Friday, May 18, 2018

The power of creativity and imagination / teacher 'burnout'/ Modern Learning Environments? / introducing technology ?......

Art from Elwyn Richardson's students
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

Why Adults Need Social and Emotional Support, Too

‘We learned quickly that educators must consider themselves and their own care in order to
prevent burnout or "compassion fatigue." Working with high-needs populations can take a toll on you physically and emotionally. Creating a school culture of reciprocal adult support is imperative for success. Teachers must be operating in a healthy way, both physically and mentally, in order to consistently meet the needs of students.’

Modern classrooms won’t fix education

‘Unless educational leaders recognise that significant changes in practice require time, ongoing support, and effective use of evidence and data for future improvements, modern learning environments may well be a multi-million dollar missed opportunity.’

Thinking about Thinking about Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner
‘Is Howard Gardner the most misunderstood and misappropriated educationalist (his preferred term) in the world today or he just the only theorist most educators have heard of?’

Secret Teacher: the exodus of older teachers is draining schools of expertise

This article is from England but applies to New Zealand and most likely many other countries.

‘There is an experience vacuum being created in our schools that robs junior teachers of the role models they need to help them improve. Formal teacher training is the equivalent of being told how your parachute works before being chucked out of a plane at 12,000 feet. Becoming a teacher takes years: it’s a lifelong apprenticeship, with best practice passed from experienced colleagues to new recruits.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

The key to fixing inequality in education? Teach kids to be curious

‘The team at Michigan defines “curiosity” as “the joy of discovery, and the motivation to seek answers to what is unknown.” Some kids might be naturally curious about dinosaurs or ancient history. But parents and educators can also teach kids to have a curious outlook on learning, notably by having them “engage in activities that are personally meaningful.”

Technology :Don’t add. Make better.

‘Having just received an email from someone starting a new “technology” position in their school, they asked me what advice I would give.  I shared the following advice:’

Ten obvious truths about educating kids that keep getting ignored- Alfie Kohn

There is no end to the debate about school reform, but there are certain things about education that seem like no-brainers. The problem is that they continue to be ignored by policymakers and in schools. Alfie Kohn lists 10 of them in the following post, which he first published in the American School Board Journal in 2011, but which holds as true today as it did then.’

Design Thinking – What is it and how can it support 21st century education?

‘Design thinking is a methodology which encourages creativity and innovation through rapid (and cheap) prototyping early in the design process. It encourages risk taking, accepts failure and depends on testing and feedback in order to reach the best final outcome. But perhaps the most important aspect of design thinking is its human-centric focus.  The design thinking process focuses on reconnecting to a person or community and to truly understanding their fundamental needs.'

An Integral Curriculum at Amesbury School

‘Ensuring that learning is real life and takes place in an authentic learning context is one of the
commonly touted characteristics of 21st century learning.  The main thinking behind this is that students will learn best when there is a real purpose for their learning. I am sure this is true. However, I am coming to understand that a much more important reason is that the complex times our children are growing into will require a much greater ability to make decisions which are very complex in nature.’

Sir Ken Robinson on the Power of the Imaginative Mind (Part One)

The internationally renowned innovation consultant calls for transformation, not just
reformation, of public education.

‘It's the most unique capacity that human beings possess, and it's the one thing we'll rely upon to take us safely forward into the twenty-first century. And the irony is that I believe in education we spend most of our times-- most of our time trying to stifle it, or to inhibit it in some way. Not deliberately, but systematically. What I mean is the power of imagination.

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Creative teaching - timeless

Kelvin Smythe reflects on Elwyn Richardson  - pioneer New Zealand creative teacher 1950-60s.

An excellent book (NZCER)
‘Forget the research and current conformist 'best practice', go back and see what teachers like Elwyn did that we have forgotten about. According to Kelvin Smythe, and I agree with him, creative 'teaching in its fundamentals has hardly changed, nor is it likely to change.' Kelvin has written widely about Elwyn Richardson, a pioneer New Zealand teacher from the 1950/60s on his site and, for those curious, it is well worth reading what he has to say.

Back to the future: class organisation for student centred learning 

‘The other day I had the opportunity to visit a school I began my career in 1960 During  a discussion with the principal she mentioned the classrooms had been developed into innovative ( or flexible) learning environments. I couldn't help suggest that  I bet the daily classroom programmes/timetables haven't changed much since I first visited the school 40 plus years ago .If anything the current emphasis on literacy and numeracy had reinforced the timetables of earlier times taking up the morning time with the rest of the Learning Areas squeezed into the afternoon period. Hardly flexible teaching? Hardly progress?

