Saturday 14 April 2018

Discussion of an authoritarian zero tolerance school

Little robots: behind the scenes in an academy school. An ethnographic study of a 'flagship'academy school with zero tolerance revealing bullying, regimentation, coercion, leading to a toxic environment in which only the compliant can remain. This is the opposite to what we argue, the spectre we argue against.

An excellent review by Les Back (Goldsmiths) here treating discipline here to a psychological version of corporal punishment (caning).

Saturday 7 April 2018

Lincoln High School Walla Walla

Everything we have argued for is found here, in Western Australia. Relate don't suspend!

This is how it went down: A student blows up at a teacher, drops the F-bomb. The usual approach at Lincoln – and, safe to say, at most high schools in this country – is automatic suspension.
Instead, Sporleder sits the kid down and says quietly: “Wow. Are you OK? This doesn’t sound like you. What’s going on?” He gets even more specific: “You really looked stressed. On a scale of 1-10, where are you with your anger?”
The kid was ready. Ready, man! For an anger blast to his face….”How could you do that?” “What’s wrong with you?”…and for the big boot out of school. But he was NOT ready for kindness. The armor-plated defenses melt like ice under a blowtorch and the words pour out: “My dad’s an alcoholic. He’s promised me things my whole life and never keeps those promises.” The waterfall of words that go deep into his home life, which is no piece of breeze, end with this sentence: “I shouldn’t have blown up at the teacher.”

Friday 9 March 2018

At the dentist

A visit to the dental hygienist today led to an interesting conversation. We will call her Kay and her assistant Jenny. Their children are in nursery and infant schools locally. Kay has known me for years and was asking about my research and I mentioned that Living Contradiction was published last September. That led to a conversation about infant schools when I said that my ambition is for schools to be happy places for children.

Jenny’s daughter was in Reception but receiving an extraordinary amount of homework “because the curriculum was too big to fit into school hours” (quoting the class teacher). Jenny’s concern was that this was upsetting her quality time with her child. She would normally read to her and with her, play imaginatively, chat about the day and so on. But homework was a formal list declared completed in a homework book. The child is 4 years old. What madness is requiring schools to do this? Seeking to fill every minute up to a 7pm bedtime? The mother’s instincts that relationship, enjoyment, and well-being should take precedence are absolutely correct. Homework at this age is inappropriate, the school’s neurotic response to government and inspectors misguidance. I advised ignoring homework and being creative with filling in the homework book. Jenny said she already was, but felt vindicated by our conversation.

Kay’s eldest was 7-8 and entering the world or digraphs and trigraphs (incidentally disempowering parents). This is classic step by step SSP (Miskin phonix) assuming that the children had not puzzled over tough, rough, bough, cough, dough, through and though long ago. I could read before school and can barely remember the process. Then, recognition, sounding out and reading as a habit all mingled. By 1982 I wrote a dissertation on reading readiness in which the current wisdom was this multi-approach was advocated. Of course phonics were not ignored, but English has more exceptions than rules, such as I before E.

I explained that my philosophy was that school should be an enjoyable place where children were happy and motivated, and that this was against government ideas of top-down authority and punishment. We will talk again. I have looked out a spare copy of Living Contraction for them.

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Jarlath O'Brien

Looking at negative behaviour as the communication of an unmet need has transformed my understanding of behaviour.
His book:  Don't Send Him in Tomorrow: Shining a light on the marginalised, disenfranchised and forgotten children of today's schools from his experience in school and the police.

Sunday 4 February 2018

Review by Chris Searle, Sean's former school teacher

Review of 'Living Contradiction' by Sean Warren and Stephen Bigger (Crown House Publishing)

