Friday, March 15, 2019

Time to think of the 'big picture' about the purpose of education

Time for new thinking

 Educational Readings 15 March 2019
Collated by Allan Alach and Bruce Hammonds
 Introductory thoughts
Just listened to an economist Kate Rayworth on National Radio about the purpose of the economy. Currently it's about unlimited growth with minimal concern with the effect it has on the sustainability of our environment nor with the problems of inequality that the current emphasis on unlimited growth has created.

The purpose of the economy, she believes, should now focus on meeting the needs of all people and the sustainability of the planet rather than growth and self-interest.

We now need an economy that focuses on helping all people thrive and one that sustains the environment for future generations; an economy based on ‘wellbeing’ and an economy that faces up to the massive ecological and inequality crisis created by the ‘growth at all costs’ economy. We now need an economy, she says, that is premised on ensuring all people thriving in a regenerating environment.

In this ‘new’ economy what then is the purpose of education?

 Currently, as a result of Tomorrows Schools, education is based on schools competing with success being measured by growth in achievement in a narrow range of metrics.  As a result we have developing ‘winner and loser’ schools with little thought to the wellbeing of all schools.

The Tomorrows Schools Review gives us an opportunity to think beyond current narrow school
self-interest and to consider ensuring the success of all students in all schools. An education that ensures all students leave able to make a better job of sustaining the environment than the current generation.

This week young people are marching in an effort to raise our consciousness of the dire straits current economic policies, based on unlimited and narrowly conceived growth have created.

Bruce Hammonds

Learn about Kate Rayworth

Eight ways of teaching  creativity.

Mia O'Brien, a lecturer at Queensland University, knows about the importance of teaching creatively. This excerpt is from her 2012 study Fostering a Creativity Mindset for Teaching (and Learning):
"In order for creativity to be a priority within schooling, we need teachers who understand the nature of creativity and appreciate its pedagogical value. However, creativity is not usually high on the list of reasons for choosing teaching."

What this tells us is that teachers have an interesting challenge with creativity. Not only must they inspire it in their learners, but they must also give themselves full permission tobe creative as well. After all, teaching creatively means considering how creativity can apply to every responsibility a teacher has.’

Educating students for their future not our past

It’s so much easier to educate students for our past, than for their future. Schools are inherently
conservative social systems, as parents we get nervous when our children learn things we don’t understand, and even more when they no longer study things that were important for us.
Teachers are more comfortable teaching how they were taught than how they were taught to teach. And politicians can lose an election over education issues but rarely win one over education, because it takes way more than an election cycle to translate good intentions into better results.
The biggest risk to schooling today isn’t its inefficiency, but that our way of schooling is losing its purpose and relevance.’

 The value of the Education Hub proposal

‘Perhaps having access to an Education Hub at the time would have helped resolve current issues? A perfect mix of paid education professionals and locals that had the time and energy and emotional detachment to go through parent and teacher  could  make a huge difference.’

Why Playfulness Is the Key to Success in the 21st-Century

‘“I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.Isaac Newton I like this because it shows you the child in him, the one we can recognize in our own reflection if we pay attention. But more so, I like it because, from this human image, we can take out something for ourselves, something that I think is becoming more relevant today.’

Why Teachers Must Become Change Agents
Michael G. Fullan
Teacher education programs must help teaching candidates to link the moral purpose that influences them with the tools that will prepare them to engage in productive change.
Teaching at its core is a moral profession. Scratch a good teacher and you will find a moral purpose.’

#3quotes from Bruner
Steve Wheeler:
‘In my #3quotes series I have been citing directly from the texts of education thinkers, because it is
Jerome Bruner
important to apply ideas and theories in context. Too often, writers cite from theorists using secondary sources instead of delving into the original texts. In this post I will featuring direct quotations from legendary American psychologist Jerome S Bruner, whose work focused on the psychology of learning, pedagogical methods such as instructional scaffolding and the spiral curriculum, as well as social constructivist learning methods.’

