Friday, October 28, 2016

Competition?/ stressed teachers/ Dr Glasser and Prof Bruner/ James Beane and John Dewey

Education Readings

Thinking out of the box

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

So who says competition in the classroom is inevitable?
Thanks to Phil Cullen for this link about what appears to be an excellent book.
Phil Cullen
‘In this extract from her new book Beautiful Failures, the Guardian’s Lucy Clark tackles the culture of contests and rankings at school, arguing that for children – indeed all of us – it is unnecessary and damaging.’
‘In personally questioning the role of competition in education I have lost count of the number of people who have said to me, yes, but life is competitive and school is just a training ground for the sort of competition our kids will face as adults in the real world.
Is that what school should be? A warm-up for the main game? A simulation of grown-up life, where we wake up in the morning, put on our armour and go out to compete in a dog-eat-dog world?’

Teaching is among the 'top three most stressed occupations’
I doubt that this is news to teachers, and it’s getting worse.
“Of all the occupations I’ve studied, and that’s about 80, teachers are in the top three most stressed occupations,” he said. “The hours are long and antisocial, the workload is heavy and there is change for change’s sake from various governments.”   

The Ticking Clock of Teacher Burnout
‘Initially, I believed that Finland was an outlier with the amount of time it offers teachers to plan, assess, and collaborate on a daily basis. But, later, I’d discover that this kind of arrangement is fairly typical among countries that excel on international standardized assessments, such as the PISA. Take Singapore, for example.’

Technology reform full of good ideas, poorly executed
Find the off switch
Politicians, seduced by computers and online instruction, could do well to read this.
‘And perhaps the most disappointing finding is that technology seems of little help in bridging the skills divide between advantaged and disadvantaged students. Put simply, ensuring that every child attains a baseline level of proficiency in mathematics seems to do more to create equal opportunities in a digital world than subsidising access to high-tech devices and services.’

Teaching With Your Mouth Shut
‘The alternative to teaching through telling is what Finkel calls “teaching with your mouth shut.” In this model, teachers step back and become silent observers, rather than putting on a
performance like an actor in a play. Instead of being “carriers of knowledge,” we become humble enough to say “I don’t know.” Instead of tightly controlling the learning process, we allow students to find their own solutions, thus “creating circumstances that lead to significant learning in others.” Refusing to teach through telling is also refusing to accept the traditional view of what being an educator means.’

The importance of creativity and shaking things up
‘So, circling back to the classroom, are we giving our pupils the chance to practice the skills required to become part of this creative class and reap the economic and personal rewards that come with it? My experience is that, on average, we are still preparing children and young adults for jobs based on outdated processes, subservience and narrow, short term thinking. To be fair, it is still the perfect system for anyone looking to become a university academic.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Quality learning: William Glasser - 'Schools without Failure' ; and Jerome Bruner - solving 'learning blocks’.
Bruce’s latest article:
Jerome Bruner
‘A number of years ago many schools implemented the ideas of Dr William Glasser. Glasser had written a number of books  all with a focus on achieving quality work for all students without teachers using coercion. Glasser's belief is that, with the appropriate conditions, all students can do quality work but, it would be fair to say, many teachers find this hard to believe.’

Why Education, Not Punishment, Is The Solution To Reducing Crime
A brilliant and touching TED talk illustrating how poverty is linked to prison rates.

How Can Schools Prioritize For The Best Ways Kids Learn?
‘The education world is full of incremental change — the slow process of individuals learning about new strategies and approaches, trying them out, improving on their skills, and hopefully sharing their learning with colleagues to continue growth. While that process is necessary and good, if the changes to education are all in the service of doing the same thing better, they may be missing the point. The world has changed since education became compulsory and the current moment necessitates an education system that isn’t just better, but different.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Developing a democratic curriculum.
Relating back to the ideas of John Dewey James Beane  believes that if people are to live democratic lives they must have the opportunity to learn what that way of life means. His ideas are based on the ability of students to participate in their own education. Democratic schools share a child centred approach but their larger goal is to change the undemocratic conditions of school themselves and in turn to reach out to the wider community.’

