local and central services? Education, welfare, health, police, job creation, justice could be integrated, to some degree, with local government? Such moves would increase a sense of democracy at the lowest level and move away from the current ‘one size fits all’. Regional governments, as long as they complied with basic requirements set by central government, could develop the diversity that would reflect New Zealand’s cultural make up.

This is about empowering people and in the process reinventing democracy for the 21stC? Currently state governments worldwide are being influenced by vested corporate and financial interests. A strong state government is the only real protection of all New Zealand citizens. Devolving responsibility to the lowest level, within agreed guidelines, will encourage regional development/ diversity; cater for cultural differences and coordinate ways of improving resources; working with private enterprise as necessary, in a range of areas.

At least would be worth a consideration for a future conversation about the future?

 And a paper from the United Kingdom ( consider recent vote for independence in Scotland)

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Educational Readings - educational reform / passion in education.

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

This weeks homework!

Education Reform explained in 3 memes
Highly recommended post from Save Our Schools NZ:
Feel free to right click, copy and share these memes as far and wide as you wish.

Dickens and Standardized Testing
And it is this that is so very chilling about this educational "reform," which is not about reform at all, but something very ominous -- control of the mind.
How better undermine education than by crippling thought; how better discourage critical inquiry than by stressing rote learning; how better weaken democracy than by subverting its schools!

Whats wrong with standards-based education? Let me count the ways.
We had hoped that the recent New Zealand elections would see the end of GERM, sadly that wasnt the case and so this article remains topical, as it is elsewhere in the world.
However, standards are not a concern of wealthy kids and schoolswhy is this? By claiming one set of standards, we create the illusion of equal opportunity without the community development
needed to create affluence which has been documented more than any other factor to determine school success. The truth is that standards are for poor kids. Wealthy kids dont need them. Accountability measures strangle schooling in poor communities-wealthy schools can take them or leave them because they have the infrastructure of family, income, education and community that enables those students to do well, standards or not.

'How We Learn' offers new look at how our brains work
The science says something completely different. It says the brain is not by nature a school learner. It's a scavenging learner, a foraging learner. That's the way it has essentially evolved to learn, by pieces, on the move, picking up information as it goes along. The implications of that are huge for studying or for learning of any kind. It means that when we feel restless during practice it's not because we're not good learners, it's because that's the way the brain works.

Thomas Kane On Educational Reform
Gene Glass comments: Ask a Harvard economics prof how to reform schools and naive nonsense comes out.
I do have to say, though, as a former teacher, I would advise others to not heed the advice of a person who has conducted a heck of a lot of research oneducation but who has, as far as I can tell or find on the internet (see his full resume or curriculum vita here), not ever been a teacher ineducation himself, or much less set foot in the classroom.

Schools quality does not affect gaps in attainment, research shows
Ah but who reads research when ideology is seen as the way forward?
Professor Steve Strand, of Oxford University, says the stubbornness of the attainment gap across all types of schools suggests that the quality of a school is not enough to overcome a disadvantaged background.

Fathers education level strongest factor in childs success at school study
More research to be ignored
A fathers level of education is the strongest factor determining a childs future success at school,
creating a self-reinforcing cycle of poverty and lack of achievement passed down from parents to children in Britain, according to research. The report from the Office for National Statistics claims that children are seven and a half times less likely to be successful at school if their father failed to achieve, compared with children with highly educated fathers.

Why Teachers Can't Have a Seat at the Table
Knowing why teacher voices have not been pursued or included would tell us something about reformster attitudes about teachers and illuminate the relationships at the heart of how public education works in this country. So let's consider the possible reasons that teachers are not, and have not been, at the infamous table. What are the reformsters thinking?

This weeks contributions

Questioning the System- Are We Harming Kids?
Bruces comment: This is a great website to explore. This blog is about what dogs can teach us about personalising learning.
That nagging feeling that we are doing more harm than good. That schools for the most part, as they currently exist are resulting in the dumbing down of education. We are developing mediocrity rather than excellence in our graduates. That we are missing opportunities to help children develop deep learning around their passion due to our one size fits most approach to learning in our schools.

Heres a number of articles from Bruce about passion based learning:

Passion-Based Learning: An Interview with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach
Educator Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach challenges us to rediscover our own passion for teaching by helping our students become passionate seekers of knowledge and understanding.
Passion-Based Learning
Passion is hot. It is a force that sells movies and margarine and everything in between. It is a force the can move mountains, inspire art and make the weak strong. We need to bring passion back into learning, in teaching and all around. Passion motivates. It makes a way out of no way. It allows students to overcome hardships to achieve a goal that is meaningful to them.

25 Ways to Institute Passion-Based Learning in the Classroom
Common sense tells us that students are more likely to learn if they are motivated by and engaged with the curriculum or project at hand. Now, hard science is telling us the same thing. When
students are passionately engaged in their learning - when they are mesmerized by their learning environment or activities there are myriad responses in their brains making connections and building schema that simply would not occur without that passion or emotion.

How to Ignite Passion in Your Students: 8 Ways Educators Can Foster Passion-based Learning
In the end, it is passion that drives all great things to be achieved.  If passion is forgotten in classrooms, we are losing half the meaning of learning. As Einstein once said,
Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”’

School garden teaches students many lessons
Bruces comment: Now that it is spring (in the southern hemisphere), is it time to think about establishing a school garden?
The garden is tied to the students curriculum. Math, science, reading and healthy living are all part of the equation. The kids measured the beds for planting and record whats going on in the garden.