    'Living Contradiction' is an extraordinary book about education and also the adverse of it.
    It is full of very powerful arguments and poses the essential question to teachers: 'Is it possible to build good, positive relationships with pupils without sacrificing order and discipline?' At its centre it has a profoundly honest and lucid narrative about the conscious classroom odyssey of a teacher.
    One of its authors, Sean Warren, is also its main protagonist. The book tells his story, how he went to school in East London while living in Coventry Cross Estate, one of the worst estates in Tower Hamlets, and coping with very challenging family circumstances; how he left school at 16 and became a builder's labourer; how through his own determined volition he eventually qualified as a teacher.
    He tells, self-critically, of his embrace of classroom authoritarianism, how he became a champion of behaviourist approaches and 'quick fix solutions' based around zero tolerance, 'assertive discipline' and rigid sanctions, and how he 'patrolled the corridors and had the undiluted support of the head teacher.' He became the exemplar of the New Model Teacher advocated by OFSTED and took on the state-approved and teacher-pressurising role of the'county's behaviour and attendance consultant'. His own practice he describes as 'increasingly draconian' and admits: 'Control.... had come to define me. I was contributing to a climate of fear masquerading as respect.'
    Yet all this power-centredness was having a contradictory effect upon his own psyche, and he began to realise 'in my arrogance there is clear evidence of my administering sovereign power over others. I also actively suppressed myself.' For he began to recognise, what he was demonstrating to others was also gradually pulling him down. 'I psychologically adopted a bullish mask of confidence, assurance and assertiveness. It manifested in my walk and in my stance; it exuded from my personality.'
    Such realisations made him determined to change his methods and behaviour as a teacher, and the book charts Warren's struggle to shake off this authoritarian persona, which he began to understand was destroying any opportunities to achieve a self-activated learning, student cooperation and a democratic classroom. As such it is a teacher's story which is entirely gripping and relevant.
    For me it was a revelation, as 14 year old Sean Warren, now 52, was in my class in Poplar in the late Seventies, and was a powerfully creative student - the co-author with Paul Parris, a black classmate, of a fine anti-racist play called 'Moonlight' which was published by the Inner London Education Authority. When we showed it in his dressing room to the great Caribbean actor Norman Beaton (of 'Desmond's' fame), who was performing in Mustapha Matura's play 'Nice' at Theatre Royal, Stratford, E!5, Beaton was strongly impressed by the text and offered his own brand of generous encouragement. 'Keep on keeping on!' he said with a huge smile. It seems that Warren never forgot that, hence this powerful book, some 38 years later. 

Tuesday 26 December 2017

Why Our Coercive System of Schooling Should Topple

Why Our Coercive System of Schooling Should Topple by Peter Gray click here asan application of John Holt's view of children's learning.

1. Denial of liberty on the basis of age.
Education now intrudes on time with family and friends when reallearning takes place, for example through hobbies.
2. Fostering of shame, on the one hand, and hubris, on the other.
We rely on a system of incessant testing, grading, and ranking of children compared with their peers. We thereby tap into and distort the human emotional systems of shame and pride to motivate children to do the work. Children are made to feel ashamed if they perform worse than their peers and pride if they perform better. Shame leads some to drop out, psychologically, from the educational endeavor and to become class clowns (not too bad), or bullies (bad), or drug abusers and dealers (very bad). Those made to feel excessive pride from the shallow accomplishments that earn them A's and honors may become arrogant, disdainful of the common lot who don't do so well on tests; disdainful, therefore, of democratic values and processes (and this may be the worst effect of all).

3. Interference with the development of cooperation and nurturance.
Restricts teamwork and discussion.

4. Interference with the development of personal responsibility and self-direction.
The above restricts opportunities for young people to become active and responsible members of the community and also leads to ....

5. Linking of learning with fear, loathing, and drudgery.

6. Inhibition of critical thinking.

7. Reduction in diversity of skills, knowledge, and ways of thinking.

The Joy and Sorrow of re-reading John Holt's How Children Learn

The Joy and Sorrow of re-reading John Holt's How Children Learn, by Peter Gray, click here

•  Children don’t choose to learn in order to do things in the future.  They choose to do right now what others in their world do, and through doing they learn.

•  Children go from whole to parts in their learning, not from parts to whole.

•  Children learn by making mistakes and then noticing and correcting their own mistakes.

• Children may learn better by watching older children than by watching adults.

• Fantasy provides children the means to do and learn from activities that they can’t yet do in reality.

