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Time to call it a day?

Readings week 2 July 2019

Our Leading-Learning blog has a long history.

 It began as Primary Arts Magazines set up by Wayne Morris and Bruce in 1980. Over 25 editions were printed. They were hand compiled and posted and when subscribers got over 500 it was all too much.
Some of the 25 Primary Art Magazines

The premise of the magazine was to share the ideas of creative teachers – teachers who were developing student centred programmes with an emphasis on using the local environment, the importance of the creative arts and develop stimulating room environments featuring student work.

Wayne and Bruce then developed a website in the 90s with an associated e-zine which was sent out to 4000 members – this worked well until, with a change of web master the e-zines were rejected as spam by many schools.

At this stage Bruce established the Leading–Learning blog in 2004 and in later years Allan Alach joined him in this. 1569 blogs have been posted with a total of 2 million visits.

Let's do it!

Tomorrows Schools have had a corrosive effect on school collaboration

End of sharing
Public schooling has been distorted by the competitive ethic of self centred Tomorrows Schools and, in particular the corrosive effect of National Standards.

We now feel that it’s time to call it a day as we no longer have any real contact with schools and we also feel that schools have been hi-jacked by standardised teaching, an over emphasis on literacy and numeracy (nine years of National Standards has all but killed real creativity in primary schools). We wrote about this sharing Professor Peter OConner’s view in our last blog.

The last straw.Above a impersonal school report with a antiquated narrow focus from a large school. The sign of a system gone terribly wrong. What gifts and talents have been developed? What key competencies have been identified and amplified?

Matt Damon teacher mother - see report above!!!

It is an interesting challenge to reflect on the influences that have contributed to your educational philosophy - this would make an interesting staff meeting topic?

 Bruce’s creative education journey

Bruce has had a long career as a school adviser beginning in the 60s – first in science then in art. Bruce and Allan Alach were both influenced by philosophy expressed in the inspirational book In the Early World written by Elwyn Richardson.  Thankfully the book has been recently reprinted by the NZCER and we recommend all schools buy a copy.

Some of Bruce's publications
As an adviser, in the mid-sixties, Bruce was influenced by teachers, mainly in small rural schools, who were implementing similar ideas to those written about by Elwyn. Central to this creativity (it was the 60s!) was the influence of Dr Beeby who had introduced a developmental teaching philosophy post WW2.  Also behind such ideas was the philosophy of American educator JohnDewey.

TheArt Advisers, established by Dr Beeby, assumed an important role in spreading the ideas of creative teachers. The art advisers ran related arts programmesthroughout New Zealand, one of which Bruce attended. The arts are vital to ensure students a positive sense of self – through art, language, music and dance.

Teachers in rural schools introduced the first integrated programmes moving away from the heavily timetables programmes, with an emphasis on literacy and numeracy, of the day. Schools, under the pressure of National Standards, have move back to these programmes.

Four other influences.

The Taranaki Findings
Firstly, the English child centred primary schools (sadly lost under the pressure of the National Curriculum, testing and league tables) that Bruce experienced while teaching in England in 1969. This experience taught Bruce about the importance of slowing the pace of student work to develop quality, teacher displays to attract student curiosity and of displaying students work.  Bruce worked with a group of Taranaki teachers in the 70sintroducing the open ended integratedinquiry programmes using the Nuffield Junior Science Project as a resource.

The second influence was the open education movement from the United States which had a similar student centred inquiry philosophy and led to the development of open plan schools. John Holt’s books HowChildren Learn and How Children Fail were key books and more relevant than ever.

 The third influence came from the lateKelvin Smythe and his holistic developmental approach. Kelvin believed strongly in the importance of the affective in education and deplored the current fetish of objectivity.

The final influence was Bruce’s involvement with the University of Waikato School of Education Learning in Science Project – essentially an inquiry model that valued students’ prior ideas and set out to challenge them.

