Friday, September 25, 2015

Readings for creative teachers tired of the standardization agenda Ideas from Art Costa, Grant Wiggens and John Holt et all

By Allan Alach

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

All this weeks contributions are from Bruce Hammonds:

Providing Space for Wonder: Fostering Children's Natural Sense of Inquiry
Why is the sky blue? Who invented the toilet? Why do zebras have stripes? As any parent of a preschool- or elementary schoolage child can attest, children are born with a natural sense of curiosity. It is this innate sense of wonder that will lead and support our students' lifelong journeys of discovery and learning. As educators, we have a moral obligation to not only allow for our students' inquisitiveness, but to also foster and support this powerful, often untapped potential.

See maths ecerywhere
How to get children to want to do maths outside the classroom
How to get children to want to do maths try some maths walks
Ask adults about maths and theyll often say: I was never very good at maths at school. How can we stop young children growing up today saying the same thing. One way to develop ownership is to take children on a maths walk, opening their eyes up to the world around them. Its like a treasure hunt, with the treasures hidden all around us waiting to be observed.

Three Lessons For Teachers From Grant Wiggins
This advice is offered so that each student can continue to benefit from Wiggins' teachings and wisdom.
While Grant is no longer with us, his spirit and ideas live on. Indeed, we can honor and celebrate his lifes work by acting on the sage advice that he offered to teachers over the years. As we prepare to meet our new students, let us consider three of Grants sensible and salient lessons for teachers.

Five Strategies for Questioning with Intention
The art of questioning by Art Costa and Bella Kallick
Bella and Art
One of a teacher's most important practices is designing and posing questions. Knowing that questions are the gateway into students' thinking, masterful teachers don't just ask a lot of questions; they purposefully design and pose questions that are appropriate for each learning goalquestions that will bring about the specific kinds of student learning they are aiming for.

The Neuroscience Behind Stress and Learning
The real oil about brain friendly learning.
The realities of standardized tests and increasingly structured, if not synchronized, curriculum
continue to build classroom stress levels. Neuroimaging research reveals the disturbances in the brain's learning circuits and neurotransmitters that accompany stressful learning environments. The neuroscientific research about learning has revealed the negative impact of stress and anxiety and the qualitative improvement of the brain circuitry involved in memory and executive function that accompanies positive motivation and engagement.

Beyond the Factory Model
Blended learning many schools are moving into personalised blended learning to move out of a factory one size fits all model.
A foundation-funded experiment is testing whetherblended learningcan personalize instruction in eight Oakland schools. Blended learning combines brick-and-mortar schooling with online education with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or paceof learning, according to the Clayton Christensen Institute definition of the term.

Classrooms Flooded with Devices.
Remember B.F. Skinners teaching machine? Are similar claims being made for todays technology?
By repeatedly rotating a little wheel on the machines side, each child was presented with a question and its answer, then another question and its answer and so on. The feedback was instant. Each child could move at their own pace. Learning was fun instead of hard work. It was obvious to Skinner that this technology was going to change the face of education forever. Except it didnt.

Nine of the Best Ways to Boost Creative Thinking
When it comes to creativity, one of our biggest concerns is usually how we can be more creative, or how to come up with better ideas. Research in this area is all over the place, but Ive gathered some of the most practical studies out there to help you utilize specific techniques that can boost your creativity.
All of these studies are useful for everyday creativity in daily life, so try a few out for yourself and see which ones work best for you.

Dont Assume I'm Smarter Than My Contractor: Why Schooling Helps Us Devalue the Nonacademic
It is not only what school think is worth knowing shame teachers dont understand this
Whether we mean to or not, we constantly reinforce the message that only the stuff kids are taught in school counts as serious learning. Extracurriculars are fine, but what really counts is in their textbooks and homework.We send them to school precisely because we believe thats where theyll be taught the most important subjects. We grade them on those things, and in many ways we measure their worth (at least while theyre in school) by how well they do on tests and school assignments.

