Sunday, June 16, 2019

Now current negotiations are drawing to a positive end time to focus on teaching and learning - let's put Sir Ken Robinson's ideas into action

Time for educational transformation
Readings 14th June 2019

Now that the salary negotiations look like they will be settled it’s time to focus on teaching and learning. There is a reading below written by Sir Ken Robinson about the need to move from standardisation to transformation. A good read.

Time now to place the NZC central to learning

We both believe in the need for primary schools to now place the intent of the New Zealand
Curriculum up front and central and move away from the, as one commentator has said, ‘the evil twins of literacy and numeracy that have all but gobbled up the entire curriculum’.

It is not that literacy and numeracy aren’t important. Obviously they are but they need to be seen as ‘foundation skills’ necessary for students to develop their interests, talents and personal concerns. As such they are best ‘taught’ in context with students requiring help to be withdrawn for ‘catch up’ help and returned back as soon as possible to the ‘game of learning’. 

What is the ‘message’ of your timetable?

A look at your timetable will indicate how much time traditional teaching of literacy and numeracy takes up and, by default, how many other areas are neglected. Schools need to focus on developing the gifts and talents of all students and to do this requires reimagining the timetable.

There are schools that have done just this but they are few and far between. Possibly the best inspiration for integrated learning comes from the distant past – the writings of pioneer teacher Elwyn Richardson. His book, ‘In the Early World’ has been reprinted by the NZCER and is still one of best book about creative teaching. Elwyn saw his class as a community of artists and scientists busy exploring and creating about their environment and personal concerns.

Innovative secondary schools

It seems to us that the centre of educational innovation is now to be seen in a group of
Claire Amos Albany High School
A strong voice for change
innovative secondary schools
. These schools, in their modern flexible buildings, have moved away from traditional compartmentalised disciplines of the past and are developing integrated curriculums making full use of modern technology.   Once the centre of innovation was once to be seen in many primary classrooms particularly in the junior classes.

Ironically these innovative secondary schools are currently facing up to the prospect of having literacy and numeracy requirements placed on them. Evidently too many students enter, or leave, secondary education without these in place. So much for decades of standardised teaching in these areas in primary schools.

Schools as ‘mini Te Papa

We imagine schools as being ‘mini Te Papa’. Students (and their parents) who enter such schools would be faced with a range of displays of students’ researched studies from across the

 Students would be seen at work in teams completing a range of projects, many making use of a range of information technology to research and express their findings. Although students’ concerns and interests would be central teachers follow Jerome Bruner’s advice that ‘teaching is the canny art of intellectual temptation’ and are expert at providing ‘tempting’ experiences that capture student curiosity; and teachers who appreciate the inquiry cycle and the concept of Howard Gardners Multiple Intelligences.

It’s the culture that teaches – ‘culture counts’.

We believe that it is the total environment that students are exposed to that ‘teaches’ students what is important and that this environment (or culture) includes not only ‘tempting’ activities but also respectful relationships between all involved.

The teachers in our ‘imagined’ school would need to have a wide range of personal interests to share, covering as many areas of the curriculum as possible – including expertise in reading and maths, information technology, behaviour, history, design et etc. Some of the best things are learnt through the company we keep.

Students lived experience and concerns central

We envisage an education that places at centre the experiences and interests of the learners, their questions and theories, and gives serious attention to the work the students create.

Something to think about? We think so.

 This week's Readings

From Sir Ken Robinson: time to pesonalise education!
Standardisation broke education. Here's how we can fix our schools

"The movement towards personalisation is already advancing in medicine. We must move quickly in that direction in education, too". Standardisation broke education. Here's how we can fix our schools. "The movement towards personalisation is already advancing in medicine. We must move quickly in that direction in education, too

Boosting Student Engagement Through Project-Based Learning

Research shows that by organizing learning around meaningful goals, PBL can be an effective way to cultivate a “need to know” attitude in students—students are motivated to deepen their understanding in order to solve a problem that is meaningful to them. Concepts are better understood when students see a need for their use because that need encourages them to apply what they’re learning to relevant situations, leading to a better sense of understanding.’