• Children make sense of the world by creating mental models and assimilating new information to those models

Inserted into 1983 edition (p.126): “The spirit of independence in learning is one of the most valuable assets a learner can have, and we who want to help children’s learning at home or in school, must learn to respect and encourage it.”

Wednesday 20 December 2017

The transformative power of Values-based Education (VbE)

The transformative power of Values-based Education (VbE) by Dr Neil & Jane Hawkes, © Dr Neil and Jane Hawkes

Values-based Education (VbE) is being successfully adopted in schools worldwide, as an
effective form of moral character education. The VbE approach to teaching and learning, as
exemplified by West Kidlington School in the UK, underpinned the Australian Government’s
program of Values Education (Lovat et al 2009). The promotion of VbE is based on research
evidence that students learn and reflect about moral values most effectively when schools are
explicitly values-based (Hawkes,2005). The key purpose of Values-based Education is to develop
ethical intelligence – ability to think and act morally. This capacity is nurtured when young
people develop an understanding of an ethical vocabulary, based on positive values words (e.g.
respect honesty and cooperation). This vocabulary could be the basis of a transformational
common ethical narrative that potentially could help to bring peace to the world. By the time
students leave school they will have developed personal holistic competence (PHC): the ability
to deal with the complexity of life in an ethical manner, whilst maintaining personal integrity
and well-being: The purpose of adopting VbE is to inspire young people to live the moral values
in their lives so that they develop positive character traits, becoming the best people that they
can be.

The need for Values-based Education
It is our understanding that for the continued flourishing of our world there is an urgent need
for humanity to adopt a new universal common language, centred on universal positive human
values, such as compassion, respect and tolerance, which can embrace all cultures, religions and
non-religions. Societies across the world are being subjected to the growing influence of limiting
values: selfishness, excessive materialism, greed as exemplified in the recent western banking
crisis, the dismissal of climate change and the growth of terrorism. Such influences are creating
cultural entropy, which if not stemmed will lead to further human unhappiness, social
disintegration and widespread fear. Our observations lead us to the understanding that at the
root of such disharmony is a growing lack of meaning and purpose in people’s lives; a
misunderstanding of what conditions create happiness and a lack of focus in educational
systems on what we have termed the inner curriculum of thoughts, feelings and emotions.

What can be done?
A transformational movement for positive change has begun in many schools and educational
systems worldwide to address such destabilising issues. The purpose of this movement
promoted by the International Values-based Education Trust (IVET) is to enable young people to
learn about and experience an ethical vocabulary founded on positive values: to give children a
powerful moral language that will enable them to base their self-leadership on concepts that are
life-enhancing. We have observed that when young people have the opportunity to know that,
values are principles that guide their thinking and behaviour, and put them into practice in their
daily lives, they develop what we have described as ethical intelligence – the ability to think and
act morally: having the capacity to be attuned to other human beings. We propose that the
development of ethical intelligence should be seen as a core entitlement for all children in all
countries: the outcome of instilling a transformational common ethical narrative that potentially
could help to bring a lasting peace to our world. The Australian research (Lovat et al, 2009) into
the effects of adopting Values Education demonstrated a range of positive outcomes: including
agency, improved values consciousness, increased academic diligence, communicative
competence, enhanced relational trust, well being and personal transformation. To this list we
add self-leadership and the capacity to be self-reflective. We have coined a term that describes
the summation of these outcomes - personal holistic competence (PHC), which is the ability to
deal with the complexity of life in an ethical and empathetic manner, whilst maintaining
personal integrity and well being. No formal exam can determine a person’s level of PHC. It’s
qualities can however be observed in people as they go about their daily lives in work and at

How can ethical intelligence and personal holistic competence be developed?
From research and anecdotal evidence we would humbly submit that the key to
transformational change is to ensure that positive human values are explicitly taught about and
learned in schools. We suggest that a blueprint can be used to help in this process. We recognise
that cultures and communities are diverse so we recommend that the blueprint is adapted to
your particular setting and context and not rigidly applied. Of paramount importance is the
process of thinking about how moral values are currently considered and taught about in
schools; crucially how these values are modelled by adults.

