Saturday, May 25, 2019

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

Time to put Sir Ken Robinson into action
Readings Saturday 25h May 2019

Time to transform education?

Most teachers have heard or read the thoughts ofSir 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.

This is all the more important after hearing on the Sunday Education TV programme where it was  said teachers are spending 60 hours pus a week to cope with what is required of them

Time surely for teachers to get off the current obsessive assessment and associated documentation bandwagon and consider a real alternative. Workload demands seem to be mainly associated with literacy and numeracy, much of it is generated by schools themselves!

Time to make teaching more fun and creative?

We appreciate that our views may only resonate with a minority of teachers but we strongly believers  that a transformation along the lines suggested by Sir Ken (and many others) would make teaching more fun than the current compliance system.

We also appreciate that there are a number of teachers already doing their best to develop interesting ideas: ‘play based learning’ (a modern interpretation of 1950/60s ‘developmental programmes’), ‘passion hours’, ‘wonder walls’, ‘mindfulness’, flexible learning environments (another recycled idea reflecting the open plan schools of the 70s), valuing the importance of ‘agency’, environmental education, place based learning, Project Based Learning ( Dewey again!) the introduction of information technology (the current ‘silver bullet’) , developing a local curriculum, and so on. All worthy but all too often ‘add ons’ to the current system

Need to escape from the current demands.

Current practices such as the amount of time placed on literacy and numeracy, compounded by obsessive assessment and documentation demands, block any real change

Standardised teaching
.Past decades have seen the introduction of formulaic standardised approaches such as WALTs, ‘next steps’ (do we really know enough about next steps or are we limiting our students to what we think?), ‘success criteria’, ‘intentional teaching’, heavy handed feedback, and prescribed learning objectives. And this will be worse with the introduction of PaCT testing where teachers will be expected to assess students against learning expectations in all learning areas – an impossible task
The classroom in the image of Te Papa

What appears to be missing is:  first hand  experiential learning, the valuing of the personal world of students, a lack of focus on developing every learners’ talents and gifts, integrated learning , and, most of all, an appreciation of the idiosyncratic creativity of students.

If teachers provided skills at point of need this would result in quality learning across the curriculum and the creation of room environments that celebrate students’ creativity across the curriculum. We see classrooms as ‘mini Te Papa’ – with the students busy researching questions they feel is important, creating exhibitions (and portfolios), arranging demonstrations and interactive displays all featuring their language and art and making use of information technology.

The spirit of the New Zealand Curriculum

Changes as outlined above would be in the spirit of the New Zealand Curriculum which states, students need to ‘seek, use and create their own knowledge’. As an aside there are those that
believe process is more important than process but we beg to differ – both are important and student can only grow when they can see or feel they are progressing. Students learn through creation; knowledge, in this sense, is a ‘verb, a doing word.

Future ready citizens

In such an environment students are self-educating/assessing, continually developing new knowledge, picking up required skills (including literacy and numeracy) as needed on the job for any project, working in teams as scientists and artists, developing lifelong learning attributes -  entrepreneurship and creativity vital for future success.

All this is nothing new and goes back to such educators like John Dewey who wrote ‘children grow into tomorrow as they live today’. For too long we seem to have followed the standardised ‘assembly line’ approach of Henry Ford fragmenting learning in the process.

The role of teachers.

The challenge for teachers is to set up the condition to encourage learning, to trust students to explore areas of interest to them, and help to them acquire skills as necessary to complete work of pride and, in the process of such learning, ensure students develop the ability to assess their own progress against their previous best. This does not mean leaving learning up to chance. The teachers’ role, as educationalist Jerome Bruner writes, ‘is the canny art of intellectual temptation’ and teachers could provide a range of challenges to ‘tempt’ learning.

If teachers do this then they could amplify the curiosity, resourcefulness, creativity and confidence that are innate human qualities – until they enter formal schooling where teachers determine and assess learning of things the teachers feel is important.

Students are always learning – for better or worse.

 If learning is positive, then all for the good but all too often students dislike what it is they are being taught to learn. The most efficient learning comes when we learn about things we want to learn about and in such situation we need little help. This is ‘learning by doing’. Ironically if students really want to learn something then they are happy to acquire knowledge and skills using the internet or in formal situations from knowledgeable adults. Flexible learning environment have an advantage in this respect if the ‘adults’ a have arrange of personal interests to share such as teaching a new sport, information media, a musical instrument or presenting a play. Finally, the students must become their own teachers.

