Global warming in education: Why Schleicher is wrong

//Global warming in education: Why Schleicher is wrong

Without data you’re just another person with an opinion. Andreas Schleicher

As we all know – well, most of us – the climate is changing as a result of human behaviour. Maybe we could do something about it, but it won’t be painless. It would involve those of us living the developed world giving up some of the conveniences we take for granted. If we don’t make these changes we shouldn’t be too surprised if global temperatures change drastically resulting in all sort of disturbing possibilities.

Similarly, human behaviour has an effect on the educational climate and the beliefs and behaviour of certain high-profile educationalists might be particularly damaging. These include the usual suspects like Ken Robinson and Sugata Mitra, but also the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The stated mission of the OECD is to “promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world” but the behaviour of the coordinator of their Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Andreas Schleicher may well be in opposition to this aim.

At the recent International Summit on the Teaching Profession, Schleicher told delegates that education systems need to teach pupils the things that “distinguish humans from technology”. Unless we do so, he argues that more and more young people will join Islamic State:

Disenfranchised young people who are part of the countries assembled here have joined Islamic State… The fact that some of those young people ticked all the boxes of formal education and did everything we asked them to means it’s not as simple as more of the same education for them.

This misses the point that while technology is excellent at storing and processing information, it takes a human being to understand anything; the only way to understand something is to have it in your head.

Speaking to the TES, Schleicher said,

What else do we expect from school other than to solve the problems of today? The kind of pretence that we can somehow isolate schools from the real world is a dangerous one. It leads precisely to the growing disconnect between the world of work and the world of learning, a growing disconnect between social problems and education problems, and I think that is a huge challenge.

There are young people who have gone through all of what we think is right for them and they just don’t engage with us – they don’t see the value of pluralism and an outlooking perspective. This is not just essential from a social perspective it’s also essential from an economic perspective. Innovation today comes from you connecting the dots; being able to think across the disciplinary boundaries.

His solution is to teach generic skills like creativity and problem solving, and to “teach about aesthetics, design and civic life, and give pupils the ability to see the world from different perspectives”.

You can see him making this argument in debate with Daisy Christodoulou and Nick Gibb here.

The problem with Schleicher’s views is that they ignore the findings of cognitive science, evolutionary psychology and, bizarrely, the results of his own organisations’ international assessments. If the OECD really wanted to focus on “policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world” then it should focus on research which tells us that generic skills can’t taught and what’s more are almost certainly innate anyway.

This is tricky for us to wrap our heads around because we have little or no ability to introspect about our own mental processes. Schleicher, Robinson and the gang are unaware how much they and every other educated person relies on what they know to create, communicate, collaborate, solve problems and think critically. The only real insight we have is to struggle with the often bafflingly counter-intuitive findings of cognitive science.

I’ve suggested before that we would get more of what we want if we should concentrate on making children cleverer. As Steven Pinker argues in The Better Angels of Our Nature, more higher your IQ, the less likely you are to commit violent crimes and less likely yo are to be the victim of a violent crime. He also shows that the cleverer you are, the more likely you are to cooperate with other people, weigh the consequences of your actions and think in such a way that allows you to escape the confines of your own limited experiences. There’s also good evidence that democracy – the form of government which is least likely to commit violent actions against its own people and go to war against another state – is most likely to take root and flourish in a literate, knowledgeable population.

The best guess is that the Flynn Effect (the finding that average IQ seems to increase 3 points per decade) is almost certainly caused by education. Pinker argues the case thus:

We have several grounds for supposing that enhanced powers of reason – specifically, the ability to set aside immediate experience, detach oneself from a parochial vantage point, and frame one’s ideas in abstract, universal terms – would lead to better moral commitments, including an avoidance of violence. (p 793)

To take Schleicher’s rather facile, ill-advised example, if we really want to deter children from becoming indoctrinated by fundamentalist ideologies, we best off teaching in such a way that allows them to know more.  You can’t think about something you don’t know – try it for a moment – and the more you know about a subject the more sophisticated your thoughts become and the less likely you are to blow up yourself and others in the cause of a belief.