Values-based Education (VbE) Blueprint

The Values-based Education Blueprint sets out the VbE approach to teaching, learning and
leadership. The success of VbE is based on research evidence that confirms that students learn
about positive human values most effectively when schools are explicitly values-based
(Hawkes,2005). For instance, the adults in values-based schools agree to model the values that
members of the school community decide are important for children to learn about. Authentic
modelling is crucial to the learning process, which depends on teaching and support staff
understanding the essence of VbE. This Blueprint provides the basic essential background
knowledge of VbE. However, a more comprehensive account of VbE is contained in Dr Hawkes’s
book, From My Heart, transforming lives through values (Hawkes, 2013). I
It is important to appreciate that the Valuing Philosophy of Education, expressed as Values-
based Education (VbE) aims to underpin every aspect of the life and work of school
communities, colleges, and other settings, including the home, so that they are authentically
values-based. The term values-based implies that all aspects of life, both personal and
professional, is founded on the way that positive human values are used as principles to guide
our thinking and subsequent behaviour. This highly practical philosophy is transformational, in
that it drives a cultural change, which is based on equity and respect for all. It is challenging, as
it calls on us to ask what we can give to life, as opposed to what can we get from life? It
promotes a way of being that values the self, others and the environment. Its impact is wide-
ranging and comprehensive, as it develops an awareness of the importance of understanding the
central role that values play in our lives.

VbE is a developmental process that connects with the intrinsic qualities of human beings and
actively nurtures them. It invites the individual to be aware of the potential power for good or ill
of their inner world of thoughts and feelings; how the way that these are used affects our own
general well being, that of others and potentially the world. It sees the purpose of education as
the flourishing of humanity. The purpose of adopting the values philosophy is to inspire young
people to live the values in their lives so that they develop positive character traits, becoming
the best people that they can be; actively demonstrating the values in their daily lives, thereby
creating a sustainable world.

Useful definitions
Values-based Education (VbE) occurs when universal, positive human values underpin
everything a school or other organisation thinks about and does. Its aim is to develop humane
self-leadership, founded on the capacity to inwardly reflect about thoughts and consequent

Values Education is any activity, which promotes the understanding and enactment of positive
values, which develop the skills and positive dispositions of adults and students so they can live
the values as active members of the community. It is considered as a very successful form of
character education. Values are the principles, fundamental convictions and standards that act as the general guides to our thinking and behaviour. They include: Peace, Justice, Respect, Love, Patience, Happiness, Caring, Trust, Honesty, Humility, Courage, Compassion, Tolerance and Hope.

The VbE blueprint has become an inspiration for schools worldwide and is founded on the
original innovative work at West Kidlington School in Oxfordshire, UK. The key elements about
how to introduce VbE may be summarised as follows but please adapt to your cultural context:
1. Why VBE?
First, be clear about why you want to develop your school to be values-based. It is imperative
that the leadership of the school is fully committed to the development of a values-based school.
Have you seen one, read about one, or considered the research evidence for introducing VbE?
Who will take the lead or will a mixture of people lead VbE from the school and community? Are
you prepared to invest the necessary, time, energy and resources? Think about timescale for
implementation, success criteria, monitoring and evaluation. Have colleagues realised that VbE
is about cultural transformation and challenges personal assumptions and mindsets about the
nature of education and schooling? It is important to audit how things are at present. For
instance, with their full agreement, audit the staff’s personal values and their perception of
current and desired values of the school. To achieve this consider using the tools of the Barrett Values Centre and the survey on the VbE website The surveys will give staff a greater understanding of the school’s current culture. Ensure that you think about the current climate for teaching and learning; relationships; level of synergy/cooperation in the staff; the level of cultural entropy (aspects of the school that work against it being values-based). Ask, how does our school currently impart values to pupils? What are these values? Are they taught implicitly or explicitly? What do we hope the benefits will be for adopting the values-based approach?

2. Shaping policy
The whole school community (staff, pupils, parents and community representatives) is involved in shaping a values-based education policy. A process of values understanding/identification takes place involving the school’s community. A meeting/forum is set up to facilitate this process. The forum will propose that the school adopt universal, positive human values such as respect, honesty and cooperation. These are chosen through a careful process that involves thinking about what qualities (values) the school should encourage students to develop. These values are then circulated to all parents for consultation and endorsement so that everyone is aware of the values that have been agreed. This is the most effective way of engaging the community in the values process. In secondary schools it is imperative that students are actively involved in the development of the VbE policy.

