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September 02, 2014

Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed

4 out of 5 stars


Title: Pedagogy of the Oppressed
Size: 176 pages (Duodecimo)
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; 2nd edition (1996)
ISBN: (10) 014025403X, (13) 978-0140254037

At a Glance

The Book

A foundational texts of critical pedagogy, published in Portuguese (Pedagogia do Oprimido) in 1968. The book was very well recieved and sold 750,000 copies worldwide.

The Author

Paulo Freire, (1921 — 1997 São Paulo) was a world's leading educationalists, whose thought and work has had a fundamental impact in the field of education and on the overall struggle for national development in Third World countries.

Editorial Review

"Pedagogy of the Oppressed meets the single criterion of a 'classic': it has outlived his own time and its author's. For any teacher who links education to social change, this is required reading. Freire remains the most important writer on popular education and surely the virtual founder of the perspective known as Critical Pedagogy." Stanley Aronowitz

This is truly revolutionary pedagogy." Ivan Illich

What i think of the book

Critical Pedagogy

Perhaps the most significant contribution of this book is the detailed view of Freire’s Critical pedagogy. Critical pedagogy is an educational school of thought with social elements that tend to view education as a liberating practice. Aimed at helping student perceive and attain their freedom (from the social restraints).
When reading his critical pedagogy I couldn’t but compare Freire to Marx, in the notion of struggle (oppression vs. class struggle) and liberation. But it’s more than this, they both view the whole world with their respective goggles (economic, pedagogic) and employ the theory that explain human existence to achieve the optimum liberated selves. They are both pessimists (every human must struggle to liberate himself for we are all born into slavery as well as they fact that the liberating begins when the struggle reaches an unbearable point) and at the same time optimists (liberation will come eventually, which constitutes a truth beyond any doubt for both of them, the question is not will it happen? but when will it happen?).

The banking System

I really enjoyed the ideas Freire presented in chapter 2, which discusses what Freire calls the Banking System. The Banking System is a term used to describe classical pedagogy as it looks at students as banks for the knowledge of the teacher. Mere vessels to save what the teacher want to pour into them.
He talks in detail about the teacher-student relationship during the education process. This (mechanical) relationship reveals a fundamentally narrative character. The narrating subject who is the teacher and the patent who is listening passively or the student. The content in this analogy are lifeless and rigid. As long as the teacher dictates, the student repeats mindlessly and the content is passed from one generation to another there should be no realizing of any true meaning of the truths and no significance of the knowledge.
Applying the banking system will eventually causes the following interrelated symptoms (p. 54):

  • The teacher teaches and the students are taught
  • The teacher knows and the students don’t know
  • The teacher talks and the students listen
  • The teacher thinks and the student are thought about
  • The teacher disciplines and the students are disciplined
  • The teacher chooses and decides and the students have no say

When knowledge is confused with authority (by both the teacher and the students)

  • The teacher is the subject of the learning process and the students ate mere objects

The quicker the student adopt this scheme the more rewarded they are, so they become good examples to others. These will go on and become teachers themselves and enforcers of the system. This is why the banking scheme is a system of self-preservation.

My Criticism

When reading Freire I found myself questioning many of his assumptions that he makes with no justification (this seems to be a distinctive characteristic or a motif of his writing) regardless of the captivating and almost poetic language that he uses (even when the text is translated into English, one can still notice the poetic symmetry in sentence composition). For example, right from the beginning, in the preface, Freire claims that (Page 19):

Sectarianism, fed by fanaticism, is always castrating.
Radicalization, nourished by critical spirit, is always creative.
Sectarianism mythicizes the thereby alienates;
Radicalization criticises the thereby liberates.”

For him, sectarianism is inherently bad and radicalization inherently is good, at essence. That seems premature to me. Because ideology (no matter how alienating or radical) is not good or bad, it is how this ideology is practiced. More importantly, if we accepted that sectarianism alienates (which is not completely true unless this sectarianism doesn’t allow dialogue) then the other end of the spectrum is definitely not radicalization. The castrating ability in the alienating sectarianism lies within the intolerance. Radicalization can be just as much intolerant as sectarianism. Perhaps the key word in Freire’s quote is the “critical spirit” which is not discussed enough.

