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October 2015
Volume XII Issue X

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Different Perspectives


Bruce Oliver

Bruce facilitating a Leading the Learning® workshop

I collect quotes.  When I come across an opinion, fact, idea, or point of view that makes me pause and think, I make note of it. Periodically I review those that I have gathered to see if they still resonate with me; most of the time they still make me say, “Hmmmm.” “Is this a good idea?” “Does it have merit?” or “Is it worth sharing?”

Some of the quotes I have collected over the past few months and am sharing in this issue of Just for the ASKing! are straightforward, others might be considered a bit controversial, or perhaps simply offer different perspectives you may not have considered.  My musings follow each quote.


Andrew Campbell
Grade 5 teacher in Brantford, Ontario, and blogger on education and technology

“Good learning ideas don’t have a shelf life or a best before date.  Just because an idea in no longer cool doesn’t mean it isn’t useful or good for students.”

Written in 1949, Ralph Tyler’s book titled Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction includes many of the ideas promoted today as educational best practices. In 1959, Benjamin Bloom and colleagues first published a taxonomy that is just as applicable today as it was then. Howard Gardner first introduced his theory of multiple intelligences in 1983.  All three are representative of the many constructs and theories that have influenced our practice over time. Whereas it is important to investigate new possibilities that have the potential to improve student achievement, it is equally important to employ practices that have influenced student learning positively over time.


Dr. Doug Reeves
Researcher, reformer, educator, and author of over 20 books on assessment and school reform

“Many of today’s students grew up playing video games and received feedback that was immediate, specific, and brutal – they won or else died at the end of each game. For them, the purpose of feedback is not to calculate an average or score a final exam, but to inform them about how they can improve on their next attempt to rule the universe.”

Feedback continues to be a meaningful and impactful topic of discussion among today’s educators. Its importance cannot be minimized because its use by teachers can play a significant role in student learning. The video game example by Dr. Reeves can better help us understand the role feedback plays in the lives of students outside the classroom and, therefore, lead us to employ its use on a more routine and purposeful basis in our classrooms.


Dr. Daniel Duke
Professor, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

“Focusing on reading and attendance may pay the biggest dividends across subject areas. We do not need more rules and harsher punishments. Firmness coupled with caring works better.”

Educators are forever seeking panaceas to cure the ills that plague us. Dr. Duke, in a very succinct way, provides a philosophical direction that may be different from more traditional practices. Perhaps we need to rethink the approach we take with students who are resistant or struggling.


Harold Wilson
Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

“He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.”

Change is inevitable. Wasting too much time and emotion resisting its inevitability can lead to stress and even dissension. A caution about change is not to immediately implement every new idea but to approach innovations with an open mind.


Dr. Anthony Jackson
Vice-President for Education at Asia Society

“Children need the tools to think about multiple, sometimes contrasting, perspectives so that as adults they can work with diverse people from far flung places to solve seemingly intractable problems – from finance and poverty, to climate change, natural resource use, and public health.”

Right now there is consistent talk aboutincorporating 21st century skills into lessons. Dr. Jackson provides a call to action that should be at the heart of the learning experiences that educators are providing for their students in order for them to be successful participants and leaders in the world of tomorrow.


John Wilson
Former head of the National Education Association, past chair of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and the Learning First Alliance. He is now a senior fellow at the Pearson Foundation.

“Recognizing that some students are not developmentally ready to be readers in the third grade and providing those students with services that address their developmental issues is a great intervention. Relying on test scores is the worst response for these children. Flunking third graders is not an intervention.”

In response to criticisms of social promotion, several states have instituted the practice of retaining third graders who do not score adequately on reading tests.  It is a policy that should require intense scrutiny before it is mandated. Although proponents feel that it will have long-term benefits, others feel that it is not only costly, but will cause more harm than good. Those who agree with Mr. Wilson argue that retention can result in a stigma that is hard to erase and places retained students at risk as potential dropouts. They also see students as more than a “test score.” Instead, they propose that struggling readers be identified early, that data be continually gathered on high-risk individuals, and that multiple interventions be applied in lieu of retention.


Dr. Caleb Stewart Rossiter
American University and Duke Ellington School of the Arts, author of Ain’t Nobody Be Learnin’ Nothin’: The Fraud and The Fix for High-Poverty Schools, policy analyst

“Practical academics means checkbook math, not number theory; percentages, not calculus; angles for construction, not for Euclidian proofs; the physics of plumbing, not molecular motion, and analysis of newspaper articles, not Shakespeare’s plays.”

Dr. Rossiter’s quote is part of his response to his work in high-poverty school settings. He feels that all students should have access to academic subjects but that allowing students to enroll in courses that have a more practical application may reduce disruptive behavior and allow students to learn skills that they can more readily apply to the “real world.” Some educators object to his ideas because it smacks of tracking while others feel that his views have merit. His ideas are expanded upon with the information below: 

“First,” he says, “schools must pursue behavioral goals that keep students alive and able to thrive; second, families must be offered a choice between vocational and college prep; and third, weak effort or disruption should never result, as it often does today, in suspension and then return to the same class, but rather in separation from the students who are working hard, with intense remediation intended to allow a new start in a new class the next quarter.”