Rather than give in to educational climate change, let’s make a stand and confront such dangerously ignorant nonsense wherever it occurs.

2017-03-31T18:27:03+00:00March 31st, 2017|Featured|


  1. […] post Global warming in education: Why Schleicher is wrong appeared first on David Didau: The Learning […]

  2. peter4logo (@peter4logo) March 31, 2017 at 7:32 pm - Reply

    Well said, thank you. I’d like to add that the view of the “technical” Schleicher obviously holds is a really poor one. Maybe he should read at least some of the books and papers which have been written about this topic. Probably he won’t, as knowledge is so overrated 😉

    A second thought: It is true that many “bad people”, think about some of the worst Nazis, the 9/11- terrorists etc. etc., were well educated. The demand for teaching “creativity” completely misses the obvious fact that exactly those well educated villains did not only know a lot, but were as well very creative…

    • Tara Houle March 31, 2017 at 7:56 pm - Reply

      Well said.

    • paulgmoss March 31, 2017 at 9:12 pm - Reply

      I don’t think you can have your cake and eat it too

      • David Didau April 1, 2017 at 12:23 am - Reply

        The correct quote is, eat your cake and have it; it’s obviously perfectly possible to have your cake and eat it.

  3. paulgmoss March 31, 2017 at 9:10 pm - Reply

    Hi David
    I am very surprised by this post. The position that knowledge is a deterrent to violence is certainly naïve to say the least, considering the educational pedigree of the political forces responsible for devastating foreign and local policy worldwide: continuous war, gross economic inequality, media monopoly, and the recent (actually not) nationalist surge being their most infamous achievements to date. I hardly think I need to elaborate on this, considering the insistence on research that this blog is rather famous for, but just in case please look at anything from John Pilger, Noam Chomsky, Mark Curtis, and even a conservative William Polk to name just a few (sorry I can’t add links – happy to share via email or twitter) . It rather appears a post for the sake of it, to perhaps serve simply to facilitate numerous links to other content; inbound marketing indeed. Perhaps a little more humility is required and less vitriol?

    • Michael pye March 31, 2017 at 9:43 pm - Reply

      I thought the correllation between education levels and liberal values was well established. Currently unable to search for references though.

    • David Didau April 1, 2017 at 12:22 am - Reply

      The view that that knowledge is *not* a deterrent to violence is what’s naive. I recommend the humility of reading Pinker’s thesis before deciding pronouncing about others’ vitriol and self-serving motives.

      • paulgmoss April 1, 2017 at 8:12 am - Reply

        David you’re getting your knickers in a knot (a more logical idiom?). Pinker’s thesis , whilst having good intentions, is irrelevant as it doesn’t focus on crimes committed by the white collared, crimes that in terms of severity outweigh those of the poor substantially. Ironically, Knowledge without morality is why the poor exist in the first place.

        • David Didau April 1, 2017 at 8:14 am - Reply

          Feels a bit odd for you to be speculating about my underwear 🙂

          White collar crime is, typically, non-violent. Also, you’re confusing anecdotes with statistics: on average knowledge absolutely *does* result in better moral decisions.

          Honestly, read the book – it’s a very impressive piece of work.

          • Grumpywearymathsteacher April 1, 2017 at 10:34 pm

            Actions can be both non-violent and legal, but also immoral.

            I think what Paul M means is that the capitalist elite have plenty of education and knowledge, but little concern for the rest of society (which they may even believe does not exist…). It is possible to be rich in factual ‘academic’ knowledge, but poor in life experience, empathy etc (which is also knowledge, but not usually part of an academic curriculum).

          • David Didau April 2, 2017 at 7:44 pm

            Of course it’s possible, the point is, it’s less probable. C’mon, you’re a maths teacher: think statistically.