Pride through personal excellence
‘It seems these days teachers rush through tasks to ‘deliver’ or ‘cover’ the curriculum. The idea of doing things well has been lost in this rush yet we all know that pride of achievement comes from
A symbol of excellence
succeeding so well at a task we even surprise ourselves
. As a result students produce little of real substance. Teachers are too busy proving what they have done to focus on the more important need to see each student does the very best work they can. All the criteria and feedback formative assessment means little if the teachers have no idea of excellence.’
Experience and Education -John Dewey 1938
‘Such a lot of the ideas expressed today have their genesis in the ideas of John Dewey.That Dewey's ideas have yet to be fully realised says something for the power of conservatism in education. 'Experience in Education' is Dewey's most concise statement of his ideas written after criticism his theories received. In this book Dewey argues that neither 'traditional ' nor 'progressive ' ideas are adequate and he outlines a deeper point of view building on the best of both. The following are ideas he expresses in his book.’

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Quality learning: William Glasser - 'Schools without Failure' ; and Jerome Bruner - solving 'learning blocks'.

A number of years ago many schools implemented the ideas of Dr William Glasser . Glasser had written a number of books  all with a focus on achieving quality work for all students  without teachers using coercion.

There is a New Zealand Glasser Association for anyone interested.

Glasser's belief is that  , with the appropriate conditions, all students can do quality work but, it would be fair to say, many teachers find this hard to believe.

 Currently schools focus on students achieving imposed standards which sadly labels a number of students as 'not achieving the standards ( or in the students and parent's eyes failing).  The currents government's dogma is that 1 in 5 students fail while at the same time ignoring the  effect of poverty on achievement; that the students from poor socio-economic backgrounds lack the 'social capital' of their more well off classmates.

This lack of 'social capital' does not mean the teachers cannot assist such students.

 Glasser's writings provide practical ways to help all students. Glasser's basic premise is that 'no one can make anyone do anything' and that it is the teacher's role to help students see the point in expending the effort to do quality work by satisfying their basic needs of  'survival, power, fun and freedom'.

Glasser writes that teaching may be the hardest job there is.

 Glasser defines an effective teacher  'as one who is able to convince all his or her students to do quality work'. 

This is made difficult when teachers have to face up to students who , due to their previous unsuccessful experiences, are resistant to learning. Almost all teachers inherit students who have developed negative attitudes towards learning; students who often satisfy their needs by being disruptive. Continual measuring of achievement ( or lack of it) will not solve the problem; nor will being placed in low ability groups. Such moves to objectify and standardize teaching will prove to be counterproductive. Failing students will simply opt out while students from 'good homes' will do well.

The current approach to measure fragmented achievement has little to do with all students achieving quality education and will make the achievement of quality learning for all impossible. And equally such an achievement based system imposed on teachers will restrict the teachers ability to do quality work - teachers , like their students , have to learn to comply.

What is required, instead of coercion, are rich experiential curriculum experiences , creativity and the opportunity for all students to 'feel' success; what we have in our schools is not an 'achievement gap' but more an 'opportunity gap'.

Our current model of teaching.

It is only when students ( who may have previously failed in their own eyes)  surprise themselves by doing something beyond their expectations that they begin to believe they can do quality work.

Success will depend on the artistry of the teacher. It will take a long time to persuade some students but with appropriate help it can be done; the students must make the choice to put the effort in - 'choice theory'. If what the students do satisfies one or more of their basic needs a great deal of work get done.

Choice theory is based on the ideas that we all make choices to satisfy our needs - and any choice we make is always our best attempt at the time to make us feel good even if it is counterproductive to quality learning; many students choice to stop working at school and satisfy their needs in counterproductive ways.. School ought to be about helping students make better choices and through such experiences feel better about school learning.

Glasser writes that students from affluent homes do most of the quality work in public schools. For students from less fortunate homes  from the start they do less well at school even though they are inherently just as capable - with age  such students ,who fail to feel success, become increasingly antagonistic. For one student achieving a sense of power is doing well in maths - for another by disrupting the class.