It was an amalgam of the above ideas that Bruce developed as a classroom teacher, school principal and later working as a school adviser for Massey University School of Education and then independently throughout NZ and internationally. At this point Bruce met up with Allan Alach, then a school principal, who shared similar ideas. 

The centrality of the creative classroom teacher.

John Holt gives up on schools
Central to this philosophy is the centrality of the creative classroom teacher to any real lasting innovation - a position that has become almost untenable under the last decades of compliance and standardisation. Time to call it a day?

In the late 70s one of our open education ‘gurus’John Holt, (author of How Children Learn and How Children Fail), disappointed us by giving up on schools ever being transformed in his book ‘Instead of Schools’.

It didn’t deter us them but we have now almost reached the same conclusion. Almost, because we know there are still teachers out their battling on, and with the change ofgovernment, maybe the spirit of the 2007New Zealand Curriculum will be implemented. Maybe? We have done our best.

What has really changed the past three decades - not much in our opinion - that is if you ignore the false promise of modern technology which is no 'silver bullet' and more often a distraction an also the recycling of open plan schools of the 70s with modern learning environmnts.

Not Literacy and numeracy and not tiresome assessment

The other day Bruce was asked what would he do
if he had a magic wand to transform schools?

The first thing would be to ask the question of what’s the point of school? And what teaching beliefs would underpin such a school?

Bruce has always believed the challenge of schooling was to identify, develop, amplify and enhance to gifts and talents of all students.  The word education comes from ‘to bring the gifts out’. This view is reflected by Sir Ken Robinson’s quote ‘creativity is as important as literacy and numeracy’ and also Guy Claxton who has said ‘learnacy is as important as literacy and numeracy’. 
Making certain students’ developed positive attitudes towards all areas of learning would need to be assured.

The role of school 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 teacher’s role is to help the learner
forge connections between what he or she wants to know and what a learner wants to learn.

What if we started with the premise that school could be the most interesting place in a young person’s life? The challenge is to create experiences and contexts in classrooms where students can discover things they don’t know they love by implementing project that spur creativity, ownership and relevance.

Learning experiences would need to feature real experiences
through the senses and that information technology can be integrated in such learning but that it is no ‘silver bullet’ in itself. 

Projects would be based around students’ questions, value their current theories, and challenge
Valuing student questions and theories
them to consider new views.
This does not leave studies to students to decide – the teacher’s role is best summed up by Jerome Bruner ‘teaching is the canny art of intellectual temptation’.

Literacy and numeracy would be learnt through real contexts and help given as an when necessary.The current emphasis has not improved our reading scores on international tests and maths still creates a feeling of maths anxiety. So much current teaching is based on the premise that without teachers students wouldn't learn - time to create the conditions and trust students do what they do naturally - learn!

Literacy and numeracy need to be re-imagined as foundation skills best learnt in real contexts .

The artistry of a creative teacher.

Bruce believes that the feeling from completing an excellent piece of learning - exceeding ones personal best - in any Learning Area is the most powerful motivation of all.  Helping students who exhibit lack of ability/interest achieve a sense of pride in any activity is the artistry of a creative teacher - a teachers who is able to slow the pace of work to allow positive interactions

Bruce also believed we do not have an ‘achievement gap’ but more an ‘opportunity gap’ – the school’s role is to create the conditions to give every learner the opportunity to learn through having positive experiences (this would mean the banning of ability grouping). 

The teachers appointed would need to align all their interactions with their students behind such ideas. Teachers would be selected also for their diverse set of interests because Bruce believes that we learn from the company we keep areas of learning would need to be assured.

An exciting room

The total environment is the ultimate teacher.

Bruce sees the total culture developed as the best teacher. Establishing a ‘tempting’ environment to attract students’ curiosity is the challenge for teachers.  To achieve this the schools needs to be envisaged as an amalgam of an artist’s studio, a science/technology lab, a media centre, drama and music areas, and plentiful areas to exhibit and display student creativity – an educational Te Papa– where students and teachers work together in teams solving problems and displaying their results for all to see.

