Onderwijs.Prof. Larry Cuban: Invoering van jaarklassensysteem rond 1840 was en blijft de belangrijkste onderwijshervorming ooit
Prof. Larry Cuban:
Invoering van jaarklassensysteem rond 1840 was en blijft debelangrijkste onderwijshervorming ooit. Dat
is ook de stelling die Onderwijskrant al 37 jaar verdedigt tegen de vele aantijgingen van de ‘nieuwlichters’
Passage uit Blog L. Cuban: Persistence in Math Teaching Patterns: Deja Vu
All Over Again (8 aug. 2014)
If any school reform–in the sense of making fundamental
changes in organization, curriculum, and instruction–can be considered a
success it is the age-graded school. Consider longevity–the first age-graded
structure of eight classrooms appeared in Quincy (MA) in the late 1840s. Or
considereffectiveness. The age-graded
school has processed efficiently millions of students over the past century and
a half, sorted out achievers from non-achievers, and now graduates nearly
three-quarters of those entering high school Or adaptability. The age-graded
school exists in Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and North America
covering rural, urban, and suburban districts.
As an organization, the age-graded school allocates children
and youth by their ages to school “grades”; it sends teachers into separate
classrooms and prescribes a curriculum carved up into 36-week chunks for each
grade. Teachers and students cover each chunk assuming that all children will
move uniformly through the 36-weeks to be annually promoted.
The age-graded school is also an institution that has plans
for those who work within its confines. The organization isolates and insulates
teachers from one another, perpetuates teacher-centered pedagogy,and prevents a large fraction of students
from achieving academically. It is the sea in which teachers, students,
principals, and parents swim yet few contemporary reformers have asked about
the water in which they share daily. To switch metaphors, the age-graded school
is a one-size-fits-all structure.
Onderwijs. Blog van leraar ‘Tom Bennett over onderwijs en wetenschappelijk onderzoek en zoek: Teacher Proof’.
Teacher Proof: Why
Educational Research doesn't always mean what it claims, and what you can
So, I have a book out. It's been a long time coming. Since I
started teaching, I knew there was something suspicious about what I was being
told worked in classrooms, and what actually happened. It started in teacher
training, as well-meaning lecturers and reading lists advocated apparently
cast-iron guarantees that this method of educating children, or that way of
directing behaviour, would be efficient. It continued on DfE sponsored training
programs where I was taught how to use NLP, Brain Gym, Learning Styles and soft
persuasion techniques akin to hypnosis.
Then I began teaching, guided by mentors who assured me that
other contemporary orthodoxies were the way to win hearts and minds. It took me
years to realise that thing I could smell was a bunch of rats wearing lab
coats. And why should any new teacher question what they are told?
Establishment orthodoxies carried the authority of scripture. And often it was
justified with a common phrase- ‘the research shows this.’
I remember reading Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science, and being
amused and horrified by the cavalier ways in which science could be hijacked
byhustlers. His harrowing of Brain Gym
led me to wonder what else, like Descartes, I needed to question. What I
discovered led me to write Teacher Proof.
First of all I
discovered that a lot of what was considered to be absolute dogma by many
teachers, was built on quicksand.Learning Styles, for example, were almost universally accepted by every
teacher who trained me. It was a Damascan epiphany to find out that there was
hardly a scrap of evidence to substantiate it, that the serious academiccommunity had washed its hands of it long
ago. But it lingered on, a zombie theory, staggering from classroom to
classroom, mauling lesson plans.
Once I had peeled one strip of paper from the wall, I could
do nothing else but keep pulling, and see how much came off. Much, much more,
it turned out. First of all, I entered the world of pseudo-education, where
optimistic internet sites boasted of Olympian gains to made by the adoption of
this pill (often Omega 3), that smell (sometimes Lavender, sometimes not) or
even this sound (the Mozart Effect, for instance). These, at least, seemed to
be obvious pigs in pokes. Other companies sold hats- literally, thinking hats-
of various colours, or exercises that promised to boost brain power. But they
asked customers to gamble a lot more than a stamp, as Charles Atlas innocently
Unfortunately, it was often just as bad when I progressed to
the realms of alleged propriety; I found that a lot of what was practically
contemporary catechism, was merely cant. Group work, three-part lessons,
thinking skills, multiple intelligences, hierarchies of thinking like Bloom’s,
all- at least to my poor eyes- appeared to rely on opinion and rhetoric as much
as data. Delving deeper, I found that this was an affliction that affected the
social sciences as badly as the natural sciences- perhaps worse, as natural
sciences are at least readily amenable to verification. But any social science-
from economics to sociology- is subject to inherent methodological restrictions
that makes any claims to predictive or explanatory powers intrinsically
Which isn’t to say that social science isn’t’ a powerful and
urgent device with which to accrue an understanding of the human condition. But
merely to require that its claims be interpreted appropriately. It is a very
different proposition to claim, for example, that water boils at 100 degrees
Celsius at sea level, than it is to say that children learn best in groups. The
first can be at least disputed immediately, or not, by testing. The latter
requires a plethora of causal factors to be adjusted andaccounted for. And to confound matters
further, humans are notoriously hard to fit on a microscope slide. Nor are we
always the most reliable of subjects.
Sometimes this was the faulty of those writing the research;
sometimes the research was, as Richard Feynman describes, Cargo Cult Science;
sometimes the writers appeared to have no idea what the scientific method was,
believing it to be some kind of fancy dress with which one clothed a piece of
journalism; sometimes allegedly sober pieces of research were simply
misinterpreted by a willing media; sometimes it was the teachers themselves
that had misappropriated the findings; sometimes it was the policy makers who
were hungry for a magic bullet and had already made their minds up about what
they were buying.
Whatever the reasons,
it was clear: the educational research we were asked to assimilate in schools
was often more like magic beans than magic bullets. That’s unhealthy. There
are armies of earnest, dedicated professionals working in educational research
who are horrified by some of the fantastical or flimsy claims made by the
hustlers and their PRs. If educators want to get past this unhealthysystem of intellectual bondage, we need to
become more informed about what the research actually says, and what good
research actually means; about how hard it is to say anything for certain in
education, and when claims can be ignored, and when they should be listened to.
So I wrote Teacher Proof. It’s aimed primarily at people who
work in schools, but it’s also for anyone involved in education, research and
policy. I am, unashamedly, a teacher. I admit I have entered a world- of
educational research- in which I am only a guest. I am aware that in my travels
I may be more of a tourist than a native. But I have tried to write as honestly
and as plainly as I can, about matters that affect me deeply- the education of
children. If I have made any errors- and I’m sure that I have- I welcome
correction, and discussion. I can’t shake the feeling that teachers would do
well to make research more of their business, get involved, participate in
studies, and perhaps even conduct some of their own, with guidance. I’d also
like to think that researchers would be well advised to ensure their theories
are tested objectively, with an eye to disproving them, in classrooms with
meaningful sample sizes. There is a great deal of good that the two communities
can do together.
Perhaps then teachers can look forward to hearing the latest
research, and run towards it; and researchers can see classrooms not as awkward
inconveniences between data sampling and publication. There’s an awful lot of
good research out there, but it gets drowned out by the bad.
Good ideas, like decent whisky, need time to settle and
mature. I suspect that we need to develop more of a critical faculty to sift
the ideal from the merely idealistic. Maybe then we’ll be immune to novelty and
fashion in pedagogy. Or, as I call it, Teacher Proof.