8 Things Every School Must Do To Prepare For The 4th Industrial Revolution

Educators, schools, government officials, and parents must re-think education and how to prepare the next generation to take advantage of the plethora of opportunities and overcome the challenges enabled by ever-increasing technological change. Here are some of the changes happening because of the 4th Industrial Revolution and eight things every school must do to prepare for the 4th Industrial Revolution’

The quiet secret of an open learning environment

De Werkplaats in Bilthoven is one of the Netherlandsfirst primary schools without any classrooms, where pupils and teachers work in an open learning environment. The environment should adapt to the child rather than the other way around.’

In which Pooh looks for a 21st Century Education. From Kelvin Smythe’s Attack series that he completed just before he died.

‘One day, when Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet were all talking together, Christopher Robin finished the mouthful he was eating and said carelessly: ‘I saw a 21st Century Education to-day, Piglet.’
‘What was it doing?’ asked Piglet.
‘Just lumping along,’ said Christopher Robin. ‘I don’t think it saw me.’
‘I saw one once,’ said Piglet. ‘At least I think I did,’ he said. ‘Only perhaps it wasn’t.’
‘So did I,’ said Pooh wondering what a 21st Century Education was like.
‘You don’t often see them,’ said Christopher Robin matter-of-factly.
‘Not now,’ said Piglet.
‘Not at this time of year,’ said Pooh.’

Children Educate Themselves: I Outline of Some of the Evidence

‘We do not have to worry about curricula, lesson plans, motivating children to learn, testing them, and all the rest that comes under the rubric of pedagogy. Lets turn that energy, instead, toward creating decent environments in which children can play. Children's education is children's responsibility, not ours. Only they can do it. They are built to do it. Our task regarding education is just to stand back and let it happen. The more we try to control it, the more we interfere.’

Why Questions Are More Important Than Answers

“Questioning is the art of learning. Learning to ask important questions is the best evidence of understanding there is, far surpassing the temporary endorphins of a correct ‘answer.’”

Some oldies but goodies

The real agenda - New Minds for a New Millennium

Our Vision is for schools to create learning environments to develop the interests, gifts and talents of all students.’

Tired of the impossible assessment workload ? Time to put Sir Ken's transformational ideas into action.

Most teachers have heard or read the thoughts of Sir Ken Robinson's about transforming education ‘from the ground up’  as outlined in his book Creative Schools. He writes, ‘creativity is as important as literacy and numeracy’. We think it is now time now to put his ideas into action.’

The question for all learners ; ‘Who Am I?

“‘Who am I?’ is the most important question for students? And are schools helping provide an
answer? ‘What makes me who I am?’ The questions above should underpin all the activities in our education system. That so many young people leave education with these questions unanswered ought to be of great concern and worse still leaves students open to becoming to become involved in anti-social behaviour.”

Sunday, June 09, 2019

The real agenda - New Minds for a New Millennium

New Minds for a New Millennium

The Past Present and Future of teaching and learning
Readings June 9th 2019

For a number of years, we have published our blog which often includes a set of readings that we hope teachers might find worth reading. We know that teachers are far too busy to spend time searching but we also know that keeping up with reading about new ideas is an important part of being a professional.

We appreciate that only a few will read our blog but as someone once said there is nothing like a hopeless cause – climate change comes to mind.

New connected mind

Our Vision – a view from the edge

Our Vision is for schools to create learning environments to develop the interests, gifts and talents of all students. Our Vision relates back to such writers suchas John Dewey and in New Zealand to the philosophy of Dr Beeby who, as Directorof Education of the First Labour Government, introduced progressive ideas into the New Zealand educational landscape.

Communities of scientists and artists

For us it is the work of pioneer teacherElwyn Richardson that is our inspiration. Elwyn believed that his class was a community of artists and scientists exploring and expressing their ideas about their experiences. Important in this development and sharing of creative teaching was the work of the art advisers who developed related arts programmes. And we would add Sylvia Ashton Warner and Marie Clay whose ideas about reading are as relevant as ever

Holistic education

 More recently holistic ideas about developmental holistic progressive education were championed by the late KelvinSmythe who fought the fight against the mechanistic, formulaic and technocratic approaches imposed on schools over the past three decades.
All forgotten history, we guess, for many teachers today.