3. Ethical Intelligence
The key purpose of Values Education is to develop what Dr. Hawkes has termed ethical intelligence. This capacity is nurtured when young people are introduced to an ethical vocabulary, based on positive values words (e.g. respect, honesty and cooperation). The model recommended for Primary Schools contains 22 values, introduced over a two-year cycle: one value being the focus for each month. Schools may decide to have fewer values with a longer focus time but it is important to have enough values to create a common ethical vocabulary. This vocabulary, if adopted at national level, can be the basis of a transformational common language bringing peace to the world. In secondary schools that build on the work of their primary feeder schools, it is advisable to have a fewer number of values with supplementary values that are the focus for the development of character traits such as fairness, perseverance and honesty.

Working in and with the community in service learning programs creates opportunities for living the values and character traits. By the time students leave secondary school they will have developed what Dr. Hawkes refers to as personal holistic competence (PHC), which is the ability to deal with the complexity of life in an ethical and empathetic manner, whilst maintainingpersonal integrity and well being.

4. Deciding Principles
In the light of the values identified, the school decides the principles that will guide the way adults behave. Elements will be discussed to determine these such as:
• how adults will care for their well-being and mental health and be mutually supportive;
• how adults will be consistent in their behaviour, i.e. students will experience the same care and respect from all members of staff;
• the emotional, intellectual, physical, moral and spiritual needs of the students will be considered to ensure that the curriculum is holistic i.e. nurtures all aspects of the pupil;
• the way pupils are treated, in terms of the school’s relational (behaviour) policy.

5. Role Models
Adults in the school must be willing to commit themselves to work towards being role models for Values Education. Its success, in terms of improved standards and school ethos, will only come about if the school Principal/Headteacher and all staff (teaching and support staff) understand that it is primarily through their behaviour, in modelling the values that sustainable improvements will develop in the school. The adults therefore identify and agree positive behaviours that will model the values e.g. to remain calm when dealing with challenging student behaviour; to invest time in really getting to know their students; to helping students to sense and shape their future by finding meaning and purpose for what they do; at all times being respectful. Such an agreement may be recorded in job descriptions and form part of performance management.

6. School's Institutional Values
The school’s institutional values i.e. how the school is perceived by the community through aspects such as how parents are welcomed, school signage, state of the buildings and grounds, cleanliness, sports days, concerts, parents’ meetings are reviewed to ensure consistency with the values education policy.

7. Reflection
The school considers how it will encourage the key skill of reflection (sitting silently and focusing mental energy) that nurtures greater self-control, emotional balance, better relationships, responding appropriately to others and their own conscience, which will lead to values-based behaviour. Time needs to be devoted to understanding and training in this important skill, as in many schools it will be seen as something outside of the normal work of the school and only linked to faith communities. Dr. Hawkes cannot over emphasise the importance of this skill that has the backing of scientific research (Siegel, Bryson 2011) as well as thousands of years of human wisdom.

8. Experiential Programme
An experiential programme is established for learning about values, which may include:

  • Introducing and deepening the understanding of values in a programme of well constructed assemblies; one value being highlighted each month or other agreed period of time e.g. January= Respect; each class teacher (primary schools) preparing one values lesson each month; the value of the month being the subject of a prominent display in the school hall, reception area, Principal’s/Headteacher’s office and in each classroom; values being a integral part of tutor time, all subject lessons, and a specific area of the curriculum (secondary schools) lessons having a values focus as well as a learning intention.
  • The language of values used implicitly in all lessons e.g. well done, you showed great respect to each other. Thank you for cooperating/caring/being tolerant etc.
  • Reflection should be a key component of lessons e.g. let’s have a minute of silence so that we can be fully present in our lesson; let’s pause and check out in a few moment’s of silence what we are thinking and feeling in this lesson and what will make our learning more productive, etc.
  • Pupils are encouraged to be involved in action teams, using a values perspective to consider school and community issues e.g. how can we improve our break time experience? What can we do to make our learning experience both pleasurable and effective so that we get the most out of school life? In what ways can we encourage our parents and community to be more involved in the life of the school? What can we advise the council to do about litter in the shopping centre?
  • Regular newsletters sent to parents, explaining what the value of the month is and how it can be developed at home.

