Friday, September 27, 2013

Saving Creative Education - holiday reading/viewing

Some holiday videos worth watching.

Protecting natural born learners
Ignorance or 'shonky' data?

This  short TED talk video called 'In Pursuit of Ignorance'  by neuroscientist Stuart Firestein is well worth the time to view  particularly for schools who have fallen into the trap of believing in the importance of National Standards data as evidence of student achievement.
Testing is destructive!
'You’d think that a scientist who studies how the human brain receives and perceives information would be inherently interested in what we know. But Stuart Firestein says he’s far more intrigued by what we don’t. “Answers create questions,” he says. “We may commonly think that we begin with ignorance and we gain knowledge [but] the more critical step in the process is the reverse of that.”
Firestein, who chairs the biological sciences department at Columbia University, teaches a course about how ignorance drives science. In it -- and in his 2012 book on the topic -- he challenges the idea that knowledge and the accumulation of data create certainty

Learning from Aussie mistakes

In Australia school principals have lost the battle about the imposition of standardised testing of their students. 

Phil Cullen, the ex Director of Primary Education Queensland, has long been almost a lone voice against such an educationally destructive  procedure.

The testing agenda has been pushed worldwide by corporate influences who believe that to improve education requires measuring test results and from them sorting out failing schools. In  New York this means rewarding teachers whose students do  well  and firing those who don't. Performance pay!  This business oriented approach has been implemented to various degrees in a number of Anglo-American countries, including New Zealand, as part of the Market Forces ideology. This approach has been called the Global Education Reform Movement  or GERM
Unholy alliance

Phil recently sent me an Australian 60 Minutes.  television programme that reports on the Australian testing programme ( called NAPLAN).

 This is another excellent short video. which shows how New York lawyer and ex Superintendent of New York school ( and Rupert Murdock ) influenced the Australian NAPLAN  testing.  Recent research is showing that this testing, so loved by politician and parents, has not resulted in any improvement and has caused a narrowing of the curriculum and teaching to the tests.

'Right now across the country one million students, their parents and teachers are sweating on the NAPLAN results - the national numeracy and literacy tests.

NAPLAN began in 2008 to compare all students across the country and better help those who are falling behind.

We adopted the idea from New York where teachers are promoted or sacked on the back of the results. But we haven't done that here and instead the pressure falls on the students to perform.

Teachers here claim NAPLAN retards growth and restricts creativity.
A NAPLAN revolt is underway, with one principal even likening the tests to child abuse.'

If National returns after the next election watch this space!!

Principals and teachers need to 'get political 'and support parties that  trust teachers who value their professionalism and  who are prepared to work with them to ensure every student has the opportunity to develop their gifts and talents - rather than being sorted out by 'shonky' National Standards.

It is important that New Zealand school principals do not become seduced by their National Standards data as it seems many are.

A focus on short term gains , as a result of a focus on subjects being tested, will slowly destroy the creative teaching New Zealand was once recognised for. Principals  and schools need to work together to protect their professional voice.

We are going the wrong way!
Schools would be well advised to listen to the advice of Chinese born American educator Yong Zhao who warns against failing into the testing trapZhao is currently in New Zealand and, during an interview on National Radio, told the audience that while countries like China, Koreas and Singapore are trying to make their education more creative counties like NZ, Australia and the UK are doing the opposite!

 Natural born learners -at risk in some schools!

A third video clip  has been recommended by Sir Ken Robinson whose own videos have reached millions of viewers. The recommended TED talk by Alison Gopnik features how young children learn from a very young age - that children are true scientists. It is this innate desire to learn and make sense of experiences that school should  build on. rather than being subverted by imposed testing.
Children are natural born learners!

"Babies and young children are like the R&D division of the human species," says psychologist Alison Gopnik. Her research explores the sophisticated intelligence-gathering and decision-making that babies are really doing when they play

There are voices out there for creative schools to listen to - Phil Cullen, Young Zhao, Alison Gopnik and Sir Ken Robinson - the list goes on. Those those not sensitive to such voices  will be trapped, or seduced, by the ideology of Joel Klein, Rupert Murdock and in NZ  National and ACT 'market forces' politicians.

 We  have a choice!

It seems to me that schools have a choice. To meekly comply and go along with imposed directions, or to fight for what is worth fighting for.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Bruce for keeping sharing such good ideas. I do worry about the integrity of a lot of principals who use National Standards data for their self interested school public relations!!

Bruce said...

I must admit that many principals seem reluctant to stand up against the imposition of National Standards but, who knows, as similar testing is found wanting things could change. At least in NZ opposition political parties are providing a real alternative.