Friday, June 29, 2018

More about John Hattie / do Western schools harm other students / education of Maori students / educational innovation from the 1970s

Students as artists and scientists explore their environment
Education Readings
By Allan Alach

Every week Bruce Hammonds and I collect articles to share with teachers to encourage a creative approach to teaching and learning. I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

Looking back to the past - or ideas for the future? The Taranaki Environmental Approach of the 1970s
Bruce's latest article:
'We all learn from interacting with our environment. The classroom is not only part of the child's environment but is a base from which to explore it. From this base we can focus attention, develop new interests and extend learning skills. Every attempt should be made to develop the classroom as a challenging environment which encourages children to grow in ways appropriate to tthem. In our experience an integrated curriculum is a prime necessity’..

John Hattie is Wrong

Here’s another expert taking down John Hattie’s visible learning ‘research.’ Got the message yet?
However, operating on the principle that anything that looks to be too good to be true probably is, I looked into Visible Learning to try to understand
it reports such large effect sizes. My colleague, Marta Pellegrini from the University of Florence (Italy),
helped me track down the evidence behind Hattie’s claims. And sure enough, Hattie is profoundly wrong. He is merely shoveling meta-analyses containing massive bias into meta-meta-analyses that
reflect the same biases.’

More than just a tantrum: here’s what to do if your child has oppositional defiant disorder
ODD is a pattern of disobedient, hostile, and defiant behaviour directed towards authority figures. Children with ODD rebel, are stubborn, argue with adults, and refuse to obey. They have anger outbursts and a hard time controlling their temper. ODD can negatively impact a young person’s educational options as they struggle to adapt and conform to rule-based school structures.’

'Helicopter Parenting' Linked To Behavioural Problems In Children, Finds Research
Does this ring any bells for you?

“‘Our research showed that children with helicopter parents may be less able to deal with the challenging demands of growing up, especially with navigating the complex school environment,” said lead author Nicole Perry, from the University of Minnesota.
“Children who cannot regulate their emotions and behaviour effectively are more likely to act out in the classroom, to have a harder time making friends and to struggle in school.”’

The Difference Between Being Busy and Being Productive
Useful advice on these crazy days of ever increasing teacher workloads.
‘When I made the leap and decided to “break up with busy,” I noticed something happening. I actually became a better teacher. After the difficult conversation with my wife, I remember thinking that I would be making sacrifices as an educator. However, that’s not what happened. I actually had more time, more energy, and more mental bandwidth to create epic projects for students. It turns out that I was more productive when I was able to rest.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

At NZ's first bush school, kids play with knives, eat possums and are free to roam
‘Auckland University of Technology professor Nesta Devine, who researches educational philosophy and pedagogy, says the 'forest school' movement has been around since the end of the 18th century. The teaching philosophy first emerged as a "reaction against the values of industrialism, both in terms of its focus on money and reducing human relationships to financial ones, and to its abuse of the natural world”'.

Forest School a 'safe haven' for struggling students
‘A year on from its launch, and The Forest School is blooming.

Hidden away from the road in the bush north of Hatfields Beach, the 'free range' school offers alternative education one day a week for students up to 14-years-old.’

Opinion: Ann Milne - Racism in Schools?How dare we be surprised!

My own pathway, as a Pākehā teacher, raised in a predominantly Māori community, took a sharp turn when my own children, identifying strongly as Māori through their father’s whakapapa, encountered racism at secondary school. I’m sure they experienced racism earlier, in primary school, but now they could articulate how uncomfortable they were.’

Off the Record: The days of JUST ‘chalk and talk’ are past
‘Yes I know writing things out helps you process the information, but here’s the thing…working
collaboratively to discover that information for yourself as a student ALSO helps you process it and is way less boring than copying from the board! And much more satisfying. And yes, it takes a bit of organising – but it’s worth it! Aren’t we all looking to have active and engaged rather than passive learners?’

Numeracy crisis in New Zealand
Maths trauma in teachers and parents contributes to the difficulty in learning and teaching mathematics. It is estimated that one third of primary school teachers suffer from maths trauma. It is NOT their fault. They themselves are the product of a cycle that perpetuates maths trauma and antipathy.’

Attention, Students: Put Your Laptops Away
‘As laptops become smaller and more ubiquitous, and with the advent of tablets, the idea of taking notes by hand just seems old-fashioned to many students today. Typing your notes is faster — which comes in handy when there's a lot of information to take down. But it turns out there are still advantages to doing things the old-fashioned way.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

What the modern world has forgotten about children and teaching....and solutions to ensure all students learn
“Modern Western learning and teaching based on 'collecting data on human learning  of children's behaviour in school is like collecting data on killer whales based on their behaviour at Sea World.’"