On Tom Bennett's
"Teacher Proof" : voorstelling boek
Tom Bennett Teacher Proof: why research in education doesn't
always mean what it claims, and what you can do about it London/New York;
Routledge, 2013It is about what the subtitle says on the tin.
acknowledges Ben Goldacre, and he has taken up the baton of a Bad Science for
education; indeed, he limits his discussion of Brain Gym (R) [there's always
that (R); is this totally discredited "brand" so litigious that its
mark has to be acknowledged on every utterance? Or are they taking the p***?]
he limits that to less than a page on the grounds that there is nothing left to
say after Goldacre.
First section …settles
down later into a much more relaxed informal style. Perhaps the jokey asides
are just his way of trying to make epistemology and the philosophy of natural
science and social "science" palatable. It's a courageous way to
start such a book—it's almost guaranteed to put some readers off—but don't skip
it because Bennett, like any good teacher, knows that he has to have the
foundations in place before he can get on to the more exciting stuff. And,
asides aside, he explains very clearly and well, and these chapters could even
be used as recommended reading for introductory research methods courses.
Bennett then applies
this critique to what he calls "voodoo teaching". (This is the second
part of three: he deliberately and ironically follows the standard school
three-part lesson structure which he critiques later.) He first takes on "multiple
intelligences" (Howard Gardner). He comprehensively rubbishes the idea, of
course. But then he concedes that there may well be something in it—it's just that
it's not at all new. Substitute the terms "abilities",
"capacities" or even "talents" for
"intelligences", and that's it. Bennett is also careful to be fair;
he allows Gardner to point out how the ideas have been misrepresented (a sound
and recurrent theme through the book, where applicable). That slightly blunts
the edge of his battle-axe, but he makes up for it with the way he wields
it—and in the body of the book there are fewer digressive jokes.
And so to Neuro-Linguistic Programming (and the derisive nod
in the direction of Brain Gym). There is no need here to temper his demolition
with respect for a professor at Harvard (as Gardner is). It is clear that NLP
is simply rubbish, although he does stop short of calling Bandler and Grinder
outright charlatans. I was a little disappointed that he did not take on the
whole "Accelerated Learning" scam of a few years ago, of which Brain
Gym was but one egregious aspect, but he's still got a lot to get through...
Next: group work. I
was a little surprised to find that here, but then my background is in
post-compulsory, higher and adult education, and much of what I teach is
debatable (Bennett would not be able to stop himself mentioning that can be
taken in two senses), so groupwork is a natural and appropriate tool. In
schools it often isn't, and yet thanks in large measure to Ofsted, it is rammed
down teachers' and pupils' throats. And there is no evidence to support it.
Bennett refers earlier to Richard Feynman's idea of "Cargo Cult
science", and in the following chapter to the principle of "turtles
all the way down" (where there is no foundation to an idea other than
"the literature", which is in turn based on more literature... ad
infinitum). These are two of his most effective weapons, and he deploys them
very well. And of course his feet remain firmly on the ground—he particularly
warns newly qualified teachers against using group work, unless they are fully
confident in their class management, for example.
Emotional Intelligence? I've always thought that just means
being "grown up". Again, Bennett demonstrates the sloppiness,
unfalsifiability, and value-laden assumptions of the idea, but takes care not
to tangle with its originator, Goleman.
"Buck Rogers and
the 21st-century curriculum": Turtles all the way down; beneath the claims
that technological change demands a whole new curriculum focusing on resilience
and adaptation and change and ... Bennett gets as political as he can manage—he
shies away from any real discussion of the political implications of
anything—when he points out in this chapter and the next one, how this agenda
is being promoted by the big technology companies, on the push to sell
unnecessary technology to schools. But Bennett is working up to tackle the big
one. Sir Ken:
"I find it impossible not to like Robinson. [...] He is
charming, erudite, quick-witted [...] But [...] while I agree with him on many
things, there are many ideas he promotes that, while well-meant in root, bear
potentially dangerous fruits." (p.117)
As ever, he is polite but still devastating. The rudest he
gets is:"being told how to teach by a non-teacher with a PhD in education
is a bit like being told by a virgin how to get laid." (pp. 119-20)(He
attributes that to Christopher Hitchens.) He lets Robinson off too lightly.
The following chapter
is about de-bunking the claims and gimmicks of digital technology in the
classroom, and demonstrating that the claimed research base is at best flaky and
possibly fraudulent. He touches on the vested interests in the game, but does
not pursue them.
Next: the myth of the
three-part lesson. It's only in the past few years that I have come across
this, and discovered the stranglehold which it—enforced by Ofsted—has on the
compulsory and FE sectors. I've actually made desultory efforts to trace its
research base, with little success. Bennett has traced its base, but it is not
in research:"...there's loads of research that teachers need to have a
structure to their lessons. What there isn't, is any appreciable evidence that
having three parts to a lesson lead to any kind of measurable
Bennett even confesses:"I might not—whisper it—I might
not even put my aim on the board because sometimes I want kids to work out what
we're trying to do for them." (p.141) At one level, heretics must die! At
another, where have we got to when (despite the mock-heroic style) anybody
thinks such trivia matter?
Learning styles: to me, this is shooting fish in a barrel.
Bennett cites the standard refutations, and one or two more I was not familiar
with, and is unequivocal. Learning styles are "demonstrable guano"
(p.151). But while he cites Coffield et al. (2004) he does miss out on their
effort to explain why "bad ideas won't quit". Without that context,
it does rather look as though teachers are simply gullible. Coffield points out
the ideological convenience of learning styles theory: it is the
get-out-of-gaol-free card for politicians, policy-makers, managers, and all; if
children are not learning it is all the teachers' fault for not differentiating
enough on the basis of a spurious and unsubstantiated load of hogwash...
And so the list goes
on and the chapters get shorter, which he explains; we are into the minor
leagues. Gamification; it draws on principles of online game design to
reward/reinforce learning in a way children can relate to. I know nothing about
this, but his analysis seems sensible. Learning to learn: that, and
"lifelong learning" are both shibboleths of adult education, and
often meaningless rhetoric. Then we get into the freaky, faddy fringe,
concluding with de Bono's "learning hats" and school uniform.
The third section is a short and eminently sensible and
positive piece on how to respond to all these panaceas/prophecies of doom.
The book does betray some hasty editing—some repetition,
evidence of passages being swapped around (with vague cross-references which
don't work), some weird grammatical constructions, but nothing important.
What is important is
that it is a necessary corrective to the egregious bullsh*t which passes for
educational research, and an important text for all teachers who have more
common-sense than their managers and inspectors (and even tutors, I'm afraid)
who pump out, endorse and even insist on this misguided material. It's not
merely that it is wrong and unsupported by evidence and only works, if at all,
by accident (Bennett rightly insists that evidence and experience trump theory
every time) but that its power is simply (and only) to undermine teachers'
confidence in themselves and what they can see for themselves does work.
Onderwijs. Kritische blog van ‘leraar Tom Bennett’ over inclusief onderwijs (cf. M-decreet)
When everyone’s special, no one is: how
inclusion went sour.
What do we mean when someone has special needs? And why do
we get it so spectacularly wrong?
‘Pupils with statements of special educational needs are
being routinely segregated from their teachers and classmates, prompting fears
that many of the most vulnerable children are receiving a poor education.’
Part of me can't see the controversy. Given that many
statemented needs revolve around behaviour, it's not surprising that many SEN
pupils spend time outside of the classroom. That isn't an indication of failure
itself, but simply a recognition that removing a challenging student to a less
crowded space is often the most sensible strategy. It's also not surprising
that students with learning difficulties are removed to nurture groups. In
fact, in my experience it's not removal that's the problem, but not removing.