And as for assessment – just check out the portfolios of the students’ involved. The concept to be valued is for every student to better their own ‘personal best’.

Imagine how schools would be transformed if such ideas were implemented?

Bruce Hammonds
Allan Alach

Current education

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Real creativity
 – the missing element in education
Readings 24th June 2019

We are coming to the thought that we are speaking to a minority in our efforts to encourage an education system that places creativity and the creative arts central  to teaching and learning.

Confirmed by views seen recently on TV

The views of classrooms on show (with a couple of exceptions) through the teachers’ strike
indicated to us a system featuring an emphasis on literacy and numeracy with work on display more to do with teachers than celebrating student creativity.

 As well, postings on the Teachers’ Facebook page seem to illustrate creativity more as decoration often clone like in appearance.  And the issue of workload seems to relate to an obsession with testing, assessment and associated documentation once again focused around literacy and numeracy – areas that seem to take up most of the morning leaving little time for equally important Learning Areas. And to make it worse associated with demeaning ability grouping.

Let’s leave current formulaic teaching models.

Formulaic teaching
Formulaic teaching seems entrenched. WALTs, learning intentions, success criteria, the over use of feedback, the growing emphasis on phonics indicates a teacher orientated approach to learning, one in which creativity is at risk.

Where is the emphasis on developing the gifts and talents of students?

We do recognize areas that value student creativitysuch as: play based learning (with its similarity to 1950/60s developmental teaching); the concept of student agency; place based learning; Project Based Learning; and personalized learning (which, however, has been captured by ‘thin’ or fragile’ learning via Google) and the potential of Flexible Learning Environments.

Where has the creativity gone?

Professor Peter O’Connor (Faculty of Education Auckland University) has written "Schools as we know them were originally designed at the same time as mass industrialization began. Not
Prof Peter O'Conner
surprisingly factories and schools centre around the testing and standardization of the products they make and value conformity and uniformity.

The need to take risks

Creativity in these environments shrivels because its fundamental includes a willingness to take risks, to be curious, to be playful with ideas and to consider possibilities to make something not seen or imagined before. This approach has never been a feature of New Zealand schools except in isolated instances and for a brief period in the 1950s, when progressive education philosophies were introduced.

Art and well being

The vitality of schools at the time was based on the twin ideas that the arts train the imagination, and the social imagination is vital for social progress, social justice and national wellbeing. There was a belief that the arts and education were a strong foundation stones for a strong democracy.

The need for creative empathetic citizens

It was understood that one of the school’s primary functions was to create critical, creative empathetic citizens as a safeguard against the rise of extremism.”

Creativity killed by National Standards and STEM

O’Connor continues, “I believe nine years of National Standards essentially killed off creativity in New Zealand schools. The overriding focus on science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) was highly effective in dismantling the arts across the whole education system…”.

“The arts curriculum is the vital tool for teachers to be creative with their children and be creative themselves.”

We couldn’t agree more with ProfessorO’Connor
Sir Ken Robinson - a similar challenge

Sir Ken Robinson writes a similar story about the need to move away from current standardization. He writes one role of education is to help people develop their natural talents and abilities’. ‘We have the opportunity to rethink the whole ecosystem of education. We need to reinvent schools…..We need to stir the motivation , vision, optimism and political commitment’.

The Modern Learning site – and Seymour Sarason

The Modern Learning site always provides valuable inspiration for teachers willing to move into creative teaching. Their writers often quote Seymour Sarason about his need for the artistry of teaching who says teachers need 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…..you seek to help the child forge connections between what he or she wants to know and what the child wants to learn’.

What if ....

So, the Modern Learners write ‘what if we started with the premise that school could be the most interesting place in a young person’s life given our curious, connected, self-directed modern learners are truly capable of doing what was previously unimaginable.’