Our view is possibly from the edge but it is the edge where new ideas evolve.

Signs of creative growth

It seems to us the centre of progressive education has shifted to a few new innovative secondary schools. Currently their creativity is under threat with the possible introduction of literacy and numeracy requirements for all students rather than these areas integrated into meaningful contexts.  You would’ve thought that with the current focus on testing, assessment and documentation in these areas in primary schools, this would not be a problem?

Innovative secondary schools are experimenting with new organisations while most primary classroom timetable have changed little over the decades, if anything, have become more traditional than ever with their over emphasis on literacy and numeracy (with their shameful ability grouping).

There are also signs of progressive growth in the primary area. Such things as ‘play based learning’ (1950/60s developmental teaching), ‘place based learning’ (earlier environmental education), ‘project based learning’ (John Dewey lives on), and integrated learning.  Then there is, of course, the introduction of Modern Learning Environments (70s open plan schools revisited) and the use of modern information technology which is still ‘over promised and underutilised’; used properly it can amplify student

Literacy and numeracy still, it seems, reign supreme along with oppressive testing, assessment and documentation requirements – often self-imposed by the schools themselves.

Time to develop communities of learning

Time now to focus on developing classrooms as creative learning communities with the overriding aim of developing the gifts and talents of all students and to see literacy and numeracy as foundation skills necessary to achieve this end. We imagine modern classrooms as ‘mini Te Papa’ where students answer questions that are relevant to them, digging deeply into such areas to create exhibitions, displays, demonstrations and portfolios of based on their researching and, in addition, making use of all the creative arts to express their ideas. This aligns with the NZC which asks teachers to ensure students are able ‘to seek use and create their own knowledge’ – personalized learning.

Back to creative teachers like Elwyn
Students in such an environment learn to see the world holistically in contrast to the traditional fragmented approach of many schools – ‘new minds for a new millennium’. Students driven by purpose – new minds amplified by new technology.

Teaching as the most creative career of all

Time for new thinking
Creating such a learning environment would make teaching the most creative career of all. And it’s not simply handing learning over to the students. As Jerome Bruner has written, ‘teaching is the canny art of intellectual temptation’ and they will also need to withdraw learners to teach missing skills so learners can get back to the exciting task of the ‘game of learning’ they were born to play.

It is this Vision that keeps us posting – even if most teachers are too busy to notice. As Elwyn Richardson used to quote, ‘It’s hard to remember you came to drain the swamp when you are up to your backside in alligators’.

Bruce Hammonds and Allan Alach


The Circle of Courage – Native American Model of Education

‘Anthropologists have long known that Native Americans reared courageous, respectful children without using harsh coercive controls. Nevertheless, Europeans colonizing North America tried to “civilize” indigenous children in punitive boarding schools, unaware that Natives possessed a sophisticated philosophy that treated children with deep respect.”’

How One Colorado Art Teacher Inspires Kids By Leaning Into Chaos, Not Control

Research and reflection led her to the realization that she was usually following a set plan: Her
students all made the same thing as she instructed them on how to do it.“There was no room for creativity,” she said. “Everything was preplanned for them. There was a moment where I realized, ‘Oh, these are my ideas and not my students' ideas.’”

Going for Depth: How Schools and Teachers Can Foster Meaningful Learning Experiences

For Mehta and Fine, “deeper learning” consists of three interrelated conditions: mastery, when students fathom a subject; identity, when they connect the knowledge of the subject to their own sense of self; and creativity, when they can apply that understanding to another endeavor in what Mehta calls “the next layer of learning.”'