The artistry of a creative teacher

A true teacher helps students with a light hand, finding out what the learner already know or can do, encouraging them to them answer their own questions, valuing the ideas they bring to the situation, modelling, giving feedback, providing emotional support, encouraging risk taking, always
respecting the student’s efforts, and always ensuring the learner feels in control. This is teaching as a creative act in itself.

Imagine entering into such a learning environment. Such an environment builds on the ideas of pioneer New Zealand educationalist Elwyn Richardson in his book In the Early World. Elwyn saw his classroom as a community of scientists and artists exploring and expressing ideas about their world.

We see such ideas as transforming education and in the process making it far more attractive to those who want to become teachers. If schools can’t create such ‘tempting’ environments students will bi-pass formal school and learn for themselves – as many are already doing.

Interested teachers could start with Sir Ken Robinson's book. Sir Ken proposes a highly personalised approach; one that engages all students, develop their individual abilities and their love of learning.

Bruce Hammonds and Allan Alac
May 2019


Sir Ken Robinson - 'Creativity is as important as literacy and numeracy'

Includes a number of videos to share with staff and parents,

More from Sir Ken

The video talk will have you laughing as well as seriously reflecting that our education system as currently structured is harming far too many creative students. Decide for yourself after viewing. If you go to the TEDTalk site, you can 'google' Sir Ken and then look for his video clip

And more – his address to the PN Inspired Impact Course 2011

What is the most important question for students? Who Am I?

Organising the school day for 21stCentury Teaching - the Craft of Teaching

  A close look at the daily classroom organisation /timetable is a sure way to get an idea of what is seen as important by the teacher – or the school. All too often today’s daily organisation still reflects past expectations

Elwyn Richardson – In the Early World

There was a time when New Zealand  primary education was internationally recognised for
Available NZCER
placing the learner at the centre of learning
. When education was driven by a belief in the creative power of the learners themselves; when learning was based on the internal and external lives of the children. But since Tomorrows Schools things have changed.
  Today schools have been distracted by assessment, achievement data and measurement by standards.  The evidence is becoming clear in our rush to towards achieving measurable results children’s curiosity has been eroded.

Creativity – its place in education – Wayne Morris

‘The answer must be reform in our educational methods so that students are encouraged to ask about “know-why” as well as “know-how”. Once the arts are restored to a more central role in educational institutions, there could be a tremendous unleashing of creative energy in other disciplines too.’

What is school for?

‘We dont really ask ourselves about the purpose of school or why we send our kids there, its just something we do. But every country should be asking themselves what schools are for. In order to have an idea about what our countries are going to be like in the future, we need to know what the purpose of our schools is. At the moment it appears to be content transmission and testing, and that isnt going to produce the kind of innovators we need.’

On Teaching Reading, Spelling, and Related Subjects
Half Truths About Whole Language, by Alfie Kohn

While there is no precise, universally accepted definition of Whole Language, and no party line f
or its proponents, this much is clear:  it isnt the oppositeof phonics, and it doesnt deny the importance of phonics.  Even Kenneth Goodman, a pioneer of the Whole Language movement whose views are sometimes considered extreme, agrees that you cannot read an alphabetic language without using and learning phonics.

Five Ways Design and Making Can Help Science Education Come Alive

‘Design is an artistic endeavor that values the creative and human centered application of
math, science and technology. Using design to help others learn science is not intuitive, however, once practiced you will see how humanistic and authentic it is to incorporate design in any subject. Below is a list of the most promising benefits that I have noticed in the past six years for using design as a framework and making as the engine to empower students as they gain and apply their scientific literacy.’

Sunday, May 19, 2019

What is the most important question for students ? And are schools helping provide an answer?

Who am I ?
The question for all learners ; Who Am I? ‘
Readings Sunday 19th May 2019

Years ago New Zealand artist Colin McCahon created a controversial large abstract painting called I Am.

For us the message was answering the question that we all
struggle with - who am I? What things are important to me? 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
Making your mark!!
anti-social behaviour. The outbreak of graffiti in our society is a sign of young people
making their markas a protest against the way many of them feel they have been treated by their school experience. For many students it is schools that are dysfunctional.

It is our belief that an education system premised on the arts would ensure all students leave schooling with a positive learning identity.

The current reactionary emphasis on literacy and numeracy is
a distraction literacy still  remains a problem for far too many students and, as maths educator Jo Boaler (who has recently presented in New Zealand) has said, far too many students leave schooling suffering from maths anxiety’.