Inclusion; that’s the
pivot around which this all revolves. When I started teaching in 2003, I was
amazed that classrooms often contained students so badly behaved, or with
learning needs so pronounced, that I knew I could never provide for them
adequately. What should I do, I wondered, with a student who doesn’t speak
English, but has no interpreter in the class? With a pupil who frequently
assaulted or insulted teachers? With a student in a GCSE class with a reading
age of seven? More, why were such pupils packed into the same classroom as
everyone else? Inclusion, I was told.
Inclusion was treated
very seriously. I received several lectures and tutorials on it when training.
Every lesson plan I made had to include awareness of inclusion issues.
Differentiation was supposed to be the catalyst to this magic process; if I
planned the right lesson, it seemed, everyone would be caught in the gravity of
the lesson. This was a complete lie.
Plato spoke about Noble Lies- untruths that were useful,
like the belief in Gods, which he claimed kept people moral. Inclusion was and
is an attempt to generate a contemporary Noble Lie, only instead of conjuring
goodness through the threat of divine retribution, we imagine that wishing for
inclusiveness creates it.
But it doesn’t. Instead, inclusion, handled in the most
knuckle-headed manner, has created a vale of tears where everyone loses:
children with special needs don’t get the support they need- instead having to
cope in classrooms for which many are not ready- and the mainstream class has
to suffer and starve due to the disproportionate focus that challenging or very
needy students require. And somewhere under this enormous pyramid of toil and
chaos, is the teacher, unable to meet the needs of his class, harrowed by
A second issue is the designation of statements themselves.
Many children are statemented for reasons that, decades ago, would hardly have
been seen as a special need at all. We have all worked with children who are
statemented for behaviour, yet who are perfectly capable of behaving well for a
certain teacher, or their parents. This makes a mockery of the whole system-
Old Andrew calls it the SEN racket- as it shows that we have medicalised many
perfectly normal parts of the behaviour spectrum and redesignated them as
pathologies. This reductivist approach to human nature leads to a joyless form
of determinism, where the human being is lost and replaced with a series of
triggers and causes and cues. How depressing.
There are some
children with clear difficulties- like Tourette’s- where they have little
control over themselves. But the surly teenager who is persistently rude to
teachers because she can’t be bothered, isn’t helped by a label of ODD; in
fact, it infantilises them, and gives them a reason not to amend their
behaviours. And this isn’t a fringe issue; this is at the heart of the SEN
liturgy. I have read many well-meant Individual Education Plans for statemented
pupils that go along the lines of ‘Let them run around the room punching people
in the Charlies if they want’ or similar. Try and run a room like that for five
minutes and see how much learning gets done.
1. Inclusion doesn’t
mean ‘in the class with everyone else.’ This is inclusion at its most witless
and barbaric. It is also the default definition in many, many mainstream
schools: you’re included if you’re geographically present. You might as well
say that the waiters at Buckingham Palace are guests at the garden party.
2. But all this does
is to create pressure-cooker classrooms where the few drain the attention of
the one, to the detriment of the many. The teacher is spread thin as marmalade
and lessons are carpet bombed. Learning over.
3. Inclusion like any
value, cannot be intrinsically good. It must be balanced with other values,
such as the rights of the class, the teacher, and the good of the child.
4. For some children
that can be achieved in the mainstream classroom; modifications that can be
done with relative ease: task that differentiate for different abilities;
seating plans that accommodate children with hearing issues etc
5. For some children,
inclusion needs to mean special provision. Overwhelmingly, this means smaller
groups, separate classrooms and specially trained staff. That way they can get
the attention they require without dominating the classroom. When did we forget
that mainstream kids have needs too?
6. Staff trained in a
meaningful way. I feel sorry for TAs. Often they are the least trained, the
worst paid and the least valued members of staff, and yet the demands on them
are Herculean. ‘Work a miracle with this pupil’ they are told, without being
told how. Their salaries are shocking. Children with special needs don’t just
need a warm body nagging them, or writing out their answers; they need
teachers, trained in specific areas: EAL; Autism; reading strategies; extreme
spectrum behaviour. And they need subject knowledge too, to teach meaningful
content. I know many TAs who do a fantastic job. But there are some TAs who,
through little fault of their own, are little more than tall buddies for their
7. For inclusion to
be meaningful, it has to exclude meaningfully. Good internal inclusion units
are a joy: a school within a school, a Russian Doll of focus and care. Others
are holding pens; three goes on the Rollercoaster and the pupils are dropped
back into the circus.
Inclusion, as it
stands is worse than useless in many schools. It is actively harmful. It serves
no purpose other than to meet its own criteria. We’re bad at identifying
special needs, and we’re terrible at meeting those needs. If we crack this, the
value and efficiency of what we already do will sky rocket, I guarantee it. But
we spend all our cows on magic beans.
Now that is special.
What should I do, I wondered, with a student who doesn’t
speak English, but has no interpreter in the class?
This illustrates the issue. It's not inclusion, per se,
that's the problem it's the fact that it's not adequately resourced, or it's
not resourced at all.
Which doesn't mean that all children should be in all
classes eg a pupil who frequently assaulted or insulted teachers.
As I understand it one motivating factor for
"inclusion" was that young people excluded from the school grow up
excluded from society, and the behaviour persists into and throughout
adulthood. Fine: "include" them, but resource it properly.
All of this reminds me of a judge sentencing an offender to
prison with the idea that they will be rehabilitated but the reality that they
As for who's to blame, I think as a society we're pretty
good at allowing ourselves to be lied to and comforted whilst denying harmful
realities. (See house price bubbles and the like.)
Also, and this is a really serious point: since, say the
early noughties over the course of ten or twelve years, hundreds of thousands,
possibly even millions of children and young people have had their education
blighted, by "included" pupils. Thousands of teachers stand in front
of their classes confronted by this the most obvious and damaging issue. They
say what they see...and nothing is done about it. Why not? And that's not a
moan, that's a question.
If I recall Channel 4'sUndercover Teacherattempted to
address this issue and, as usual,the
whistleblower was disciplined.
Caz12 February 2013 05:37
Tom, this is - as ever - spot on. The way that most schools
deal with this issue is not fair on anyone; the staff, the pupils themselves
and the rest of the class. More and more have I become convinced that
"inclusion" actually means" EXclusion" for the rest of the
class, and in these days of mixed ability classes for almost everything, even
I've worked in tough schools, from one in special measures
to those that just about scraped through the old "satisfactory"
barrier - and they, of course, tended to have a higher proportion of SEN than
other schools. I regularly had classes where the number of kids on the SEN
register was greater than the number who weren't - and had no classroom support
When I raised issues like this, I was ignored and I often
got the feeling that I was then looked on as someone who just wanted an easy
life. But that wasn't it at all -I felt bad that I could often do NOTHING for
those kids, because some of them just weren't able to access the lessons, no
matter how carefully I differentiated. I mean, try teaching a 13 year-old pupil
with a reading age of 6 about cognates in MFL - you're on a hiding to nothing
because he's got so few reference points in English!
My husband has recently become one of those TAs you talk
about, and indeed, he's already wondering how on earth he is supposed to help
some of the pupils to whom he's been assigned. (And he works in a top-end
I read the TES article and was very surprised about the part
you have quoted. I'd have thought parents would be glad to think that their
child was getting some one-to-one attention.
Nic Price13 February 2013 05:34
You have correctly described the poor implementation here.
And you do, eventually, recognise how well 'good internal inclusion' works.