Dylan Wiliam: Teaching not a research-based profession

‘Classrooms are just too complicated for research ever to tell teachers what to do,' says Dylan Wiliam In many ways, teaching is an unusual job. It shares with other professions the requirement that individuals make decisions with imperfect knowledge, but, unlike other professions, there is no shared knowledge base – no set of facts that all involved in doing the job would agree on.'

Why We Should Stop Segregating Children by Age

One of the oddest, and in my view most harmful, aspects our treatment of children today is our penchant for segregating them into separate groups by age.’

Making Progress on Progressive Education: First Empower Teachers

At the heart of progressive pedagogy are questions about student motivation: How can teachers best motivate students? How can schools best motivate teachers?. Research tells us that for this to happen, schools must first maximize the intrinsic motivation of their teachers.’

Rethinking “Student Achievement”

‘When it comes to “student achievement,” I hardly know where to start. Literally. Should I begin with trying to define it? Or should I start with the fact that hardly anyone defines it? Or that whatever definitions do exist suggest a total lack of consensus and coherence?’

A Childs Brain Develops Faster With Exposure To Music Education
A two-year study by researchers at the Brain and Creativity Institute (BCI) at the University of Southern California shows that exposure to music and music instruction accelerates the brain development of young children in the areas responsible for language development, sound, reading skill and speech perception.’

The Hidden Meaning of Kids' Shapes and Scribbles

‘Your child’s quirky art isn’t just cute—science suggests that even the most bizarre depictions can have deep creative intention.’

What we think we know -- but might not -- pushes us to learn more

‘That's because our doubts about what we know pique our curiosity and can motivate us to learn more, according to new research from the University of California, Berkeley. The findings, just published online in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, challenge a popular belief that curiosity in general is the prime driver of knowledge acquisition. They also give new meaning to the Montessori approach to learning readiness, which encourages children to follow their own natural inquisitiveness.’

Monday, June 03, 2019

Some simple advice to make teaching easier.

 Simple advice to make teaching easier -
 slowing the pace of work

 in an age of distraction

3rd June 2019

Allan Alach and Bruce Hammonds

This week has an introduction by Bruce

I was asked the other day what would the one thing I would suggest to make a real difference in teaching and learning.

It wasnt hard to answer slow the pace of students work.

It might seem strange advice in this age of speed and continual distraction.  We now live in a attention deficit society where all too often things happen so fast that we miss many important things.

In classrooms students seem to believe that first finished is bestbut all too often this is counterproductive to in depth learning /understanding. As a result of this attitude (all too often encouraged by teachers) the classroom can become a hectic environment and many students get left behind in the rush. One old rural adviser once told me about three quarter page students- students who hardly ever complete any task.

Over the years I have written a number of blogs about this issue suggesting a number of ways to develop a more reflective and less hectic approach to learning and I have added links to a number of them.

It is important to encourage students to do fewer things well; to take their time to improve on their previous personal best’.

'Kaizen '- the Japanese word for continual improvement

 I’m not sure if students complete much book work these days with the introduction of word processing but if they do then students should be encouraged to show continual improvement in handwriting, layout and design, quality of illustration. One book that shows this continual improvement are handwriting books, particularly for the new entrantsbecause it is easy to see visual improvement. Guess that might sound somewhat old fashioned? The same improvement needs to be seen in any portfolio of work at and level.

Paying attention to attention

Slowing the pace of work is all about paying attention to attention
. Drawing is one easy area to develop visual awareness but unfortunately the innate interest in drawing is replaced at school by a focus on writing. Observational drawing is one way to encourage awareness and its something all students can do (once teachers get rid of the I cant drawattitude that many students have pickedup). The strategy is simple. Encourage students to look draw/look draw. Until they have finished. All too often students look once and then rely on memory. And to break down the I cant drawattitude value the difference in style of all students avoid saying that some student has done the best job!

From in-depth observations (through drawing) students will develop both poetic thoughts to be written and scientific questions to be researched and later be the basis of imaginative art.

Slowing the pace of workemphasizes both process and product.

Students all have their own style

 Getting back to the question I was asked, when students can see their improvement, are surprised by the quality of their achievement, then they feel better about themselves and become better learners. And the class environment becomes less hectic.