Dr Beeby
It is time for a real change of direction or for many back to the future to the exciting days of Dr Beeby best represented in Elwyn Richardsons book In the Early World first printed in the 1960s and thankfully recently reprinted by the NZCER. This inspirational book gives todays teachers insight into the power of personal creativity through art, language, movement, drama and inquiry learning. Another pioneer teacher Sylvia Ashton Warner wrote in Teacherthat students were like a volcano with two vents one vent if tapped led to creativity, the other to violence.

Today we have educationalists like Sir Ken Robinson powerfully asking for schools to place creativity central to learning creativity in its widest interpretation. Sir Ken believes creativity is important as literacy and numeracy but few schools follow his advice.

Sadly, today the arts play a marginal role in our schools and most to be seen is not about personal expression but more facile decoration and, as a result of a formulaic intentional approach to learning, results in art work well donebut 'clone like' in appearance.

Eliot Eisner, an art educationalist, writes the arts are rooted in mans need to give form to his experience, to come to know the world in ways only the arts can make possible. Learners experience their world through their senses and from such experience curiosity is enlivened, questions asked, and realistic inquiries undertaken. Such realistic studies are open to be solved in all the ways open to being human the arts, media, words, maths, music and drama integrated learning.

Our observation is that literacy and numeracy have all but

Beyond literacy and numeracy - the real
squeezed out the importance of experiential learning and related arts and this is not helped by the destructive use of ability grouping and inquiry learning overly focused on  learning through the internet.

No wonder many students, even the most successful, fail to develop a positive view of themselves.

We see the metaphor for a classroom (whether ILEs or self-contained) as mini Te Papa   - a challenging mix of an science/technology laboratory, a media centre , an arts and drama
Te Papa - a metaphor for a school
studio, and an exhibition centre with students
seeking, using and creating their own knowledgeas it states in the New Zealand Curriculum. And integral to this providing opportunities to integrate, in realistic contexts, literacy and numeracy. The arts help learners secure new and deeper meanings from experiencewith students not only makers of their own reality but creators of their own minds
Howard Gardner
This view of learning aligns with the multiple intelligencesof Howard Gardner each intelligence providing a frame of reference to interpret experience. 

The teachers role, as Jerome Bruner wisely says, is the canny art of intellectual temptation providing a learning environment that captures students curiosity and, when students become involved, providing guidance lightly, and helping individual gain missing skills to allow them to achieve their
Eliot Eisner
personal bestEisner writes 'teachers need to help without being hurtful and to guide without being overbearing, and to explain without being pedantic'. Most of all teachers give their students achievements the attention and respect it deserves. Teaching in this respect is an art in itself the highest form of creativity.  Elwyn Richardson saw his students as a community of artist and scientists exploring their environment and personal worlds, and also said that his students were as much his teacher as he was theirs.

This vision is the opposite to the teacher dominated formulaic assessment environment currently is to be seen an environment that is not helping students ( nor teachers) express who they are. Imagine an education system premise on developing the gift and talents of all learners.


For teachers interested in developing arts based programmes our last blog has some good reads. 

Another blog full of great readings

Looking back to the early days of NZ Creative Education 
All too often we can get so mired in the present that we are unable to see beyond whatever is taking our attention. Teachers, trying to interpret what is currently expected of them, are in such a position. All it causes is stress and confusion. Having some sort of insight into the past can put the present into perspective and better still give ideas for future directions.’

For those interested in Play Based Learning might be interested in the forgotten genesis of progressive early education
'Since 'Tomorrows Schools' (1986) teachers would be excused if they thought all ideas about teaching and learning came from those distant from the classroom - and more recently imposed by technocrats and politicians. This was not always the case. Play based learning was once a feature of junior classes.'

How Integrating Arts Into Other Subjects Makes Learning Come Alive

Art has long been recognized as an important part of a well-rounded education -- but when it comes down to setting budget priorities, the arts rarely rise to the top despite the many studies showing that exposure to the arts can help with academics too. A few schools are taking the research to heart, weaving the arts into everything they do and finding that the approach not only boosts academic achievement but also promotes creativity, self-confidence and school pride.’

Reclaiming the joy of learning the philosophy of Elwyn Richardson
Art from Elwyn's school
It seems proper when thinking of creativity our classrooms to reflect on the writings of 1950s pioneer creative teacher Elwyn Richardson. His ideas are to be found in his inspirational book In the Early Worldfirst published by the NZCER in 1964 (reprinted 1994).