Lies You Have Been Told About Educational Technology

‘When it comes to educational technology, we are all being lied to. Educational policy-makers, teachers, students, and parents have been made to believe that modern technology is “transforming the way students learn,” and “revolutionizing education.” Schools issue tablets and laptops instead of textbooks. Students spend much of their school day and night tied to screens for schoolwork and homework. The ed-tech companies have successfully crafted, packaged and sold to schools many myths masquerading as facts. These are spun in such a way that we are made to feel bad for questioning them. However, once parents and decision makers see the truth, they will demand change.’ 

The Key to Effective Classroom Management
‘A three-phase process helps build strong teacher-student bonds, which can reduce disruptive behavior.’

Peter Gray
Children’s Freedom: A Human Rights Perspective

‘For most people human rights have increased, but for children they have shrunk. In fact, children today are far more deprived of liberty than they were when I was a child more than 60 years ago, or when my parents were children 90 years ago.  And children are suffering because of that deprivation.  As I’ve documented elsewhere, children today are suffering at record levels from anxiety, depression, and even suicide.’

Dawn of a new creative era / Tomorrows Schools Review
Bali Haque
‘The Tomorrow's Schools Independent Taskforce spent almost six months looking at the evidence and held over 200 meetings all over the country. So is our current education system still relevant? Does it work for you as a parent or school board member? Does it meet the needs of our children today?’

Sir Ken Robinson's book is a must read if we want to bring education into the 21stC.

‘Our plea is for creative teachers, particularly those in New Zealand, to share Sir Ken Robinson’s book with as many teachers and schools as they can because the message is so important. If we really believe in giving every student the opportunity to leave formal education with their love of learning intact  and with all their unique interests, gifts and talents identified and amplified then we really have no choice.’

Guy Claxton : What is the Point of School

‘Anyone who has attended one of Guy Claxton' presentations ought to buy his book 'What's the Point of School'. This book is powerful and timely examination of why our schools are built to fail, and how to redesign them to meet the needs of the modern world.' The challenge of redesigning schools is a big ask but the book gives lots of very practical advice about how to create enthusiastic learners and more effective teaching. In particular the 'learning power' ideas gives guidance to how New Zealand teachers can implement the 'key competencies' of the new curriculum.'

Teaching and Learning Quotes

‘For too long schools have had to comply with endless bureaucratic top down edicts, confusing curriculums and associated accountability demands which have taken the focus away from
learning and teaching. As these imposed technocratic systems falter it is now time for creative teachers to also add their voices to the debate.
Students are born with a powerful desire to learn. Everything we do as parents and teachers must ensure that this powerful desire is kept alive. If there were to be one thing to be continually assessed it would be this desire... too many students leave with little to show for their time at school. Too many leave alienated and powerless.’

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Innovative Learning Environments - and the need for imagination and creativity

