Higher Order Thinking Skills?

By Nathan Woods

Thinking taxonomies establish a hierarchy of thinking; ‘simple’ or ‘less -sophisticated’ thinking skills, such as describing, noticing, or remembering, are seen as inferior to ‘higher order’ thinking skills like analysis and evaluation. However, these taxonomies over-simplify and misrepresent thinking.

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Education and the Politics of Culture

BY NATHAN WOODS

In 1993 Michael Apple wrote that, “Education is deeply implicated in the politics of culture. The curriculum is never a neutral assemblage of knowledge, somehow appearing in the texts and classrooms of a nation. It is always part of a selective tradition, someone’s selection, some group’s vision of legitimate knowledge. It is produced out of the cultural, political, and economic conflicts, tensions, and compromises that organise and disorganise a people”. In this article I will ‘unpack’ Apple’s quotation, showing that it emphasizes the social, cultural, and political processes that underlie any curriculum. I will discuss the political life of the curriculum in New Zealand, paying attention to historical and contemporary conflicts regarding its purpose, content, and structure.  Finally, I will address criticisms of Apple’s approach to curriculum theory.

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Hackschooling?

BY BRENT SILBY

The TEDx talk below by 13 year old Logan LaPlant is spreading around various sites dedicated to “unschooling”. It is being promoted as an argument for alternative approaches to education. I am impressed with the articulation and confidence this young person demonstrates. But does he make a rationally convincing argument?

When talking about writing, LaPlant claims that he was turned off because “my teachers used to make me write about butterflies and rainbows, but I wanted to write about skiing”. I wonder if he’s being entirely honest here. Every teacher I know encourages students to write about what they know. He might be referring to that imaginary classroom that often comes up in these sorts of presentations. This imaginary classroom constitutes part of an often used strawman argument that characterizes schools as authoritarian institutions in which children are strapped into their seats with teachers shoehorning information into their heads.
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The Decline of Education into a Customer Service Industry

BY BRENT SILBY

My four year old son attends a local pre-school. The teachers there do a wonderful job. In fact, I think they deserve medals for the care and attention they pay the students. Working in such a noisy, demanding environment takes a high level of dedication.

We have just received a Progress Report for our son. After a series of comments on a range of social attributes, there is a section for parent comments. Within that section they ask the question:

What do you feel is important for [your child] to have learned / developed before [the transition to] school?
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Is Problem-Based Learning Superior to Direct Instruction?

BY BRENT SILBY

Alfie Kohn (2008) argues that techniques found in Progressive Education, such as problem-based learning, are superior to direct instruction. His argument is based upon research carried out primarily with children ranging from preschool to year 3 of primary (elementary) schooling.
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Choosing Classes

BY NATHAN WOODS

I’m a teacher at a special character secondary school in Christchurch. The school was established ten years ago to offer something different in New Zealand’s compulsory education sector. It is committed to a ‘student-centered’ approach to education. One feature of the school is that every five weeks students are presented with a new selection of classes to choose from. The weekly schedule is broken into six blocks of three hours each. In each block students choose classes from a list of between ten to twelve options. The classes are based on topics thought to be relevant and interesting for high school students. Entry into classes is not restricted by age or ability levels. If there is nothing a student wishes to enroll in for a particular block, they may choose to work on individual or collaborative learning projects out of class.

One of my roles as a learning advisor (the word we use to replace the more traditional ‘teacher’) is to support students in my homebase (similar to a form class) when they choose their classes. Predictably, some students make better decisions than others. Students who are achieving well at school usually make strategic decisions. They select classes that challenge them, and balance their interests against their needs. Some students, however, seem to do the opposite. They choose the easiest classes, and try to avoid anything challenging. They fill their schedule with hours of ‘independent learning time’, but seldom complete any projects.

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Education for Democracy

By Nathan Woods

Democracy is a political and moral system that values freedom, equality, and individual human rights. In this article, I will consider what knowledge should be included in a curriculum for democracy.

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Filed under General, Our research