Thoughts on the journey so far

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The first month of this blog attracted nine hits. Back then, it was hard to imagine that it would eventually be viewed over 300,000 times. Yet I am also aware that this is pretty minor in the world of blogging. I’m niche.

The arguments that I construct here are based upon evidence. This evidence is contested and there is evidence to support views that are at odds with my own. Nevertheless, I am no conspiracy theorist or climate change denier. My views are based in pretty conventional research.

Which is why I find it so surprising that this is one of the few spots where you will read these ideas. I hesitate to use the term, but the ‘mainstream media’ seems to have a systematic bias towards ed tech and progressive teaching methods. The recent finding that inquiry learning had a negative association with PISA science scores was worse than ignored. In some instances, the papers offered inquiry learning as the solution to declining scores.

I do understand that the PISA finding is only a correlation. I am personally convinced by the cognitive science rather than one piece of survey data although I see it as a tentative confirmation and I wonder what would have happened if the result had been the other way around. But is this the reason the media ignored the story? Have they suddenly adopted What Works Clearinghouse standards of evidence that they don’t apply when writing breathless articles about mindfulness?

So that’s why I’m here, plugging away. There are a few of us around – our numbers are growing and I am keen to welcome you to the club.

But here’s some advice. There are people out there who don’t like bloggers. They threaten to report bloggers to their employers or anyone else they perceive as having the authority to shut bloggers down. Make sure that anything you write is defensible. Do not divulge confidential information. Distinguish between facts and opinion. Avoid personal attacks – the only personal comments I make are to highlight the behaviour of those who try to silence me.

Feel free to go after the ideas. Go after them with gusto. However you write, someone will take issue with your tone. Make your best attempt to be respectful but recognise that you will draw this kind of criticism. I don’t tend to respond to it much. It’s the ideas, stupid.

Most importantly, the internet is your space. If you have enjoyed spending some time in this little corner of it then you might be ready to carve one out of your own. Who knows, you may be the one to break through and take your thinking out into the mainstream.


8 thoughts on “Thoughts on the journey so far

  1. Tempe says:

    Thank goodness for your blog, Greg. Quite honestly it was a shining beckon of sanity in the days when I set out on my journey of discovery of the education world. I felt very lonely at first, until I found this blog and then I felt vindicated. It was so pleasing to know that I was not alone. I look forward to your blogs and really enjoy the links you provide.

    The media seems to be bias. The ABC seems to relish reports on the latest ed. method. As you’ve pointed out, maybe trad. ed isn’t “sexy” enough.

  2. David says:

    Hi Greg—thanks for your efforts–I’ve found much useful here and your other blog. I fear for the future–just as the OECD itself, not to mention the media, want to wish away the results of their own damn test, I think that Selwyn et al are right in that ed tech research–if not progressive ed research–are entering their “big tobacco” moment (and, fwiw, I found that article via the link on your twitter feed on this page)

    Only those of us aware of the research will actually care, while the Next Big Thing will always be on the horizon for the True Believers. Meanwhile, our fine media will only report on the NBT, as its shiny and new, rather than advances in cognitive science….and don’t get me started on the ed consultant industrial complex….

    Be that as it may, we at least can use the research found through avenues such as your blog to fend off attempts by our admins to push the NBT into our classrooms. Our biggest challenge is in whacking all the moles that appear, and they are legion.

  3. There is a touch of the “not sexy.” about the status quo.
    I think you assume the proposition that “progressive education” is the dominant paradigm in Australian schools. I do not believe it is. Most teachers in most schools teach mainly in what I would describe as a “traditional” mode. Do I have research on this? No.
    I am trying to conduct some just for my own personal interest. From my minuscule sample size at the moment it seems like teachers spend about 80% of the time teaching in “traditional mode” and 20% doing what would be described as “progressive” project based learning.
    Feel free to share my survey so we can get a larger sample size.
    If I am correct and most teachers teach in a traditional manner most of the time, I think you are putting up a “straw man” argument. The progressive movement has not really permeated the classrooms of Austraila.
    Where you are correct is the push in the media and in teacher training for “progressive” teaching. So much of what we read about is project based learning, enquiry learning, personalised learning, discovery learning, blended learning and online learning. Why? Because many teacher training institutions think that constructivism is “the way” it should be done.
    The media will also not report the status quo. There is no news value in that. Although what I call the Michaela Phenomena in England is certainly generating news but it is ultratrad.

    Veritasium describes brilliantly how “out there” hypothesis are more generally tested and reported than traditional ones.

    And this is in the exacting world of science.

    The more nuanced world of education research is even worse.
    Bloggers like you play a major role in “keeping the bastards honest”

    Keep up the good work.
    I enjoy reading your blog even when I don’t agree with what you say.

  4. Tempe says:

    Hi Monkrob – I think it’s great that you read Greg’s blog for an alternative perspective.

    What I know about my kids schools is that with the craze for whiteboards and tech. the “progressive” ideas seem to have morphed into the notion that the teacher doesn’t explain but the video/clip etc does the teaching, then the students are assigned some work via a worksheet with, for example around 10-20 sums/factions etc in maths, for them to work out, or they are broken into groups in subjects like English/history/Geo. and asked to design posters together or chat about ideas or teach each other.

    There is a lot of writing of learning goals in high school but they don’t seem to be meeting those goals ie nothing much in their books after the goals. I think the teachers might be overwhelmed by data and designing of lesson plans, so much so that they don’t have time to even teach the students themselves.

    To be honest I’m not sure maths/science secondary teachers realise how bad the problems are in relation to abdicating responsibility to computers because at least in maths/science they seem to use textbooks (in high school, not primary) with worked examples and plenty of practice.

    On the other hand In the humanities they seem to be attempting to skip the knowledge/content (because this can be found on Google so why waste time explaining it to the students and have them learn it) part in order to race ahead to that which they consider desirable ie 21st C skills: Creativity/critical thinking, empathy, collaboration etc. Apparently, they can learn these skills devoid of knowledge which is really a crazy concept.

    I have questioned both my daughters quite a lot on this issue because I carefully look through their yearly workbooks once they bring them home at the end of the year. Their seems to be very little practice of skills/concepts or any kind of evidence of informational knowledge. It hardly exists!

  5. Tempe says:

    And the early grades of primary are definitely still all about conceptual work using manipulative while sitting on the carpet or working in groups. Little to no instruction, practice/consolidation., just some groovy new theory about how maths should be taught. I’ve even seen one of our teachers roll his eyes as he told us about the new ideas they were about to implement. I think he was a cynic, bless his heart.

  6. Mike says:

    Greg, your blog has been a daily joy for me to read this year and a marvellous antidote to the piles of drivel (which appear under the name of “professional development”) that I’m exposed to on a regular basis. I’ve long toyed with the idea of starting my own education blog, but as I’m employed with the NSW Dept. of Education I’d probably have to do it anonymously, which doesn’t appeal nearly as much. In the meantime, people like yourself and the few others who are prepared to inject some sense into the “conversation” about education in Oz are worth their weight in gold. Carry on and good luck to you!

  7. Pingback: Using Assessments – Site Title

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