Friday, September 04, 2015

Education Readings for creative teachers - Carol Dweck and the 'growth mindset' and banana theory.

By Allan Alach

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

I know what I like
Self determined learners
Heres your new word for the week: heutagogy.
'We live in a rapidly changing world that requires people to have the ability to adapt much more quickly than in previous times, where events moved much more slowly. Education is not immune from these changes even though it is an inherently conservative system. In the face of significant innovation in educational practice and as espoused in self-determined learning (heutagogy) and other perspectives, there are new skills to adopted by learners and learning leaders alike.' 

Learning spaces: The subconscious teacher
Space to explore
The spaces we inhabit have a profound effect on how we inhabit them. Space induces a particular way of feeling, of being. What are we saying to our children with we line them up in 5×8 rows facing the same direction toward a voice of authority? What do we say about desks that lock us in place, where the majority of movement within our gaze is eyes forward, eyes down?

Sit Still and Face Forward: How the Myth of Teacher Control Undermines Classroom Management
Good article on that essential teacher attribute - helping children manage their behaviour.
Because teachers are responsible for the behavior in their classrooms, we fall into the trap of believing that they (we) can control the behavior in their (our) classrooms. The reality is that no human being can control the behavior of any other human being. We can attempt to influence it, certainly. Offers of rewards or threat of punishment might influence peoples choices, as do respect, trust, and good relationships. But even young children are still able to make choices about their behavior.

The Common Core Can't Speed Up Child Development
This article is about the USA; however its transferable to all countries using a standards based education system.
Educational attainment is part of human development, and fundamentally this is
Common core doesn't suit all
a biological process that cannot be sped up. We cannot wish away our biological limitations because we find them inconvenient. Children will learn crawling, walking, listening, talking and toilet training, all in succession at developmentally appropriate ages.
Once in school, for skills that require performing a physical task, that are in what
Bloom's Taxonomy classifies as the "psychomotor domain," it is understood that
children will only learn when they are physically and developmentally ready.

The MindsetMindset
This is a must read - Alfie Kohns observations on Carol Dwecks growth mindset.
Even when a growth mindset doesnt make things worse, it can help only so much if students have been led by things like grades, tests, and, worst of all, competition to become more focused on achievement than on the learning itself. Training them to think about effort more than ability does nothing to address the fact, confirmed by several educational psychologists, that too much emphasis on performance undermines intellectual engagement. Just as with praise, betting everything on a shift from ability to effort may miss what matters most.

Carol Dweck
No Clarity Around Growth MindsetYet
Following on.
So is growth mindset the one concept in psychology which throws up gigantic effect sizes and always works? Or did Carol Dweck really, honest-to-goodness, make a pact with the Devil in which she offered her eternal soul in exchange for spectacular study results?
I dont know. But here are a few things that predispose me towards the latter explanation. A warning I am way out of my league here and post this only hoping it will spark further discussion.

Affirmative Testing Blog: What Students Do With Feedback
On the other hand, heres Annie Murphy Pauls observations on growth mindset.
A passing acquaintance with the notion of mindsetthough an excellent startdoesnt fully convey the richness of Dwecks idea, however. The influence of mindset shows up in studentsthinking and behavior in so many ways, one of which I want to focus on today. That is the effect of mindset on how students handle feedback.

Sugata Mitra and the Hole in the Research
Some weeks back Mitra published research which showed that children, using the internet, could teach themselves at a level several years above their ages.
Well, not quite
Youll forgive me for not being particularly impressed by hand-picked students taking part in a test where theyre made to feel special, given a thin slice of a syllabus to work on, and then tested for that exact piece of syllabusand then scaling up that work into a magic GCSE grade. Give me a page of quantum physics to memorise, then ask me about it. Can I have a PhD?

This weeks contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Start the School Year by "Awakening Your Dreamers”
Something to start the year but good for any time awakening student dreams
“When your students return to the classroom this fall, how many will bring along the interests, talents, and dreams that inspired or delighted them over the summer months? Will they see any connection between school assignments and their own passions?”