Transforming education: Stop teaching and begin learning with your students
‘It seems counter-intuitive but students are failing because teachers are teaching too well.Teachers
spend hours and hours of their time preparing lessons for their students but all too often the only person learning anything are the teachers themselves. Even the most attentive and compliant of students do not get what the teachers intend – and worse still researchers have shown that that such teaching does not change students’ minds – and changing minds is the definition of learning.’

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Looking back to the past - or ideas for the future ?

The Taranaki Environmental Approach
 of the 1970s

Last week I was at a meeting attended by Andrew Little Minister of Justice in the Labour Coalition Government. During our conversation iot arose that  I had taught Andrew's secretary in the mid 70s! I said I would find a photo for him to pass on to her.

I remembered that there was a photo of his secretary in an article I had contributed to an N ZEI  Forwards to Basics  book edited by Jack Shallcrass in 1978

Jack was a well known commentator on progressive educationalist at the time and contributed regular article to the NZ Listener

The purpose of the book was share the range of successful educational practices in primary schools. Jack writes in the preface he had 200 contributions and I remember him visiting my classroom at this time. Jack wrote  encouragingly about the quality of the teaching he was privileged to observe .

Maybe its time for a modern version of his book?

My own contribution took the form of a  short photo essay . Since  its not too long I can include
Jack Shallcrass
all I wrote and include the photographs including the one featuring a photo of Andrew Little's secretary. The photos were in black and white but I have found some colour shots of the same photos to include..

So below is what I wrote: 
( with comments added in italics)

'Throughout the 1970's I've been lucky enough to work with a group of teachers( I had previously been an Education Board Science Adviser) who have shared and developed each others in a language arts approach to education. John Cunningham, Bill Guild and Robin Clegg have been the core of the group. This article draws heavily on our joint interests and experiences'

 ( for an insight to the creative teaching of Bill Guild and John Cunningham click on the links)

'We all learn from interacting with our environment. The classroom is not only part of the child's environment but is a base from which to explore it. From this base we can focus attention, develop new interests and extend learning skills. Every attempt should be made to develop the classroom as a challenging environment which encourages children to grow in ways appropriate to them. In our experience an integrated curriculum is a prime necessity'..

The teachers job is to establish his ( or her) room as a rich learning environment.

( Our approach became known as environmental education but this refers to the physical, emotional and intellectual climate of the rooms - although we exploited the local environment as well. Our main influences were the writings of Elwyn Richardson, the Junior Nuffield Science Projectt,the work of the art advisers and the English Junior Schools that I had had the great fortune to visit. One English teacher we admired was Henry Pluckrose.)

This display of household;d artifacts arose from a study of early colonial architecture.
( Teachers involve introduce studies by motivational displays to which students completed work was added to. The displays  focused on a language themes, or an art process like printing, science, maths or social studies as above,)

A display of  birds as a part of a study of conservation

(The young lady in the the display , now in her mid 40s, is Andrew Little's secretary. We tried to introduce all studies with provocative displays to tap into student curiosity).

'Finished booklets show real quality and reflect the children's pride in their work. Work of this excellence deserves to be displayed to the best possible advantage.'

At work on the Marae

(This young girl recently wrote to me to thank me for her time in our class and she is now an accomplished artist. To be honest I would have picked her to be a dancer or poet but just goes to show teachers have to be careful about classifying students.)

'The immediate environment provides a wealth of starting points for realistic studies
- geology, natural history, architecture, occupations and so on. Emphasis is placed on small group work and parent involvement wherever possible.'
Painting done by a group of girls shows many things seen on a mountain visoit

'Completing study booklets is away of combining all the learning and study skills. At first we work on class themes in which we teach the skills that are the basis for further development. Then we move on to group work and finally to individual work in which children select and plan their own topics.'

Teachers involved believed in doing fewer things well to encourage in in-depth thinking.)

(The key to quality work is to slow the pace of children's work. To often children think first finished is best. We helped the students slow the pace by teaching careful observational drawings, teaching layout and presentation skills and by encouraging drafting of their written work.  If a things worth doing it's worth doing well)

( Children with encouragement show tremendous design skills - this young lady was at one time a visual illustrator for an English newspaper. This is the cover for her bird study booklet. )

( Student undertaking a science experiment centered around sound and communication. The sound of the jangling forks and knives reaches the ears as loud chimes. This student later made a large painting of the experiment)

'Mathematics can provide an ideal means of developing a sense of pattern, form and relationships if it is taught as mathematics not mere computation. It has the same appeal as language, science or the arts once children perceive the purpose.'

( Developing high standards of presentation in student book work was an emphasis in our teaching. Not only does it encourage careful work by slowing the pace it is also an excellent way to visually show students  and their parents their growth. Books included math books, study books, personal writing and language - which included handwriting.) 

