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Magazine Issue 76: Inspiring Educators 4
October 2016

This month: Thoughts about Educational Reform

Article: Inspiring Educators 4 John Dewey
New Resources
Mike's Books
Additional Resources

This Month's Article:

Inspiring Educators 4 - John Dewey

Inspiring Educators 4 - John Dewey The last of 4 Articles looking at key messages from inspiring educators of days gone by.

This is a Free Sample Resource

Categories: Article, Teaching & Learning, Educators, Any Subject

Tags: Problem Based Learning Constructivism John Dewey

John Dewey in Action

So, here's how Rufus Thinking (October 2016's Thinking Tool) came about: I was teaching a SPAG lesson in one of the schools I support, attempting to bring a bit of flare and dazzle to modal verbs, when a young boy called Rufus decided to not do what I'd asked. I love this kind of thing. As a guest teacher I can go with it. I was curious about what he'd done. 'Look,' he said, 'I've done it this way.' He'd drawn the template you see in Rufus Thinking - completely different to my plodding pedagogical attempts. By ignoring my instructions and making his own task he created a much better activity than I'd planned. When I realised what he'd done I asked permission to share it (with you) and set about adapting and applying it. I'd call this a Dewey Moment and there aren't nearly enough of them anymore.


The Dewey Moment

John Dewey (1859-1952) was a man who pushed the human race forwards - through his thinking, his research and his political activism. Widely traveled and with broad interests (psychology, philosophy, journalism, politics, education) he challenged the status quo and catalysed change. His ideas about teaching, learning and professional development were very progressive yet balanced and can be summarised through the Rufus Dewey Moment:

Dewey's Idea Rufus Dewey Moment Example
Education is more than the acquisition of skills and knowledge; it must realise all students' full potential AND prepare them to contribute to the greater good. Sure, the class needed to know about key aspects of grammar but by letting Rufus choose his own path and by sharing his idea, his creativity and his leadership were valued.
A curriculum must strike a balance between subject knowledge and the needs and interests of the student. We can debate SPAG all night but short of a revolt we're stuck with it for now. So let's be innovative in how we teach it. Let's explore the best kind of teaching and learning - even if we feel we are in a structured, restrictive analytic curriculum.
Teachers must develop students who are autonomous, reflective and active in their learning rather than spoon feed them facts for the test. Rufus had to justify why his idea was effective. He had taken his own step in a parallel direction of learning. He achieved the lesson objective and in doing so demonstrated independence and creativity.
Teachers should have a passion for knowledge and an incessant curiosity. Oh yes, I really did want to know what he'd done, how it worked, and how it could be applied. I'm still curious about Rufus and how he thinks....and if he gets into trouble much (he doesn't; his usual teacher is fab)
Teachers should have the ability to watch and respond to 'the movement of a student's mind'. Yup. Didn't wait till the end of the lesson. Right there, right then, I saw what he did and acted.

Balance and Opportunity

OK, so maybe it's easier for me to do this kind of thing than you. After all, I can hand back the class after an hour (albeit with my 5+ teacher observers and full-on video) but you have the day-to-day with a curriculum, progress measures and targets. Although John Dewey is speaking your language, reawakening the reasons you chose to teach in the first place, there just aren't the opportunities to be that way in class - unless you teach 5-year-olds in which case it's your bread and butter.

But maybe there is a way. You see, one of Dewey's most important messages was BALANCE. He saw practice that was too dry and subject-heavy. But he also saw it swing the other way and be far too child-centered. He wanted folks to navigate the tricky yet interesting middle ground between the two: the teacher is the expert BUT the student must be active in learning from that expertise.

One Step

Here's all you need to do to try and get a Dewey Moment: in the middle of the pace and the progress and the targets and the goals and the initiatives and the constant changes, pause, breathe (3 times, deeply and slowly, you deserve that), look at your children and ask:

  • What kind of curiosity is going on here?
  • Where is the fascination with the world here?
  • How is this activity adding value to these children?
  • How will it help them add value to the world they grow up into?