Education Readings

Introduction to readings
It would seem many schools are still locked into the assessment and associated documentation required by National Standards and as a result are dedicating too much of their time to literacy and numeracy – as important as they are. Bruce and I have long believed that the most important thing is to expose students to a rich thinking curriculum – a curriculum that integrates areas
of the curriculum as required. Nothing new in this. Elwyn Richardson in his wonderful book In theEarly World (available NZCER) written in the 60s saw his students as a community of artists and scientists exploring their environment and   their personal concerns. More recently Professor Peter O’Conner has expressed the need to develop programmes to develop student creativity (November 2018 NZPF Magazine) and quoted John Dewey, ‘the arts are tools by which we train the imagination…its only when we imagine that we can be better, that we can really change’.
Time now for some creativity and imagination in our schools.
Allan Alach
Bruce Hammond
Innovative Learning Environments – where’s the evidence?
In an open letter to Education Minister Chris Hipkins, parent Kia King outlines her concerns that there is no evidence to show that innovative learning environments can support enhanced teaching and learning.’
Innovative Learning Environments – here’s the evidence
Educational Consultant and Director of Leading Learning Mark Osborne responds to two big questions: Why is the design of classrooms changing? And how can we be sure that ‘innovative learning environments’ are actually leading to better teaching and learning?’
Inside an ‘Innovative Learning Environment – for and against
One of the great advantages touted is that ILEs create
collaborative teaching. Staff, from the same or different departments, must work together. They share the space. There are no walls, every move is under examination not only by their students but also by their peers. It’s the complete deprivatisation of practice. Proponents say that it allows weaker practitioners to learn from their stronger counterparts - to observe teaching techniques and behaviour management in action.’ Others have their doubts.
Tomorrow's Schools Review: Winner vs Loser Schools!
Maurie Abrahams
One innovative principal’s view. ‘I have been emotionally shaken by what I heard about the willingness of some school leaders to adopt the position that everything is OK for us so leave it as it is! So much so that I carefully chose the discussion tables I went to so that I could avoid hearing this position being promoted. I failed!Yet, despite that experience I still feel optimistic. The generational shift occurring across many professions and institutions will not bypass education and school leadership.’ By Maurie Abrahams - Hobsonville Point School
What Makes a Good School Culture?
Most principals have an instinctive awareness that organizational culture is a key element of school success. They might say their school has a “good culture” when teachers are expressing a shared vision and students are succeeding — or that they need to “work on school culture” when several teachers resign or student discipline rates rise. But like many organizational leaders, principals may get stymied when they actually try to describe the elements that create a positive culture.’
Russell Bishop: Who’s to blame for Māori failures at school?
Russell Bishop
In 1998, I wrote a book Culture Counts, where I suggested that the most important thing teachers could do, before they could do the job of teaching, was to establish figurative whakapapa-type relationships with Māori students and their families. This would let the students and their families know that you were serious and in your classroom, Māori could succeed. That’s what was missing from the schools and the classrooms where Māori kids weren’t achieving at the level they should — a base of whanaungatanga.’
The Artistry of Teaching
There is one goal [of education] that, if not achieved, makes the
Seymour Saraon
achievement of all other goals very unlikely. That goal is to create those conditions that make students want to learn; not have to learn but want to learn more about self, others, and the world
. The overarching purpose of schooling and its governance is to support that goal, i.e., to create and sustain contexts of productive learning supportive of the natural curiosity and wonder with which children start schooling.’ Seymour Sarason
Imagination, Inquiry, and Agency
Finish this sentence…“Imagine a place where students could…”Is that place your school? What would it take for that place to be a reality for your students? What do you think school could, and should be? That question is the focus of thousands of conversations in school communities today. It’s a sign of the concern, the angst, and for some even the desperation to better understand how we can more relevantly prepare our students for the rapidly changing modern world we all now live in.
Article: ‘If all of that testing had been improving us, we would have been the highest-achieving nation in the world.' Here’s what does work in school reform
‘So what should this country be doing to improve public schools? For one thing, pay attention to the social and emotional needs of students so that they are prepared to tackle academic work at school, Darling-Hammond said. Darling-Hammond cited these policies in high-performing countries: Equitable resources to schools. Major investments in educator preparation and ongoing support Schools designed to support teacher and student learning. Equitable access to a rich, thinking curriculum. Performance assessments focused on higher order skills that are used to guide learning.’
5 reasons why data is a waste of everyone's time
‘Why do we put so much focus on data? It's unreliable, confuses pupils and teachers, and takes up far too much time, writes one teacher.’
Simple Tips for Boosting Teacher Resilience
‘Try these quick and easy ways to build resilience and relieve stress.’
Deconstructing “Scaffolding”
By Alfie Kohn
But as I’ve thought more carefully about scaffolding — and watched as it, like so many other promising terms, has been appropriated by non- and even anti-progressive educators – I’ve become increasingly skeptical. Here are some questions I think we might want to ask when the word is casually tossed around.’