Large painting from Elwyn Richardson's NZ class 1950s

Friday, May 11, 2018

Learning ought to be fun / childrens' playgrounds / learning from NZ's First Labour Government

A culture that values student curiosity and creativity above all
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

Kids are not better at technology than adults.

The difference between kids that are deemed better than adults with technology is not some innate ability; it is their willingness to push buttons. To see what happens. To act on their curiosity.  That’s it.’

Should School Be Fun? (The answer is yes)

‘I also just want my students to enjoy their time in my class and school as much as possible.
Because when a student is having fun, they are engaged and learn better. Research has shown that students who are happy and feeling positive emotions are more likely to “take risks, solve more nonlinear problems that require insight, and generally perform better overall.” It’s why the best and most meaningful learning experiences are often hands-on and take place in loud classrooms, and sometimes not in a classroom at all.’

Learning Theories: Jerome Bruner On The Scaffolding Of Learning

Bruner believed that when children start to learn new concepts, they need help from teachers and He wondered whether the very structure of school is the failure.’other adults in the form of active support. To begin with, they are dependent on their adult support, but as they become more independent in their thinking and acquire new skills and knowledge, the support can be gradually faded. This form of structured interaction between the child and the adult is reminiscent of the scaffolding that supports the construction of a building. It is gradually dismantled as the work is completed.’

The skepticism threshold: is there any evidence for inquiry learning?

Interesting debate here. Read and consider.

“The problem with the inquiry approach, which is so beloved, and so fashionable in education these days is that it benefits middle class children with good vocabularies and lots of cultural capital. It really detracts from the learning of the least able, the most marginalized [students].”

It’s Not Just About Tests, It’s About Valuing Children

By Kenneth S. Goodman and Yetta M. Goodman

Fortunately the current New Zealand is moving towards a child based education system but there are many other countries still wedded to a test and destroy schooling programme.

“Disguising their aims as reform, our political decision makers have marginalized teachers, teacher educators, and researchers to the point that those with real insights and knowledge are blamed for the failures they might have avoided.”

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

It's time to land that helicopter: hovering isn't helping your kids

Same applies to school playgrounds.

‘Here's the deal: play cannot be totally safe if it is true play. Some element of danger or challenge, either physical or mental, is needed for children to feel that they are truly playing. Why is this? True play pushes children to their growing edge.’

Inside the Rise of “Risky” Playground Design

Child recreation areas with exposed nails and steep drops—placed deliberately—have caught on in the U.K. and are coming to America.

‘Educators in Britain are embracing the idea that purposeful risky play promotes resilience and builds more self-reliant young people. As a result, public playspaces there are being redesigned or newly built to actively present that risk. What that looks like—playgrounds with access to saws, knives, loose bricks and two-by-fours, and fire—is something that might sound alarms for some parents here in the litigious U.S.’

Student-Centered Planning

Planning instruction around students’ readiness, interests, and learning preferences empowers them to drive their own learning.

‘Learners’ involvement begins with how inviting the lesson appears to them. Learners evaluate a lesson based on their readiness, their sense that it’s something they can do. Does the learning experience provide sufficient supports to help them develop the skills to succeed?’

Students' Perceptions of Teacher Quality

Can there be excellence in the classroom without first-rate
Teachers are the 'silver bullet'.
teachers? We can change our curriculum, buy more materials, change the physical environment, give more standardized exams, but without quality teachers all the change in the world will not produce the desired effect. The desired effect must promote greater depths of student learning. Everyone seems to be looking for a "silver bullet;" that special program that will captivate students and arouse them to greater levels of academic achievement. Those of us who understand teaching know the teacher is the "silver bullet”.'  

The Case For Old-School Kindergarten: Why We Need To Let Our Kids Play

‘…when it comes to young children, engaging in unstructured play with other kids may be better for your child’s development than any academic task. Play helps kids learn how to regulate emotions, solve problems, and make plans. A better predictor of a kid’s academic success in the 8th grade is how well they socialize with their peers in the 3rd grade. Playtime isn’t wasted time, if you’re concerned with academics; in fact it’s just the opposite. Playtime is essential for young children, though you won’t likely see this reflected in your kids’ school.