Kids Speak Out on Student Engagement
‘A while back, I was asked, "What engages students?" Sure, I could respond, sharing anecdotes about what I believed to be engaging, but I thought it would be so much better to lob that question to my own eighth graders. The responses I received from all 220 of them seemed to fall under 10 categories, representing reoccurring themes that appeared again and again. So, from the mouths of babes, here are my students' answers to the question: "What engages students?”’

Growth Mindset: How to Normalize Mistake Making and Struggle in Class
Is there anyone out there who hasnt heard of Carol Dweck and the idea of mindsets?
Carol Dwecks research on growth mindset has become essential knowledge in education circles. The Stanford psychologist found that children who understand that their brains are malleable and can change when working through challenging problems can do better in school.

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Developing real literacy: Margaret Mahy
“Margaret Mahy, one of New Zealands most accomplished childrens writers says we are not changed by experiences as common wisdom has it. What changes us are the stories we tell about our experiences. Unless we have formed our lives into story, structured it with words, we cant contemplate the meaning of our lived experienceThis is done by turning the raw material of our life into stories, and in the process, it can be creatively transformed and given meaning.

Developing natural learners
Natural born learners before the word the experience . Have we forgotten this in our schools?
“Literacy is built out of, and from, the emotional or felt experiences children have as they play and explore their environments preferably in the company of others and, even better, a perceptive adult.This understanding was the basis for the language arts experience that was as once such a feature of New Zealand Primary schools. The idea that early literacy should arise from childrens own thoughts from exploring their environment (and their own personal life experiences) was developed early in New Zealand.

Tomorrows Schools had their day?
“Good people poor system' it was said when the Labour Government introduced 'Tomorrows Schools' in the mid eighties. These changes were part of the transformation of the New Zealand's
economy under an ideology that came to be known as 'Market Forces'.School changes were 'sold' to the public as a means to develop greater community democratic control and authority over schools. In reality there was no real dissatisfaction or desire to change things at the time. It was later to be seen as part of the above ideology; all about the advantages of efficiency and competition.”
Don't touch the bananas!!!!
The power of culture learning not to touch the bananas!
“It is always amazing to see how exposure to an environment, or culture, can change how we think without us even knowing I guess this is called conditioning. New ideas always rely on those individuals who can see reality without the blinkers.”

Friday, August 28, 2015

Leading and Learning Educational Readings for Creative Teachers

By Allan Alach

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

Science Proves Reading To Kids Really Does Change Their Brains
Teachers of school entrant children will already have suspected this is the case; now heres some proof.
Pediatricians often recommend parents routinely read aloud to their young children.
Now, for the first time, researchers have hard evidence that doing so activates the parts of preschoolers' brains that help with mental imagery and understanding narrative -- both of which are key for the development of language and literacy.

Kindergarten boys less interested in language activities, study indicates
Following on.
"We have not looked at whether the differences in reading abilities between boys and girls have any connection with participation in language activities in kindergarten. However, wedo know that systematic linguistic stimulation promotes language skills in children. Unequal participation in activities that promote linguistic stimulation may be a factor in reinforcing the differences that already exist between children. If these gender differences persist, we can imagine that girls will have an advantage and boys and girls will start out on a different footing when they start primary school.

A Dictionary For 21st Century Teachers: Learning Models & Technology
Thanks to Phil Cullen for this one.
An index of learning models, theories, forms, terminology, technology, and research to help you keep up with the latest trends in 21st century learning.

This could change everything about school for kids, teachers and everybody else
Excellent article by Marion and Howard Brady.
Marion Brady
Were convinced that systems theory is the key to creating a general education curriculum free of the core curriculums major problems. And were dead certainbased on extensive classroom experimentationthat helping kids lift into consciousness and use their already-known systemically integrated information organizer moves them, in just a few weeks, to performance levels not otherwise possible.