A World of Difference: the philosophy of a Taranaki pioneer creative teacher - Bill Guild
I believe that schools must be learning communities where
students learn, with our assistance, the things they want to learn; when they want to learn them; how they want to learn them; and why they want to learn them; all through their own curiosity’

Why is teaching kids to draw not a more important part of the curriculum?
Drawing plays a big role in our cognitive development. It can help us learn to write and think creatively, develop hand-eye co-ordination, hone analytic skills, and conceptualise ideas.But drawing is rarely used as a tool for learning in schools. Generally, most  school teachers arent trained in visual education.’

Why drawing isnt just an art
There's a growing understanding that drawing is much more than an art form: it's a powerful tool for learning.’

Are technologies making us smarter? Wiser? More compassionate?
By Jamie McKenzie
50 years ago and the potential of computing to enhance learning was enormous but also virgin territory. Since then we have seen many foolish and wasteful efforts along with some that were magical and quite beneficial. Half a century later, it seems worthwhile to pause and reflect upon the impact computers and computing have had upon schools, learning, and the society as a whole.’

Differentiating by Offering Choices
Elementary students have a better chance of showing what theyve learned when they have a choice about how to show it.’

 Innovative Learning Environments
‘If well-designed environments improve learning for students, what are the features of a well-designedenvironment? Research suggests that when the following elements are in place, student learning is likely to accelerate.

Education reform has led to the "death of the teacher" new book argues.
‘Just when you think you have a firm grip on the theories, politics, practices and trends affecting education in Australia, a book like Flip the System Australia arrives to shake you out of your comfort zone. Thats what happened to me when I read this book, which stems from what appears to be a global education movement against neoliberalism. The Flip the System organisation holds that the neoliberal shift in reform has led, in a more postmodern sense, to the death of the teacher. That hooked me.’

Cultivating Creative Thinking

‘By encouraging our children to approach situations as problem solvers, and giving them the tools to think for themselves, we will grow adults who arent afraid to ask tough questions of politicians, doctors, college professors, and anyone else. And, they will take an active role in understanding situations before forming opinions or voting.’

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Warning, these readings may contain educational heresy

Readings for creative teachers
 Saturday 11th May 2019

Bruce and I have long left the ‘chalkface’ but we still have a passion for an education system that is based on democratic classrooms that focus on developing the gifts and talents of all students.

Sadly most classrooms are neither democratic (valuing the identity, voice, questions, theories and culture of students) nor focused on
talent development. If anything education has become standardised and formulaic focused on assessing and documenting achievement in literacy and numeracy.

So maybe our views are irrelevant but we take heart that we know there are still creative teachers out their battling for views that align with the holistic, creative and integrated learning that we hold.

For us we see the book In the Early World written by Elwyn Richardson as central to the provision of a creative education

Thankfully it has been reprinted by the NZCER and the new foreword itself is worth a read. Elwyn saw his class as a community of artists and scientists exploring their environment and personal concerns and he believed they were his teachers as much as he was their teacher.  There was nothing formulaic or standardised in his classroom.

We are not sure of who current teachers hold as important in their educational philosophies but we think we are in good company. John Dewey who wrote about progressive democratic education early last century wrote ‘children grow in to tomorrow as they live today’ and although he believed in experiential learning he also wrote that it’s not just experience it reflecting on experience that is vital to learning.

There are a number of other educationalists that back up our own beliefs. Jerome Bruner who wrote that ‘teaching is the canny

art of intellectual temptation’ giving teachers the challenge of creating learning environments that challenge students by providing  ‘tempting’ displays from all learning areas; displays that as students become involved sees  their  research, language and art added.
An MLE !!
We see classrooms as a mini Te Papa – an amalgam of an artist’s studio, a science technology laboratory, a media centre andexhibitions to celebrate, challenge and inform. An important thing, we believe, is to do fewer things well and judge success by students achieving their personal best in any area of learning.

These are aspects the vision that we hold to. We believe, as Frank Smith (our reading guru)  writes, we learn from the company we keep; we learn to read if we want to not just because someone thinks we should. Smith’s book
Reading” is a must read for any open minded teacher. Look online for this. Also check the link below for a pdf version of another Smith book.

We learn anything if we see the point - the title of Guy Claxton’s book ‘What’s the point of School'.