Part of the problem is the binary nature of the language
(it's either inclusion or exclusion) which gives people some very fixed ideas
of what it should be. Sadly, it leads many to the conclusion that 'inclusion'
doesn't work. To me, inclusion is not a strategy, it's a principle. It's the
idea that schools need to reflect society so that we don't segregate children
on any basis. Notice that I say 'schools'. The same does not necessarily apply
to 'classes'. Classes are merely sub-groups within a school that should be sized
and composed appropriately for the children's needs. The best inclusion I have
seen ensures that pupils with SEN are always notionally attached to the
mainstream (e.g. as part of tutor groups and year groups) even if most of their
learning occurs apart from their (social) peers.
BTW, I never actually encountered a SENCO that endorsed the
'let-them-be' approach (even if the IEP may have implied it). This was much
more likely to come from SMT who didn't want to deal with the behaviour issue.
Ken Lastimer13 February 2013 13:10
This is a good article which I think does an admirable job
of summarising the issues from a teacher's point of view. However, I wonder if
you are conflating statements with medical diagnoses. A statement for a child
with behaviour problems does not need to come with a assumptions about the
origins of their difficulties. The statement should simply detail what their
difficulties are, the objectives for their development and the provision that
is required to meet those objectives. A statement of SEN also carries with it
funding for support from the local authority so they are often very desirable
for schools. In my experience the prevalence of statements for exclusively
behavioural issues vary greatly from area to area, in some authorities they are
almost exclusively issued to children when they go to a special school. Whether
a child gets a statement appears to have more to do with how local funding is
organised and prioritised in many cases.
I think that the problem with the Inclusion that you
describe is that it is simply a soundbite, a weasel word, a piece of marketing
for a oversimplistic idea (when people say words like "Inclusion" or
"Academy" I often think of the Monorail episode of the Simpsons). The
fact remains that being included is a social experience which has little to do
with the room you are educated in. I have seen some of the best examples of
inclusion in special school settings or in mainstream schools which operate
specialist units. However the prevailing state of affairs has been unwittingly
concocted by a combination of management money counters who see a cost saving
and naive idealists who have a fervent beliefs that it is a right for all
children to be educated in the same classroom, no matter how impractical,
unworkable or unhelpful it actually is to do so. I agree that this state of
affairs has undermined effective education for many troubled children and their
peers. However, I believe that there is an increasing recognition among those
who work in this area that troubled children need to learn increasing peace
with the world before they can be properly educated in the conventional sense.
7 February 2013 00:49
Wonderfully astute commentary Tom. The more I think about it
these days, and when I read an intelligent, experienced analysis like yours,
the more I want to jab the finger of blame not at the politicians,
techno-zealots or ideologues but at the...English teachers.
If English was taught in schools well. Not the naive
politics or social engineering NATE exemplifies, and children left schools aged
16 with the kind of linguistic skills commonly found in other countries
(Germany, Russia...)maybe we wouldn't as a nation be so vulnerable (as Ken
notes) to the deployment of marketing when we have the right to expect intelligent
"In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and snap! [snaps her fingers] The job's a game!"Mary Poppins, Mary Poppins, 1964
I attended a session at the Helsinki Oppi festival, hosted by Lauri Jarvilheto (Helsinki Academy of Philosophy), and Jari Multisilta (Helsinki University) about the power of play and "ways in which it can drive more effective learning". It was big on claims and short on evidence, alas, as these things often are. I'd love to find some evidence to substantiate the claims that the Fun Learning camp makes – I'm like an atheist, glumly investigating every miracle hoping to find God – but I'm yet to see anything convincing.
Can learning be fun? Of course. Is learning sometimes fun? Undoubtedly. Should it be fun? That's a whole different question. Simply saying yes damns every act of learning that isn't enjoyable, and you would have to be completely bonkers to think that everything you learn should be fun as well. Almost everything worth achieving requires sweat, grit and the ability to stick with something when it's hard – also qualities I'd like to see in my students in general. I don't want them bored, but I have no problem if something they do is boring, if it's necessary. I want them to plug away at problems until they break through: that's the pleasure, and it's worth its weight in diamonds.
Lauri told us about Pavel, his brother, lazy at school but animated to distraction once he found a subject he loved. And we can applaud that, without extrapolating that children should only learn what they love. The point about educating children is that we teach them things that are valuable, not just exciting. Their cultural legacy; science; the inheritance of the world. Lauri claimed that we need to learn to love learning, or we'll see a digital divide – some will know quantum mechanics or three languages; they had the opportunity to start learning early because of digital technologies. I await this generation of savants, teaching themselves Chinese, with patience. As Sugata Mitra's Hole in the Wall project demonstrated, children usually need to be guided through tasks that aren't immediately pleasing. That's why they need adults.
He also claimed that "In ten years in Finland we can have a 'Thank God it's Friday' culture to a 'Thank God it's Monday' culture if we can help our kids have fun while they're learning". (NvdR: volgens PISA-2012 voelen vooral de Finse lleerlingen zich echt ongelukkkig in klas.) But the problem is that this entails children driving their own learning, and crucially only learning when they want to, what they want to. You think most children will choose to learn algebra or grammar or anything abstruse or complex? You think they'll choose learning over actual play? Learning physics through Angry Birds over just playing Angry Birds? This project, while gorgeous in its ambitions, has pitfalls you could drive a school bus through.
Jarvilheto introduced us to the latest play-learning platform: Angry Birds Playground. In an experiment conducted by Rovio, the kids who used these materials were – they claimed – "enthusiastic, motivated and concentrated".
I'm sure these people are engaged in the most rigorous of science, but the area that it addresses is devilled with darkest, emptiest aspects of bad educational research: small intervention groups, interested parties, cognitive bias, short term studies, conclusions that don't necessarily follow from the data, an aversion to testing a theory to destruction, etc. This matters, because huge and enormously expensive wheels are turning in education ministries around the world. Children's lives are chained to this wheel. Poor children can't afford to fix the mistakes of state education, as middle-class children can, through tutoring and familial support.
I need to emphasise: the people I saw today cared passionately about improving things for children, and I would happily let them babysit my own child. But I'd be very cautious about giving them the keys to the school bus.
"Playing games can have a measurable, positive impact on how well students learn," so the programme said of this session. So I spent half an hour looking for research that backed this claim up, from either Jarvilehto, Multisilta, the University of Helsinki or even Rovio themselves, who were partners to this session. I'm sure it was just my poor search skills, but I couldn't find anything that related to this session, or that could substantiate the claims that children learned better when learning was in some way gamified. And this matters. Because in my previous attempts to substantiate the claims of the fun lobby, I've come up with similar, plum-shaped results. Which isn't to say that gamifying doesn't work, just that there seems to be precious little research that seems reliable. Which kind of kicks the whole thing into the 'unproven' territory.
“The concept allows children to experience learning in a fun way. It has been scientifically studied and proven in cooperation with the University of Helsinki, Cicero Learning Network – making education both engaging and inspiring”, said Sanna Lukander VP Learning and Book Publishing at Rovio.
“What if learning was fun? That was the question we asked ourselves when we started to develop this exciting new concept. Having seen the enthusiasm when children and parents spend time with Angry Birds, we wanted to create fun new learning activities for them,” said Peter Vesterbacka, Mighty Eagle and CMO at Rovio.
“The most optimal circumstances for learning are set when having fun, being motivated, being appreciated for who we are and having permission to be autonomous and experimental. Learning is rewarding and effective when you feel safe to experiment, and this is totally in tune with the Angry Birds Playground fun learning philosophy”, said professor Jari Multisilta, director of Cicero Learning Network at the University of Helsinki.