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

'Everyone has a right to an education they are best fitted for so as to develop the fullest extent of their powers'. Going back to principles that underpinned the First Labour Government

Very appropriate article, given the current Labour led government’s review of education in
First Labour Government
New Zealand

‘Schools that are able to cater for the whole population must offer courses that are as rich and varied as are the needs and abilities of the children who enter them… be true equality of opportunity… to convert a school system constructed originally on the basis of selection and privilege to a truly democratic form..’

Looking back

Dr Beeby
This article  discusses the great New Zealand educator, Dr Clarence Beeby. Again this is very timely given the current review of education.

‘Every child, Dr Beeby said, 'should leave with a sense of achievement'. We need teachers who refuse to accept that the failure of any child is inevitable. Teachers, to achieve this, need to be sensitive to the needs of every learner. If you can turn failure around, he said, 'you might get a glimpse of the school of the future'.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Message to Labour spokesperson on education Mr. Chris Hipkins

 Originally posted as a blog in 2014 but still relevant 2018......things are now happening

A creative education is the key for a positive future for all

Dear Mr Hipkins....

A few thoughts to consider if we are to develop a 21st Education System

 If Labour is to put the welfare of people ahead of economics (the current privatization winner/loser scenario of the National Party) then the creativity of all citizens must be the number one challenge if NZ is to develop  an inclusive and productive society.

Dr Beeby
Labour  needs to revisit Peter Fraser/Dr Beeby’s vision of providing all students with an‘education of the kind they are best fitted and to the fullest extent of theirpowers  This vision has never been fully realized. To become a truly creative country we need to premise our education system on  the challenge of developing the gifts and talents of all students.

Such a vision requires a move away from current standardisation, particularly the conformity of National Standards, towards the challenge of personalisation of learning

Place the  currently sidelined 2007 New Zealand Curriculum centre stage – appreciating that its full implementation requires more than current tinkering if all students are to succeed and be able to ‘seek, use and create their own knowledge’. ( NZC)

Reinterpret the so called ‘achievement gap’ as an 'opportunity gap’ – ensure these students gain experiences required to develop positive learning identities

While valuing literacy and numeracy are vitally important foundational skills they need to be ‘reframed’ to allow students to
New thinking needed
‘seek, use and create their own knowledge’ (NZC)

Question the destructive consequences of ability grouping, streaming and setting (struggling students need to be seen as lacking opportunities not intellect).

 Encourage schools to do fewer things well so as  to develop deep understanding and dispositions to learn.

Encourage innovative learning  integrated/collaborative organisations to engage students at the years 7-10 ages where student disengagement kicks in providing an environment for a

range of student talents and abilities to be developed.

Value the creativity of individual class teachers and explore ways to share their expertise to break down isolation that many teachers feel. Provide opportunities for schools/teachers to collaborate to share ideas.

Encourage all schools to develop innovative programmes to suit the needs of their communities (as suggested in the NZC).

Consider setting up an educational conference/ series of
conversations similar to the 1936 New Education Conference that contributed ideas to the Fraser /Beeby vision.  As in 1936 invite a range of innovative thinkers to contribute to such conversations. Make use of modern technology to share ideas.

See education as a process that begins before birth and continues throughout life    - at the very least track students to their first jobs/tertiary training.

Background reading - wrong directions and new opportunities
'In The Early World' by Elwyn Richardson recently reprinted by the NZCER -possibly the best book about the work of a creative teacher. The future lies with identifying and sharing the ideas of creative classroom teachers,

Friday, May 04, 2018

The truth about Tomorrows Schools by Lester Flockton / Reading Recovery / the importance of play....

Education Readings

By Allan Alach

Every week Bruce Hammonds and I collect article to share with teachers to encourage a creative approach to teaching and learning. We welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at
Please view Lester Flockton's presentation below!!
Tomorrow's Schools  -  Lester Flockton outlines gains ? losses ! and new opportunities. An important viewing for all teachers and BOTs...

Taking the lead involves setting a direction that variously connects, reconnects, and disconnects
policies and practices of the past and the present, while looking to the future. The past is recalled by a diminishing few. The present is all too familiar. The future is uncertain. Taking the lead involves giving certainty to direction, but this begs questions of which direction, whose direction, and how that direction is secured. Lester Flockton touches on some of the key issues and challenges that confront those would take the lead.

Reading Recovery: What goes around with quantitative reading professors comes around

Here’s a long but vital article by Kelvin Smythe that deconstructs the current pressure to do away with Reading Recovery and for its replacement by heavily phonics based reading instruction.