9. Integrate the curriculum
Aspects of the curriculum (everything that the school does) are identified that could make a specific contribution to VbE e.g. Philosophy for Children (P4C), Learning Power, Mind Sets, Roots of Empathy, Enquiry-based projects, Outdoor learning, Forest School, Technology supported Learning, Service Learning, Sports Program, School Concerts/Shows and other events. The range of skills, knowledge, attitudes and understanding to develop from VbE is identified. Of crucial importance is to ensure that the process of developing VbE is well planned (construct an action plan/road map) and that there is continuity and progression in the student’s school experience, which is monitored, evaluated and celebrated in order to keep the process alive and constantly under review. Ensure that VbE is visible in all subjects and aspects of the curriculum. The school’s values leader or a group of staff, which may include representatives of the student body and community, may lead this process.

10. Values Statement
The school agrees a Values Statement that may be prominently displayed in school and included in the school’s prospectus/website. It considers working towards achieving the International Values Education Trust’s (IVET) Quality Mark for being a values-based school. Finally, it celebrates being a values school and continues on a process of continuous school improvement.

11. The Headteacher/Principal as a values-led leader
Effective values-based schools only develop if the headteacher sees the relevance of VbE as a key driver for creating a world-class school. It is not a soft-option, as it is demanding in terms of personal commitment and drive. However, as Pete Dumall, Head of the Fielding School in London says:
Values enable leaders to share their vision in a common and consistent vocabulary. Values have helped me provide a framework for decision-making – especially around people – for all of the things where there is no guidance and you’re left on your own. Decisions are taken in the best interest of the organisation and the person themselves: the values vocabulary helps me to explain where the decision has come from. Values provide a framework for reflective thinking, enabling my personal growth and development following every experience – ‘how might I have managed that better?’

12. Next Steps
We recommend that schools and other settings that want to embed Values-based Education allocate a training day, when all teaching and non-teaching staff can attend and be an active part in the process of transformational cultural change. There are many useful documents to support this active process, which can be found at Involvement, partnership and ownership by all stakeholders are the keys to the success of VbE.


Hawkes, N (2005). Does teaching values improve the quality of education in primary schools? OxfordUniversity. D. Phil Thesis. Published by VDM (2010), an imprint of Crown Publishing.

Lovat, et al (2009). Final Report For AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Project to Test and Measure the Impact of Values Education on Student Effects and School Ambience. Professor Terence Lovat, Professor Ron Toomey, Dr. Kerry Dally, Dr. Neville Clement. The University of Newcastle Australia, January 12th, 2009

Siegel, D & Payne Bryson, T (2011). The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind, Survive Everyday Parenting Struggles, and Help Your Family Thrive Random House

© Dr Neil and Jane Hawkes

Tuesday 28 November 2017

Research, Pedagogy and Power

Stephen Bigger.  The last two months has been a baptism of fire in twitter-feed. Especially between 'Tell them things then test them" pedagogy and the broader learning which includes inquiry, activities, drama and so forth. As a teacher I did both, mixed in different ways, sometimes even in the same lesson. I embalmed a mummy and directed the class to act out bits of whatever we were talking about. A whole-school Passover, including 100+ pupils in the hall crossing the Red Sea was remembered a year later (pupils called me Rabbi) and a narrated and acted out Rama and Sita story was acted out for whole year assembly. This work was knowledge-rich, resulting in quality writing and was examined in the normal way - but it was delivered in as exciting and entertaining ways as I could muster. And definitely no worksheets, and few books either because suitable books were not available. Knowledge-rich need not involve droning teachers and unthinking pupils - it should encourage thinking and discussion.