It really behooves anyone presenting at a conference, or promoting a product online, to link clearly and easily to published research that substantiates their claim, especially if they preface it with "research proves this". Otherwise, people might think that maybe it doesn't. Or worse, they might think that it does, when possibly it doesn't. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The idea that children best learn in gamified conditions is extraordinary, given that for most of humanity's history, that's not how conditions were. Where is the mountain of evidence? Where is the data and the analysis that will melt my bronze heart and lead me to love the Angry Birds classroom?
I'm getting tired of these kinds of claims from people who, coincidentally, sell things.
This matters because there are thousands of enthusiastic teachers being seduced by these claims, without, it seems, very much to justify them. I've raised the problems of gamification many times before: children only work at tasks they enjoy, the game elements take up huge amounts of time that could be spent actually learning, much that looks like learning is just play... In matters gamified, I am an atheist: show me and I will believe.
"My name is Thorfin, I am an educational games entrepreneur..." said the next questioner. And I left. It felt like I was turning my back on a tsunami, hoping it would go away. This won't go away. Game-driven education is this year's Brain Gym, and with the kind of momentum it has, it isn't going anywhere soon.
PS If anyone from any of these bodies wants to respond by presenting at researchED London, please get in touch.mmm
Kritische 'Blog leraar Tom Bennett 'over iPad in klas
Conclusie: There is
precious little evidence that iPad adoption has any discernible effect on the
educational outcomes of children whatsoever. It's a contemporary myth that
digitalising the classroom adds great scoops of value to the school experience
in a measurable way. Which isn't to say they aren't potentially useful, but
their adoption has been so brainless in so many circumstances that I would
require anyone seeking to spunk the school budget on a suite of tablets to
undergo a sanity test first. Or who knows? Maybe even submit a proposal that
describes what successful adoption would look like, and what outcomes are
actually envisaged. Otherwise it's just speculation, which is fine in
education, but a) don't expect anyone else to do it and b) make sure it doesn't
cost the family silver.
iPads in classrooms –
Are we machine gunning emus? Tom_Bennett24-5-2014
Rarely do you come across a war that could be described as
hilarious, but the Great Emu War of 1932 punches that ticket nicely. The
Australian government, faced with hordes of migratory emus tearing up croplands
in the West, and in possession of squads of veteran soldiers turned to
agriculture, came up with a solution that might have seemed obvious: mobilise
this great standing army and equip them with machine guns against the
flightless, comical menace. The Great War between man and emu had begun.
Several attempts were made on "the enemy's"
position, but the dispersal of the emus into small groups meant that none were
successful in slotting more than a handful of birds. War is hell, but in this
case it was Hill – Benny Hill.
"But surely Tom," I hear you wonder, "there
can't be a link between this ancient, brainless caper and some contemporary
educational practice?" There can indeed; I'm an assembly veteran, and can
conjure a connection between the most tenuous of artefacts in battlefield
I'm reminded of our vast, fathomless capacity for folly when
I read stories like this, where Kent County Council has recently been pilloried
for its decision to spend £150,000 on iPads and laptops for Chaucer School in
Canterbury, despite the small problem that the school is closing down and only
has 136 pupils. To quote Kent Online:
"The authority says the money was allocated before the
closure was on the table and insists it is 'of vital importance' to the
remaining few youngsters.
But critics have branded the investment 'strange' in light
of the budget crisis which partly caused the school’s collapse in the first
Campaign manager for the Taxpayers’ Alliance, Andy
Silvester, says: 'The idea that once a decision is taken it cannot be undone is
Quite. And a deeper wonder is that, in a circumstance of
financial lack, anyone thought it a good idea to spend the family cow on the
magic beans of tech in the first place, when – as I will happily bore anyone's
ar$e off endlessly about – there is precious little evidence that iPad adoption
has any discernible effect on the educational outcomes of children whatsoever.
It's a contemporary myth that digitalising the classroom adds great scoops of
value to the school experience in a measurable way. Which isn't to say they
aren't potentially useful, but their adoption has been so brainless in so many
circumstances that I would require anyone seeking to spunk the school budget on
a suite of tablets to undergo a sanity test first. Or who knows? Maybe even
submit a proposal that describes what successful adoption would look like, and
what outcomes are actually envisaged. Otherwise it's just speculation, which is
fine in education, but a) don't expect anyone else to do it and b) make sure it
doesn't cost the family silver.
I am reminded of Dylan Moran's Bernard Black, the
misanthropic Irish book seller in Black Books, staring at the kiosk attendant
in a cinema. "Excuse me," he says with a confused face. "I just
bought a drink and some popcorn. And now I have no money."
And so, back to the emus. The Lewis Automatic Machine Gun is
a sturdy piece of ordnance and you'd expect it to be somewhat of a trump card
against an opponent that habitually eats car keys. Despite this apparent
mismatch, the emu proved to be quite resistant to the hail of death imagined by
the architects of shock and CAW! The government had found the right problem,
but the wrong solution.
Similarly, the issue of underachieving children is one that
needs to be tackled, but maybe instead of spraying a blanket of iPads, however
shiny and groovy they are, in their direction, we should be looking for a more
nuanced, targeted approach that will really tackle education's emu problem.
Onderwijs. Kritiek van Tom Bennett op Sir Ken Robinson
Blog vanTom_Bennett ( 8-8-2014Kritiek op Sir Ken Robinson)
This week, BBC Radio 4 treats us to a series that might well
be very interesting indeed. The Educators, every Wednesday at 4pm GMT, looks at
some of the most influential names in the education landscape today. Week 1:
Sir Ken Robinson. Oh boy.
Sir Ken is, without a doubt, the nicest guy with whom I
frequently completely disagree. His avuncular, jocular TED talks and his
ability to simultaneously convey bemused surprise and weary dismay at the state
of education, makes him a popular, if unlikely, revolutionary. He's a digital
John the Baptist, railing against the Herods of factory schooling. He's kind,
witty and literate. He is fantasy dinner party bait. He's also impressively
wrong about what schools are actually like, and, therefore, how we should improve
them. Apart from those two things, we are of a piece (I'll express an interest
in this programme – I'm in it, somewhere, railing against the cult of Ken,
pointing out the emperor is naked, but still a really nice guy).
I've written more about the Sir Ken phenomena here and here.
You can also read more about his views by reading the story in today's copy of
He believes in children, but don't we all? He values
creativity, but who doesn't? Who would stand on a platform against it? All that
we differ on is method. He says creativity is something we can teach in schools
and I say how do we know? How do we measure it? No one has ever agreed on a
method, or an assessment method, and many (me, for instance) say it can't even
be taught in any way that resembles how we teach.
He deserves his place in the list of the 21st-century's most
prominent educationalists because of what he represents more than the influence
he has had. The salon revolutions he encourages have been represented and
embodied for many years before the RSA decided to animate his lecture. The cry
that children are crushed by a system that doesn't care is as old as the
Enlightenment. This ancient enmity between rationalism and romanticism, between
the forces of order and reason and the fluid armies of idea-space, is a
mythical battle in contemporary classrooms.
If anyone has a mind to, a visit to a school will reveal the
reverse to be quite true: that classrooms, far from being battery farms where
children are clipped and de-beaked into automata, are frequently bastions of
group work, discovery learning and freethinking libertarianism. The model he
presupposes last enjoyed mainstream acceptance round about the time of Tom
Brown's School Days. Since the 1960s onwards (and earlier, in many pockets of
education) progressive ideas such as those Sir Ken champions have become part
of the DNA of everyday schooling. Which isn't to say that it predominates
everywhere, but merely that it certainly has enjoyed popular status. See: what
Sir Ken evangelises as revolution has been the establishment orthodoxy for
several decades. He isn't Moses. He's Pharoah.
