Friday, November 22, 2013

Educational Readings: more subversive ideas

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!

The fetishization of international test scores

Yet another excellent posting by Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post.

Standardised testing!
‘First of all, judging just about anything important on the sole basis of test scores is never a good idea. That’s not just me talking; assessment experts say it over and over and over.’

What is developmentally appropriate in learning?

Another gem from Valerie Strauss, featuring an article by Daniel Willingham:

‘In sum, I don’t think developmental psychology is a good guide to what children should learn; it provides some help in thinking about how children learn. The best guide to “what” is what children know now, and where you want their learning to head.’

Genuine vs. sham accountability

I don’t always agree with Grant Wiggins; however here is an exception.

‘Accountability is ‘responsibility for’ and ‘responsiveness to’ results, as the dictionary reminds us. Teachers who are sometimes deemed unwilling by the public to be held accountable are the same educators who serve as athletic coaches and teachers in the performing and vocational arts – where they are happy to be held responsible for performance results, since the tasks are worthy, the scores are valid and (over time) reliable, and the whole system is public and fair.’

Subverting the System: Student and Teacher as Equals

The sad part of this article is that it is presented as a new idea.....

‘So instead, he presented problems for the students to solve: He challenged them to learn about physics by analyzing how children interact with toys and playground equipment, and to learn about the world of design firms by designing a playground for a real group of third-graders.’

Accountability, Privatization, and the Devaluation of the Career Educator

‘During the past 30 years, a variety of political, economic, and social forces have shaped the current landscape of public education, a landscape defined by increasing accountability and privatization. Simultaneously, those same forces have contributed to the devaluation of the "career educator" and have produced a leadership vacuum at the local, state, and national levels.’

The education of Christopher Pyne

This article is about the current Australian Minister of Education, but the points made are relevant all over.

‘Standardised testing.The Minister proposes to strengthen NAPLAN and place it on line. Standardised testing has been a feature of the 'reforms' in the US and its effects have been carefully analysed. At its extreme the tests are justified by advocates as parents' democratic right to know the quality of their child's school. The main argument is that the tests help improve student achievement. Unequivocally they do not! ‘

The butterfly effect’ in schools.

With the complexity of a school environment, teeming with diversity and life, like a veritable rainforest, it is likely you cannot guide the butterflies in any
direction. People in schools: teachers and students, are maddeningly similar. Flying in formation never really occurs as we intend it to, no matter how rigid the top-down leadership. We can but develop and maintain the conditions for our particular ‘butterflies‘ to thrive. This will likely happen from the bottom up – like those small but powerful butterfly wings freely beating their haphazard, seemingly chaotic pattern.

Lectures Didn't Work in 1350—and They Still Don't Work Today

A conversation with David Thornburg about designing a better classroom

‘In his latest book, From the Campfire to the Holodeck: Creating Engaging and Powerful 21st Century Learning Environments, Thornburg outlines four learning models: the traditional “campfire,” or lecture-based design; the “watering hole,” or social learning; the “cave,” a place to quietly reflect; and “life”—where ideas are tested.’

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Henry Pluckrose - creative educator

Another ‘blast from the past’ article by Bruce.

Henry knew that the means to solve the problem of the long tail of underachievement by facing up to underlying poverty of the 'failing' children and the need to develop and share the creative capacity of schools and teachers. He would be keen, as I am, to replace the 'state theory of learning' with an emphasis on sharing the ways we know how children learn; powerful pedagogy rather than recipe and prescription. He would want teachers to move away from mere 'delivery' and compliance and to place more attention to engaging students in realistic contexts.’

Transforming schools through Project Based Learning (PBL) .

Bruce writes:

American educationalist Thom Markham is an enthusiast for Project Based Learning (PBL) and believes that the most important innovation schools can implement is high quality project based learning.He provides seven important design principles for teachers to ensure project based learning is of the highest quality.’

How to Get High-Quality Student Work in PBL

‘Things can appear to be going smoothly — students have been engaged by the project, they’ve been learning content and skills, they’ve been busy and meeting deadlines — but their thinking is not as in-depth and their final products not as polished as they should be. If this is your experience, it’s time to ask yourself some questions.’

Too much, too young: Should schooling start at age 7?

Let's not stifle creativity
This would bring it in line with the overwhelming evidence showing that starting school later is best, and the practice in many countries, such as Sweden and Finland. These countries have better academic achievement and child well-being, despite children not starting school until age 7.’


To Look Closely

Bruce’s comments about this book: ‘The book blurb reminds of us what we were once good at!’

A world to explore .Durer
‘Whether it's a trickling stream, a grassy slope, or an abandoned rail line, the natural world offers teachers a wonderful resource around which to center creative, inquiry-based learning throughout the year. Nobody knows this better than veteran teacher Laurie Rubin. In To Look Closely: Science and Literacy in the Natural World, she demonstrates how nature study can help students become careful, intentional observers of all they see, growing into stronger readers, writers, mathematicians, and scientists in the process.’

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