From Bruces goldie oldiesfile:

New Literacies for a New Millennium
Reading has shaped our brains!
It is hard to imagine that such an innocent act as reading could limit our thinking. After all what could be more innocuous than reading a book?

Creativity: process or product?
Quote by Goethe
Whats often missing in many classrooms are the voicesand personal creativity of the students.
The point of the creative process is for each student to produce a piece of work (research, poetry, art or dance) that represents the best a learner can do; a piece of work or performance to be proud of. We are what we create to a degree.To many teachers do not understand that to develop student creativity they  need to do 'fewer things well' to allow their students to 'dig deeply' into any experience and then to express what they discover with individual creativity.

See nothing, hear nothing, don't talk to anyone!
Time for the elites to listen to voices of the people.
The only way we will get a real change in the basic script of our society is for central government to start listening to the voices of the wider community and, in education in particular, to the voices of teachers, students and their parents.

Unlocking the treasure within
Unlocking the treasure within with regard to Maori students.
Perhaps there is no way for schools to develop their Maori students learning unless they dramatically change their style of teaching and if they did all this students would benefit.

Observation and imagination
Students who are taught to observe the intimate world of their immediate environment not only see more, and have more to wonder and talk about but, in the process, develop a wider vocabulary and ask more questions. From this wealth of sensory experiences arises the source for talking, drawing and early writing.

Time to re-read John Holt
John Holt quotes on learning - more pertinent than ever
Along with John Holt I now have to admit that, after decades of encouraging school transformation, I have also come to Holt's view about the impossibility of really transforming our antiquated education system.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

New Zealand Education is at risk - it is time to make a stand!!

Please share posting this with other teachers!

September 2015

The September New Zealand Principal’s Magazine reporting on the 2015 NZPF Conference couldn’t have made the disastrous issues facing New Zealand education any clearer.

But who is listening to the ‘frightening messages’ – or more importantly taking action?

My interactions with local principals seem to indicate that, even though they may be aware of the situation, it is all too hard; so much to do just to keep up with compliance requirements.

Elwyn Richardson
Reminds me of a favourite saying of my old friend Elwyn Richardson who said, ‘When you are up to your backside in alligators it is hard to remember you came to drain the swamp’.

Sadly Elwyn is no longer with us but he still remains as the ultimate example of what  creative education is all about – his book, ‘In The Early World,’ recently republishedby the NZCER  is testament to the kind ofeducation that we were once heading towards.  His classroom was a community of young artists and scientists exploring and expressing their ideas about issues that concerned them.

And it is not that the ‘frightening messages’ are new as anyone who  reads the posting of ex senior inspector of schools Kelvin Smythe will know. Kelvin warned us in the 1980s of the consequences of  ‘Tomorrows Schools’ reforms of  self-managing, competitive schools, but no one listened ,including myself, at the time! A man before his time but at least he hasn’t given up the fight. He is now more relevant than ever.
Visit Kelvin's site

A recent comment to one of his posting, said in respect to the NZEI succumbing to the Government’s wishes over Community of Schools (a good idea abused by the Governments’ standardisation ideology):

‘Don’t comply. Stand firm…..resolution from our leaders will not happen while teachers remain apathetic and only think in the short term about their back pocket rather than the long term about the NZ education system, their profession and what is truly best for our students’.

Our ‘so-called’ self-managing schools are suffering from what one writer calls ‘a corrosion of character’.  They were promised the opportunity to develop flexible schools but find that their success depends on the approval of the Education Review Office.  This dilemma, to gain approval by ERO and to stay true to their educational beliefs, is made worse because ERO approval is a shifting target. Only those with real character (and courage) can stay true. And then there is the problem of their school’s reputation and destructive interschool competition; far easier to comply – to go along to get along.

Denise Torrey
Back to the NZPPF Magazine’s warnings.

From the ‘President’s pen page’ it couldn’t be clearer. Denise Torrey summed up the messages from the internationally respected keynote speakers.

