Friday, October 26, 2018

John Dewey / Carol Dweck / Howard Gardner / and beautiful learning

Education Readings
 By Allan Alach

Happy birthday to John Dewey, visionary educator, social reformer, psychologist, and philosopher. Dewey was central to the development of the so-called progressive movement in education, which emphasizes the importance of student participation and meaningful activity in the classroom.

Dewey began his career as a classroom teacher. After becoming a professor of philosophy, he shifted much of his attention to education, founding the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and writing School and Society, which argued for the need for collaborative practical experimentation in the classroom. His emphasis on practical skills and learning by doing upended the inherited wisdom of the time, which valued obedience and rote memorization.

John Dewey died in 1952. Over the course of his long career, he published 40 books and 700 articles on a wide variety of topics, and indelibly influenced the world’s classrooms with his meaning-oriented, democratic approach to teaching and learning.

This weeks readings 

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

Howard Gardner
Multiple Intelligences Theory: Widely Used, Yet Misunderstood
One of the most popular ideas in education is applied in ways that its creator never intended.The big mistake: In popular culture, and in our educational system, the theory of multiple intelligences has too often been conflated with learning styles, reducing Gardner’s premise of a multifaceted system back to a single “preferred intelligence”: Students are visual or auditory learners, for example, but never both. We’ve stumbled into the same old trap—we’ve simply traded one intelligence for another.’

Students on first-name basis with teachers as titles become old school
Teachers are allowing students to call them by their first names as some schools move away from the use of titles and surnames. Advocates of the approach believe it fosters a more personal relationship, removes languages barriers, and puts students in a better position to take charge of their own learning and feel more confident to question adults. And they say a title does not earn respect.’

If Not Learning Styles Theory, Then What?
An alternative take on the learning styles debate.
Departing from the traditional notion of fixed styles or abilities, he proposes that maybe it’s not the individual that the learning style depends upon but rather the task at hand. Maybe we all have more cognitive flexibility to switch between styles than we’re giving ourselves credit for. Maybe we just need to adopt different approaches for different kinds of information.’

Beautiful Learning
'We use that word to describe things that we find inspiring or awe-some in some way. Something that makes us want to stop an linger. Something that we hope to experience again. Which for some
reason led me to wonder, why don’t we use that word very often about learning? I mean certainly, there is such a thing as “beautiful learning,” a moment in our own lives or that we observe in others that inspires, that we hope to experience again.

Why do teachers find it so difficult to change the way they teach?
‘Research shows that people find it extremely hard to change their behaviours, and teachers are no different.  I’m sure you plenty of personal experience of this yourself! How many times have you started to make a change in your life and given up? Have you ever wondered why? wondered why?’

A Message To High School Students Who Hate High School
Here is why you hate it.
‘Of course, it is not only high school math I am against. I believe that every single subject taught in
high school is a mistake. What I write here will infuriate teachers, but teachers are not my enemy. It isn’t their fault. They are cogs in a system over which they have no control. I believe there are many great teachers, and I believe that teaching and teachers are very important.’

Carol Dweck Explains The 'False' Growth Mindset That Worries Her
‘Dweck believes educators flocked to her work because many were tired of drilling kids for high-stakes tests and recognized that student motivation and love for learning was being lost in the process. But Dweck is worried that as her research became more popular, many people oversimplified its message.’

Do we really want computerized systems controlling the learning process?
I quickly found that the conference organizers were thinking about personalization very differently than I was. The presentations at the conference focused on new software systems designed to personalize the delivery of instruction to students But I’m skeptical about personalized tutoring systems.’

Misreading the Reading Wars Again (and Again)
But the short version is the reading war claim that we are failing reading instruction is a long history of false claims grounded in selling reading programs.

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

The urge to collect is strong in people of all  ages
People collect things for all sorts of reasons. Some people focus on collecting varieties of one item while others are more eclectic. Some collect because they just like the objects they collect, others collect because aesthetic or visual reasons, and some because they buy and sell their objects.’

Guy Claxton’s Magnificent Eight
In his book 'What’s the Point of School' he outlines what good learners do (as against being a 'successful' students). He has sorted the dispositions of good learners into what he calls his magnificent eight’. Teachers need to encourage all of them.’