My own education, primary and secondary, was of the tell them and test them variety with rewards (gold and silver stars) and punishments (normally public shaming). I was banned from being str monitor when I sabotaged the whole exercise, not discovered for several weeks. I was a bright pupil who didn't want external rewards (stars) so I laced my work with deliberate errors. Looking back, this damaged my progress until I was 14, but I was looking after two younger siblings (7 and 3), a house and a garden. I had older siblings, but they were away at boarding school. My head was not focused on school-work which generally involved teacher bullying and sarcasm, with canings from time to time.  At 14 I discovered self-study, became an avid book buyer and got on with it. At university I noticed that I was the only one in class who had not been 'spoon-fed'. I am emptying  my attic and looking at the notes I took for myself from A level onwards, in tiny handwriting I could not emulate today. In research terms, much of it is still usable.

So calls for bullying 'tell and test' leave me cold. I don't remember any teacher with pleasure, and I do remember most teachers. At least caning has been outlawed.  Why revert to what didn't work educationally sixty years ago?

So to my thoughts on research into pedagogy. First a truism not always appreciated. Education is not the same as schooling, and vice versa. Schooling is forcing children/YP to attend a particular place and do as they are told. Education is learning, developing, becoming curious and becoming exited about life and the world. The Unschooling Movement argues that education is better done outside school, drawing on the work of John Holt about children failing and succeeding to learn. It is possible to go through school and pass exams without learning much.

So we start with what is education and what is learning. Well before the age of 5 I really enjoyed picture books. Donald Duck, I remember. We weren't allowed comics since mother (a coal face miner's daughter with delusions of grandeur) thought them working class. Enid Blyton was middle class so that was our reading diet. I can still sing the Noddy and Big-ears records. Coming to the point, home was reading-rich and picture-book rich. I don't remember learning to read, but I do remember teaching others to read.I remember laughing during silent reading and having to turn it into a cough.

Coming out of this, motivating pupils to learn could be higher on the agenda than becoming passive receptors. Managing learning through fear, linked with expulsion of recalcitrants, seems poorly fitted to develop motivation. In saying this I am not saying that anything goes, since good self-discipline will benefit both the individual and the class. In the short term, some pupils may have developed negative attitudes over time so the teacher is trying to turn them around by building a good relationship which takes the sting out of their past experiences.

Ethics.  This gives us a key question to ask of pedagogy, To what extent does it value the pupils and respect their various needs? Does their experience in school promote their happiness and well-being? Are the benefits of the class experience appropriately shared? Our focus is on motivating pupils by being supportive, helpful, empowering and not being authoritarian, bossy and unfair.

Critical Pedagogy.  The word critical means a range of things in different contexts but always from the action of offering criticism. That criticism may be logical - i.e. the argument doesn't follow. It may be evidential, that what is said is not based on evidence. It could be ethical, where the argument made is not fair. Critical Theory asks all these questions but since the first two are common to all disciplines, the focus on social justice provides it with a very distinctive set of questions. Stimulated by the rise of the Nazis in Germany, its philosophical message of social justice was the stark opposite of the oppressive policies of the brown-shirt thugs. Many were secular Jews and the social message of the prophets is clearly visible. The Critical Theorists moved from Frankfurt to America for their safety. Their distinctive philosophy against oppression across society fed into feminism, anti-racism, studies of class and more recently sexuality. It has been applied to education as Critical Pedagogy, encouraging democratic schooling, hearing pupil voices (opinions) including school councils, the involvement of pupils in their learning and school lives, social justice in schools, respect for pupils with special needs and so on. In brief it is a philosophy of respect. Critical theory tends to be a grass roots movement against top-down instrumentalism making judgements and disrespectful authoritarianism based on punishment, sarcasm and belittling. The early stages of critical pedagogy is well summed up in Teaches As Intellectuals: Toward a Critical Pedagogy of Learning by Henry Giroux (1988 and still available). His chapter (9) on 'Teachers as Transformative Intellectuals' emphasises that teachers are "transformative intellectuals who combine scholarly reflection and practice in the service of educating students to be thoughtful, active citizens" (p.122). This was an argument against a more instrumental view if the teacher's role "devaluing and deskilling", an insight still relevant today.