‘The whole process of a particularly shonky review office report, lack of consultation, and announcement by media storm, is an education disgrace. An inquiry should be set up by the ministry to determine if those involved should be held at fault, the motivations for what happened, and how due process and integrity of reports can be assured in the future.’

Spontaneous singing and young children’s musical agency

'This suggests that the development of young children’s musicality can be integrated into general early childhood practice by creating an environment in which improvisational and playful singing can take place and is valued as both a legitimate form of music-making and as a means of acting in and on the world. Early childhood educators need to be aware that improvisation is a natural part of young children’s musical play and that children are able to create and adapt songs that are fit-for-purpose.’

The decline of play in preschoolers — and the rise in sensory issues

This is becoming very apparent in new entrant classes across New Zealand.

‘Preschool years are not only optimal for children to learn through play, but also a critical developmental period. If children are not given enough natural movement and play experiences, they start their academic careers with a disadvantage. They are more likely to be clumsy, have difficulty paying attention, trouble controlling their emotions, utilize poor problem-solving methods, and demonstrate difficulties with social interactions.’

The play deficit - Peter Grey

Children today are cossetted and pressured in equal measure. Without
the freedom to play they will never grow up.

‘In my book, Free to Learn (2013), I document these changes, and argue that the rise in mental disorders among children is largely the result of the decline in children’s freedom. If we love our children and want them to thrive, we must allow them more time and opportunity to play, not less.’

Down side of being dubbed 'class clown’

‘Being dubbed the class clown by teachers and peers has negative social repercussions for third-grade boys that may portend developmental and academic consequences for them, researchers found.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

The Perks of a Play-in-the-Mud Educational Philosophy

When did America decide preschool should be in a classroom?

. Give young kids the opportunities to engage in hours of free, unstructured play in the natural world, and they develop just as organically as any other creature. They learn creativity as they explore and engage with complex ecological systems—and imagine new worlds of their own. Freed from playground guardrails that constrain (even as they protect), kids build strength, develop self-confidence, and learn to manage risks as they trip, stumble, fall, hurt, and right themselves. Research shows that the freedom of unstructured time in open space helps kids learn to focus. It also just feels good: Nature reduces stress.

Finding the Beauty of Math Outside of Class

Math trails help students explore, discover, enjoy, and celebrate math concepts and problems in real-world contexts.

A math trail is an activity that gets students out of the classroom so they can (re)discover the math all around us. Whether out on a field trip or on school grounds, students on a math trail are asked to solve or create problems about objects and landmarks they see; name shapes and composite solids; calculate areas and volumes; recognize properties, similarity, congruence, and symmetry; use number sense and estimation to evaluate large quantities and assess assumptions; and so on.’

The role of technology in education

‘When we think about the classrooms of the future, we have to ask what (as Marshall McLuhan has put it) technologies like radio and television can do that the present classroom can’t. That means asking: what’s futuristic about the future? And equally important, whom will it belong to?’

A playful approach to learning means more imagination and exploration

'Play in education is controversial. Although it is widely accepted that very young children need to play, as they progress through the school system, the focus moves quickly to measuring learning. And despite the fact that play is beneficial throughout life, supporting creativity and happiness, it is still seen by many in education as a frivolous waste of time, and not really relevant to proper learning.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Advice from David Perkins to make learning whole

‘The problem Perkins says is there is too much problem solving (teachers’ problems) and not
enough problem finding - or figuring out often 'messy' open ended investigations. 'Playing the whole game' is the solution resulting in some sort of inquiry or performance. It is not just about content but getting better at things, it requires thinking with what you know to go further, it is about finding explanations and justifications. It involves curiosity, discovery, creativity, and camaraderie. It is not just discovery learning - it needs strong guidance gradually faded back.’

30 Years ago - so what has changed?

‘Recently I received e-mail from a student I hadn't heard of since she was in my class in 1978. She wrote about how great it was to experience the class and how much all that we did has stayed with her over the years. With this in mind I searched out something I wrote, at the time, for the team of teachers I was leading. I was curious to see how much my ideas had changed since then.’

Friday, April 27, 2018

A close look at John Hattie's research / the Future of Education / the importance of play / school gardens and before Tomorrows Schools

Valuing the power of imagination
Education Readings

By Allan Alach

Every week Bruce Hammonds and I search out articles to encourage a creative approach to teaching and learning.