          • Grumpywearymathsteacher April 3, 2017 at 10:48 am

            I’m not disagreeing with your main argument, but I would still defend Paul’s point that academic education is not sufficient for moral behaviour. The highly educated CEO who chooses to exploit their workers makes many more people suffer than the uneducated person who violently assaults one victim….but they aren’t violent, so that’s ok?

          • David Didau April 3, 2017 at 8:58 pm

            But that’s just another anecdote.

  4. Tom Burkard March 31, 2017 at 10:21 pm - Reply

    A rather odd comparison. Although no one, certainly not people who are routinely dismissed as ‘deniers’, disputes that humans (and indeed many forms of life) have a significant effect on climate or that CO2 in the atmosphere has a ‘greenhouse’ effect, it is far less certain that the present level of carbon emissions will have catastrophic effects. Still less is it likely that current policies are doing much to reduce carbon emissions–when huge sums can be made from wind farms and solar arrays, there isn’t much financial incentive to find green solutions that actually work. One can only wonder why the establishment takes so much trouble to shut down debate.

    In the case of Robinson, Schleicher, Mitra et al, they represent the overwhelming majority of educators: they are the establishment. There has long been a disjunct between it and the cognitive sciences; when I first studied education in 1990, it was no secret that attempts to teach decontextualised thinking skills and reading comprehension skills had failed to produce any real gains. Now, we have a better understanding of why these attempts failed, but even at the time it struck me as palpably absurd that anyone could make sound judgments in the absence of knowledge.

    The persistence of the romantic view of education is not all that hard to understand. The romantic vision of the teacher as the redeemer of mankind, dedicated to creating a kinder and gentler breed of humanity and replacing rote-learning with ‘creativity’ is seductive: even when I was teaching remedial literacy skills as a private tutor, mothers of children who had failed dismally still defended their teachers because they were so ‘nice’ and ‘supportive’. Winning the debate is never going to be easy, no matter how much the evidence is on our side. People like Schleicher seldom even acknowledge evidence from the cognitive sciences: they know that we’re perceived as the ‘nasty’ party.

  5. Mark Featherstone-Witty April 1, 2017 at 10:47 am - Reply

    As David might know, IQ was never intended, by its creator, to be a measure of intelligence. It was designed to measure specific learning needs, in other words SEN. The idea that IQ tests measure intelligence or the idea that there’s only one kind of intelligence is mistaken.

    • Michael pye April 1, 2017 at 11:15 am - Reply

      It is not mistaken. IQ can measure intelligence and is a useful proxy. (Can’t think of a better one). Like all forms of measurement it has issues around reliability and validity which is why there is more then one type of IQ test and why it needs to be used with care.

      This is the science of measurement 101.

      • Mark Featherstone-Witty April 1, 2017 at 11:50 am - Reply

        Well, Michael, we’ll just have to disagree, because proxy isn’t good enough (although I appreciate your caution) when you can be sent to the electric chair in Texas if you have commmitted a serious crime and an IQ is used to determine if you knew what you were doing. What’s that famous quote: not everything that’s important can be measured and not everything that can be measured is important? The very idea of being able to measure something as slippery as intelligence is hubristic, I’m afraid.

        • David Didau April 2, 2017 at 7:43 pm - Reply

          You’re welcome to disagree but it would be great if you sought to explore rather than simply confirm your biases. I recommend this book as a primer for understanding intelligence research

          • Michael Pye April 3, 2017 at 9:42 am

            Thanks David. I would also counter Marks arguments by pointing out that using it to justify executing people would not be using it with care, integrity and is obviously plain wrong.

            It would also be useful Mark if you acknowledged that outside the hard sciences nearly all forms of measurement are proxies so banning them on principle would be problematic. Note it is well known that IQ test are often abused or misinterpreted it is just a step to far to dismiss them as being inherently impossible. This is not excessive self confidence which I believe is the definition of Hubris you were using.

