Saturday, December 07, 2013

Educational Readings - PISA testing- who cares? And other subversive ideas!

By Allan Alach

Here’s an article I wrote about the PISA tests - targeted at New Zealand but with a lot of relevance all over.

Read NZ Listener article
If PISA is the answer, what is the hell was the question?

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at
This week’s homework!

The Fear Factor: What’s holding us back from moving ahead?

In contrast to the world’s most innovative organizations, innovation happens slowly in public schooling. In this article, the author explores the “fear factors” that hold us back from educational innovation, which include both structural blockers and cultural blockers. Nevertheless, there is plenty education leaders can do to support innovation, based on the characteristics observed in centres of innovation: look outside their own discipline for inspiration; create their own success criteria; create a safe space for experimentation; give people trust, time and permission to fail.

Pearson Education’s creepy vision confirms Common Core fears

George Orwell must have used Pearson Education as a model for Big Brother...

Pearson Education, an official partner in the development of resources and tests for the Common Core State Standards, recently released a video series to share their ‘vision for the future of learning’. Although the technology shown is impressive, these videos confirm what many teachers and parents have feared most about Common Core, unprecedented control and an invasion of student privacy. In these videos, educators’ teaching styles are monitored by real-time cameras in every classroom and evaluated on the use of specific points of instruction.’

Beyond teacher egocentrism: design thinking

Useful article by Grant Wiggins:

‘As teachers we understandably believe that it is the ‘teaching’ that causes learning. But this is too egocentric a formulation. As I said in my previous post, the learner’s attempts to learn causes all learning. The teaching is a stimulus; the attempted learning (or lack of it) is the response. No matter what the teacher says or does, the learner has to engage with and process the ‘teaching’ if learning is to happen.’

Secret Teacher: low morale and high pressure leaves no time for inspiration:
 Management's obsessive drive for 'outstanding' will prevent our next generation from fulfilling their personal goals and dreams

A story from England that will feel very pertinent to teachers in other GERM infected countries.

We are so caught up with data and so many progress checks that we don't give our students the time to shine. I wonder what would happen if the greats of the world like Einstein, Gaudi, Picasso and Martin Luther King were to attend school in 2013, would they be able to cultivate their talents and thrive?

Learning Theory

An interesting infographic detailing learning theories.

On Montessori and the Common Core standards

‘But then I remembered what Maria Montessori once said: “Before elaborating any system of education, we must therefore create a favorable environment that will encourage the flowering of a child’s natural gifts. All that is needed is to remove the obstacles.”’

China’s Schools Teaches Kids to Take Tests, Obey the State, and Not Much More

This week’s PISA results have provided excuses for school and teacher bashing. Maybe we should look at why China (and other Asian countries) seem to be better.

In China, memorization and (consequently) the ability to perform on tests are the keys to academic success, rather than the ability to think or question.’

Art Makes You Smart

‘Clearly, however, we can conclude that visiting an art museum exposes students to a diversity of ideas that challenge them with different perspectives on the human condition. Expanding access to art, whether through programs in schools or through visits to area museums and galleries, should be a central part of any school’s curriculum.’

What Learning Cursive Does for Your Brain: Cursive Writing Makes Kids Smarter

‘Yet scientists are discovering that learning cursive is an important tool for cognitive development, particularly in training the brain to learn “functional specialization,”[2] that is capacity for optimal efficiency. In the case of learning cursive writing, the brain develops functional specialization that integrates both sensation, movement control, and thinking. Brain imaging studies reveal that multiple areas of brain become co-activated during learning of cursive writing of pseudo-letters, as opposed to typing or just visual practice.’

Why geniuses don’t need gifted education

‘I have interviewed many bona fide geniuses, because they tend to make news. Their life stories suggest that such people are best left alone to educate themselves, as long as we make sure that they can get to all the riches of our culture and science and that we don’t require them to take grade-level courses that hold them back.’

A Sampling of articles about PISA:

The PISA Results and the Crisis of Authority

‘Thus, the entire practice of publicly presenting international comparisons of test results as league tables and in turn measures of school system quality is arbitrary, and thus properly understood as pseudo-science and ultimately against authoritative knowledge.’

Among the Many Things Wrong With International Achievement Comparisons

‘...I have long felt that these international assessments are a mess of uninterpretable numbers providing a full-employment program for psychometricians, statisticians, and journalists.’

John Kuhn: Our Kids -- Coddled or Confident?

‘Perhaps instead of being hobbled by a mathematical deficit, our kids are instead empowered by a superabundance of hopeful freedom that allows them to dare big things. A child who is not allowed to fail becomes an adult who is afraid to try. I posit that, unchecked, our test-and-punish craze will hurt America's trial-and-error economy.’

Are Finland’s vaunted schools slipping?

A thoughtful article by Pasi Sahlberg - important to inform you in any debates about the PISA results.

‘Finland should also continue to let national education and youth policies — and not PISA — drive what is happening in schools. Reading, science, and mathematics are important in Finnish education system but so are social studies, arts, music, physical education, and various practical skills. Play and joy of learning characterize Finland’s pre-schools and elementary classrooms.’

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Creativity of the Artist: Observe

How would you apply this in your classroom?

Probably the biggest way that artists differ from non-artists is in how the former observe things. For instance, on a sunny, windy day in the countryside, have you ever watched the wind blow across the trees? It is fascinating to watch. As the leaves flutter in the wind, they reflect and deflect the sunlight rapidly, causing them to flicker and dance in a flow of changing colour and tone.’

Importance of developing talents of all students; the challenge for 21st C education

Bruce’s latest blog:

‘....Louise Stoll and Lorna Earl write what is, to me, the real challenge of educational organisations for the 21stC to develop all their talents to the full and to realize their creative potential, including responsibility for their own lives and achievement of their personal aims’.

Are We Preparing Graduates for the Past or the Future?

‘If we can foster more students and graduates who develop ingenuous ideas and are undaunted by what they don’t know, support them with mentors to coach and challenge them, and encourage within them a bold vision backed with adaptive and strategic thinking, soft and hard skills, then we will have the players who can create a thriving, dynamic economy.’

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

Educational change and leadership - bottom up!

Creative principals are concerned with influencing positive changes within the school. Once again personal mutual relationship and trust between all are vital. To be able to influence others the staff must see the principal as part of the working community not isolated worrying about achievement data. In this respect a successful principal is not unlike a sensitive class teacher.

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