 From a New Zealand site: Number Agents

In contrast New Zealand site Number Agents write, ‘we need to stop constantly measuring children against so called benchmarks. Measuring and gathering data does nothing to help the child’s growth, but does take up time that could instead be used for fostering and inspiring the joy of learning.

An old Rural Adviser once said ‘teachers have two important attributes, their energy and their time and if they waste in on b/s they can’t teach’.

The artistry of the creative teacher - Modern Learning site

‘The question is’, Gary Stager writes in a Modern Learning posting, ‘how can we create
experiences and context in classroom where kids can discover things they don’t know they love? This is done by implementing good projects that spur creativity, ownership and relevance'

One of our favourite quotes comes from Jerome Bruner, who says 'teaching is the canny art of intellectual temptation'.

.Another favourite writer of ours is Frank Smith who writes, ‘we become like the company we keep, we learn to be like them .. the identification creates the possibilities of learning. All learning pivots on who we think we are, and who we see ourselves as capable of becoming’.

A metaphor for a classroom.

We see classrooms as an amalgam of a museum, art studio, media centre, laboratory and exhibition gallery populated by interesting talented teachers

In such a rich and challenging environment students will learn – it’s what they do.

No need for the current tiresome assessment models – the work the students complete, their portfolios, will be evaluation enough.

Bruce Hammonds and Allan Alach

This weeks readings

Professor Peter O’Connor – the killing of creativity in our schools

‘I believe nine years of National Standards essentially killed off creativity in New Zealand schools. The overriding focus on science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) was highly effective in dismantling the arts across the whole education system.'
Sir Ken Robinson – time to personalize 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”’
Critically Endangered: The Art of Teaching from Longworth Education site ( NZ)

In the face of so much science, a critical but overlooked, component to teaching is becoming increasingly rare in the classroom - creativity.  An area that is not easily quantified into numerical data, inputs and outputs, the use of creativity by a classroom teacher to ensure a level of joy in learning and teaching extends the science of teaching into the art of it.’
The Benefits of Cultivating Curiosity in Kids

‘Despite the centrality of curiosity to all scientific endeavors, there’s a relative dearth of studies on the subject itself.
Fortunately, scientists are actively unraveling this concept and, in the process, making a convincing case that we can and should teach young minds to embrace their inquisitive nature.’

Teachers need to get students involved in open studies with no known answers

Here are ten criteria for ‘wicked problems’”.
This is Why We Must Be Teaching With Imagination, and How to Do It

‘Imagination is what stays when teachers are gone from their students’ lives. It’s what students have taken from a creative classroom and into real life. While basic knowledge and facts are important building blocks, imagination is the synthesis of that knowledge. It’s the vehicle that gets learners from point A to point B on their own.’
In which Pooh looks for a 21st Century Education Part 2

Another instalment from Kelvin Smythe’s ATTACK series that he completed just before he died:
‘Except as a chronological expression, 21st century education is nothing special, remaining part of a continuity that, despite considerable twisting and turning, remains just that, a continuity; the technological disruption predicted for that chronological expression being just a further example of ideological disruption that is always there or near in the sensitive and value-laden area of school education.’
Children need art and stories and poems and music as much as they need love and food and fresh air and play.

‘But if you don’t give a child art and stories and poems and music, the damage is not so easy to see. It’s there, though. Their bodies are healthy enough; they can run and jump and swim and eat hungrily and make lots of noise, as children have always done, but something is missing.’
For more information about the need for educational transformation, creativity and talent development in earlier blogs:



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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 Gardner’s 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 usebecause 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.”

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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.’

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 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 wasn’t hard to answer ‘slow the pace of student’s 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 best’ but 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 entrants’ because 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 it’s something all students can do (once teachers get rid of the ‘I can’t draw’ attitude 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 can’t draw’ attitude 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 work’ emphasizes 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 ..no 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 Ardern’ssecretary.’