Slowing the pace of work also allows the teacher time to come alongside learners to help if

I have included blogs which introduce other writers who encourage this more reflective approach to learning.

 Guy Claxton talks about the tortoise and the hare; others talk about the ‘Haiku Curriculum – simple and deep.  Others (Carl Honore) compare slow learning to slow eating to the fast food outlets

Doing fewer things well in depth is worth the effort making teaching and learning a more reflective act. As Mae West the silent screen actress once said anything worth doing is worth doing well.


Readings providing practical assistance to develop quality learning.

Quality learning through paying attention to attention
 Outlines a range of practical ideas about how to slow the pace of work.

Arts Teach Deep Noticing Arts Teach Deep Noticing
Exposure to the arts teaches observation, or deep noticing. There is a difference, as you know, between looking and looking closely. When students are asked to draw something, they must look closely to accurately observe the lines and shapes of the object they are trying to portray. Students learn to see tiny differences and to record them. Doesn't this sound like what a scientist does?’

50+ Drawing Ideas to Spark the Creativity of Kids of All Ages
There are many benefits for kids as they begin to draw. One advantage is building fine motor
skills; learning how to hold a pencil helps a child develop specialized movements with their hands, fingers, and wrists. In addition, drawing improves hand-eye coordination that demonstrates to a kid that what they see has a connection to what they do. Hand-eye coordination is important in many aspects of life, including playing sports.’

Observation as a basic skill
Learning to observe through drawing is a great way to start. This blog provides a simple strategy  - look /draw/look.’

Observation and learning styles
Observational art is now established as a common practice in many schools but, all too often, it is seen as an isolated task and not the beginning of the creative process. This is a shame because, if it is not extended, it may be a limiting process emphasizing realism over imagination. The first thing for teachers to remember is that all students have their own 'style' of drawing and if this is recognised then all drawing will reflect the personal style of the young artists.’

Back to the future Lessons from an old master
Teaching observation is important. I believe we look at so much and see so little. Hence my belief that if we slow down our pace and allow ourselves the gift of observation. Without the input of looking future artistic or intellectual output is possible.' 'But drawings must go further than factual information, they are also able to convey feelings, impressions, and emotion. People who look harder, see more and understand more.' 'Drawing is a way of asking questions and drawing answers.'
More from the old master’.

Looking back to the past - or ideas for the future?
Last week I was at a meeting attended by Andrew Little Minister of Justice in the Labour Coalition Government. During our conversation it 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 NZEI Forwards to Basics book edited by Jack Shallcrass in 1978. Note the young lady is now Jacinda Arderns secretary.’

More Zen - less zest! Ideas from Guy Claxton
While everyone else is rushing around introducing rational thinking skills Guy Claxton is
pushing the 'slower' idea of developing intuition, hence the title of his book 'Hare Brain Tortoise Mind - how to increase your intelligence by thinking less. Claxton is about valuing patience and confusion which he believes are the precursors of real wisdom rather than the current emphasis on rigor and certainty’

Slow Learning by Professor Maurice Holt
In 2002 British academic Maurice Holt, Professor Emeritus of Education University of Colorado, called for a worldwide 'slow schools' movement. in the last decades schools have been forced to rush through a technocratic 'fast food' curriculum with endless superficial learning objectives. There is now no time for in depth learning; the curriculum has become a 'mile wide and an inch deep.'

Slow food Movement we need slow learning movement’.
We need an educational equivalent of the slow food movementso as to value the richness and relevance of any learning experience. Students need to appreciate that the act of learning is at the very heart of their identity and a high quality life and as such should not be rushed. The standardized fast education, as exemplified by the curriculum statements of the past decades, has resulted in a loss of appetite for real learning'
Slow learning needed for fast times!
Dean Fink and Andy Hargreaves, in their 2006 book Sustainable Leadershipintroduce the important idea of slow learning. They draw on the ideas in psychologist Guy Claxtons books Hare Brain Tortoise Mind'; and Wise Up. Claxton is concerned with developing students 'learning power.’