    • David Didau April 2, 2017 at 7:36 pm - Reply

      What Binet might have intended is irrelevant. Intelligence *can* be measured and g – general intelligence – is widely accepted to be a measure which covers pretty much everything psychologists mean by intelligence.

      • Mark Featherstone-Witty April 3, 2017 at 10:26 am - Reply

        Well, this could be a lengthy debate partly because you appear here, not so evident in your big book, to dismiss my comment during 45 years in the teaching and learning sector (so still at it) as simply confirming biases. You are equally prone – as everyone is. You are typically characterised by other thinkers as a particular kind of commentator, which implies, in many other eyes, I feel, an identifiable bias. I don’t object to reading a primer, but I do object to be advised to read yet another text, when you don’t know me and when I have read so many ‘primers’ already. I also object to what seems to be prevalent in your writing (which I have enjoyed by the way) that getting to the heart of teaching and learning is understood by metrics and statistics, when the thing itself can and should be understood through experience. As you often acknowledge, human interaction is complex and constantly subject to revision.

      • Mark Featherstone-Witty April 10, 2017 at 9:40 am - Reply

        It’s astonishing that what Binet ‘might have intended is irrelevant’. He was the creator. Would you be making the same assertion about a politician, a novelist and hairdresser? Would you make the same assertion about yourself and the many comments you make? Are your intentions are irrelevant? Really? Bald statements like ‘intelligence ‘can’ be measured’ and that this is ‘widely accepted’ pose so many assumptions and open so many questions.

        • David Didau April 10, 2017 at 5:50 pm - Reply

          It’s really not astonishing. IQ test now bear little resemblance to what Binet was trying to do. Your astonishment is akin to being astonished that Einstein dared mess with Newtonian physics.

          Intelligence can be measured more accurately and reliably than any other psychological trait. This *is* widely accepted. In fact it’s a scientific consensus. You may not like that but our preferences have little effect on reality.

          • Mark Featherstone-Witty April 10, 2017 at 6:28 pm

            From your perspective and from the evidence base you draw upon, I understand where you are coming from, David. You may have spotted a bit of Ken Robinson in my responses because he’s an old mate of mine (some 40 years) and far better placed to joust with you than I. Stepping back, I do appreciate the questioning your big book engenders. So, over and out on the intelligence debate.

          • David Didau April 10, 2017 at 6:34 pm

            Fair enough. Good to exchange ideas. Thanks

  6. Jenny Clarke April 1, 2017 at 11:12 am - Reply

    Don’t agree about global warming, but article is otherwise spot on – skills cannot be taught in the way Schleicher suggests.

    • David Didau April 2, 2017 at 7:36 pm - Reply

      You’re a climate change denier?

      • Chester Draws April 3, 2017 at 10:25 pm - Reply

        I am a “denier”. Well, I’m not really, but I’m not convinced by the arguments I’ve seen advanced that it is primarily CO2 caused, and in the loaded language of that field, that makes me a denier.

        What of it?

        I have a good science degree (Chemistry and Physics) so I’m neither anti-science nor ignorant. I’m not even right-wing or conservative, so it’s not my politics. I have read a significant number of the original research papers. And I remain totally unpersuaded.

        I’m uncertain what difference this opinion would have on the field of education though.

        The progressive wing of educationalists aligns quite strongly with the CO2-fearing brigade. I don’t feel in either case that I am morally wrong objecting to people who are convinced that they are right, just because they are so convinced.

  7. Jenny Clarke April 1, 2017 at 11:22 am - Reply

    Just thinking, there is probably no strong link between education level and liberal values, but education allows you to decide on and evaluate the values you espouse, and be able to argue for and justify them. Knowledge allows one to think about a position and discuss it – does not mean you will come to a ‘liberal’ conclusion (whatever that is). I often suspect that this skills teaching agenda has nothing to do with making creative people, but just seems easier to teach than the political motivation and actions of Alfred the Great, or the Periodic Table, or the tenets of a religion. It’s nice and touchy feely too. BTW: Saw a programme on Detroit last night, where 2/3rds of children cannot read – and the teachers said exactly the same as I hear in at home, that children don’t read because of poor home backgrounds, poverty etc, none of which has anything to do with how reading is taught (the one thing the teachers did not comment on).