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

Hattie’s Research is False
Here’s a three part series from Kelvin Smythe, addressed to New Zealand University Vice-Chancellors, that comprehensively deconstructs John Hattie’s so-called ‘research’. As Hattie and his acolytes have done, and are still doing, great damage to holistic education, all teachers need to be aware of the falsehoods in his findings. Other educationists have also found similar issues.

‘My concern is that none of the variables in his research are validly isolated or under control, resulting in an academic shambles that, in being left unexposed, has had devastating consequences for teachers and children around the world, and especially New Zealand.’

Times tables – the phony, proxy war between traditionalists and progressives

‘These are tablets from Mesopotamia. They show a multiplication table and a practice tablet by a schoolchild. A practice that has been going on for millennia.And sure enough, the ‘times-tables’ wars have erupted again. This time, however, it has become a proxy, even phony, war between traditionalists and progressives, which in turn shows that both sides are often wrong-headed. It's a litmus test for the whole debate.’

There is no silver bullet
How to spot education research myths and read research properly
“I think it is useful for teachers to analyse and read articles, but more to get a sense of the enormous complexity and variables at play rather than trying to find a silver bullet that says ‘look, this works’ because science is incremental; we keep on building, one study will never be enough, there will never be a single study that shows this finally worked.”

Pernile Ripp

How to Stop Killing the Love of Reading

‘But when I see what my kids do in school for “reading,” it doesn’t really look like reading. I ask them what books they are reading in school, and a lot of times they give me a blank stare. What they do in reading, they tell me, is mostly worksheets about reading. Or computer programs that ask them to read passages, not books, and answer multiple-choice questions.’

The Future of Education: How To Get Ready

‘I am not sure what education or the world for that matter will look like in 20 years, but I know that as educators we have the opportunity to shape what the future will be and the power to make it what we want it to be, which is, hopefully, a better place for our kids.  I implore you to join me in dreaming, in speculating, in being different, not only because it is so exciting, but because our kids deserve it.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

A playful approach to learning means more imagination and exploration

‘Play in education is controversial. Although it is widely accepted that very young children need to play, as they progress through the school system, the focus moves quickly to measuring learning. And despite the fact that play is beneficial throughout life, supporting creativity and happiness, it is still seen by many in education as a frivolous waste of time, and not really relevant to proper learning.'

Here’s What Happens When Every Student Gets a Personalized Learning Plan

'All students can learn; however, not all students learn in the same way or at the same pace. Acknowledging this fact has driven the recent shift toward personalization in education.'

Imogen Stubbs laments 'awful treadmill' of UK education system

'Stubbs is a fan of the ideas of educationist Sir Ken Robinson, who gained international acclaim for his 2006 TED talk Do Schools Kill Creativity? She despairs of the “utilitarian” approach to arts subjects and hates the jargon of the modern exam system with its “texts” and “assessment objectives”.’

How Small Steps Can Create Outdoors Experiences In Schools

It started with a school garden at Maplewood Richmond Heights Middle School. The garden did so well that students built another garden. Then they added native plants, where seventh-grade students learned lessons in data collection as they counted pollinators. The students wanted more pollinators, so they added a beehive. The bees made honey, and the kids used their sweet surplus to learn about the economics of commodities…’

Curriculum wars: coming to Aotearoa?

To grossly simplify, it’s the argument between ‘knowledge vs skills’. To personalise it, it’s E.D Hirsch vs 21st Century Skills. Or in the New Zealand context, it’s Elizabeth Rata and Briar Lipson vs Jane Gilbert and Frances Valintine. And I think it’s mostly a good thing that we’re starting to talk about this.  Sure, polarising rhetoric can be unhelpful, but it’s a disservice to our students not to think seriously about curriculum, and part of that means expressing and teasing out differences.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

The killing of creativity by the technocrats.

Bruce Hammonds has also found fault with John Hattie:

John Hattie
‘Somehow, just because Hattie has amalgamated every piece of 'school effectiveness' research available ( mainly it seems from the USA) his findings, it seems, ought to be taken for read. The opposite ought to be the case - we need to be very wary of such so called 'meta research.'. More worrying however is that the approaches he is peddling is pushing into the background the home grown innovative creative learning centred philosophy that was once an important element in many classrooms. Overseas experts always seem to know best - or those that return with their carpet bag full of snake oil.’

The forgotten genesis of progressive early education

An example of the pedagogical knowledge that is totally foreign to the Hatties of this world.

‘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. Progressive ideas that helped New Zealand lead the world in education, particularly in reading, were developed by creative early education teachers who were well aware of the modern educational ideas of the time.’