Time for a rebirth of the creative spirit?
'The time is right for a true educational revolution! We need to listen to lost voices and rediscover our own. Who wants to join the fight to return to creative education?'

Friday, October 19, 2018

New Zealand loses a top educator - Kelvin Smythe / teacher well being / Importance of PE / Deep learning / creativity

Education Readings
 By Allan Alach

Sad news this week. One of New Zealand’s premier educators, Kelvin Smythe, lost his battle against prostate cancer last Saturday

Kelvin was one of the very best educators in New Zealand’s history and his passing is a tragedy for primary school education. Over the past decade from 2009, Kelvin led the battle against the then government’s imposition of national standards (not too dissimilar to common core standards in the USA) and I think it’s fair to say that his efforts contributed to the removal of these when the government changed a year ago.
He was indeed an educational warrior who fought to the end to protect holistic /creative /democratic teaching from current technocratic formulaic approaches.

Our condolences to Kelvin’s family, who devoted themselves to his care over the last few weeks.

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

Mindset is encompassed by the holistic and should be seen as commonsense given space: I give it a strong tick

Kelvin Smythe’s last article, written with one hand as he had a broken arm and when he was in very poor health. He was determined to write to the end and one of his big regrets about dying was
that he had so much more that he wanted to write.
This posting supports mindset as expressed by the American academics Jo Boaler and Carol Dweck. I perceive mindset as a strategy to encourage holistic ideas into mathematics, in particular, a curriculum much in need of being repaired from its fragmented and perilous condition.’

Kelvin Smythe and John Hattie – the killing of creativity by the technocrats

‘Smythe, after reading Hattie's book 'Visible Learning', writes that Hattie's 'feedback' is really attached to a direct instruction process .It is more concerned with testable transmission of teacher devised content to the students and as such is antithetical to individuality and creativity. The book, according to Smythe, is 'skewed to a certain style of teaching and learning ( learning set up for measurement) and towards appealing to conservative influences.’

Kelvin Smythe’s advice for principals
“Principals need to be in charge of their own destiny.  Principals need
to focus on the important things -as for the rest just get them done. Principals, he said, need to take a moral stance. The best advice, Kelvin believes, is to 'colonise' the New Zealand Curriculum document and to keep integrity with their own beliefs. If principals cannot keep true to their beliefs they will become as confused as a 'chameleon on a Scottish plaid!’”

Teacher Wellbeing- some research highlights
‘Teaching as a profession is inherently stressful. We are working with people all day and human beings are complex, sometimes tricky even. Here’s some of what I found out about what may contribute to positive teacher wellbeing in our current educational climate.

Physical Education is just as important as any other school subject
PE is yet another subject area that lost ground due to the relentless focus on ‘raising achievement.’
Physical Education (PE) is often viewed as a marginal subject within the curriculum. PE is still championed for its potential to promote health and encourage lifelong physical activity. This is an important issue given that over 30% of year six pupils are classed as “overweight” or “obese”'

Being Barefoot Benefits Brain Development
'Proprioception gives us the ability to perceive the motion and position of our bodies in space, while
the vestibular system is responsible for balance and coordination.
The development of both of these senses relies heavily on sensory input we receive through bare feet, especially during infancy and childhood, Flegal explains in an article for Natural Child Magazine.'

5 Things Children Learn at Preschool That Are a Waste of Time and Not Developmentally Appropriate
'Calendar Time, Craft Projects, Teacher-Directed Lessons, Worksheets, and "Letter of the Week"
They're part of a typical preschool schedule, and parents rarely question their legitimacy. Instead, they see them as "real learning" and what's needed to prepare kids for kindergarten. Many child development experts, however, believe they're largely a waste of time and may even be detrimental.’

What is Deep Learning? Who are the Deep Learning Teachers?
‘Deep learning promotes the qualities children need for success by building complex
Deep learning
understanding and meaning rather than focusing on the learning of superficial knowledge that can today be gleaned through search engines.'

How to Teach Self-Regulation
‘To succeed in school, students need to be able to focus, control their emotions, and adjust to change.'

From Traditional Teacher to “Modern Learning Advisor
'What is the role of the single teacher in a classroom in a world where millions of potential teachers are now a few keystrokes away on a laptop or phone?