A couple of Bruce’s Oldies
Transforming Secondary Education – the most difficult challenge of all. Thoughts from a past age – ‘Young Lives at Stake’ by Charity James
Charity James believed it was important to get secondary education right if all students were to leave able to take advantage of the exciting opportunities the future might offer.  The challenge remains. Secondary schools need a radical reappraisal to ameliorate the effects of obvious social and cultural disadvantages and also to develop the needs, talents and gifts of all students.’
'A World of Difference’: the philosophy of a Taranaki pioneer creative teacher - Bill Guild

The ideas that Bill developed 1970- 1986 may be useful for today's teachers and they return their focus to developing students creativity and imagination.’

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Developing creativity and imagination in your class/school

Education Readings


The new term is underway and hopefully teachers now have some time for some reflective reading? Establishing a new class is a challenging experience and, under pressure, it is easy to fall back to doing what has always been expected. It was John Dewey
Still worth a read
who wrote that you don’t learn from experience but rather by reflecting on experience.  Asking what things went well and what might need to change- and if change is required,where to find the relevant information are important questions? This is where our readings might be of use.

This set of readings focus on the importance of creativity and the development of every student gifts and talents. Now that National Standards have gone we think it is an important issue.

Allan Alach and Bruce Hammonds

How Do You Discover and Develop Talent in Your School?

‘Today companies are realizing that they need to develop employees talent … to  attract, retain and build talent. So what does this mean for schools? Surely our first task in schools should be to identify what each one of our students can do. What talents do they have?  There’s increasing evidence that suggests that if students show a preference, passion or natural aptitude for a certain area, then ultimately, despite what “school” might think, there’s a very good chance that it will be those areas that will provide them with their best career and life choices.’

The 5 stages of the creative process

‘Many teachers talk about creativity but what does being creative mean? I don’t believe there is any one way to be ‘creative’. There aren’t five stages you need to go through to be creative.  I do think there’s some value in understanding what is considered ‘the five stages of the creative process, I’m just not sure I believe them…’

4 Ways to Develop Creativity in Students
Creativity is a valuable skill, and there are common strategies teachers can use to help students develop it Creativity is the most difficult thinking skill to acquire, and also the most sought-after. We value it in our music, entertainment, technology, and other aspects of our existence.  This article suggests ideas for teachers to use to encourage creativity.

School Kills Creativity?
Think! Figuring out that schools kill your creativity actually stimulates your inner self to be more creative. A short and creative read. Take a look.

The need to place creativity central to all learning -reflecting on the consequences of three decades of standardised teaching.
There is now a strong sense that creativity should be nurtured in classroom settings yet there is little understanding how effective and creative teachers function.  After three decades of standardised education, since the introduction of Tomorrow’s Schools, now is the time to place the focus on creativity.’

Creativity can’t be left to chance – it must be taught
Innovation often isn’t about acquiring new knowledge, but by seeing the knowledge you already have from fresh perspectives; or even through conflict and argument. Sometimes, innovation occurs through a lone genius with incredible insight, but not often. It’s collaboration that usually gets the job done.’

Observation Skills May be Key Ingredient to Creativity
The benefits of mindfulness, or being fully conscious and aware of one’s actions and surroundings, have been well documented. Studies show that only certain mindfulness traits are linked to increased creativity.  Studies would suggest, they should focus on sharpening powers of observation’

Building a Positive Staff Culture Takes Work
Culture is always at play in a school’s success or failure, whether members of that culture realize it or not.  If leaders want more collaboration, they must allot time to build trust and mutual respect.’

Are We Innovating, or Just Digitizing Traditional Teaching?

‘What has been gained through the introduction of modern information technology into our classrooms – and what has been lost? Blended learning has the potential to transform the way teachers teach and students learn—if we take advantage of all that it offers. While blended learning brings with it the promise of innovation, there is the peril that it will perpetuate and replicate existing practices with newer, more expensive tools.