A rich experiential curriculum

Teachers need to keep basic needs continually in their minds and from day one create stimulating room environments; room environments that are warm friendly and totally non coercive. Such rooms would feature authentic learning challenges with students working in cooperative groups and with the teachers continually looking for better ways to help all students gain success,  Personalized learning.

The key to success for students who haven't achieved the need for quality learning is to accept any small improvement

.Frustrated students are very difficult to manage. Until they can be helped to see what they do as pleasurable  then then such learning will never enter their 'quality world'. As we go through life we collect need -satisfying memories that contain our 'best of highest quality pictures or perceptions of the people, things, and situations that we have learned feel especially good.

'If something is not pictured', Glasser writes, ' in this quality world we will not expend much effort pursuing it'.

 The reason that many students do not work hard in schools is that they do not have a picture of school work in their quality world.' This means 'that a teacher ...must continually encourage the students to express themselves and then listen carefully to what they have to say.'

Slowly and carefully teachers must help their struggling students gain 'learning power'  by valuing any small improvement , helping students at first gain short-term satisfaction  eventually  leading to long term feelings of success.

Students will begin to put in the effort if they feel what they are doing will lead to success;  with success students will slowly begin to make better choices and even to accept frustration as part of the process and not just give up.

When  students begin to do quality work they learn to hold themselves to their own standards. and feel the need to continually improve - to better their personal best.

 As students grow in confidence they should always be asked how they might improve 'next time. 
learning; if they persist; and if they choose to put in the effort.

Once the need to achieve quality work becomes implicit in the classroom culture students will be continually surprising themselves by what they achieve; students get better at what they get good at. Quality is contagious.

Teachers need to come alongside learners to help their students figure out how to do things better. The message 'we care' is the foundation of quality education.  Glasser writes,the success or failure of our lives is greatly dependent on our willingness to judge the quality of what we do and then to improve it if we find it wanting'.

Jerome Bruner

 Another educationalist ,Jerome Bruner, has written that 'teaching is the canny art of intellectual temptation'. Teachers have to find exciting ways to 'sell' what it is they are teaching so that students will see that it is worth making the effort to learn.

In an earlier blog I shared ideas about how to help students achieve beyond their expectations; the importance of 'slowing the pace of work'.

 'Too many students spoil what they do by rushing through their tasks working on the principle that 'first finished is best'. When teachers allow this 'mindset' to be an implicit part of the school culture students are not encouraged to stop and think ( or reflect) about whatever they are undertaking and , as a result, a frenetic atmosphere can result. Slowing the pace  allows no time for teachers to give students ( particularly those struggling) appropriate help'

 Jerome Bruner  spent a lot of his time studying 'learning blocks' in students, possibly the same students that Dr Glasser writes about - students who have not out areas of learning into their 'quality worlds'.

Bruner studied why it is that some students avoid learning such things as learning to read or do maths and how to help such students get through their 'learning blocks' so as to recover their 'learning power'.

When assisting a learner with difficulties ( or any learner) Bruner writes,  the 'danger is that the learner may become permanently dependent on the tutors correction. The tutor must correct the learner in a fashion that makes it possible for the learner to take over the corrective function himself'.

'The first task 'was to gain and hold the child's interest and lead him to problem solving activity'.

 'The greatest problem is to prevent oneself from becoming a perennial source of information, interfering with the child's ability to take over the role of being his own corrector'. 'If we do nothing else , we should somehow give to children a respect for their own power to generate good questions, to come up with interesting informed guesses'.

Bruner writes, 'it is more than a little troubling to me that so many of our students dislike two of the major tools of thought - mathematics and written language.' And, echoing Glasser , he writes, there is a need to 'making these tools lovable'. 'Perhaps the best way is to make them more powerful in the hands of their users'.

All humans are born with  a 'will to learn'; 'all children possess  what have come to be intrinsic motives for learning'.

The reward for intrinsic motivation  'inheres in the successful termination of that activity or even in the activity itself'. 'Our attention is attracted to something that is unclear, unfinished, or uncertain. We sustain our attention until the matter at hand becomes clear, finished, or certain.'