    • David Didau April 2, 2017 at 7:39 pm - Reply

      It’s helpful to try to think statistically about this. Clearly, not every educated individual will make moral choices. However, there is definitely reason to believe that when we look at the effects of education across a population that the more educated people are, the better choices they make.

    • Michael Pye April 3, 2017 at 9:57 am - Reply

      Examples of liberal values (and these are embraced by all three main political parties in the UK to varying degrees – including a big chunk of the conservative party)

      Respect for equality.and diversity (Gender, sexuality, Race)
      Embracing multi-national organisations (UN, EU, etc: Education was highly correlated with how people voted in the referandum)
      Respect for individual liberty and freedom of choice and opinion
      A reluctance to engage in conflict and a desire to offer aid and support to other nations.

      Historically the centre of our politics has moved in this direction(you need a historical comparison to appreciate this) and it has been argued that a big driver of this has been increasing educational levels.(This can be of course be challenged). Please focus on the fact that liberal in this context does not mean an affiliation to a specific political party but instead a gradual shift to a more encompassing worldview both within and outside ones own country, culture and personal experience.

      • Jennifer April 4, 2017 at 2:03 pm - Reply

        There is a link between education and radicalisation in the direction of Islamic State.

  8. 4c3d April 2, 2017 at 8:46 am - Reply

    I find this statement intriguing ” You can’t think about something you don’t know – try it for a moment – and the more you know about a subject the more sophisticated your thoughts become”. It is full of questions. For example, what do we mean by thinking? Does knowing more make your thinking more sophisticated? Does knowing too much about one thing blind you to other options or ideas?

    I am ignorant of many of the authors mentioned here so forgive my naivety but you may ask why such differing views if such minds have thought so long and hard at identifying what education climate best prepares people for living in a mutually supportive and beneficial world. I get why we try to solve this particular problem but wonder if those, the “high-profile educationalists” now trying to solve it are too far removed from “chalk face” to truly understand the issues. Is their specific knowledge actually limiting their thinking?

    I favour the example given of Pinker’s view of enhanced powers of reasoning leading to a better outcome but is reasoning the domain of IQ? is the increase in IQ a “natural” process or is this increase a product of education in which case will any education do?

    In my own experience there are thinks we can base education on that do make a difference, that would satisfy Pinker’s ambition. The problem with education though is that we turn everything into a subject and then try to teach it. We have to get away from this way of thinking about education. If we don’t then we are at risk of remaining in this cycle of new theory, old approach and old theory, new approach.

    Perhaps we can’t teach creativity or problem solving but we can provide an environment where it flourishes.

    • Michael pye April 2, 2017 at 9:16 am - Reply

      Do you study philosophy by any chance? You seem to like identifying flaws in current systems which is legit but then conclude the need for change without applying the same rigour to the new ideas. Of course traditional subjects categorisations have limitations but please specify exactly what you want to replace them with. Skills based curriculums do this which is why we are able to debate them productively

      • Michael pye April 2, 2017 at 9:18 am - Reply

        My last post was in response to the sentences,” The problem with education though is that we turn everything into a subject and then try to teach it. We have to get away from this way of thinking about education. “

        • 4c3d April 2, 2017 at 12:46 pm - Reply

          No Micheal, not a student of philosophy just a teacher albeit one that is dissatisfied with the direction education appears to be taking and one that has nearly 40 years to reflect on.

          Five years ago I started in earnest to explore what works in teaching and why. When I say “works” I mean what was successful in engaging and motivating learners and supported them in their learning. What do successful learners do and why was another question as was why are some learners more successful once they leave school (even just for work experience) and some never reach what we assumed was their potential.