Nurturing Habits of Mind
Many New Zealand teachers are aware of the work of Art Costa and Bena Kallick and their wrings about ‘habits of mind’ – these dispositions have much in common with the New Zealand Curriculum’s Key Competencies. Take the time to read the introduction to their new book. A ‘habit of mind’ means having a disposition toward behaving intelligently when confronted with problems to help student find the answers which are not immediately known.

Some good advice for school principals – what teachers want you to know
‘It’s because I talk to teachers every week I see how many of them are struggling. Some are engaged in a healthy struggle, the “good stress” of working at a challenging job. If we think of teacher stress as a continuum, I would put these teachers at the healthy end. At the other end, the struggle has a different character, a kind of desperation that goes beyond “good stress.” After listening to thousands of teachers tell their stories, I have reached the conclusion that there is one deciding factor that determines whether the teachers in any given school will lean toward positive and productive or desperate and crushed: That element is the principal.’

Modern classrooms won’t fix education – something to think about
‘Teachers in a traditional classroom setting can still use collaborative and flexible processes, utilise the physical space to maximise learning time, and employ technology to enrich the learning experience of students. . So, why the need for a makeover? Are we just equating ‘modern’ with new and effective, and ‘traditional’ with old and ineffective, in the hope that the new will overcome the old.’

Kids Spend Less Time Outdoors Than Prisoners
‘With the rise in ‘learning’ through screens this is worth thinking about. Is virtual reality excluding experiences in the real world?’

Earlier postings by Bruce on the creativity/talent theme
Schools for talent development
‘Something is rotten in the state of education. Shouldn’t an education system be about helping every learner develop their particular talents, passions and dreams? Shouldn’t teachers see their role as developing an individual learning pathway for every learner one based on their passions, interests, dreams or talents?

Asterix theory of talent development
‘Children do not see themselves as apprentice adults but rather they
try to be as good as they can be whatever their age. What they want to do is to find a niche within their group of peers, conforming to expectations on one hand, while at the same time differentiating themselves on the other. Developing this balance is a continuing universal challenge for us all.’

Friday, February 15, 2019

Time to place creativity central to learning

Education Readings

By Allan Alach

The new term is underway we wonder how many schools, now that the National Standards have gone, have begun the vital transformation to place the 2007 New Zealand Curriculum centre stage and, as part of this shift, have re-imagined literacy and numeracy as ‘foundation skills’ vital to enable student inquiry and creativity? As one commentator wryly said about past practice ‘the
Guy Claxton - 'Learnacy'
evil twins literacy and numeracy have gobbled up the whole curriculum’. The future is about developing students’ gifts and talents in tandem with the learning dispositions to be lifelong learners. As Sir Ken Robinson has said ‘creativity is as important as literacy and numeracy’ and this is echoed by educator Guy Claxton who says ‘learnacy is more important than literacy and numeracy’. Are schools listening?

Bruce Hammonds and I collect article to share to encourage a creative approach to education. Take a quick look - some might appeal to you. Please feel free to share with anyone you might think interested.

Stop Calling Them Soft Skills; they’re Essential Skills
‘We need to call them what they really are: essential skills; skills that are absolutely necessary to
thrive in the modern world. We need to change things up. And I think that starts with us stop calling communication, collaboration, critical thinking, work ethic, and confidence “soft skills.” How about instead, they’re called “essential skills.” Because they are essential, arguably more essential than your ability to memorize facts and equations.’

What Makes a Good School Culture?
Most principals have an instinctive awareness that organizational culture is a key element of school success. They might say their school has a “good culture” when teachers are expressing a shared vision and students are succeeding — or that they need to “work on school culture” when several teachers resign or student discipline rates rise.But like many organizational leaders, principals may get stymied when they actually try to describe the elements that create a positive culture.