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 movement’ so 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 Leadership’ introduce the important idea of slow learning’. They draw on the ideas in psychologist Guy Claxton’s books ‘Hare Brain Tortoise Mind'; and ‘Wise Up’. Claxton is concerned with developing students 'learning power.’

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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 (thecurrent ‘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 don’t really ask ourselves about the purpose of school or why we send our kids there, it’s 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 isn’t 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 isn’t the “opposite” of phonics, and it doesn’t 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.’

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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 mark’ as 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 Richardson’s book ‘In the Early World first printed in the 1960s and thankfully recently reprinted by the NZCER. This inspirational book gives today’s teachers insight into the power of personal creativity through art, language, movement, drama and inquiry learning. Another pioneer teacher Sylvia Ashton Warner wrote in ‘Teacher’ that 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 done’ but 'clone like' in appearance.

Eliot Eisner, an art educationalist, writes ‘the arts are rooted in man’s 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 knowledge’ as 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 experience… with students not only makers of their own reality but creators of their own minds
Howard Gardner
. This view of learning aligns with the ‘multiple intelligences’ of Howard Gardner – each intelligence providing a frame of reference to interpret experience. 

The teacher’s role, as Jerome Bruner wisely says, is ‘the canny art of intellectual temptation providing a learning environment that captures student’s curiosity and, when students become involved, providing guidance lightly, and helping individual gain missing skills to allow them to achieve their
Eliot Eisner
‘personal best’.  Eisner 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.’

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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 Brunerwho 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.

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.’

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Educational Readings 
Friday 3rd May 2019
 The hubs – a return to collegiality?

The recent publication of the Tomorrows Schools Review hasn’t seemed to have hit the headlines and Allan and Bruce were wondering how schools have reacted to it.  The main premise of
the review was to develop greater equity in our school system for children who come from disadvantaged homes. There is no doubt that schools from higher socio economic areas have done well – their BOTs are able to call on all the expertise they need.

Bruce attended a meeting to hear the views of the opposition (Nikki Kaye). Few local educators were present nor adults with school aged children. The main issue was focused on the idea of developing Education Hubs to provide services to schools  – it was felt by those  opposed as an unnecessary layer of
‘bureaucracy’ that would take away the independence of schools.

The idea of groups of schools under the support of a ‘hub’ relates back to the days before Tomorrows Schools when primary schools were administered by Education Boards. Bruce worked as a school adviser for an education board and was a principal during the change over to the self-managing system we have today. Allan moved to the principal ranks in 2002, having taught and developed his skills in the education board days. As the school
advisors had not been axed in 2002 he made full use of them in developing his principal skills and the school’s learning programme.

Very few current principals or teachers experienced the education board system and possibly can’t see the point of making any changes. Few would not say that the education board concept didn’t need to be ‘modernised’ and that schools needed to be given greater ‘self-management’ but in the change process many good ‘babies were thrown out with the bathwater’.

The one area we both feel has been lost is collaborative nature
Time for some real learning
of schools working together sharing expertise
through having the professional support of school inspectors (reframed today as ERO) and the advisory services.

The inspector’s role was to ensure all school were providing a suitable education (now ERO’s responsibility) and to grade and appoint teachers (now a BOT responsibility). 

In later years inspectors also took responsibility for professional development, elected teachers to go on courses and created curriculum groups in areas not covered by the advisory services – notably in language and social studies to share ideas.
They also gave advice for those interested in principal positions – and appointed them in association with the education board. While Allan concedes that there were some useful aspects of school inspectors, he was rather pleased to see them go.

The loss of the localized advisory team, who visited all schools to prove help and, equally importantly, identify and share the work of creative classroom teachers, was the greatest loss. There were advisers in art and craft, science, Maori, music, physical
education, reading, rural schools and junior schools.  No doubt areas like ICT could have been added as required. The winding down of the advisory service was arguably the greatest loss of the move to ‘self governing schools.’