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Wounded by School

Success in life is all too often determined by success at school. And all efforts to improve schoolingvery rarely take the trouble to listen to the voices of teachers let alone students. In her wonderful book 'Wounded by School' Kirsten Olsen speaks passionately about the experiences of young people whom the school system has failed.
The importance of observation
Drawing is an ideal way to break through habitual ways of thinking. All too often our students see but they do not look. Observational drawing has long been an important means for some teachers to develop deeper consciousness in students - to assist students see through their habitual ways of seeing and to develop new awareness.’

Friday, October 12, 2018

Handling student trauma / the artistry of teaching / embrace uncertainty / vision and values /

Escaping traditional thinking
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

Secondary Traumatic Stress for Educators: Understanding and Mitigating the Effects
An article that examines the effect of student trauma on their teachers - a vital read.
‘With this evolving role comes an increasing need to understand and address the ways in which student trauma affects our education professionals.
In a growing number of professions, including firefighters, law enforcement, trauma doctors and nurses, child welfare workers, and therapists and case managers, it is now understood that working with people in trauma — hearing their stories of hardship and supporting their recovery — has far-reaching emotional effect on the provider.’

Problems with Evidence-based Education: Side Effects in Education
Introduction to Zong Zhao’s latest book:
‘Educational research typically has focused exclusively on collecting evidence to prove or disprove the benefits or intended effects of products, programs, policies, and practices. The recent movement toward evidence-based educational practices and policies is only about gathering and verifying evidence for effects. It shows no concern for negative side effects.
Does this mean that educational products are immune to adverse side effects? Does it mean that all educational products have no negative impact on students?’

Oracy: The Literacy of the Spoken Word
‘School 21 believes oracy is as important as reading and writing, and the research supports it. From Harkness discussions to talk-rich assemblies, learn how you can integrate oracy at your school.’

How to Teach an Inductive Learning Lesson
‘Inductive learning takes the traditional sequence of a lesson and reverses things. Instead of saying, “Here is the knowledge; now go practice it,” inductive learning says, “Here are some objects, some data, some artifacts, some experiences…what knowledge can we gain from them?”’

'Embrace uncertainty: leave students grappling'
‘Certainty isn't desirable It’s always assumed that the responsibility for questioning lies with the teacher, but wouldn’t it be great if we trained our students to use questions more effectively?’

The Artistry of Teaching
There is one goal [of education] that, if not achieved, makes the
achievement of all other goals very unlikely. That goal is to create those conditions that make students want to learn; not have to learn but want to learn more about self, others, and the world. The overarching purpose of schooling and its governance is to support that goal, i.e., to create and sustain contexts of productive learning supportive of the natural curiosity and wonder with which children start schooling’.

Big Picture Learning
In the schools that Big Picture Learning envisioned, students
would be at the center their own education. They would spend considerable time in the community under the tutelage of mentors and they would not be evaluated solely on the basis of standardized tests. Instead, students would be assessed on exhibitions and demonstrations of achievement, on motivation, and on the habits of mind, hand, and heart reflecting the real world evaluations and assessments that all of us face in our everyday lives.’

How Should Teachers be Professional With Social Media?
‘In this compulsive age of one-click logins, left and right ‘swipes’ and selfie auto-sharing, it can be easy to let our guard down and cross the line between what is appropriate and what is inappropriate when using social media.

The Danger of Teacher Nostalgia
This is the worst group we’ve ever had.”When I hear a teacher say this, I know those students are in trouble: The person in charge of their well-being, the tone of their classroom, and their opportunities to grow has decided they are beyond saving.’

Tear Down Your Behavior Chart!
'Behavior charts and similar public shaming methods don’t teach self-regulation. They mainly harm vulnerable learners.’

5 Ways to Decrease Disciplinary Issues in the Classroom
‘Many educators indicate that mastering classroom management is one of the most difficult parts
of the profession. Teachers who struggle with poor classroom management skills will never get their students to learn at their highest potential. Their students are seen off task, talking to their friends, defiant, and disrespectful The goal  is to change the behavior, not to continuously battle for power with a child in the classroom. Sending them out of the classroom only gives in to what some of them ultimately want.Here are five ways to decrease disciplinary issues in the classroom.'