          I am still researching and admittedly I have come across some philosophers along the way but I have also come across some very pragmatic people too. The thing i have pinned down is that in the world out side of education there are very few “subjects”, Careers or jobs may come close since they define a set of knowledge or skills necessary in order to perform a role. What we find missing though and why, even with students having subject based qualifications, the world of work is always complaining that education is not preparing them properly or standards are too low, is things like showing initiative, effective communication, problem solving and other attributes, attitudes or behaviours that are not subjects. In order to fill these gaps schools are often asked to teach them, think citizenship, and the response is to turn them into subjects so they can be fitted into the current model we have.

          I did not say replace subjects what I said was to get away from this way of thinking. We can look at things differently and this can impact the way we construct and deliver education. I am too much of a realist to ever dream of education moving too far away from a subject based curriculum, there are too many advantages to it including standardisation and assessment. What I have found effective both in my own practice and in small scale active research is to find ways of constructing a learning environment and adopt an approach that I would refer to as “mindful”. The second aspect is what successful learners have in common and that is something I have termed “Learning Intelligence” and have described in many articles on my blog. Basically it is our ability to manage our learning environment to meet our learning needs and consists of a set of skills, attributes, attitudes and behaviours that can be developed.

          I am happy to share my work and to be challenged about my theories. Have a look at my blog and use the search option to see how many aspects and topics I have covered.

          • David Didau April 2, 2017 at 7:52 pm

            “…in the world out side of education there are very few “subjects””

            You think? The ‘subjects’ may not be explicit, but they’re always there. Disciplinary, domain-specific knowledge governs how we think and act.

            I’m skeptical of the existence of a domain general ‘learning intelligence’ – looking at ‘successful learners’ and trying to generalise from what they do is bound to lead to post hoc rationalisations. What they do is a result, in large part, of what they know.

          • Chester Draws April 3, 2017 at 10:32 pm

            “…in the world out side of education there are very few “subjects””

            Law. Medicine. Nursing. Teaching. Accounting. Journalism. Architecture. Soldier. Plumbing. Electrician. Pilot.

            Those listed, which are hardly complete, are just those where to do the job you are expected to have completed tertiary training in it. And where they have subject specific colleges even.

          • 4c3d April 4, 2017 at 6:27 am

            I take your point about tertiary education. I should have been more specific and said 5- 18 education. However the tertiary training and the colleges are still within the world of education. Indeed to get to those colleges and to those courses leading to those careers qualifications in “subjects” are called. for. I would refer to you list Chester as ‘careers’ and not subjects. The difference to me being there is application of knowledge outside of subject specific boundaries. To perform in such careers often requires subject collaboration and application that is seamless. This is most unlike 5-18 schools.

          • David Didau April 4, 2017 at 10:17 am

            Perhaps ‘subjects’ is an unhelpful way to think about the division we make in schools. Better to think about disciplines. Have you read this?

          • 4c3d April 4, 2017 at 12:28 pm

            Will have a read

    • David Didau April 2, 2017 at 7:47 pm - Reply

      “The problem with education though is that we turn everything into a subject and then try to teach it.” What’s wrong with that? Why do we need to “get away from this way of thinking about education”? Maybe if we *do* we’re actually more likely to be “at risk of remaining in this cycle of new theory, old approach and old theory, new approach.”

      The more you know, the better you can think about these issues.

  9. Michael Pye April 2, 2017 at 4:09 pm - Reply

    You did imply the need to move away from traditional subject approaches.

    My issue is really specific, You need to clearly frame your alternatives and apply the same level of criticism and rigor to those ideas. This blog and others are currently advocating knowledge over skills approach. It is legitimate to attack this idea (in fact this post by David rests on an assumption that education really means knowledge). My frustration is with tangential reasoning thats doesn’t pay attention to the details. Ironically this is what the debate is really about, reasoning without knowledge is just arguing over opinions.