It is the provision, in some form, of such advisory service the ‘hubs’ would provide that is most exciting and, we think,  would return schools to a collaborative and sharing educational environment. An advisory service would also provide exciting career opportunities for teachers. We both believe that creative
classroom teachers ought to be the source of real innovation. And, we both believe, it will ensure localised curriculum and diversity and not the conformity the critic suggest.

Not all schools might require financial and building assistance etc., but all schools would benefit from supportive advisory services?

The Review, we believe, is not about imposing control over schools as critics suggest, but all about cooperation and creativity - a move away from standardisation and compliance of the past decades.

Sadly Kelvin Smythe died shortly before the report was released, so we will never know what he thought. However he had some main hopes when the review was established: no more National Standards, a return to the ‘holistic curriculum’ of the pre Tomorrow’s School era, the replacement of ERO in its present form, reducing the role of Boards of Trustees, and the re-establishment of the advisory service. Given that, we think he would have given his general approval to the review.

Worth thinking about?

We think so.

Allan Alach and Bruce Hammonds

See if you can find this inspirational book in your school

Readings - a return to the creative arts

More and more people are writing about the importance of art and creativity  as technology take over our lives. Time to make personal discovery and creativity central to our curriculums - through the arts humans creates themselves.

Michael Rosen
National Poetry Day? Week? Month? Year?
Most people will know about Michael Rosen who wrote ‘We are going on a bear hunt’. He provides ideas to introduce poetry to your class. If you're a teacher reading this, Rosen suggests that you think up as many different ways of 'serving up' poems as you can.’

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.’

10 Points About Arts Education by Elliot Eisner
Elliot Eisner was a visionary in the field of arts and education. He maintained that the arts were critical to developing skills in young students.’

Standardisation broke education. Here's how we can fix our schools

We are all born with fathomless capacities, but what we make of them has everything to do with education. One role of education is to help people develop their natural talents and abilities; the other is to help them make their way in the world around them. Too often, education falls short on both counts.  We have the resources and the expertise, but now we need the vision and commitment.’

Play-based learning: producing critical, creative and innovative thinkers.
‘Go inside any primary school classroom and look for the ‘play’. Where is it? When did we become so serious with our students and forget to include play? It was only 15 years ago that we could go into any Year 1 classroom and find children playing with play-dough and creating the most
spectacular creatures, painting a masterpiece or gluing together toilet rolls to make a spaceship. They were engaging with each other, negotiating, sorting out arguments and establishing friendships. They were imagining, exploring and inventing. It was through taking risks, discovering new ideas and putting these ideas into action that learning took place. Now it seems such acts of play are a thing of the past.

Playing to Learn
‘How a pedagogy of play can enliven the classroom, for students of all ages.’

This is what powerful professional development looks like in an Australian School

It’s the start of the school year here in Australia, and most schools schedule one or two days of professional learning for all faculty before students return. Princes Hill runs an inquiry-based

program for students 5 to 12 years old. Both days of the retreat were focused on the school’s Principles of Learning, and the implications they had for the school’s programs for the next twelve months. The agenda simply said “2018 Princes Hill Primary School Collective Inquiry: A Community of Learners Developing an Evolving Community of Practice.” Everyone certainly knew what to expect.’

Four Inquiry Qualities at the Heart of Student-Centered Teaching
Whether it be project-based learning, design thinking or genius hour, it's easy to get confused by the many education buzzwords floating about. But at their heart these pedagogies are all student-cantered and there are commonalities across them that are the key to their success and far more critical than keeping the jargon straight.’

Yes, we know what great teaching looks like — but we have an education system that ‘utterly fails to support it.’ What’s wrong and how to fix it.
You could be forgiven if you have gotten the impression that we are still trying to figure out exactly what great teaching looks like. In recent years, the teaching profession has been under assault by those who have sought to deprofessionalize it.’