At the end of our tether
Steve Wheelers observations about the potential impact of mobile technologies on learning.
Being able to choose when and where to learn is part of the freedom to learn. It is not just about freedom of thought and freedom of speech, but also freedom of space and place. It is about choice. The is academic freedom. We have no excuse now. We are living at a time in our history where the small device in the hand of the student is able to provide opportunities for any time, any place learning.

Leave the World Better than We Found It
This article is the introduction to the book A Peoples Curriculum for the Earth, which looks as though it could be very worthwhile.

We educators need to imagine, cooperate, create, hopeand at times, defy and resist. And we need to see ourselves as part of a broader movement to build the kind of society that is clean and just and equal and democratic. One that seeks to leave the world better than we found it.

Research examines relationship between autism and creativity
Time to have another look at autistic children in your classroom?
People with high levels of autistic traits are more likely to produce unusually creative ideas, new research confirms. While the researchers found that people with high autistic traits produced fewer responses when generating alternative solutions to a problem, the responses they did produce were more original and creative. It is the first study to find a link between autistic traits and the creative thinking processes.

This weeks contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

18 Activities That Make Creative Writing Actually Fun
Here are some great writing strategies and prompts that will honor your studentsimaginations and free their muses to soar.

The Best Advice for Creating Student-Centered Learning
The below article includes an excellent small Australian video showing educational changes from 1950s to modern times worth viewing.
Student-centered learning puts the emphasis on experience and hands-on learning. Buzz words are: Inquiry-based learning, case-based instruction, problem-based learning, project-based learning, discovery learning, and just-in-time teaching.Whatever you call it, the emphasis is on students becoming empowered to own their learning. So lets embark on a little journey exploring student-centred learning.

Students Advise New Teachers: From Structure Comes Freedom
Advice for new teachers.
Follow these tips and you can build a classroom culture of respect, rapport, and learning. When the classroom culture is positive, students are more apt to participate in all types of learning activities.

Choosing the wrong drivers for whole system reform
Michael Fullan asks have we been using the wrong driversfor educational reform? Short answer  - yes!
Successful drivers of change focus on relentless development of  ‘capacity building’ – to make learning more exciting, more engaging, and more linked to assessment feedback loops around the achievement of higher order skills.
Michael Fullan
A wrong driveris a deliberate policy force that has little chance of achieving the desired result, while a right driveris one that ends up achieving better measurable results for students.The culprits are 1. accountability: using test results, and teacher appraisal, to reward or punish teachers and schools vs capacity building; 2. individual teacher and leadership quality: promoting individual vs group solutions; 3. technology: investing in and assuming that the wonders of the digital world will carry the day vs instruction; 4. fragmented strategies vs integrated or systemic strategies. Although the four wrongcomponents have a place in the reform constellation, they can never be successful drivers. It is, in other words, a mistake to lead with them.

From Bruces goldie oldiesfile:

Guy Claxton's Magnificent Eight
Guy Claxton believes that teachers need to focus on how they relate to students in their classrooms. What is important , he writes, are the values embodied in how they talk, what they notice, the activities they design, the environments they create, and the examples they set day after day. These represent the culture of the class.Every lesson invites students to use certain habits of mind, and to shelve others.

Bureaucratic 'creep' and curriculum drag'!
Bureaucratic creep and curriculum drag 2004 have things improved? 
Tomorrows Schools ( when schools were made self governing in NZ in the 80s) was all about community control - or so the publicity went. It sounded good at the time but the possibility of local control and creativity was quickly crushed by the imposition of confusing curriculum statements and time wasting assessment requirements.

In praise of slow
The ideas of Carl Honore, in his book In Praise of Slow, are a real antidote to our current obsession with productivity, speed, consumerism and workaholism, which has filtered its way into all we do including education. Carl Honore believes too many of us are living our lives on fast forwardand as a result our health and relationships are paying a heavy price. Obese children are but the most recent symptom of this fast life. Carl writes that we are to over stimulated and overworked and struggle to relax to enjoy things properly, to spend time with family and friends.