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

There is no master plan
‘In this fast changing world there is no grand plan held by the technocrats in Wellington, as much individuals
as they would like to think so! All this certainty was put to rest by Darwin and his theory of evolution. Life evolves and it is impossible to predict what will eventuate. This applies to the universe as much as it own lives. This provides real challenges for individuals and schools.

Importance of School Values
‘A vision gives an organization a sense of direction, a purpose, but only if it is ‘owned’ and translated into action by all involved.But vision is not enough in itself. The values that any organization has are just as important or even more so because they determine the behaviors that people agree to live within. Alignment of people behind values is vital but too often both vision and values are just words hidden in folders are rarely referred to. What you do must reflect what you believe if there is to be integrity. And any alignment needs to include students and parents as well.’

Friday, October 05, 2018

Personalized learning / importance of the arts / engaging students / beyond the 3Rs / and time for principals to fight back

Time to refresh your energy.

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

Arriving at a Definition of Learning
'Personalized and blended learning and differentiated instruction should be viewed as interrelated supports for deep learning.’

Play based learning
However, the play environment is only one part of the puzzle in supporting and observing how children learn through play.  Much
of the critical work is unseen to the 'naked eye' by visitors intent on seeing how schools 'do' play in their environment.’

Why an education in visual arts is the key to arming students for the future
'Visual skills are essential for a sophisticated workforce, yet we offer so little education in the vital skills of learning to see and developing the ability to interpret and critique our image-saturated world.’

Does Teacher Diversity Matter in Student Learning? Relevant
for NZ teachers?
Research shows that students, especially boys, benefit when teachers share their race or gender. Yet most teachers are white women.’

How to Ensure Students Are Actively Engaged and Not Just Compliant
'Engagement is a crucial part of learning, but ensuring students are actively engaged is more complex than whether a student is paying attention or not. As technology has made its way into the classroom many educators describe how attentive students are when on devices, but a quiet, outwardly behaved student is not the same thing as one that is truly engaged.’

Where have all the Powerful Ideas Gone?
‘I’m talking about the educators and educational leaders who are still timid and tentative about the use of computers in their schools.  I’m talking about the low bar ideas that are all about sustaining existing practice. And I’m talking about the dumbing down of every idea so that it’s ‘simple’ and easy’, as if teachers are not capable of rigor or higher-order thinking.’

WASO Crescendo program lifts NAPLAN results as schools see the benefits of music in class
  A music program that pairs children from disadvantaged areas with classical musicians from the West Australian Symphony Orchestra (WASO) has been shown to have a profound effect on their learning.’

Alan Watts: 'Why modern education is a hoax’
"Let's take education. What a hoaxYou get a little child, you see, and you suck it into a trap and
you send it to nursery school. And in nursery school you tell the child 'You are getting ready to go on to kindergarten. And then wow-wee, first grade is coming up, and second grade, and third grade.' You are gradually climbing the ladder towards, towards, going on towards progress. And then when it gets to end of grade school, you say 'high school, now you're really getting going.' Wrong."

Dr. Wayne Ross: The Fear Created by Precarious Existence in The Neoliberal World Discourages Critical Thinking
Can we have a school of knowledge under a neoliberal policy? Simply, can we have an education
under the neoliberal yoke? Are neoliberalism and education compatible?

Accountability and the Tyranny of Metrics
For educators, that draws a focus to assessment, where maybe it's time we asked if high-stakes standardized testing has finally reached its use by date? I mean what do you think it will take before we see public acknowledgment that the damage such ill-conceived tests have done to our kids and their learning, far outweighs any real or perceived benefits?

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Seymour Papert : The obsolete 'Three Rs' - blocking real change in education
'Schools are still identified by the old turn of phrase ‘the three Rs’- reading ‘riting and ‘rithmetic', Seymour Papert. The 'three Rs' still reign supreme – more than ever in New Zealand  particularly since the introduction of governments National Standards in literacy and numeracy. As one English educational commentator has written ‘the evil twins of literacy and numeracy have all but eaten up the entire curriculum.’

Time for principals to fight back!
‘Principals have been too passive the past decades busying themselves with complying with demands placed on them from those on high. In this process they have become stressed out, not sure what is expected, and this is exacerbated by the Ministry continually adding new requirements

.It is time they added their collective voices to the debate and this is easiest done by groups of courageous principals, defining what is important, and sharing it with others.’