‘Professor Meg Maguire (UK) demonstrated the harsh reality of the global education reforms (GERM) which in a nutshell, she said,’ can be summed up as the decimation of the public education system in the UK’.

Meg Maquire spoke about how assessment and so called ‘performance’ are the all-consuming focuses in the UK.  ‘Children’ she said, ‘face more of the same, year after year: assessment preparations, then assessment, then repeat’.  School leadership is a statistical exercise in crunching data and preparing children for the next test. And, she said, ‘if schools are underperforming they are closed down by the equivalence of ERO (OFSTED) and replaced by private academies’ (charter schools).
No wonder such principals suffer from ‘a corrosion of character!’

This brings up what Denise calls ‘the sinister topic ofprivatising of education.
Diane Ravitch

Keynote speaker  American educator Diane Ravitch outlined the steps politicians use to introduce their agenda- ones that will be recognised by New Zealand educators.

 First they manufacture the ‘crisis’ ‘in New Zealand the ‘one in five failing’ and  ...’students are leaving school and can’t read, write or do maths’. Once the crisis gets public support then in comes the political solution.
1 in 5 failing = 1 in 5 in poverty! Any connection?

 The ‘crisis’  is framed as teachers not doing their job properly, teachers unions protecting them, not being accountable and not having proper standards. Then in come the standards in literacy and numeracy and suddenly we have a standardised measure of a schools ‘performance’.

Next in line, warns Denise, are privatised charter schools to solve the problem – and to make a profit. Denise brought up the issue of the TTPA (Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement) which she says would allow foreign corporations to establish charter schools and, if so, to override the decisions of democratically elected Governments.

In this scenario schools are to blame – no mention of poverty being an issue.

Totally compliant
And to make things worse schools have not expressed a creative teaching alternative to such developments. Too busy complying to fight for educationally inspired Communities of Schools and   the NZEI, it seems, has lost an opportunity toshare the creative ideas of teachers and instead has opened the way for greater compliance and standardisation; a sell out with dire consequences.

Denise asked those attending, ‘What is the purpose of education?’ 

Seems like a good question and too important to leave to
ideologically driven politicians. She continued, ‘there seems to be an absence of a shared vision for education in New Zealand.’ A vision’, she said, ‘that might include the ‘empowerment of children to manage their own learning’ and todevelop ‘creativity, problem solving and critical thinking’.  She asked,  ‘where would policies like NationalStandards  in reading , writing and mathsand the Progress and Consistency Tool fit into today’s personalised education?’

 Denise informed the meeting that a business world survey found that the top five skills required for job hunters are: problem solving, team work, communication, critical thinking and creativity.
And Denise reminded attendees there are the views of theimportance of a creative education by such educational experts as Sir KenRobinson. ‘Unless we reach an agreed sense of the purpose of education’, Denise concluded, ‘we will continue to be overwhelmed and bewildered by myriad policy initiatives none of which emanate from a common purpose.

 A good start would be to put the focus back on the vision of the all
but side-lined 2007 New ZealandCurriculum; a curriculum one speaker, Cathy Wylie,   said ‘is the jewel in the crown’ of a positive future oriented education.

 Steve Maharey,the Vice Chancellor of Massey University, continued the theme of the importanceof a personalised education system where, ‘students would become activeparticipants in constructing their own learning by making their own decisionsabout why, how and what they learn’.  And he commented the New Zealand Curriculum, introduced when he was Minister
Steve Maharey
ofEducation, was ‘a document to be proud of’.  He concluded by saying that in a rapidly changing world only the flexible, creative and innovative will succeed’. He could’ve also be referring to schools themselves!

 The message was loud and clear; creativity or compliance.

 Liz Hawes the editor of the NZPPF magazine (who summarised all
Liz Hawes
the various speakers) that 'resist1 resist! resist! was the clarion call from the lead keynote speakers’ all of who ‘described the reforms as having crushed the quality education systems in both countries (the UK and theUS, leaving barely mediocre private academies and charter schools in theirwake’.