Inspiration and challenges for today

Pioneer New Zealand creative teacher Elwyn Richardson recognised and some good advice for today's teachers.
In April of this year (2005), at the age of 80, Elwyn Richardson was given an honorary doctorate by Massey University to recognize his work as one of New Zealands most inspiring, innovative and influential teachers whose ideas were ahead of his times'. His recently republished book In The Early Worldoutlines his philosophy of learning and teaching including his respect for the emerging abilities of the children he taught. They are my teachers as I was theirs and the basis of our relationship was sincerity, without which, I am convinced, there can be no creative education.At the ceremony Professor Codd said that, It is timely in the 21st century to recapture teaching as an art. In the early World inspires teachers to take risks, to contemplate values and philosophies as central to the teaching learning process and to adapt prescribed curriculum to the childrens own desire to explore , inquire and create.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

It's all about politics( including educational reform). Market Forces ideology has demeaned the common good.

A rock star lifestyle for  the rich elite!

Time to move away from 'rock star' leaders

A recent article in local  our paper said that maybe we need to move away from ‘rock star’ leaders. Maybe ,it suggested ,that leaders need to be some sort of charming rock star is a myth’ and ‘one that is detrimental to the success of any organisation’.

Qualities of good leaders

Which one exhibit over confidence?
‘Good leaders’, says professor of business psychology Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic (University College of London and New York Columbia University), ‘have four general qualities. The first is trustworthiness and integrity, the second is good judgement. The third is having a vision,- a compelling story that persuades a team to put aside their own selfish agendas and to work for the collective good’. The fourth quality is self-awareness, and it is a lack of this that can result in an ‘epidemic of overconfidence’.

It is interesting to compare National’s John Key and Labour's Andrew Little on these qualities.

Time to let go of the 'free market' knows best myth.

What happened to the 'trickle down'?
Our current ‘rock star economy’ is based on the belief that the ‘market knows best’ along with the idea that self-interested individuals need to be free to develop their selfish agendas. For the less fortunate the wealth created was supposed to ‘trickle down’ but this has also been a myth. The rich have got richer and the poor poorer.

Free market in free fall.

The ‘rock star economy’ is now at risk as milk prices fall and as the Chinese economy is showing signs of ‘speed wobbles’. It seems our success was more to do with forces outside our own borders than political leadership. Simply leaving the logic of the free market to work without constraint has developed  an elite owning the lion’s share of any wealth generated. The collective good has been forgotten; there has been a stagnation of average and median earnings.

Time for an alternative vision.

The time is right to right to develop an alternative story. Thirty years of market forces politics has created a very unequal society. Issues about sustainability and ensuring that all citizens are able to contribute and benefit need to be placed back at the centre of the debate.

A n inclusive vision
A challenge for Andrew Little and Labour.

Andrew Little and the Labour Party need to develop a new vision for our country that will  not only make up for current ‘market imperfections’ but also lead us in a new direction.. We need a vision that sees a stronger role for the government to construct a more democratic, humane and caring society to ensure all citizens get a fair deal.

'Free market' policies flawed.

New Zealand is no longer the egalitarian society we once proud of and growing inequality is placing a strain on the social fabric of our country. As well the emphasis on growth at any cost, consumerism and a deregulated financial ‘free for all’ is placing the sustainability of our environment at risk.

Free market policies are now being seen as flawed – the rise in inequality the obvious symptom.

Now is the time to develop a vision that creates the opportunity for everyone to get a fair share.  Currently we are at risk of letting an elite rich shape the future of our country.

The real winners
Inequality and climate change the defining challenges of our time

Inequality and climate change are becoming the defining challenges of our time. After three decades of ‘market forces’ there is developing a sense of unease or discontent felt by those who find it hard to see themselves as ‘winners’. This unease will grow as the upwardly mobile middle classes find  their future  being placed at risk
We need an inclusive model that serves all citizens.

We need a new model of economic growth that serves the needs of all based on decent work, environmentally sustainable development and economic of production for social ends – growth that has the potential to put more life into regional economies
We need to have a conversation about what kind of country we want to be? 

