Friday, July 10, 2015

Math education- Jo Boaler/ students writing/ Alfie Kohn and Yong Zhao, John Hattie and lots more for the creative teacher.

Education Readings

By Allan Alach

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

This weeks homework!

What Started Treehorn?
This article by former Queensland Director of Primary Education Phil Cullen should be a must read for all primary teachers all over.
Justice for kids is  not on anyones  agenda. We Care For Kids’” is expressed more often with tongue in cheek.  Expressions about childrens learning has been replaced by plenty of talk about about test results;  and it hurts as  you wonder if the kind of former great people who once ran our schools, have been replaced by others, who, wonderful people though they are, seem to have lost the plot and now work hard for a sad purpose.  It hurts because one believes in the enormous dignity and importance of primary schooling and there are now too many operatives who dont seem to care.

Over-focus on exams causing mental health problems and self-harm among pupils, study finds
Contributed by Phil Cullen:
‘“Parents confide that the children cry at the thought of coming to school and are often exhausted due to the stress of learning, one anonymous primary school teacher who took part in a survey said.

Why Math?
Why math? Why math class? Because math class can be the place where students discuss the most important and thought-provoking questions that face us as a species.

Discursive or recursive? The fractal nature of education
Thought provoking article by Steve Wheeler:
What do you know about fractals?
“… much of our education systems are fractal in nature. Education is delivered recursively, where students are required to reproduce knowledge that is already known. It's a safe approach to education, and learning can be easily measured. Those that become teachers continue this tradition, teaching their own students the same knowledge, in more or less the same style they were themselves taught. Assessment of learning also has fractal features. Standardised testing is based on reproducing knowledge.

National curriculum is damaging children's creative writing, say authors
This is an inevitable outcome of teaching by standards; equating to paint by numbers art.
How is writing assessed?
If you look at the national curriculum descriptions, they are picking up on something that happens to childrens writing as it develops vocabulary becomes more complex, and sentence structure becomes more complex, so in that sense there is nothing necessarily wrong with what theyre saying. The problem comes when you try to turn that into a marking scheme, which says you get more marks for an unusual word than a usual word, or a sentence with a subclause rather than one without.”’

Are primary schools teaching un-creative writing?
On the same theme:
The very essence of writing is that it is an expressive and personal outlet, so should we really be limiting it at all? Some argue that a childs creativity is stimulated by the exploration of advanced vocabulary, but there really is a difference in being allowed to delve into the world of fancy words, and being forced to use them.

The Trouble with Rubrics
Alfie Kohn:
My growing doubts about rubrics in particular were prompted by the assumptions on which this technique rested and also the criteria by which they (and assessment itself) were typically judged.  These doubts were stoked not only by murmurs of dissent I heard from thoughtful educators but by the case made for this technique by its enthusiastic proponents.  For example, I read in one article that rubrics make assessing student work quick and efficient, and they help teachers to justify to parents and others the grades that they assign to students.To which the only appropriate response is: Uh-oh.

Lessons that Matter: What should we learn from Asias school systems?
Yong Zhao:
The lessons from Asian education systems do not relate to what helped them achieve their high scores on international comparative tests, but to the efforts they have engaged in over the past few decades to transform their educational practices. These efforts are often mistaken for policies and practices designed to produce the high academic performances indicated by international tests, while in reality they are intended to create a different kind of education, an education deemed necessary for cultivating citizens in the twenty-first century.

This weeks contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Old school or new? Math teachers debate best methods as Canadian scores fall
Old way or new way?If maths scores are falling what's the answer?
Dont get math teachers started on best teaching practices.The discussions are emotional, heated and they dont agree on much except that Canadian kids are falling behind their peers in other countries, and theres no clear solution.There are generally two camps: those in favour of the old-school method to lecture kids with a drill-and-killformat that preaches practice, and another, ever-growing group that believes a more creative approach is needed to engage students.
Which approach develops positive attitudes towards maths?

The Stereotypes That Distort How Americans Teach and Learn Math
Jo Boaler
If there is one subject badly taught it is maths!!! Jo Boaler - teaching maths in an active way is the answer

I have spent years conducting research on students who study mathematics through different teaching approachesin England and in the U.S.  All of my research studies have shown that when mathematics is opened up and broader math is taughtmath that includes problem solving, reasoning, representing ideas in multiple forms, and question askingstudents perform at higher levels.

100 Percent Is Overrated
Making mistakes in maths in style growth mindsets count! More from Jo Boaler.
Boaler notes that at least a small part of the forebrain called the thalamus can appreciably grow after periods of the sort of cognitive stimulation involved in mistake-making. What matters for improving performance is that a person is challenged, which requires a mindset that is receptive to being challengedif not actively seeking out challenge and failure. And that may be the most important thing a teacher can impart.

What Do We Do When Students Dont Like School
How do we respond to students who dont want to come to school?  Ive seen many different responses to such a question.  “Its the parentsfault,” “The child just doesnt want to learn,” “There is a personality conflict with the teacher,” “Kids in the class are mean.    Excuses dont help the child want to come back to school.  In fact, it makes it harder.  Instead we should think of what we are currently doing that is not working.

From Bruces goldie oldiesfile:

Putting the heart back into teaching
Learning is about relationships. Relationships with content and with people who help us acquire it. It is about having mind changing experiences that tap into our desire to make meaning and express what we know.To be attracted to an area of learning relates to what attracts our attention and whether or not we want to put in the energy in to learn more. Curiosity is at the basis of all learning.

Learning styles
A common sense approach:
Four styles
Developing a 'personalised learning' approach, tailoring learning to the needs of each students ( as against the 'one size fits all'), is not as easy as it sounds. In the real world, outside of school, people make use of whatever ways of learning that do the job. For many such people academic school learning is of little use to them.  It does seem their are four learning styles available for teachers to make use of in their classrooms to cater for all students.

The killing of creativity by the technocrats.
The killing of creativity by John Hattie and similar educational technocrats and accountants.
Anti creativity ?
Just because John Hattie has amalgamated every piece of 'school effectiveness' research available ( mainly it seems from the USA) his findings seems to be taken for read. The opposite ought to be the case - we need to be very wary of such so called 'meta research.'. More worrying however is that the approaches he is peddling is pushing into the background the home grown innovative creative learning centred philosophy that was once an important element in many classrooms.

Time for some heresy?
A need for some heretical thoughts in education
If we want to develop 21st C education systems then we will have no choice but to re-imagine education dramatically. We need to implement some heretical alternative thoughts to transform
It's not easy being a heretic
current systems with their genesis in an industrial age an age well past its use by date.
Strangely enough none of the idea being considered are new it is just that few school have put them all together. School are inherently conservative and some schools seem impervious to change. Those that transform themselves will be leading the way; the others will remain, like dinosaurs, relics of past thinking. Increasingly students, with access to powerful information technology will simply bi-pass schools that do not have the capability to transform themselves.

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