Meg Maquire
Professor Meg Maquire (Kings College London) continued the message with frightening clarity 'mirroring the concerns], that Liz Hawes writes, ‘ that New Zealand teachers have expressed since the introduction of national standards, public achievement information and league tables; fears that these will lead to obsession with assessment data, threats of school closure for under performance and chains of charter schools’.

In England Meg said, ‘we haven’t got a system left. Teachers are the objects of policy, not the agents. These are deforms not reforms’, resulting in ‘intolerable stress levels’.

‘Don’t go down this path,’ she concluded.

Professor Alma Harris (Head of Educational Leadership, London) asked attendees to rethink what high performance means and to ‘press the pause on the Programme for International Student Achievement (PISA), which is distorting education’. Sir Ken Robinson calls then as reliable as the
The leaning tower of PISA
Eurovision Song contest is for defining singing quality! What is wrong is that PISA testing takes no account for context and that the real problem with PISA is when the measures become the target’. And they only measure what they measure! ‘The trouble with targets’, one business philosopher wrote,’ that it is not the ones you hit that count it is the ones you miss because you weren’t looking.

This was a message  further pushed home by Professor Diane Ravitch of New York University.  ‘You must avoid being infected by GERM (Global Education Reform Movement). It is not aboutreform it’s about privatisation and eliminating public education’. 

 ‘What drags down performance in the United States is poverty, more than any other factor. But politicians and power brokers don’t want to talk about poverty they want to talk about reform.’

  A further belief is that ‘if you standardise testing, and the curriculum and everyone has common testing them all children will be successful and all poverty will disappear And, with regard to charter schools, ‘you have no unions, no tenure and no security’. ‘This is education for profit based on ideas
that teachers are motivated by incentives such as performance pay’. Education in the US is becoming more corporatized  and computers are being seen as a replacement for teachers  which, says Ravitch, ‘is the ultimate in eliminating human relationships from education’  it  is all about schools calculating the ‘value add’ score based on literacy and numeracy tests scores. And those who resist such reforms are labelled resisters who just want to protect the status quo.  Sound familiar?

‘Resist! Resist! Resist!’ Ravich insisted,‘public schools are vital to a democracy

Liz Hawes concludes her summary by writing, ‘It is timely that we continue to take on board the strong warning from the speakers from both the UK and the USA that global reforms are dangerous and destructive and should be resisted’.

Time it seems for educators to remember ‘they came to drain the swamp’ and to set their sights on an educational vision that focuses
on thedevelopment of the talents and skills of all New Zealanders rather - a visionthat we can all get behind.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Education Readings - fighting for creative education in the face of politically imposed standardisation.

By Allan Alach

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

 Why Americas obsession with STEM education is dangerous
 Steve Jobs: Technology alone is not enough
Other countries who are being sucked into STEM need to take note.
A broad general education helps foster critical thinking and creativity. Exposure to a variety of fields produces synergy and cross fertilization. Yes, science and technology are crucial components of this education, but so are English and philosophy. When unveiling a new edition of the iPad, Steve Jobs explained that its in Apples DNA that technology alone is not enough that its technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing.”’

Weapons of maths destruction: are calculators killing our ability to work it out in our head?
Its not the calculators that is the problem
Sadly, the potential for calculators to transform school mathematics and enhance our facility with mental arithmetic is not being achieved. We are not being provided with opportunities to solve real and interesting mathematical problems in the most effective ways

How The Ballpoint Pen Killed Cursive
Sassoons analysis of how were taught to hold pens makes a much stronger case for the role of the ballpoint in the decline of cursive. She explains that the type of pen grip taught in contemporary grade school is the same grip thats been used for generations, long before everyone wrote with ballpoints. However, writing with ballpoints and other modern pens requires that they be placed at a greater, more upright angle to the papera position thats generally uncomfortable with a traditional pen hold.

A New Kind of Social Anxiety in the Classroom
Kids who constantly use phones and computers tend to be more nervous in face-to-face conversations. What can teachers do to help?