We need to look at successful countries that have avoided such inequality; countries that have not gone so far down the market forces ideology.

Time to value the collective good.

Political decision need to be made to ensure that the collective good is protected and that all citizens are given every opportunity to contribute to the nation’s wealth. New infrastructures and public services need to be developed.  Democracy needs to be reinvigorated to respect the ‘voices’ of all citizens? New directions   in health, education taxation, housing, power provision and welfare need to be in place to ensure all can contribute according to their talents?

Thirty year experiment has had it day.

Market forces and privatisation that have dominated New Zealand politics for thirty years has failed to produce a healthy society that all feel part of. The consequences of such thinking  now need to be faced up to.

A vision to get through rough times
An opportunity to develop a better vision.

The situation we now find ourselves in provides an opportunity to draw together a vision of a better world. It is an opportunity to challenge the ideology that underpins ‘market forces’ of the minimal state, privatisation and speculation and to replace them with principles based on democracy, justice, sustainability, redistribution and collaboration.

We need thinking leads to a new vision to take our country into a more successful future for all members of our society not just an elite few; a country that will be a fit place for the younger members of our country to inherit.

Need to speak out about 'free market' failure.

Andrew Little and the Labour Party need to speak out against the present inadequacies of current policies and to speak out about the advantages of a more equal society. They have the challenge of developing in the public understanding of what is at stake. The advantages of freedom and choice, promised by ‘market forces’ are limited to the rich –  while the rest of the population  move further into debt.
 Well said Pope Francis!

We need a vision of a better society

Time to make a choice
 But most of all the Labour Party needs to articulate  vision of a better society that is both achievable and inspiring ; one capable of developing meaningful reforms; a vision where the talents and skills of all citizens are seen as the countries major resource. 

As the article in the paper referred to said there is a need for ‘a vision- a compelling story that persuades a team to put aside their own selfish agendas and to work for the common good’. We just ust need to replace ‘team’ with ‘country’.

It is time for real choices to be made.

There is an alternative

Friday, August 21, 2015

Leading and Learning Education Readings for critical educators: Gene Glass/ Sugata Mitra/ Growth mindsets/ killing public education/ MLEs / Haiku curriculum and the SS Titanic

By Allan Alach

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

The King Has Abdicated

Phil Cullens take on the announcement by US academic Gene Glass of his withdrawal from the discipline of educational measurement due to its misuse by the school reform movement. 

This is big news!!!

If ever there was a giant amongst educational measurers of the world, it is Gene Glass, Senior Researcher at the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder. The seminal mega-research of Glass and Smith into Class Sizeis a study to which any studious commentator refers if ever he or she mentions anything about the efficacy of class size on child learnings. It had an enormous impact on world discussion about class size. His leadership during the 1970s Minimal Competency Testing movement was profound.

The Great Learning Gap

Sugata Mitras controversial new study summarised in the TES here suggests that self study on the internet can boost a childs performance by seven years. Basically, 8 and 9 year olds studied GCSE content online before being examined three months later in examination conditions. They were successful. It sounds astounding, but its true, at least for the small number of children involved. And actually I dont think its that surprising. To me, this is not a study about the power of the internet. Its a study about the power of children.

Growth mindsetis not just for school students, teachers can grow their minds too

This is is a must for teachers, much more than the can in the title.
Most educators would be aware of the term growth mindsetby now. The idea is you can work on being smarter. Whatever abilities and talents you have are just a starting point, if you work hard, make mistakes and keep trying, you can achieve. Teachers are using it to encourage and motivate children in their classrooms.
But there is another application for this idea; it can be used as an underlying ethos for the professional learning of teachers.

10 Ways To Fake A 21st Century Classroom

Its 2013, so whatever youre doing in your classroom right now is technically 21st century
learning. Semantics aside, we all can improve, and many of us are being held accountable for improvement by administrators, blogs, and the local PLC to bring the next generation into the 21st

century. With that kind of pressureand constant district walk-throughsit may be necessary for you to fake a 21st century thinking and learning environment to make the right kind of impression with the right people, and give the appearance of forward-thinking.

