A damaging divorce

During the years our kids were at school this was an all too familiar conversation… Dad: How’s it going for you at school at the moment? Daughter: Great! I just handed in my project for our Social Studies topic Dad: That’s good to hear. How do you think you’ll go? Daughter: I don’t know – I’ll have to wait until I get it back from the teacher! Dad: But surely you have some idea of what to expect? Did you complete everything required? Daughter: I’m pretty sure I did Dad: Did you address all of the criteria? Daughter: Criteria? Dad: … Continue reading A damaging divorce

Pedagogy of compliance

In the so-called “factory schools” that originated in early 19th-century Prussia education was provided by the state and learning was regimented. Before that formal education was reserved for the elite and those who could afford it. But as industrialisation changed the way people worked, it created the need for a model of schooling that includes everyone. In these schools students were placed in grades according to their age and moved through successive grades as they mastered the curriculum. Factories required workers who were going to show up every day, on time, and be prepared to do what their managers told … Continue reading Pedagogy of compliance


Last week I enjoyed an insightful and highly productive day of professional development with the staff of Ōtaki Primary School. We met for the day in Te Marae o Hine, located not far from the school itself. In the traditional manner, we were welcomed onto the marae with a pōwhiri during which an iwi elder traced the history of the marae, its people and the significant events in the story of its past. The concept of whakapapa – or genealogy – is a fundamental principle in Māori culture. I’ve had the privilege of visiting different marae on numerous occasions, and … Continue reading Whakapapa

Agency and teacher workload

The interest in learner agency isn’t diminishing among educators I am interacting with. In fact it’s the opposite. Learner agency continues to be high on the demand of requests to work with schools that come my way. Amid the increasing emphasis on meeting the needs of individual learners and on addressing concerns around levels of engagement in learning, schools are looking in creative ways at how they can shift the ownership of learning to enable more agentic participation in learning. All too often, as we begin to look at what is involved and the opportunities we might explore, we are … Continue reading Agency and teacher workload

Critical Crisis

Deciding what should be taught in our educational institutions is a key role of educational leaders – and governments. When schooling became ‘a thing’ this decision was reasonably straight forward – the generally un-educated population of young people needed basic literacy and numeracy skills to function well in the industrial settings that were emerging at the time. In addition, decisions about how teaching occurs is also a key decision. Our industrial-age fore-bears were adamant that young learners were to required to be docile, punctual and sober – as the factories they were being prepared to work in required such dispositions … Continue reading Critical Crisis

The cause and effect conundrum

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash It seems that any investment made in education is generally assessed in terms of the impact on improving outcomes for learners. Not an unreasonable assumption, since the fundamental purpose of schools is to ’cause learning’ for their students, and anything a school does should reasonably be assumed to be adding to that goal. Consider, for example, the investment made in text books and physical resources such as art supplies, outdoor ed and phys ed equipment, science supplies etc. The rationale for investing in these things is generally based on the way in which they … Continue reading The cause and effect conundrum

The future of (online) learning?

For those who know me or have followed this blog for some time you’ll know that I’ve been involved in the field of distance education and online learning for well over 30 years now. You’ll also know that I’m a sort of ‘systems’ thinker when it comes to finding ways of designing and supporting sustainable approaches to distance/online learning. For example, my early work in distance education was focused on designing and developing print-based materials, with embedded ‘conversations in print’ to guide learners through the instructional content etc. When the WWW come along I switched to using notepad on my … Continue reading The future of (online) learning?

What’s in a name?

It’s said that a person’s name is the greatest connection to their own identity and individuality. Some might say it is the most important word in the world to that person. I’m not really sure why I was given my name – it has no family history that I know of. To my knowledge it was just a name that appealed to my mother. But I like it – Derek is an uncomplicated name – although it has numerous variants in terms of how it is spelt. Dereck, Derrick, Derik etc. I’ve had them all on letters addressed to me – but somehow I still recognised … Continue reading What’s in a name?

Equity – a collective effort required

Equity is a hot topic among many involved in researching and reflecting on what we have learned from the COVID pandemic, and the forced lockdown of schools. Many in our system have seen, possibly for the first time, the full extent of inequity experienced by many learners (and their whānau/family) – much of which is ‘hidden’ from view in our relatively ‘homogenised’ school settings. Despite this, in parts of the world where the immediate threat and impact of the pandemic appears to be under control, and the opportunity to return to school is possible, we’re hearing many in rather relieved … Continue reading Equity – a collective effort required

Instruction vs learning

Earlier in my career as an educator I trained in the discipline of instructional design as I began working in distance education. Back then this was thought of as the process of creating learning experiences and materials in a manner that results in the acquisition and application of knowledge and skills. It involved a systematic process of assessing needs, designing a learning sequence, developing materials to support that and evaluating their effectiveness as the learner engages with them. I found this discipline fascinating as it required me to apply rigour everything I did at every step in my planning to work with … Continue reading Instruction vs learning