'Curiosity is only one of the intrinsic motives for learning. The drive for competence is another'. The key Bruner writes  is 'we get interested in what we get good at'.

Schools, Bruner writes,  have not begun to tap into this enormous reservoir of zest' to keep alive this innate curiosity and the drive for competence.; the need to sustain a sense of pleasure and achievement in mastering things for their own sake. 

'What the school imposes often fails to enlist natural energies that sustain spontaneous learning - curiosity, a desire for competence, aspiration to emulate a model, and a deep-sensed commitment to the web of social reciprocity'.

Bruner and Glasser are both encouraging problem finding schools. Schools where it is all right to entertain and express highly subjective ideas, to treat a task as a problem where you invent an answer rather than finding ones out there in the book.

Such ideas are about the personalisation of learning; that knowledge ought to be related to the child's own experiences.

All this is a long way from the audit and surveillance, test orientated , formulaic teaching of our current schools.

And too many students still fail.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Noam Chomsky/ technology/ behaviour management/ art education/ Power of reading/ Howard Gardner and James Beane...

Education Readings

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

Noam Chomsky on the Dangers of Standardized Testing
“The assessment itself is completely artificial. It’s not ranking teachers in accordance with their ability to help develop children who will reach their potential, explore their creative interests. Those things you’re not testing.. it’s a rank that’s mostly meaningless. And the very ranking itself is harmful. It’s turning us into individuals who devote our lives to achieving a rank. Not into doing things that are valuable and important.”

'Schools must appoint teacher coaches to keep staff up to speed with rapid changes in technology’
‘Probably the biggest problem teachers have is the rapid rate of change that occurs in our computer-driven culture. Things change so fast, that we are now faced with “data obsolescence”. That which we believe to be true today, may not be true, or might be replaced by another fact or improvement in the upcoming year. Unless the very system that educates our population keeps up with these changes in a timely fashion it will itself in time become irrelevant. The model of professional development that the system relies on most heavily is the same system that has been in place for at least century.’

How to Become and Remain a Transformational Teacher
‘However talented, no one is a natural-born teacher. Honing the craft takes significant care and effort, not just by the individual, but also by the school at large. Though experience does matter, it matters only to the extent that a teacher -- regardless of how long he or she has been in the classroom -- commits to continued professional development to refresh his or her status as a transformational teacher.’

This viral video perfectly sums up what’s wrong with education today, and how we can change it
‘Here, he’s pointing to the lack of freedom that teachers often have to adapt classes in the most effective way for their individual students. Teachers, he says, “have the most important job on the planet” and “should earn just as much as doctors”. But far from appreciating their expertise and efforts, politicians force them into restrictive boxes.’

The dark side of classroom behavior management charts
‘With each new school year come shiny new behavior management systems decorating the walls of elementary classrooms. From sticker charts to clip charts to color cards, teachers choose bright and engaging systems with the hope that a little incentive might lead to improved student behavior. The thing is, these systems rarely work for any extended period of time.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

#DSXOAK: A prototype school comes to life
‘If you could completely re-design the school experience, giving students the greatest possible creative agency, how would you do it?That’s what edu fellow David Clifford is prototyping in West Oakland this weekend during his design sprint. David is a self-described “agitator” who “love[s] to mess with old ideas.”“The thing that we’re trying to do is redesign high school for the 21st century kid to help them navigate and affect change in the 21st century,” said David.“The current school model is still building kids to navigate the 19th and 20th century.” That model is meant to “manage humanity instead of inspire it.”’

Arts-Infused Project-Based Learning: Crafting Beautiful Work
"I would argue that the arts is project-based learning," says Emily Crowhurst, a music teacher. "In every music lesson, whether it's a project lesson or what you might deem a typical lesson, there areproject-based learning techniques going on naturally in the way that students are constantly critiquing and rehearsing what they're creating; and they're always working towards an end project that will have an authentic audience.”