Make your mark: the enduring joy of drawing

Drawing is democracy. Everyone does it. You doodle in the margins of this newspaper. I sketch the view while hanging on the phone. We draw on our hands, on walls, on the back of envelopes (like Monet), on office notepaper (like Van Gogh), on restaurant napkins (like Picasso and Warhol). We draw to pass the time, to catch the moment, to remind ourselves what we saw, felt or thought. We draw to see what life looks like in two dimensions. We draw because we can.’

Three of Bruce’s ‘oldies’ about the creative arts

Creative teaching - an alternative to the political press for standardisation

The authors write that we need to look to the creative work going on in real classrooms, particularly in the writings of New Zealand’s pioneer creative teachers, rather than importing
failed overseas programmes such as National Standards and Charter Schools. The authors write that ‘we know that students’ learn best when engaged, challenged and inspired. We know that many important skills in numeracy and literacy are learned in various contexts and not in relation to set targets. We also know that integrated and negotiated curriculum provides students with ways to achieve ownership of their learning. Children have an innate curiosity about the world around them, and learning invariably follows when their curiosity is piqued.’

What has really changed on our school the past 50 years?
The other day I had the opportunity to visit a school I began my career visiting 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 ( with exception of availability of information technology). 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?’

Why art is important in education? A talk to student and parent

A while ago Bruce was asked to give a talk to teacher, parents and students at a students art opening - it forced him to think about the importance of the creative arts.

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 Jo Boaler: Math teaching is about 
developing positive attitudes towards the subject

 Educational Reading Friday 20 April 2019

Easter Friday
Holidays are a time to catch your breath and to think about how to make teaching better for both teachers and students. Allan and I are no longer involved in teaching but we hear enough
from teacher friends, and reading comments on Facebook, to know that all is not well.

We both caught an interview on Q&A with Jo Boaler (Professor of Mathematics at Stanford University) someone both of us have long admired. To us, her short interview about maths teaching holds an answer to educations problem in particular with maths.

Maths has always been a difficult area. Many teacher are
themselves not that confident and are easily convinced to take on board any number of math schemes but sadly our position on International Tables has steadily fallen.

It’s thus worth listening to what Boaler has to say.

Boaler says that current approaches leave far too many students with ‘maths anxiety’ and this, in particular, applies to girls. Her video  was about ensuring students develop positive
Jo Boaler
attitudes towards maths
– or any learning area. For too long schools have focussed on achievement and one dimensional programmes and this has resulted in an obsessive and exhausting assessment and documentation regime. What has been missing is not paying enough attention to student attitudes towards maths.

When qustioneed about the success of Asian students Boaler made some important points. The key point underpinning Asian success is the belief by parents, teachers and students,
that all everyone can do maths (or any area of learning). In Western cultures, Boaler says, ability is seen as important – some people are just better at maths – and girls not so much!  Western teachers also use ability grouping while in Asian classes (as observed by Boaler) children are taught as a class in discussion groups and only cover a few problems a lesson – they do fewer things well. As a result positive attitudes are developed.

Bruce reflected back to his time as a class teacher where he
determined not to use text books, work sheets, or ability grouping – all common practice at the time. He made every attempt to make maths both enjoyable and challenging studying with his class maths patterns, triangular numbers, measuring, counting, tessellation,  history of number, number in other cultures, keeping rainfall data, transects in science, magic numbers,  math cooking, maths and art …….. The classroom
Graph number of eed in a pod
displayed a variety of maths activities. And maths was related, where possible, to whatever study area the class was involved in. Bruce wanted his class to appreciate what maths was really all about and for all to have positive attitudes towards the subject.

Unfortunately it didn’t work out so well. When his students went on to Intermediate school a couple of boys came back to tell him the teacher at the intermediate had said all the kids from his class couldnt do math!Bruce asked if the boys were in ability groups. They said they were – and in the top group!! He then asked
the boys how come this was the case if students couldn’t do maths? The boys were confused and the next day they returned with the answer the teacher said none of the students could use a text book!’ One of the boys was a member of the recent tax review group!!