    The journey you are on is obviously not unique, I am on it with you and many others have trod the same ground. The idea that the behavior of experts should be directly mimicked (ie problem solving) is a fallacy as it confuses the output (expert performance) with the necessary recreate that performance in a novice. (I would argue this is mastery over core knowledge and basic principles). The ideas you are advocating are well trod and the arguments easy to find and study. If you are suggesting modifications on previously used methods these need to need carefully described and ultimately supported by evidence (obviously by others, you cant do this by yourself). Statistically your ideas will likely be deeply flawed as most new approaches are. Until then throwing out a well structured curriculum based on traditional subjects would be folly.

    P.s When I left university most Physics graduates went into non-physics jobs. The subject was well respected as employers assumed if someone could learn something that hard they could learn anything. I don’t agree with the employers reasoning but it shows that arguing it is what employers want isn’t as great of an argument as one might think.

    I did have a quick look at your blog, you are still very much advocating the constructionist approach with your focus on creativity. (Though creativity flaws from deep knowledge, scrap that useful creativity flaws from deep knowledge, creative naffness is easy).

    I used to believe these kind of ideas until I started my journey into evidence based-education. The caul was then cruelly ripped from me. If you have the patience to go right back to the beginning of Davids blog you might find the evolution of his reasoning interesting.

  10. Michael Pye April 2, 2017 at 4:11 pm - Reply

    Flows not flaws.

    • 4c3d April 2, 2017 at 8:08 pm - Reply

      Got the “flaws” “flows” mixup.

      The point I am trying to make is that a subject is an artificial construct. We do not appear to be able to admit this in education. We talk of subject, label by subjects and award qualification by subjects but do not admit it. The strange thing is it does not take much to change this, we can keep the subject structure but we need to admit there is more to learning and being able to learn. The question I have had since day one as a teacher has been “What is it that makes us good at something, good at maths, or English or D&T?”

      I accept the knowledge argument and as a designer have always argued that we need knowledge in order to design effectively (“creative naffness is easy”). I recall somebody, it may have been in a book by Richard Kimball, arguing that five year olds can design and their design is far more inventive because they have no knowledge constraints. My argument against this was that we were interpreting their designs from our knowledge and experience base. What concerns me is the journey to assimilate or collect that knowledge. In my experience schools are not meeting the needs of many learners in this respect. Seeing learning as a problem to solve, i.e the application of creativity or by being creative, is a legitimate approach. Bandura probably says this best ““Given the same environmental conditions, persons who have developed skills for accomplishing many options and are adept at regulating their own motivation and behaviour are more successful in their pursuits than those who have limited means of personal agency.”

      My reference to the world of work and it’s needs was not an argument of what employers want and schools should provide, the ‘curriculum’ if you like. What I was trying to say is that the subject only focus has and possibly never will satisfy the needs of the world of work, it is too narrow. Unfortunately subjects have become a sort of shorthand for experience, often gained well after qualification but often attributed to the original subject and therefore sought after in new entrants. I explored this idea back in 1985 when I presented a number of subject syllabus content statements without subject context to employers and asked them to pick those they value, require or wish to see in new entrants. Despite their declared need for maths and physics (it was engineering) the most selected statements came from Design, a subject they dismissed.

      As for the path and similarity to previously used methods I must have been unfortunate not to have come across them in schools. Other than in my own practice and those I could influence, which was often seen as ‘different’ (by students as well as teachers) I have only experienced the same old same old. I take your point about evidence and would ask anyone who wants to help me in this matter to get in touch. The majority of my evidence is my own practise and perhaps that falls into the trap of mastery and mimicking novice.

  11. 4c3d April 2, 2017 at 8:27 pm - Reply

    Just read David’s comments too. It would appear I am being accused of wanting to ditch subjects! I am not, only that we do not take such a narrow view of how to construct or support a learning environment.