As to the curriculum: why, his dystopian Cassandra stance is
even more at odds with real schools. Every school I have ever visited has
bounced with compulsory drama, expressive arts, art, design and technology,
music – and those are merely the subjects that are intrinsically and obviously
creative and expressive. What about large segments of the English curriculum,
creative writing assignments and role plays and poems threaded through the
whole curriculum like veins in blue cheese? Even given the contemporary trend
towards the holy grails of good passes in English and maths, the claim that
schools are Soylent Green factories is patently, obviously nonsense.
The dance equivalence argument is also worrying. You walk on
booby-trapped eggshells when you criticise a subject, but I will put a delicate
toe into this one: while I genuflect with a mixture of awe and envy at those
who can call the American Smooth and pirouette their friend, to claim that
dance is of equivalent importance to, say, literacy is like comparing advice
from Herodotus with a magic 8-ball. On what grounds is this possibly true?
Certainly not utility. It's like listening to someone watch Footloose while
smoking furiously on a crack pipe: "We have to save dance! THEY'RE KILLING
DANCE LET THE PEOPLE DANCE."
There are some aspects of school that are boring and
authoritarian, but try and run one that isn't and still teaches them anything.
However, this doesn't mean schools are prisons or the easy, obvious slur of the
Pink Floyd mincing machines. Schools, despite their mild-mannered and often
anodyne appearances, are dream factories, where children of all backgrounds are
given the opportunity to become the architects of their own destinies. Some of
it's a bit dull. Some of it will fascinate and inspire. Some of it is,
"you need to know this", and some of it is, "what do you
think?". There is often a good deal of dance. And if there isn't, there
are other ways for caterpillars to become butterflies. To say that schools
don't offer these things is probably a bit of an insult to schools and the hard
work that teachers do.
Onderwijs. Nieuwe eindtermen wiskunde nog slechter (Berkeley)
The Wall Street Journal 5 augustus
Making Math Education
By Marina Ratner
I first encountered
the (new) Common Core State Standards last fall, when my grandson started sixth
grade in a public middle school here in Berkeley, Calif. This was the first
year that the Berkeley school district began to implement the standards, and I
had heard that a considerable amount of money had been given to states for
implementing them. As a mathematician I was intrigued, thinking that there must
be something really special about the Common Core. Otherwise, why not adopt the
curriculum and the excellent textbooks of highly achieving countries in math
instead of putting millions of dollars into creating something new?
Reading about the new math standards—outlining what students
should be able to learn and understand by each grade—I found hardly any
academic mathematicians who could say the standards were higher than the old
California standards, which were among the nation's best. I learned that at the
2010 annual conference of mathematics societies, Bill McCallum, a leading
writer of Common Core math standards, said that the new standards "would
not be too high" in comparison with other nations where math education
excels. Jason Zimba, another lead writer of the mathematics standards, told the
Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that the new
standards wouldn't prepare students for colleges to which "most parents
aspire" to send their children.
I also read that the Common Core offers "fewer
standards" but "deeper" and "more rigorous"
understanding of math. That there were "fewer standards" became
obvious when I saw that they were vastly inferior to the old California
standards in rigor, depth and the scope of topics. Many topics—for instance,
calculus and pre-calculus, about half of algebra II and parts of geometry—were
taken out and many were moved to higher grades.
As a result, the
Common Core standards were several years behind the old standards, especially
in higher grades. It became clear that the new standards represent lower
expectations and that students taught in the way that these standards require
would have little chance of being admitted to even an average college and would
certainly struggle if they did get in.
It remained to be seen whether the Common Core was
"deeper" and "more rigorous." The Berkeley school
district's curriculum for sixth-grade math was an exact copy of the Common Core
State Standards for the grade. The teacher in my grandson's class went through
special Common Core training courses.
As his assigned homework and tests indicate, when teaching
fractions, the teacher required that students draw pictures of everything: of 6
divided by 8, of 4 divided by 2/7, of 0.8 x 0.4, and so forth. In doing so, the
teacher followed the instructions: "Interpret and compute quotients of
fractions, and solve word problems involving division of fractions by
fractions, e.g., by using visual fraction models and equations to represent the
problem. For example, create a story context for 2/3 divided by 3/4 and use a
visual fraction model to show the quotient . . ."
Who would draw a picture to divide 2/3 by 3/4?
This requirement of visual models and creating stories is
all over the Common Core. The students were constantly told to draw models to
answer trivial questions, such as finding 20% of 80 or finding the time for a
car to drive 10 miles if it drives 4 miles in 10 minutes, or finding the number
of benches one can make from 48 feet of wood if each bench requires 6 feet. A
student who gives the correct answer right away (as one should) and doesn't
draw anything loses points.
Here are some more examples of the Common Core's convoluted
and meaningless manipulations of simple concepts: "draw a series of tape
diagrams to represent (12 divided by 3) x 3=12, or: rewrite (30 divided by 5) =
6 as a subtraction expression."
This model-drawing mania went on in my grandson's class for
the entire year, leaving no time to cover geometry and other important topics.
While model drawing might occasionally be useful, mathematics is not about
visual models and "real world" stories. It became clear to me that
the Common Core's "deeper" and "more rigorous" standards
mean replacing math with some kind of illustrative counting saturated with
pictures, diagrams and elaborate word problems. Simple concepts are made
artificially intricate and complex with the pretense of being deeper—while the
actual content taught was primitive.
Yet the most astounding statement I have read is the claim
that Common Core standards are "internationally benchmarked." They
are not. The Common Core fails any comparison with the standards of
high-achieving countries, just as they fail compared to the old California standards.
They are lower in the total scope of learned material, in the depth and rigor
of the treatment of mathematical subjects, and in the delayed and often
inconsistent and incoherent introductions of mathematical concepts and skills.
For California, the adoption of the Common Core standards
represents a huge step backward which puts an end to its hard-won standing as
having the top math standards in the nation. The Common Core standards will
move the U.S. even closer to the bottom in international ranking.
The teaching of math in many schools needs improvement. Yet
the enormous amount of money invested in Common Core—$15.8 billion nationally,
according to a 2012 estimate by the Pioneer Institute—could have a better
outcome. It could have been used instead to address the real problems in
education, such as helping teachers to teach better, raising the performance
standards in schools and making learning more challenging.
Ms. Ratner is professor emerita of mathematics at the
University of California at Berkeley. She was awarded the international
Ostrowski Prize in 1993 and received the John J. Carty Award from the National
Academy of Sciences, of which she is a member, in 1994.
Onderwijs. Uitvluchten van Pasi Sahlberg omtrent lage leerprestaties Finse 15-jarigen
Pasi Sahlberg zoekt uitvluchten voor daling PISA-score en
voor zwakke leerprestaties volgens studies van de universiteit van Helsinki
Pasi Sahlberg on
Finland's Recent PISA Results
By Marc Tucker onFebruary 14, 2014 (Education
Week) + commentaar van Raf Feys (Onderwijskrant)
For years following the release of the 2001 and subsequent
PISA results, edutourists visited Finland hoping to uncover their secrets.In the most recent survey, Finland's position
had slipped from 2nd to 5th in reading, from 6th to 12th in mathematics and
from 3rd to 5th in science.I recently talked with Pasi Sahlberg to
better understand what could have contributed to this fall in the rankings.As former Director General of CIMO (Center
for International Mobility and Cooperation) at the Finnish Ministry of
Education and Culture in Finland he is in a good place to know.Pasi recently joined Harvard University's
Graduate School of Education as a visiting professor, teaching a course on
international lessons from successful education systems, and is working on the
sequel to his popular book, Finnish Lessons.