The next year he introduced textbooks in the last months to avoid the issue but his students were given the message that ‘real’ maths is doing maths and text book are to be seen only as ‘practice’ maths.

Bruce and Allan both wish they knew about Boaler in their teaching days.

Teaching students learn and love maths
Facing up to the elephant in the classroom - the mind changing ideas of Jo Boaler
‘Jo Boaler makes two main points – maths can be a fun activity for all students but to achieve this needs the removal of an approach based on ability grouping.  The one in five currently failing in our schools, (notwithstanding the effects of poverty) see themselves as failures, as defined by numeracy and literacy, and the premise of this book that  this is, in good part, to the result of the use of ability grouping. Jo Boaler’s book reports on the depressing research to back her position on ability grouping.’

Learning to love maths - moving away from ability grouping. Prof Jo Boaler
Links to excellent resources.
Jo Boaler writes, ‘far too many students hate maths. As a result adults all over the world fear maths and avoid it at all costs…. It’s the subject that can make them feel both helpless and stupid….Maths more than any subject has the power to crush children’s confidence.’

Mathematics in education and ability grouping
To develop developing maths understanding and an appreciation of the power of maths through teaching maths through activities and investigations preferably integrated with the classes current inquiry study(ies).

Why Kids Should Keep Using Their Fingers to do Math
‘Stanford professor Jo Boaler writes in The Atlantic about the neurological benefits of using fingers and how it can contribute to advanced thinking in higher math.’
Think you’re bad at math? You may suffer from ‘math trauma’
Teachers may like to reflect on this when carrying out those pointless timed Numeracy assessmenst.
Tying speed with computation debilitates learners. People who struggle to complete a timed test of math facts often experience fear, which shuts down their working memory. This makes it all but impossible to think which reinforces the idea that a person just can’t do math – that they are not a math person.’

'Schools have forgotten about fun for fun's sake'
‘We make a mistake trying to inject fun into lessons - we should simply aim to make schools more fun in general.’
Exploring literacy: How six schools lifted achievement?
‘How can schools support students to make progress in reading and writing? To explore this question, the project identified schools that have sustained positive achievement in literacy over five years, and asked what they did to achieve this. The goal was to uncover common themes which might help other schools work towards similar lifts in literacy achievement and no mention of phonics!!!!
Future focused education at Taranaki high school takes flight
Once the biggest school in Taranaki, Spotswood's roll has been in slow decline for two decades as it struggled to remain an attractive option against the city's four single-sex high schools. More liberal and less bound by tradition than those high schools, it is undergoing a radical transformation that could completely change the way the school is viewed both from within and without. It is one of just six schools in New Zealand using the progressive Disrupted programme.’
5 Ways to Boost Science in the Classroom
‘At the core of science is the wonderment of inquiry. Encouraging this inquiry is how you bring science into the classroom, transforming your kids into budding scientists who want to discover the why’s hiding behind everyday phenomena. Luckily, there are ways to turn your classroom into a laboratory of discovery without fire and explosions! Here are our favourite ways to boost science in the classroom.’
What is inquiry based learning?
In our quest as educators to prepare our kids to enter the world to thrive and succeed, we constantly strive to empower them with the best aptitudes for doing so in a rapidly-changing world. These are the abilities of independent and critical thinking, creativity, curiosity, and the drive to learn anywhere at anytime.Ultimately, few instructional methods accomplish this quite like inquiry-based learning
Will Education Be Pointless 30 Years from Now? — Part One
Its too late for evolution. It’s time for disruption!'
#3quotes from Montessori
‘Maria Montessori is a controversial figure in education. She is considered by many to be a true visionary, while others consider her methods to be detrimental. She was highly critical of formalised education systems and believed they actually obstructed children's potential to learn. She saw transmission methods of teaching as a great travesty, and worked incessantly to create alternative methods of education that were more child centred and which led to greater levels of engagement with learning.’

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