Making and the Reggio Emilia Approach: Making the Connection
The Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education places among the children an atelierista with two primary responsibilities: to conduct deep observation of the patterns in each childs growth and use these observations to lead children into the process of the artist. Atelieristas often refer to this process as the aesthetic dimension, full of desire for meaning, curiosity and wonder.

Alfie Kohn
Four Reasons to Worry About Personalized Learning
Alfie Kohn deconstructing the corporate view of Personalized Learning:
Certain forms of technology can be used to support progressive education, but meaningful (and truly personal) learning never requires technology. Therefore, if an idea like personalization is presented from the start as entailing software or a screen, we ought to be extremely skeptical about who really benefits

This weeks contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Putting the Passion in Project-Based Learning
How do we as teachers get our students to define their own driving questions? One way is by pairing design thinking with project-based learning. If you want students to develop leadership, confidence, and solid core content knowledge, then this is a strategy that works learning miracles.Students crave assignments that are relevant to them. Thats why project-based learning is the best way to get students to take control of their learning. Here are some keys to getting the most out of project-based learning.

Most Likely to Succeed,by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith
New York Times review of Tony Wagners excellent book  is well worth a read
Tony Wagner
‘“Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era,by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith argues that the only way to ensure any kind of future security for our children is to totally upend the education system and rethink what school is for.Many of the disruptions the authors suggest an interdisciplinary approach; hands-on, project-based learning; student-directed curriculums are already in place in some of the countrys best schools. Less convincing is the assumption that undergirds this whole tract: that every person can or should be molded into an entrepreneur.

Why Ed Tech Is Not Transforming How Teachers Teach
A mountain of evidence indicates that teachers have been painfully slow to transform the ways they teach, despite that massive influx of new technology into their classrooms. The student-centered, hands-on, personalized instruction envisioned by ed-tech proponents remains the exception to the rule.

Golden Rules for Engaging Students in Learning Activities
Research suggests that considering the following interrelated elements when designing and implementing learning activities can increase student engagement behaviourally, emotionally, and cognitively, thereby positively affecting academic achievement.

Igniting Student Engagement: A Roadmap for Learning
More good advice on engaging students.
Here are three practices that, when incorporated by teachers, offer entry points for students to invest in their learning.

Know that you have it: Keys to self-driven, self-loving, self-supporting education
In life and learning, sometimes it isnt what we know, but knowing that we have it that makes the difference. How can we cultivate an education system that values both how we feel and behave, as much as what we know?Imagine if you went into school every day and learned, along side your core studies, how to listen, communicate, and collaborate; how to honor each other; how to see the best in each other. The possibilities are endless.

From Bruces goldie oldiesfile:

Negotiating the Curriculum
In the Australian book 'Negotiating the Curriculum, edited by Garth Boomer,  four steps are suggested to negotiate a study with students applicable for any level of schooling. Essentially it is an inquiry model that emphasizes valuing the 'voice' of students in the their own learning. It is very much in line with the 'co- constructivist' teaching philosophy.The four steps outlined below are premised that the study has not yet been widely accepted by the students. In this situation the teacher and the learners should ask four questions and together negotiate the answers. This is essentially about power sharing leaving the agency for learning in the hands of the students.

And further ideas:

How to engage students - advice from the experts!
Engaging students at the year 7 to 10 year age groups seems to be a growing challenge worldwide as non 'academic' students are finding their learning boring or irrelevant. The obvious answer would seem to be to ask the experts themselves - the students!
This is what was done by the innovative Australian project 'Negotiating the Curriculum' of the early 80s edited by Garth Boomer.

Transform schools or exclude students
Either we transform schools or exclude disengaged students.
On Sunday night TV One a play, 'Ahead of the Class', based on the true story of how Lady Marie
A scene from the play
Stubbs turned around a notorious school in South London was shown; this school, no doubt, had more than it's fair share of suspended students; the previous principal had been murdered by a pupil! The play faced up to the challenge of
turned offlearners that face too many of our secondary schools. And it also faced up to a staff who had accepted that the problem lay with the students.