Marc Tucker: How has Finland reacted to the news of the
latest PISA results?
Pasi Sahlberg: The results did not surprise the Finns,
because our own data monitoring student achievement and a recent study by the
University of Helsinki published a month before the PISA results came out
anticipated the PISA results. Their study compared skills in 82 randomly
selected schools in Finland between 2001 and 2012 and the results showed the decline
in mathematics and reading performance that was then confirmed by PISA. (NvOnderwijskrant:
Eigen evaluatiestudies van de universiteit Helsinki van 2004, 2°10 & 2012
wees uit dat de Finse 15-jarigen opvallend zwak presteerden voor de
doelstellingen van de basisvakken. Naar de buitenwereld toe werd dit steeds
verzwegen. Ook al in 2005 was er een alarmerend manifest van 200 docenten
wiskunde die waarschuwden dat de PISA-wiskundescore 2003 misleidend was en dat
de Finse 18-19 jarigen voor de echte wiskunde zwak scoorden bij de start van
het hoger onderwijs. Dat betekent dat de 15-jarigen al bij de afname van
PISA-2003 volgens de Finse wiskundexperts zwak presteerden voor de echte
(schoolse) wiskunde. Sahlberg wekt ten onrechte de indruk dat de zwakke
wiskundeprestaties op de eigen evaluatietests van recente datum zijn. Die
zwakke prestaties voor de echte wiskunde zijn ook veel erger dan de achtergang
voor de PISA-wiskunde.)
MT: What did the Finns think caused this?
PS: Finland had done very little to improve students'
mathematics performance since the first PISA results had come in 12 years
ago.Many of us had pointed out that
other countries with high PISA scores had continued to improve their systems,
but Finland did not do that.The
situation in education in Finland appears to be similar to the situation at
Nokia, Finland's international champion in the telecommunications
industry.When Apple came out with the
iPhone, Nokia had the dominant position in the cell phone industry and, blinded
by its success, failed to recognize the challenge.Nokia had invented the touch screen, but
failed to take the next step, which Apple did, leapfrogging Nokia.This is similar to the situation in
education.The huge flow of foreigners
from all over the world to visit the remarkably successful Finnish schools made
the authorities fearful of changing anything. The
drive of the 1990s activists in education has been extinguished. (NvdR:
Sahlberg debiteert hier een drogreden.) There is another factor that should
be considered.Non-Finnish speaking
immigrants are coming to Finland in larger numbers than ever before.This time they have a big enough number in
the PISA sample to see how they performed compared to their peers. (NvdR: Sahlberg verzweeg in het verleden
dat de hoge Finse PISA-score ook een en
ander te maken has met het beperkte aantal allochtone leerlingen.)
MT: I gather that Finland has a new education minister.How did she react to Finland's scores on the
latest PISA survey?
PS: Our new Minister of Education promised to conduct a
national campaign to examine the results and make recommendations that could
lead to a renewal of the whole compulsory education system.She does not want to look at just math and
science.In fact, no one has responded
to the data by saying Finland needs to focus just on math and reading, or on
any other silver bullet.Instead, the
discussion is about how Finland can improve the system as a whole and increase enjoyment
in learning.It is not just about how to
improve our performance on PISA.(NvdR:
voor enjoyment in learning scoorden de Finse 15-jarigen in PISA-2012 opvallend
zwak. Sahlberg wekte in het verleden steeds de indruk dat de leerlingen super
gemotiveerd waren en dat de betrokkenheid heel hoog was.)
MT: I recall that, before 2000, when Finland participated in
the first PISA survey, there was a lot of pressure from some people in Finland
for the use of market-oriented reforms, test-based accountability systems and
so on.What happened to those
agendas?Is there renewed pressure to
adopt reform measures of that sort now?
PS: Prior to the release of the first PISA reports in 2001,
many in the traditional academic community and in the business community pressed
hard for measures designed to enable students to begin focusing on STEM skills
as early as middle school, scheduling more examinations earlier in a student's
career in school and introducing choice and competition among schools. (NvdR: Finland en Sahlberg hadden beter de vele
klachten over het lage niveua vanwege de docenten en leraars ernstig genomen
i.p.v. ze te weerleggen met de PISA-cijfers.) That all came to a sudden end
when the first PISA results came out.We
had managed to be highly successful at accomplishing the goals of these
reformers without adopting their proposed reforms.Many in Finland believe that PISA saved
Finland from reforms that would not have been good, either for teachers or the
country.But these events, while staving
off unhelpful reforms, created another problem, as I said earlier in this
interview:All change in Finland, both
good and bad, came to an end, and we lost our capacity to renew and adapt to a
changing environment. (NvdR: Waarom zweeg
Sahlberg hier dan over in zijn boek ‘Finnish lessons’ en wekte hij de indruk
dat het Fins onderwijs en de Finse leraars innovatie-minded waren?)
MT: One path to change would be to look at the strategies
used by the countries that lead the global league tables and pick a set that
seems appropriate for Finland.Does that
appeal to you?
PS: At one level there is some appeal to this approach.In the US, there are advanced schools that
are doing things that Finnish schools should be doing.Finnish high school students who spend a year
in some U.S. high schools say that these schools are better than their opposite
numbers in Finland at helping students communicate, present ideas and debate
meaningful issues.And there are pockets
of excellent practice and innovation in some American schools in the area of
integrating technology and new learning devices into the schools.Shanghai has built a system for
low-performing schools to get help from others that Finland can learn
from.The lesson study idea and way it
is used in Japan and Singapore is very attractive.There is not one country's system that the
Finns should simply imitate. Finns need to realize that they have a lot to
learn from all of their international partners in both the East and the West,
but at the same time, further advance equity-oriented policies and reforms.
MT: What do you think the next generation of change in
Finland should look like?
PS: Finland should not be gauging its success only by
measuring student achievement in the academic subjects.Schools need to help many more people find
out what their strengths are, what they are curious and passionate about. The
school system should be designed to inspire students and to enable them to lead
happy, fulfilled lives both at work and outside of the workplace.We may have to invent a way of thinking about
curriculum that is not so focused on the traditional academic subjects and time
allocation.That is, I think, a worthy
goal for the next stage of Finnish education reform.
Bijlage: View of
Finnish teachers versus view of Pasi Sahlberg
Oxford- Prof. Jennifer Chung ( AN INVESTIGATION OF REASONS
FOR FINLAND’S SUCCESS IN PISA (University of Oxford 2008).
“Many of the teachers mentioned the converse of the great
strength of Finnish education (= de grote aandacht voor kinderen met
leerproblemen) as the great weakness.Jukka S. (BM) believes that school does not provide enough challenges
for intelligent students: “I think my only concern is that we give lots of
support to those pupils who are underachievers, and we don’t give that much to
the brightest pupils.I find it a
problem, since I think, for thefuture
of a whole nation, those pupils who are really the stars should be supported,
given some more challenges, given some more difficulty in their exercises and
so on.To not just spendtheir time here but to make some effort and
have the idea to become something, no matter what field you are choosing, you
must not only be talented like they are, but work hard.That is needed. “
Pia (EL)feels that
the schools do not motivate very intelligent students to work.She thinks the schools should provide more
challenges for the academically talented students.In fact, she thinks the current school system
in Finland does not provide well for its students.Mixed-ability classrooms, she feels, are
worse than the previous selective system: “ I think this school is for
nobody.That is my private opinion.