Plays the thing

Theres a lot of useful information here, both in and out of school.
Somehow the importance of play has been lost in recent decades. Its regarded as something trivial, or even as something negative that contrasts with work. Lets not lose sight of its benefits, and the fundamental contributions it makes to human achievements in the arts, sciences and technology. Lets make sure children have a rich diet of play experiences.

Imagine that you wanted to slowly kill public education

Does this article by Scott McLeod ring any bells for you?
Somehow you have to create a narrative over time that erodes citizenssupport for public schools and counters their incredible historical legacies of college and career preparation, citizenship development, cultural socialization, economic opportunity creation, and facilitation of intergenerational income mobility. Here are some things that you and your like-minded colleagues might try to do:

How Should Learners Influence Classroom Design?

Researchers and designers of learning environments often debate whether the learner should adapt to the learning environment, or whether the learning environment should adapt to them. Arguably, this is the wrong question. A better question is: how does the environment shape the learner, and in turn, how does the learner shape the environment?

Why Schools Should Teach Meaning and Purpose

I believe it is the responsibility of a school to help students develop their personality, but this is not possible when a school tries to be efficient. You need pointlessand ineffectivestudent
activities that dont lead to better grades if you want them to live a life of meaning and purpose. Sacrifice a bit of your academic excellence and make room for personal development. The system wont thank you for it, but the students will by living a more fulfilled life.

This weeks contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Does a MLE suit all learners?

By Derek Weymouth NZ
Essentially, I don't find this sort of question helpful. There are some more important questions that should precede it. Thats not to be dismissive at all of the fact that people will be interested in these sorts of things – its important that these themes are fully investigated as new approaches are being adopted in our schools and learning institutions. It's like asking "does an MLE suit all learners?" when the equally valid, yet often uncontested question is "does a traditional egg-crate classroom suit the needs of all learners?'

The neurons that shaped civilization

Culture Counts
Seven minutes Ted Ed talk to illustrate the power of culture and learning from others a change the rational scientificGERM approach to learning.
Neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran outlines the fascinating functions of mirror neurons. Only recently discovered, these neurons allow us to learn complex social behaviors, some of which formed the foundations of human civilization as we know it.

If life is a game, then education is play

Education is best when built upon such notions of play.
Play embodies our natural inclination to explore and experiment with objects and systems outside of us and integrate them first-hand into our psyche. Through educational play, we get to explore new ideas and come to know ourselves, as well as those around us in often-profound ways.

From Bruces goldie oldiesfile:

'Haiku Curriculum' - simple and deep!

At some point the Japanese threw away complex poetic forms and invented haiku.This is what we ought to do with our current incoherent curriculums Since the 90s schools worldwide have had to implement a complex set of curriculums imposed on them by expertslong removed from the reality of the classroom.

Messages about education.

I have been reading an article on the web about the pressures being placed on young children and their teachers in the United States to achieve expectations set by standardized tests. In the process teachers have had to narrow their curriculum to ensure their school does well when results are published. And as well, I guess, they would be worried about their tenure?

Why are teachers so reluctant to change?

Over years of visiting schools it seems mean to say that there has not been as much change as one
might have hoped for considering all the imposed reform efforts. Ironically the biggest change I have seen was when a more progressive pedagogy entered our primary schools in the late 60s and early 70s. Out went straight rows, the strap, and the overbearing role of the teacher. Even the introduction of computers hasnt yet changed school structures as much but there are signs they will.

Sailing into the future on the educational SS Titanic!

Many school structures still reflect a Titanic mentality
Many of our current organizations may look impressive but there are plenty of signs that all is not well. There are social icebergsof discontent and alienation ahead that will eventfully force change on us. Just as it takes a tragedy in our personal lives for us to face up to new reality, so it is with the wider world of organizations particularly those designed in, and for, past eras.