In our ideal classroom students enter the classroom to pick up work they have previously committed to. When teachers see a need to provide assistance with missing skills they come alongside the learners (or work with a small groups) to provide the help needed so students can return to’ the game of learning’ (the advice of David Perkins). No need for ability groups in maths and literacy to get in the way taking up valuable learning time.  

When it comes to talent development the views of Sir Ken Robinson are well known, admired by many teachers but in practice largely ignored. Sir Ken believes in educational transformation. The idea that we all have our own mix of talents and gifts brings us to the multiple intelligences of Howard Gardner. Another educator with an interest in the creative arts, Eliot Eisner, makes the point that each art form interprets the world in its own way and that all are important.

Elwyn Richardson
All this brings us back to the ideas of Elwyn Richardson and the art advisers of yesteryear who led the way into developmental creative related arts programme.

l lifelong learners, confident in their own unique talents. We both believe we do not have an achievement gap but rather an opportunity gap.

With current discussions about play based and place based learning, about students’ agency, environmental awareness, the need to trust learners, the valuing of cultural differences, inquiry learning integrating a sensible use of new technology, and the new flexible learning environments,  maybe the revolution is beginning?

We hope so. This is why we take the time to collect and share reading that emphasize creative teaching.

Allan Alach and Bruce Hammonds

 Today's Readings

Creative Teaching And Teaching Creativity: How To Foster Creativity In The Classroom
Creativity is often paid lip service, but in reality, most schools are currently experiencing a “creativity gap”—with significantly more creative activity occurring outside of school. Numerous psychologists argue that creativity is not just an enrichment or add-on in the classroom: It is a set of psychological skills that enhance learning and will be necessary in the 21st-century workforce.’
Treating Reflection as a Habit, Not an Event
Regular reflection helps students learn, and some simple strategies can make it a regular and meaningful routine.’
Six Key Takeaways from A Day with Professor Jo Boaler
Claudelands Event Centre was buzzing on April 24th, with 520 motivated mathematics educators who were eagerly awaiting Professor Jo Boaler and youcubed co-director Cathy Williams to deliver their new workshop Limitless: The 6 keys that unlock potential and transform pathways.
Jo Boaler
Seven is the age of wonder, not the age for formal testing
We must also ask why. What are the tests for? So we can measure and monitor students’ progress? So we can pigeon hole who they are and who they will become early on? So we can fiddle the books and make our school brochure statistics look even glossier in the competitive culture that is devouring our national education system?'
Dalai Lama: We need an education of the heart
My wish is that, one day, formal education will pay attention to the education of the heart, teaching love, compassion, justice, forgiveness, mindfulness, tolerance and peace. This education is necessary, from kindergarten to secondary schools and universities. I mean social, emotional and ethical learning. We need a worldwide initiative for educating heart and mind in this modern age.’
Dave Armstrong: Don't stop the music at school
Having visited the school recently, I'm aware it has a comprehensive music programme and understands the value of students learning not just the "basics" of numeracy and literacy, but music and the other arts as well.’
What is a truly creative education?
( An earlier blog that relate to today’s theme)
 ‘Links to New Zealand creative teachesr, early influences  and the writings of John Dewey, Sir Ken Robinson, John Holt, Guy Claxton,  et al.’
Can reading problems affect mental health?
“Slow reading acquisition has cognitive, behavioral, and motivational consequences that slow the development of other cognitive skills and inhibit performance on many academic tasks. . . . The
longer this developmental sequence is allowed to continue, the more generalized the deficits will become, seeping into more and more areas of cognition and behavior. Or . . . ‘reading affects everything you do.’
Teaching Students to Read Metacognitively
‘A mini-lesson and anchor chart for showing early elementary students how to monitor their comprehension as they read.’
Comprehension And Learning by Frank Smith
This is primarily a book about children. It is addressed to teachers and written from the point of view of a cognitive psychologist. In this book I attempt to analyze those mysterious and complex
facets of human thought that are labelled “comprehension” and ‘learning”, by drawing on insights from a number of specialized disciplines while endeavoring to maintain a coherence that will be both comprehensible and useful to practising or prospective teachers.’
National Writing Project:Digested reads: Frank Smith.
"As long as writing remains a natural and purposeful activity, made available without threat, then children will be willing to practice it and consequently will learn.
3quotes from Freire
Freire is critical of the transmission method found in schools, in which what he calls the 'banking concept', is consistently applied. This is where teachers play the role of the 'knowledgable', and students adopt the role of the 'ignorant'. It's a prevalent technique that teachers everywhere can fall into the trap of perpetrating on their students.’