Embracing Failure: Building a Growth Mindset Through the Arts
Teach your students the recipe for success: taking risks, making mistakes, and integrating critical feedback.
‘At New Mexico School for the Arts (NMSA) -- a dual arts and academic curriculum -- failure is taught as an important part of the journey toward success. Understanding that mistakes are indicators for areas of growth, freshmen learn to give and receive feedback. By senior year, students welcome tough, critical feedback -- and even insist on it.’

Rainstorms and Symphonies: Performing Arts Bring Abstract Concepts to Life

‘When early elementary teachers integrate music and theater, student learning improves in reading, math, and science as they become better critical thinkers and problem solvers.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Power through reading!
‘Reading, and writing, are not just processes to be 'achieved' but are all about power - power of the imagination, power of gaining messages through literature, and power to gain and share ideas that can change how you think. Unless students, particularly those from from families who lack 'cultural capital', appreciate this power why would they bother to read or write?.Arguments about literacy never seem to go away. Phonics or whole language arguments occupy literacy critics. Like the nature/ nurture argument the answer is both. Either or arguments only force proponents into corners; the future is always the best of both.’

Developing a democratic curriculum
‘Relating back to the ideas of John Dewey James Beane  believes that if people are to live democratic lives they must have the opportunity to learn what that way of life means. His ideas are based on the ability of students to participate in their own education. Democratic schools share a child centred approach but their larger goal is to change the undemocratic conditions of school themselves and in turn to reach out to the wider community.’

Five Minds for the Future
Howard Gardner, renowned worldwide for for his theory of multiple intelligences, shares his latest ideas in his new new book 'Five Minds for the Future'.Based on the premise that students are entering an accelerating world of change in every area of life Gardner believes that such changes call for new ways of learning and thinking in schools if students are to thrive in the world during the eras to come. The directions our society is taking and the future of our planet demands such 'new minds' able to explore creative alternatives for problems that cannot be anticipated.’

Friday, October 14, 2016

Teachable moments/ for profit education/ paying attention to attention/digital biographies/ creative schools and ability grouping

Escape the audit surveillance culture

Education Readings

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

The problem of perfectionism: five tips to help your students
Pressure to be perfect
‘As well as affecting general well-being, perfectionism can lead to fear of failure. When your whole self-worth and identity are tied to your success, mistakes and setbacks are seen as a threat and you avoid taking risks.
We need to talk about these issues – but where to begin? Here are some tips for helping students manage and overcome perfectionism.’

Why For-Profit Education Fails
‘Indeed, over the past couple of decades, a veritable who’s who of investors and entrepreneurs has seen an opportunity to apply market discipline or new technology to a sector that often seems to shun both on principle. Yet as attractive and intuitive as these opportunities seemed, those who pursued them have, with surprising regularity, lost their shirts.’

Teachable Moment
What is a Teachable Moment?
Difficult to achieve in an education environment dominated by accountability/standards/raising achievement etc.
‘A teachable moment is an unplanned opportunity that arises in the classroom where a teacher has an ideal chance to offer insight to his or her students. A teachable moment is not something that you can plan for; rather, it is a fleeting opportunity that must be sensed and seized by the teacher. Often it will require a brief digression that temporarily sidetracks the original lesson plan so that the teacher can explain a concept that has inadvertently captured the students' collective interest.’

Privatizing schools for profit

Education in Africa
The Uberfication of Education by Bridge International Academies.
How a US for-profit, data-driven, education experiment is failing children from poor African families and homogenising culture.’
‘So bottom line. No reliable evidence of efficacy supported by independent academic research conducting randomised school trials.’
We live in a sick world…

Why do parents take such different approaches to their kids’ education?
Tiger mums
Thanks to Phil Cullen for this article.
‘While some children spend the school holidays studying in tutoring centres, enrolled in sports camps or other structured activities, others are left to do their own thing.
So why is it that parents take such different approaches to education and how their children spend their time?