What will education in Australia look like in 2019?
The start of a new school year is a time of excitement and curiosity as new students, parents and
teachers wonder what they can expect from the classroom. More broadly, there are a lot of questions about what's in store for the education sector as new teaching methods emerge and ever-present technological disruption and innovation continues.’

Big Picture Learning
Big Picture Learning was established in 1995 with the sole mission of putting students directly at the center of their own learning. BPL co-founders Dennis Littky and Elliot Washor merged their thirty years of experience as teachers and principals and their distinct national reputations to launch this new innovation in education. With an intention to demonstrate that schooling and education can and should be radically changed, Big Picture Learning was born.

Teacher Tom’s School
‘I strive for Woodland Park to be a place where children are as free as possible to create, explore, study, and play with as little adult judgement as possible. I am not there to critique their work or to teach them tricks, but rather to be the resident expert on safety, schedules, and courtesy, while providing the time and space for children to ask and answer their own questions about their world.’

Tomorrows Schools Review proposals will make schools better, says John O'Neill
‘Right now, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address systemic barriers to student success. The Independent Taskforce to Review Tomorrow's Schools recently published its report, "Our Schooling Futures: Stronger Together – Whiria Ngā Kura Tūātinitini". We believe that its more than 30 recommendations will transform our schooling system, and that we will be stronger together as a consequence.’

Rediscovering Our Nature Instinct
The most powerful parts of “The Nature Instinct” are its many examples of how to correct our present-day nature deficit. By undertaking the exercises he describes — using Orion to tell direction and time, creating maps from the wind, or identifying trees by their sounds — the book “gently” hammers our brains “into a new pattern of thought,”

Everyone Can Learn Mathematics to High Levels: The Evidence from Neuroscience that Should Change our Teaching
Very important article by Jo Boaler:
‘For it is only when we combine positive growth messages with a multi-dimensional approach to teaching, learning, and thinking, that we will liberate our students from fixed ideas, and from math anxiety, and set them free to learn and enjoy mathematics.

#3quotes from Vygotsky
Steve Wheeler:
Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky is revered as a notable pioneer of research into learning and cognitive development. Although his writings were suppressed in the West for several decades, they eventually emerged in the 70s, representative of a progressive view of constructivism, in which the social was seen as a major influence on learning.’

Extra arts education boosts students’ writing scores — and their compassion, big new study finds
It’s just the latest study to find that giving students more access to the arts offers measurable benefits. And adding time for dance, theater, or visual arts isn’t at odds with traditional measures of academic success, according to the research — which amounts to one of the largest gold-standard studies on arts education ever conducted.'

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Advice from David Perkins to make learning Whole – how to integrate skills into inquiry.
‘The problem Perkins says is there is too much problem solving ( teachers problems ) and not enough problem finding - or figuring out often 'messy' open ended investigations. 'Playing the whole game' is the solution resulting in some sort of inquiry or performance. Student are withdrawn individually or in groups to be given necessary help to return to the game of learning..’

Importance of observational drawing
Drawing is an ideal way to break through habitual ways of thinking. All too often our students see but they do not look. Observational drawing has long been an important means for some teachers to develop deeper consciousness
in students - to assist students see through their habitual ways of seeing and to develop new awareness.’

Interactive teaching- the Learning in Science Project (LISP)
If we really believe students 'construct' their own 'meanings' from any experience then teachers need to value the 'prior ideas' , questions and theories their students have. Only then can they set about to challenge and help students change what they know and can do. Some of the best research in this process was completed in NZ in the 80s by researchers at Waikato University but has been, more or less, ignored by those in authority since.’
Organising the school day for 21st Century Teaching - the Craft of Teaching
‘Ideally classroom organisation should be based on helping students achieve in depth quality learning across the curriculum amplifying or uncovering, every student’s unique gifts and talents to ensure they have the skills to become lifelong learners.A close look at the daily classroom organisation/timetable is a sure way to get an idea of what is seen as important by the teacher – or the school.’

Valuing the individual differences and talents of all learner