    “What’s wrong with that? Why do we need to “get away from this way of thinking about education”

    I would reply “A subject only way of thinking”

    “Until then throwing out a well structured curriculum based on traditional subjects would be folly.”

    Just what is “traditional” now, at this moment? It changes surely. Just think The SAbre Tooth Tiger Curriculum by J. Abner Peddiwell What evidence is there that it is a well structured curriculum when so many students leave lacking qualifications or the desire to be life long learners?

    Perhaps this reflex challenge is because we only see subjects as the sources of, or the only way to arrange a hierarchy of knowledge and anything that is thought to threaten that must be ‘wrong’! I have no problem with education being about knowledge (and understanding – but that is another argument) all I am trying to suggest is that we need to think beyond that if we are to engage, motivate and help all learners. Believe it or not the school environment is a toxic one to many students.

    David, you may be skeptical about Learning Intelligence but at least you have not dismissed it. There is hope.

    • David Didau April 2, 2017 at 9:17 pm - Reply

      If the school environment is toxic to dome students it’s worth thinking about why. One reason – I think probably the main one – may be that they don’t know enough to access it. If this is the case, rather than doing all this rethinking we might just be better teaching them what they need to know.

      • 4c3d April 2, 2017 at 9:49 pm - Reply

        That may be true David but it is more complex than just not knowing enough, it’s the damage that does in the first place and how it is handled by teachers. The view of self gets tied up with subjects in school. How many adults will say they like or are good at maths? I am not suggesting we don’t teach them what they need to know, I am not on some crusade of self discovery or experience based learning. As teachers we have a responsibility to make knowledge accessible and develop understanding. If you get a chance ask a few students why they don’t like a subject or school. I have and I have worked to help them overcome limiting self beliefs and its never about not knowing, always about not understanding and always about feeling stupid. How they get to feel that way must be down to the learning environment and how it is managed. It may not be not knowing enough to access it and more about not knowing how to access it.

        • David Didau April 2, 2017 at 11:37 pm - Reply

          I have asked students why they don’t like school – their answers are many and various but all have one thing in common: they don’t actually know. Or rather, they can’t properly articulate what the problem is. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as we’re not god (as a species) at introspection and usually come up with post hoc justifications for whatever we feel. But articulation has power: as soon as we try to put something into words it becomes a narrative. And we’re very good at thinking in narratives. And so the narrative becomes ‘true’.

          When children say they ‘feel stupid’ it’s because they don’t know enough. If they don’t understand it’s because they don’t know. How they get to feel that way is only ‘down to the learning environment’ in that they haven’t mastered the basic skills and foundational knowledge required to make sense of school. Knowing enough *is* knowing how.

          • 4c3d April 3, 2017 at 6:27 am

            An interesting comment about narrative and truth. I will bear that in mind.

            I understand your position on knowledge but I can not get away from the impact of not knowing enough and how for some students this becomes their narrative. It may be a case of the ideal meets reality, the ideal where we are taught to know but there is no remedial action for when we don’t know enough. School is a particular learning environment, a construct born of necessity and standardisation and we indeed need to know how to not only survive but to thrive within it. This is where LQ fits in, in one sense it is a remedial action to help in mastering ” the basic skills and foundational knowledge required to make sense of school.” Then it supports the development of knowing about the impact on learning of attitudes and behaviours and an awareness of the attributes we need to adopt or display in order to master the environment. I suppose you would call it a narrative to deal with not knowing enough. A counter truth to being stupid. If this truth then leads to knowing then, as it has, then that must be a good thing. Yes?

            I am always appreciative of challenge and needing to express my ideas so that others understand and we find common ground. Thanks for taking the interest in helping me do so.

            Love the final statement “knowing enough *is* knowing how” Now all we need is a consensus on what ‘foundation knowledge’ is and what the ‘basics’ are.

Constructive feedback is always appreciated

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