Getting Curious (Not Furious) With Students
When their students act out, I propose the novice teachers do the following: Get curious, not furious. Let's explore what that means. Rather than a teacher resorting to traditional discipline measures, it behooves the student greatly for the teacher to realize classroom outbursts, verbal defiance, or volatile anger can be symptomatic of repeated exposure to neglect, abuse, or violence. Traumatic stress can also manifest as withdrawal or self-injury.’
Bruce the teacher - best days ever

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

One best piece of advice to ensure students achieve quality learning and teachers time to teach: 'Slow the Pace of Work’.
Bruce's latest article:
‘Too many students spoil what they do by rushing through their tasks working on the principle that 'first finished is best'. When teachers allow this 'mindset' to be an implicit part of the school culture students are not encouraged to stop and think (or reflect) about whatever they are undertaking and, as a result, a frenetic atmosphere can result. Slowing the pace  allows no time for teachers to give students (particularly those struggling) appropriate help.’

‘Makerspaces are environments that foster passion for projects of all stripes and sizes. If you can dream it, a makerspace will help you breathe life into it.  I christened the makerspace the

Solder station
STEAMworks. The STEAM, as I told anyone who would listen, stood for science, technology, engineering, arts and math. The “works” came from what we accomplished there. Even though I was a science and math teacher, I realized a needed to integrate the arts into the science curriculum. The arts play a crucial role in child/learner development and can benefit the STEM classroom and workplace.’

Ten Tips for Mentoring a Student Teacher
If you have a student teacher in your room here is some good advice.
‘I remember the first time I was asked if I would be willing to have a student teacher. Looking back, I was totally unprepared, both by my experience and by the university, to know what to do as a cooperating teacher. I relied on the experience I had just a few years earlier and tried to model after the cooperating teacher I had—sort of the way some teachers teach today.If you are in the same boat I was in back then, I have a few tips that I hope will be useful.’

Students Use Phones, iPads to Create Digital Biographies for Senior Citizens
A simple but powerful idea:
Interviewing seniors
‘A group of Orange County fifth-graders isn’t only reading about history, they’re documenting it.
As part of the Fullerton School District’s narrative writing and listening curriculum, 100 students taking part in the “Story Angels” program have begun interviewing seniors and using technology to create digital biographies of their lives.

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Creative Schools – an impossible dream?
‘If children grew up according to early indications, we should have nothing but geniuses’ said Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.It is hard to believe that something that starts so well results in so
many students leaving school with little to show for their experience – and even those deemed successful still have talents and gifts unrealised.’

What’s wrong with Ability Grouping?
‘New areas of research started to focus what was happening in classrooms which showed that teachers themselves are implicated and maintaining persistent patterns of differential achievement; that ability grouping helps create the very disparities it purports to solve. It does this in subtle and unintended ways through the ways it has on teacher’s thinking and through the impact it has on self-image for children in the ‘lower’ ability groups. It is obvious that teachers do not set out to do their children harm but they also know that children live up or down to what is expected of them.’

All students can 'grow' given the right conditions

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Quality learning through paying attention to attention

'Paying attention to attention'

Seems a simple idea but  a powerful one. 

Too many students spoil what they do by rushing through their tasks working on the principle that 'first finished is best'. When teachers allow this 'mindset' to be an implicit part of the school culture students are not encouraged to stop and think ( or
Ten year old observation
reflect) about whatever they are undertaking and , as a result, a frenetic atmosphere can result. Slowing the pace  allows no time for teachers to give students ( particularly those struggling) appropriate help.

One wise old teacher ( long retired) once told me, as a result of this many students never get to finish most tasks they undertake . He called them the 'three quarters of a page kids'. If teachers were to look closely at the work their students 'complete' they will find many students who have achieved very little.

One solution is to have different expectation for every students and to make sure every student is able to  exceed their previous 'personal best'. Any book , or research work, language work or
Quality book work
piece of art  should show qualitative improvement but, all too often, it is hard to see any improvement - particularly for children having difficulty

The traditional answer to this problem is to place students into ability grouping - a strategy that research shows  does more harm than good.. Students inability to do reasonable work is more the result of an 'opportunity' rather than an 'achievement gap.

What is required are teachers dedicated to ensuring all students are able to show growth and to do this requires 'personalized ' teaching .

This brings us back to my one piece of advice - the need to 'slow
Scientific observation 10 yr old
the pace' of students work and the need to develop a learning culture that values quality over speed.