If you get a nothing back, if you see little curiosity, fascination or value being added, then maybe it IS time for a revolt. A Dewey Revolt. A Rufus Dewey Revolt.

Final Word

This year I've summarised as best I can the work of 4 inspiring educators: Charlotte Mason, Horace Mann, Jerome Bruner and John Dewey. No longer with us, but with powerful legacies, they all had ideas that are still relevant today but are largely ignored. With education systems that often look backwards to some lost 'golden age' that never actually happened, maybe policy makers should look a little further back and a little deeper into the minds of these 4. All 4 wanted children to gain knowledge, learn skills and be valuable contributors to the world. But they all knew that the child must be co-creator of their own future, not a passive recipient of someone else's past.

New Resources:

Rufus Thinking

Rufus Thinking A Thinking Skills Tool to increase the quantity and quality of pupils' writing whilst adding a bit of creativity.

Categories: Thinking Tool, Creative Thinking, Teaching & Learning, English, Junior

Tags: SPAG Literacy Creative Thinking
Free Standard Member Resource: Login or Join for Free to access this resource and others.

Rufus Thinking PowerPoint

Rufus Thinking PowerPoint A Thinking Tool Template in PowerPoint for quick and easy use of Rufus Thinking in class.

Categories: Thinking Tool, Creative Thinking, Teaching & Learning, English, Junior

Tags: SPAG Literacy Creative Thinking
Teacher Premium Resource: Login or Upgrade to Teacher Premium to access this resource.

Think Sheet - Innovation

Think Sheet - Innovation A Think Sheet for exploring the concept of innovation.

Categories: Think Sheet, Thinking Skills, Business, Secondary

Tags: Innovation Creative Thinking
Teacher Premium Resource: Login or Upgrade to Teacher Premium to access this resource.

Mike's Books:

Books to help you focus on the skills as well as the content:

How to Create & Develop a Thinking Classroom
by Mike Fleetham

How to Create & Develop a Thinking Classroom<br> by Mike Fleetham A short, practical Book bringing together many tried and tested ideas for thinking skills and effective learning in the Primary classroom. Packed with clear explanations and photocopiable resources it's a great way to give your classroom and teaching a 'thoughtful makeover'. Still useful and relevant and nearly 10 years old!

Available in our shop

Find out more
Categories: Book & EBook, Teaching & Learning, Any Subject, Junior

Tags: Thinking Skills Planning Lesson Design

Additional Resources:

Thinking Classroom Archive:

Inspiring Educators 3: Jerome Bruner

Inspiring Educators 3: Jerome Bruner An Article to inform/remind you about the massively influential work of Prof. Jerome Bruner. Third in the 'Inspiring Educators' series.

This is a Free Sample Resource

Find out more
Categories: Article, Teaching & Learning, Educators

Tags: Psychology Scaffolding Constructivism Jerome Bruner

Inspiring Educators 2: Horace Mann

Inspiring Educators 2: Horace Mann An Article briefly describing the life, work and philosophy of 19th C. politician and educational reformer Horace Mann. Includes professional development prompts to help you enrich your own practice.

This is a Free Sample Resource

Find out more
Categories: Article, Teaching & Learning, Educators

Tags: Horace Mann Reform

Inspiring Educators 1: Charlotte Mason

Inspiring Educators 1: Charlotte Mason An Article describing the life, work and philosophy of 19th C. educational reformer Charlotte Mason. Includes professional development prompts to help you enrich your own practice/curriculum.

This is a Free Sample Resource

Find out more
Categories: Article, Professional Development, Educators

Tags: Charlotte Mason Home Schooling Brain-Based Learning


Reinventing Organisations
by Frederic Laloux

Reinventing Organisations <br> by Frederic Laloux "An Illustrated Invitation to Join the Conversation on next-Stage Organisations"
A clear visual description of how effective organisations are looking in 21st Century. Find out what colour your organisation really is.

Available from Amazon

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Categories: Suggested Books, Leadership

Tags: Spiral Dynamics Integral Leadership

Next month we think some more about Video Coaching