Friday, November 29, 2013

Educational Readings - the importance of the arts, beyond testing, inquiry, and personalising learning

By Allan Alach


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

This week’s homework!

Master of many trades: Our age reveres the specialist but humans are natural polymaths, at our best when we turn our minds to many things.

Not strictly educational, but, then again, isn’t this what education should be focussing on, rather than GERM? Shouldn’t the focus of education be on guiding all children to become polymaths?

‘An intriguing study funded by the Dana foundation and summarised by Dr Michael Gazzaniga of the University of California, Santa Barbara, suggests that studying the performing arts — dance, music and acting — actually improves one's ability to learn anything else. Collating several studies, the researchers found that performing arts generated much higher levels of motivation than other subjects.’

Do You have the Personality To Be an Inquiry-Based Teacher?

‘So far, the challenges of transforming education into a system capable of inspiring students to become skillful, creative, knowledgeable problem-solvers fall into familiar territory: What types of curriculum, standards, skills, strategies, and adaptations to classroom teaching methods will be necessary to do this? But it’s likely these will prove to be secondary questions. As education crosses the divide between a transmission model and an inquiry model, a more pressing issue will be apparent: How do we identify, attract, nurture, and train teachers who have an “inquiry-friendly” personality?’

9 reasons why I am NOT a Social Constructivist

Right, here’s your dose of learning theory for this week. Do you agree? Disagree? Why?

Kelvin Smythe comments, ‘Social constructivism may not be that great as a teaching and learning theory, but to dismiss it as having a negligible effect on the learning valued by a society is silly.’

‘Educators nod sagely at the mention of ‘social constructivism’ confirming the current orthodoxy in learning theory. To be honest, I’m not even sure that social constructivism is an actual theory, in the sense that it’s verified, studied, understood and used as a deep, theoretical platform for action.’
I am with Kelvin - Bruce

Pearson 'Education' -- Who Are These People? (via Donna Yates Mace - USA)

This article looks at Pearson Group’s fingers in the USA education pie, but be assured, people, they will be coming to your country (if not already there). You were wondering why education has become a battlefield?

According to a recent article on Reuters, an international news service based in Great Britain, "investors of all stripes are beginning to sense big profit potential in public education. The K-12 market is tantalizingly huge: The U.S. spends more than $500 billion a year to educate kids from ages five through 18. The entire education sector, including college and mid-career training, represents nearly 9 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, more than the energy or technology sectors."

Test the World: The coming global testing boondoggle (via Donna Yates Mace - USA)

Frightening stuff, unless you have shares in Pearson Group...

“[W]e do not yet know the full scale of the crisis because measurement of learning achievement is limited in many countries, and hence difficult to assess at the international level. A global data gap on learning outcomes is holding back progress on education quality.”

International test scores: Getting the data straight

Valerie Strauss:

‘Here is a third post in a debate on The Answer Sheet about international test scores and whether they tell us anything important about the U.S. public
education system. The conversation began with a post I wrote last week titled “The fetishization of international test scores” which looked to the upcoming release of 2012 PISA test scores on Dec. 3 and said we place too much attention on these scores.’

A Student Explains What's Wrong With Our School System And Why We Mistrust Teachers. Nails It.

‘This kid (Eh ??? Young adult...)  nails the problem with Common Core in a new way, claiming that we're ruining the way we teach and learn. It's keeping teachers from doing what they're so good at and students from being real human learners.’

Beyond tests: How to foster imagination in students

Another excellent article from USA educator Marion Brady.

Those paying attention know that the high-stakes testing craze has pushed hundreds of thousands of kids out of school, trivialized learning, radically limited teacher ability to adapt to learner differences, and  ended many physical education, art, and music programs.’

Are schools squandering their teachers' talent?
We must stop squirreling away our teachers' talent. It's time to invest in it like other high performing nations do, say Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan.

Written about England but equally applicable elsewhere. This is a MUST READ.

Talent is not just something we should hope our teachers have and feel lucky when they do. It is something we have to find, invest in, build, and circulate, very deliberately, if we are going to get great returns from it. Approaching talent development in this way is what we call investment in professional capital. The professional capital of teachers cannot be squandered recklessly for short-term gains. Nor should it be squirreled away in individual schools and classrooms so no one else can have access to it. But this is exactly what too many people are doing – especially people in policy.’

Are We in an Age of Collective Learning? (via Tony Gurr)

As William Gibson said “The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.” So are we heading to a world of connected learning, network thinking, and networked libraries? ‘

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

3 Strategies to Promote Independent Thinking in Classrooms

‘....the classroom should become an incubator for growing students' attentional capacity. Instruction should be organized in intriguing yet challenging ways to foster attention. Teachers can utilize three strategies to cultivate improved focus: sequencing instruction, recovery from mistakes, and setting goals.’

Balancing the art and science of education

‘As we continue to fight to keep the arts in education, it is time to realize that the real fight is keeping the art in education. When I first started teaching many years ago, teaching was primarily seen as an art — an innate ability to use creative skill and imagination to communicate and build relationships that facilitate learning. The curriculum guide was a small gray book covering all subjects. Now, teaching is seen primarily as a science.’

Promoting a growth mindset for all students

‘What if we gave a test and everyone passed? That should be the goal! If that happened, however, instead of celebrating that success, policymakers likely would have the test-makers create harder tests. The reason is pretty clear: standardized tests primarily are for controlling education, not educating students.’

From Bruce’s ‘Oldies but Goodies’ blogs from the past.

The Da Vinci Formula

‘What we need are some better ideas. In a Fast Company e-zine a number of creative individuals were asked to say where they thought new ideas came from. I thought it worth sharing some of their ideas as businesses have given up on improvement; they appreciate we are living in a world that requires new thinking!

Standardisation or creativity; McDonalds or Weta Workshops?

The pattern is quite universal - declare a crisis, impose standards in a big hurry to avoid debate, then impose measures to ensure compliance with the standards, declare the results of the measures unsatisfactory, blame the teachers and the schools for poor performance, label critics whiners and wimps for using poverty and endemic unemployment as crutches for their own failures.’

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