Actually I think so, because when you have all these people at mixed levels in
your class, then you have to concentrate on the ones who need the most help, of
course.Those who are really good, they
get lazy. “
Pia believes these students become bored and lazy, and float
through school with no study skills.Jonny (EM) describes how comprehensive education places the academically
gifted at a disadvantage: “We have lost a great possibility when we don’t have
the segregated levels of math and natural sciences… That should be once again
taken back and started with.The good
talents are now torturing themselves with not very interesting education andteaching in classes that aren’t for their
Pia (EL) finds the PISA frenzy about Finland amusing, since
she believes the schools have declined in recent years: “I think [the
attention] is quite funny because school isn’t as good as it used to be … I
used to be proud of being a teacher and proud of this school, but I can’t say I
’m proud any more.”
Aino (BS) states that the evenness and equality of the
education system has a “dark side.” Teaching to the “middle student” in a class
of heterogeneous ability bores the gifted students, who commonly do not perform
well in school.Maarit (DMS) finds
teaching heterogeneous classrooms very difficult.She admits that dividing the students into
ability levels would make the teaching easier, but worries that it may affect
the self-esteem of the weaker worse than a more egalitarian systemSimilarly, Terttu (FMS) thinks that the
class size is a detriment to the students’ learning.Even though Finnish schools have relatively
small class sizes, she thinks that a group of twenty is too large, since she
does not have time for all of the students: “You don’t have enough time for
everyone … All children have to be in the same class.That is not so nice.You have the better pupils.I can’t give them as much as I want.You have to go so slowly in the
classroom.”Curiously, Jukka E. (DL)
thinks that the special education students need more support and the education
system needs to improve in that area.
Miikka (FL) describes how he will give extra work to
students who want to have more academic challenges, but admits that “they can
get quite good grades, excellent grades, by doing nothing actually, or very
little.”Miikka (FL) describes
discussion in educational circles about creating schools and universities for
academically talented students: 3 Everyone has the same chances…One problem is
that it can betoo easy for talented
students.There has been now discussion
in Finland if there should be schools and universities for talented students… I
think it will happen, but I don’t know if it is good, but it will happen, I
think so. I am also afraid there will be
private schools again in Finland in the future … [There] will be more rich
people and more poor people, and then will come so [many] problems in
comprehensive schools that some day quitesoon … parents will demand that we should have private schoolsagain, and that is quite sad.
Linda (AL), however, feels the love of reading has declined
in the younger generation, as they tend to gravitate more to video games and
television.Miikka (FL), also a teacher
of mother tongue, also cites a decline in reading interest and an increase of
video game and computer play.Saij a
(BL) agrees. As a teacher of Finnish, she feels that she has difficulty
motivating her students to learn: “I think my subject is not the … easiest one
to teach.They don’t read so much,
newspapers or novels.”Her students,
especially the boys, do not like their assignments in Finnish language.She also thinks the respect for teachers has
declined in this past generation.Miikka
(FL) also thinks his students do not respect their teachers: “They don’t
respect the teachers.They respect them
very little …I think it has changed a
lot in recent years.In Helsinki, it was
actually earlier.When I came here six
years ago, I thought thiswas
heaven.I thought it was incredible,
how the children werelike that after
Helsinki, but now I think it is the same.
Linda (AL) notes deficiency in the amount of time available
for subjects.With more time, she would
implement more creative activities, such as speech and drama, into her
lessons.Saij a (BL) also thinks that
her students need more arts subjects like drama and art.She worries that they consider mathematics as
the only important subject.Shefeels
countries such as Sweden, Norway, and England have better arts programs than in
Finnish schools.Arts subjects,
according to Saij a, help the students get to know themselves.Maarit (DMS), a Finnish-speaker, thinks that
schools need to spend more time cultivating social skills.
Onderwijs. Kritische Finse stemmen over Fins onderwijs
leraar Atatus i.o. over verwaarlozing van sterkere/slimme leerlingen
It's kind of an
unspoken rule here in Finland that smart, talented kids are expected to take
control of their own learning very early on. I'm a teacher in training on my
fourth year in university, and while we've been taught quite a lot when it
comes to teaching kids who have trouble learning or behaving, teaching talented
kids has only been mentioned - in passing - once or twice. When asked about the
subject, one of my professors actually said that it's better to have the
teachers to focus their attention on children "who need that attention,
since smart kids are smart and can thus take care of themselves well
I do understand what my professor meant, kind of: if there
are 28 pupils in one class and if twelve of them have trouble learning or
behaving, those twelve will naturally need the teacher's time, help and
attention, even more so than those who are doing "well enough" by
themselves. Still, while smart kids can take care of themselves (to some
degree), it's certainly not fair that they're not being helped to try to
achieve their full potential, that they're not given enough opportunities to
challenge themselves, like the other pupils are.
I've noticed that there are many teachers who are even a bit
annoyed at smart children because they're "too" quick. Those kids
often finish their exercises while some of the other pupils are still trying to
solve their very first problem. Streaming can be challenging to any a teacher, and
while many a pupil is given extra exercises, many others are left to sit idly
at their desk, waiting for the rest of the class to catch up with them. During
my training, I've seen many a teacher scolding smart kids for being
"impatient" and "restless" after those kids have been
sitting at their desk for several long minutes without having anything to do.
It's sad and angering to see such young, brilliant minds
being held back like this. No wonder Finland has the narrowest gap between the
highest and the lowest achieving pupils when the lowest achieving pupils are
helped in any way possible while the highest achieving students are scolded and
frowned upon for being smart.
Ojanen:Some truths but also lots of
myths and partial truths here. Let's get the facts right.
information is based on having both studied (1990s) and worked (2000s) in
Finnish primary and secondary schools.
"Finland does not
give their kids standardized tests." Yes it does, but only once - at
the end of general secondary school (senior high school). The results of these
exams function as final secondary school grades which in turn play a role in
higher education admissions.
"All teachers are
required to have a master's degree."
Yes, if they want to get a "qualified" salary. But
many are working as "unqualified" and just get a lower salary and
less job security.
"Finland has a culture of collaboration between
schools, not competition. Most schools, according to Partanen, perform at the
same level, so there is no status in attending a particular
facility."There is some status to attending particularly famous schools.
Entry to senior high schools (upper secondary) is competitive and mostly based
on junior high school grades.
"Finland has no
Not true. They are not very numerous but there are some.
Some are funded by the government and collect no tuition fees; others are
funded by tuition fees. Schools following Steiner pedagogy are one notable example.
"Finnish schools don't assign homework, because it is
assumed that mastery is attained in the classroom."
Simply not true. They do assign homework and expect it to be
"Finnish schools have sports, but no sports teams.
Competition is not valued."Team sports play a part in P.E. in Finnish
schools; the value given to competition depends on the individual teacher's
attitude. Competitive sports teams are generally formed outside schools.
"The focus is on the individual child. If a child is
falling behind, the highly trained teaching staff recognizes this need and
immediately creates a plan to address the child's individual
needs."Depends on resources. There are individual learning plans, but
things don't happen immediately. Access to extra tuition within the school or
other remedial measures also depend on staff resources, which quite often are
"Likewise, if a child is soaring ahead and bored, the
staff is trained and prepared to appropriately address this as well."True
if the child happens to be lucky and have a supportive teacher, not