Deborah Meier
New York University’s Steinhardt School of Education and the Executive Board of The Coalition of Essential Schools

“There is a crisis declared, however, every time the economy falls on its face, or a competitor outdoes us in anything. Our job as teachers is to keep our eye on the kids, not the economy of the ‘competition’ – both of which are providing more and more low-paid jobs. They deserve a good education nonetheless.”

Is there a tendency to respond too quickly or even overreact to the latest data in an effort to keep up with other countries? Are schools in a constant state of flux as they adopt new methods and new curricula which may or may not improve our productivity and which keep both teachers and students in a state of instability?  Should our fluctuating economy be the gauge that determines what and how we should teach in our schools? 


Dr. Peter De Witt
Former New York teacher and principal and author of Finding Common Ground blog published by Education Week

“In my opinion, one of the ways we can best help students be resilient or find ‘grit’ is through the trust we build with them. When students trust a teacher or principal, they are more likely to confide in them and more likely to work harder in their class even if they are afraid of failure.”

We want our students to become more resilient and not give up when they do not master content or accomplish tasks quickly. Adults clearly understand that success does not come automatically in most situations and it is important to pass this “life lesson” on to our charges. Some educators believe that the classroom is a good place to experience temporary setbacks as long as these stumbling blocks do not have adverse impacts on students’ overall measure of achievement. Is the learning environment we create and the relationship we establish with our students the key to promoting perseverance?


Dr. Carol Tomlinson
Curry School of Education, University of Virginia, and author of over 200 articles, book chapters, books, and other professional development materials

“Caring for culturally diverse students is hard – and humbling. And each time I grow in that capacity, I become a better professional, a more effective teacher, and a more fully developed human being.”

However we grew up or whatever our personal circumstances may be, as educators, our responsibility is to the students we face each day. This requires growing in our ability to reach all children, perhaps changing our thinking by adapting to students’ needs and not using just our own life-experience filters and focusing on our own needs. When we continue to improve over time and, as a result, see our students making progress, it is our ultimate reward, and we become better people as a result of our hard work.


Dr. Justin Reich
Executive director of the MIT Teaching Systems Lab and a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society

“If iPads, tablets, laptops or anything else will transform classroom practice, it won’t be because we airdropped them from the sky and teachers and students happen to catch them. It will be because the new affordances of technology capture the imagination of teachers and students and invite them into a sustained conversation about how best to prepare young people for a changing world.”

Technological innovations will not disappear; they are with us to stay. Thus, it is more important than ever that we continue to open avenues for discussions within our learning communities about how technology can be employed judiciously and deliberately in classroom learning.  As many educators have discovered, students may know much more about technological applications so including their thoughts in the conversations about technology in the classroom may lead to new discoveries. When all the players have a shared language, a desire to change with the times, and actively participate in productive dialogues, then the use of technology can have a sustaining impact on pedagogy and lead to the “deeper learning.” that educators wish to achieve.


Anthony Volforte
Educational consultant for Generation Ready

“Effective schools do not prepare students for the jobs of the future. They prepare students to CREATE the jobs of the future.”

We have all heard the adage that as educators we are preparing our students for jobs that probably do not yet exist. The quote above takes it a step further by emphasizing the importance of having our students not simply live in the world of the past and present but to also be able to think creatively about the world of tomorrow and explore the possibility of “what if?”

The ideas expressed in these quotes will most likely elicit a variety of responses that lead to discussions, challenge current accepted beliefs, initiate further explorations of the ideas expressed, or result in a call to action to change a practice. Use one or all of them to explore different perspectives.



Online Resources to
Extend Your Thinking About Different Perspectives


“Culturally Diverse Classrooms: The Caring Teacher’s Manifesto”

“Educating for Global Competence: Preparing Our Youth to Engage the World”

“Flunking 3rd Graders Is Not an Intervention”

 “How to Turn Around Low-Performing Schools”

“How Do We Help Our Least Motivated, Most Disruptive Students?

“iPad as Trojan Mouse”

“Remaking the Grade, from A to D”

 “Should Children Really Be Expected to Have Grit?”

“Trending Topics in Education: What’s Cool?”

 “When ‘Pretty Good’ Schools Aren’t Enough”


Permission is granted for reprinting and distribution of this newsletter for non-commercial use only. Please include the following citation on all copies:
Oliver, Bruce. “Different Perspectives.” Just for the ASKing! October2015. Reproduced with permission of Just ASK Publications & Professional Development (Just ASK). © 2015 Just ASK. All rights reserved. Available at www.justaskpublications.com.

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