Monthly Archives: November 2013



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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Filed under Criticism of theories, General

The Decline of Education into a Customer Service Industry


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?


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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Filed under Criticism of theories, Dispelling myths

Choosing Classes

By Nathan Woods

I teach at a school that 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, where students have more choice over what and how they learn. One feature of the school is that every five weeks students can select a new set of classes. 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 five-week block, they may choose to work on individual or collaborative learning projects out of class instead.

One of my roles as a teacher is to ‘help’ students in my homebase (similar to a form class) to choose their classes. Predictably, some students make better decisions than others. Students who are achieving well at school usually make ‘good’ decisions. They select classes that challenge them, and that meet their interests and their needs. Some students, however, seem to do the opposite. They choose the easiest classes, and try to avoid anything new and/or challenging. They fill their schedule with hours of ‘independent learning time’, but seldom complete any projects.

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Filed under General