(I was determined that my students developed a positive attitude towards maths so I spent a lot of time developing interesting maths activities. As part of a study of triangular number we visited pipes nearby ready to be used.

I didn't use ability grouping  in maths (nor reading) as it was counterproductive to developing positive attitudes and emphasized that if we did textbook maths this was practice maths not real maths )  

( We made lots of booklets to share the student's personal language with each and their parents, )

(A selection of completed study booklets. The students were taught simple design  layout skills and also became skilled using a range of art media)

Topic book work after Marae visit - Maori Study and Autumn walk

(I still think the ideas we developed are still valid today and that the introduction of modern technology would be an advantage in such programme Today I would add student research questions to displays and their prior theories before research undertaken).

Friday, June 22, 2018

Modern Learning Environments and screen time - pros and cons / project based and personalized learning / is evaluation harmful ?

Too many experts
Education Readings

By Allan Alach

Every week Bruce Hammonds and I collect articles to share with teachers to encourage a creative approach to teaching and learning. I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

The Snares And Delusions Of Education Research

In the end, when it comes to research, only one thing matters. Does it work when a teacher uses it in her classroom?If the question comes down to, "What are you going to believe--the research or your own eyes?" most teachers know which one they're going to choose.’

Dare we disturb the universe?
‘Those who have worked in schools will know the timetable controls everything – who learns what,
when and with whom. Often in schools, the person who wields the most power is the one who is in charge of timetabling. Get that wrong and the system ends up coming to a grinding halt.’
With Student Trauma, It’s OK to Set Boundaries
Student trauma impacts teachers, too. Taking care of yourself isn’t a necessity its a luxury
‘As educators on the frontlines, teachers regularly encounter students who have experienced
significant hardships in their homes and communities. But psychologists and mental health practitioners say that the impact of trauma goes beyond the kids and reaches into the lives of educators who work closely with them day to day.’

Modern teaching trends a “monstrous threat to social justice”
A recommended read.
Some of today’s school settings, typified by open-concept classrooms and heavy use of digital devices, are “downright dangerous and causing harm”, according to a leading New Zealand educationalist.’ Kevin Knight

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Stephen Newnham – in defence of 21st century learning
Another recommended read - a response to the above article about modern teaching
‘I believe there is some validity to what Mr Knight says, but bundling open plan learning environments,
pedagogy, use of digital devices, and collaboration together under the banner of 21stC learning
and labeling it 'monstrous' with little data to support this claim is using a very blunt chisel to carve out
a complex argument, specially when his chosen target in low decile schools in east Christchurch.

Children, Learning, and the 'Evaluative Gaze' of School
How a watched pot loses the desire to boil.
My mother looked up from the sink where she was doing the dishes. “What’s that?” she said.
I looked at her and announced: 
“I just realized that you should never do anything you love for school, because that will make you hate it!”’

EdTech is Driving Me Crazy, Too
So, yeah, the current crop of ed tech “solutions” is driving me a bit mad because they’re not solutions at all. They’re masking the problem. Which unfortunately seems to be what we want. Because treating the real problem is
“more than we can handle at this point.”’

Screens in schools: The good news
‘Australian schools have leapt feet first into the age of digital learning. Our classrooms hold the world’s record for the highest daily usage of the internet,
and virtually every Australian student uses a computer at school. But is there any evidence that our technology-filled classrooms are actually producing better outcomes for our kids? Actually, there is. Quite a bit, in fact. Here’s a round-up of some of the recent findings.'

Lingering Fears from Outdated Screen Time Recommendations Stunt Parent Buy-In
‘I know what screen time can look like when it is not optimized for learning. But over the past two years,
as our district has rolled out our 1:1 device initiative to an increasing number of grade levels, I have also witnessed the benefits that some types of screen time can have on learners.

11 Powerful Characteristics of Adaptable Learners
Most of what is learned in the traditional approach to school is not adaptable learning. It is
discrete learning. It's focused on a specific body of knowledge and isn't
always transferable to new situations. Yesterday's learning is in silos with distinct separation among the disciplines.It's the type of learning that was useful in a world where you could train for a profession
and be assured of relative stability in that profession for many years.
Gone are those days.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Transforming schools through Project Based Learning (PBL).
'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 basedlearning. He provides seven important design principles for teachers to ensure project based
learning is of the
highest quality.’

Inquiry based learning -an approach to personalised learning.
The paper describes and explores the key elements of an approach to personalised learning which
is rooted in student experience and choice, learning shaped by the learner's interests which is rooted by their curiosity and purpose. The approach to pedagogy described takes seriously the 'self hood' of the learner while at the same time not abandoning the rigour of specialist knowledge in the various subject fields.’