Every task can be 'slowed down'  but it requires teachers to provide ways to help students to develop a sense of craftsmanship. This of course will take time but if quality learning is the end point it will be worth it.

One easy way to develop this sense of quality learning through slowing the pace is through drawing.

Many years ago I read that in the future learners will need to be helped 'to pay attention to attention'; to the act of observing. Many students (and adults) look but do not see.

This was the point of 'observational drawing'.

 Before you begin  a drawing activity ask the class who are the best artists - students will have internalised who are the artists and why ( usually those who can draw 'real'). As a teacher the aim is for students to believe they are all artists. Teaching is the business to changing minds - to develop positive attitudes in any area of learning.

 Try it out with a simple leaf ( or photo of an insect).. Get the students to draw with no instruction. It will take students a few seconds to complete. Put the drawing away and get students to do a new drawing but this time tell students to take their time, to go really slowly, and to draw every thing they can see. For students attuned to rushing get them to look harder and to add details the might have
Science drawing 8yr old

When the second drawing is finished get them to compare their 'before and after' drawings and to consider what they have learnt.  And , as a teacher, give credit to the variety of interpretations from the real to the 'interpretative' so as to break down stereotypes about what makes a good drawing.

Simple stuff but it is the core of scientific observation and the basis for  imaginative interpretation through art. Drawing, it has been said, is the act of asking questions and drawing answers. Evidently  surgeons, through slow drawing, learn much about organs of the body.

The slowing of the process of learning is valuable in all areas of learning.

Whenever  students present their findings, including the thinking as part of process, there are ways 'slow the pace' so as to elaborate and extend their thinking. This includes aesthetic and design aspects. The best examples are students' completed exhibits for science, technology or art fairs. The same thoughtful presentation of student inquiry should be reflected on the classroom walls.

Several writers have written about this need to 'slow the pace of work' so as to achieve quality work and in the process provide the the time to come alongside the learner to provide sensitive help bur always leaving final decisions with the learner. The need to avoid this dependence has been well written about by Jerome Bruner.

Kingfisher 10yr old
Guy Claxton is another who has written about this need for reflective thinking in his book 'Hare Brain Tortoise Mind'.

Carl Honare has written a book 'In Praise of Slow' - about doing 'fewer things well'

Another writer Professor Maurice Holt has called for a slow school movement' - a  educational
movement  relating to the 'slow food movement'.

I personally like the phrase the 'haiku curriculum' - a curriculum based on the value of simplicity and depth of thinking. And I like the quote from 1930s film star  Mae West who said 'anything worth doing is worth doing slowly' but I don't think she was talking about teaching and learning.

The virtual world is 'trumping' the real world.
Drawing in the museum

I had the occasion to watch a five year old so busy on his i-pad that he couldn't be encouraged to watch some fireworks being set off!  All too often the virtual world trumps the real world. In contrast, the same five year old, was later photographed doing a drawing of a dinosaur at the Auckland museum oblivious to museum visitors walking past him. That's the power of focused attention - a lesson Leonardo da Vinci taught us centuries ago.

Kawa kawa
Computer scientist Clifford Still has written that for every hour in front of a screen a person need he equivalent time sitting by a tree or river to compensate; there is little time for 'wired' students to 'stand and stare'.

I believe that in this age of distraction ( and the associated ADHD students) that helping students 'slow the pace' by encouraging the elaboration of what they are asked to do is important and worth the effort.

.So 'slowing the pace of work'  to do 'fewer things in depth' is powerful advice

Check out these links

The power of observation More Power of Observation

Observation a basic learning skill

Observation and learning styles

Observation and imagination

Teacher's role in observation Bill Guild

Simple but Deep

The Power of Observation - Bill Clarkson

Guy Claxton's' Hare Brain Tortoise Mind' More Zen less Zest

The thoughts of Jerome Bruner

Carl Honare's  'In Praise of Slow'

Maurice Holt's 'slow education movement'

Slow food - slow teaching

Slow learning for fast times - Andy Hargreaves

Is this the future?