Self  Study. There is not a great deal written about self study and different things are meant so I will be careful to define my meanings. One meaning is studying oneself, a kind of personal psychotherapy. That is not centrally what I mean but reflexivity (which I take this to be) is not unimportant. A second meaning I see online seems to be supplementary education, offering additional supervised schooling when they come home from school. This is not self study though is advertised assuch This sounds to me of unhelpful cramming when the children should be out playing.In my case play would have included free unsupervised reading of books I had chosen, but would also have included climbing trees and taking long bike rides.

I preferred to find out for myself than be told, and regarded (and still do) what I am told with some suspicion. This applied before the age of 5 when I campaigned to deny the existence of Father Christmas. I gather local mothers used to knock on the door to tell be to shut up. I didn't of course. My favorite  school activity was finding things out for myself. we had radio but no television, and of course home computers were not yet invented. I had the umpteen volumes of the Children's Encyclopedia (second hand) and was a voracious reader; and I remember trying to reduce a dead bird to a skeleton (age about 8) and helping with the harvest in days when horses still ploughed.

Up to the age of 14 I did not engage in study.I don't remember what was taught, but I do remember the derision were were held in by many staff. "You are going to learn this whether you want to or not"; "You will learn Latin even if it kills you". Teachers who were bullies remain most firmly in mind, bearing in mind that physical assault was allowed. I was brought up as an evangelical Christian (I have been an agnostic since age 18) and this caused me not a little stress in my teens, particularly as church elders were abusive and I was close to excommunication. I jumped before being pushed.

I did two A levels by self study (Latin and Religious Studies) the latter in nine months supported by a correspondence college. At University, learning Hebrew, Greek, Akkadian, Ugaritic as well as broad reading requires self-study discipline. Moving on the PhD straight after requires more of the same. I had been well set up. Later I completed PG Cert and later still MA by self study. The question is how can self study be encouraged earlier in school as a matter of routine. The internet provides a different context so research using it needs to establish criticality - testing the evidence for claims on social media and other internet sources. Don't accept it, test it. I am aware of schools in which this is taking place. If this becomes established generally, changes to assessment will have to take place. Self-study requires agency (feeling in control) and motivation (feeling the task is worth doing).

Authority as Relational.   I take my subtitle from a book by Charles Bingham. What is Authority? You can hear Trump saying 'I have Authority. I am President' as if it is a cloak he puts on when taking office. 'You have to obey or take the consequences' (that was Mugabe, not Trump yet). Authority is something earned, and may not be earned by authoritarianism. Ruling by fear and not relationship may produce compliance but not cooperation or collaboration. Model 3 he calls 'critical' meaning that all involved, pupils and teachers declare themselves to have equal status and voice. Self motivation and self discipline is the name of the game. The big task of schooling is how to achieve that goal. Within a framework of curriculum appropriateness, it has to involve pupils having some say over what they choose to study and letting them explore how to research properly. That authority is relational assumes that classrooms (and schools) are relational, that they are dominated by positive and helpful interactions and relationships, and that authority grows out of those interactions and their implied respect both ways. Resisting authority assumes that authority is claimed by particular individuals (teachers and leaders). If authority is distributed in a context of collaboration and cooperation, resisting authority means opting out of the group dynamic altogether. In a sense this form of group authority could be called distributed authority or perhaps collegial authority. It would need operating principles like keeping safe and showing respect, and some sort of mechanism to balance dominant personalities/voices.

Tom Sergiovanni spent his academic life reconceptualising leadership including Moral Leadership.
He regards competence and virtue as the two major principles of leadership. Most recently The Lifeworld of Leadership: Creating Culture, Community, and Personal Meaning in Our Schools explores the broader implications of school relationships. Whilst his initial thoughts focus on senior management, distributed leadership operates throughout the institution and throughout the community. He sums up:
"the more leadership is emphasised, the less professionalism flourishes. The more professionalism is thriving, the less need there is for leadership."
Pedagogy is an ethical and moral activity in which the whole community (in this case the school) create culture and personal meaning. This requires interpersonal relationships of a high order.

Saturday 25 November 2017

Alfie Kohn

Teaching without being authoritarian -