Is it Recommended

Parts of it are an absolute must read for any Critical theorist, educator in an underprivileged environment and anyone interested in the role of education in social class and mobility. However, there are parts of it that seem to go on and on without providing really tangible or practical advice! Personally, I'd rather skim those parts and arrive at the really rewarding stuff. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this book is rewarding for the patient.

August 20, 2014

John Dewey's Experience and Education

5 out of 5 stars



Title: Experience and Education
Size: 91 pages (Decimo-sexto)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (1997)
ISBN: (10) 0684838281, (13) 978-0684838281

At a Glance

The Book

Published first in 1938. This book provides a summarized account of Dewey's Theory of Education, Progressive Educarition and tries to asnwer the criticism his theory had faced.

The Author

John Dewey was probably the most influential American educationalist from the 20th century. Born in 1859 in Vermont. Dewey was a philosopher (founder of ethical pragmatism), an educator (see progressive education) and a psychologist (see functional psychology).

The one lesson to take from the book

if I was to take only one lesson from this book, it would be this: Don't hide behind idiology

In this book, Dewey says “we should think in terms of education itself rather than in terms of some ‘ism about education, even such an ‘ism as ‘progressivism’ “ (p.6). What Dewey is referring to is the ‘tribal’ allegiance to ‘isms that cause one to defend his defining ‘ism against other ideologies and dogmas at the expense of losing focus of the important problem; fixing education.

My only criticism

Too short! As the book’s subtitle says, this is the great educational theorist’s most concise statement on his ideas about the needs, the problems and the possibilities of education. This might be my only grievance with this book; the fact that it is too summarized. But again maybe it is meant to be a very short introduction to Dewey and his theory of education

Is it Recommended

Absolutely! This book is a must-read for every teacher, educator, policy maker, educational researcher and student in the field of education. It provides a reflective account of rich life of one of the most prominent educational thinkers of the 20th century. What’s more, the book is written in a friendly language, free of any education theory jargon you might expect in such a book.

August 15, 2014

Bruner's The Process of Education

4 out of 5 stars


Title: The Process of Education

Size: 97 pages (Octavo)

Publisher: Harvard University Press(1976)

ISBN: 0674710010

At a Glance

The Book

After an introductory chapter, the book touches on four major themes. These themes are: (1) the role of structure in learning and how it may be made central in teaching, (2) readiness of learning, (3) the nature of intuition and (4) the material to be learned in the best stimulus to learning.

Each of the first three themes has a designated chapter (chapters 2 to 4) and they revolve around the notion that “the intellectual activity, anywhere, is the same”. The fourth theme is broken into two chapters; chapter 5 discusses the motives for learning; and chapter 6 provides aids to teaching..

According to Encyclopædia Britannica "[this] much-translated book The Process of Education (1960) was a powerful stimulus to the curriculum-reform movement of the period".

The Author

Jerome S. Bruner (1915 - ) is an American psychologist and educator whose work on perception, learning, memory, and other aspects of cognition in young children has, along with the related work of Jean Piaget, influenced the American educational system. (Encyclopædia Britannica).

What I think of the Book

This book is very well organizaed and presented. The arguemtns it offers are (for the most part of it) compelling. THis makes the book an enjoyable read that flows very gently and rewards the reader. Bruner has hugely influenced the education sector preaching his modern ideas, in this book you will be resented with ideas such as:

  • Students need to learn the structure of the subject, not just master the fact and techniques. This is the hardest of all tasks for the teacher, according to Bruner.
  • Reassessing the significance of ‘readiness’ for the student, in other words not relying on any ‘proven formula’ or doing things in the ‘right order’. This idea clearly challenged Piaget’s theory about children passing through fixed stages of capacity and readiness to receive. So, where Piaget calls for standardization, Bruner calls for personalization. In this sense Bruner is a visionary.
  • Children should want to learn for the sake of learning itself, neither for good marks nor for passing the exams and the curriculum should reflect this.
  • The spiral curriculum concept where each subject or skill area is revisited at intervals, at a more sophisticated level each time

Reading thie book is great way get to know Bruner and consider his theory.

The book also offers a historical account of an important era of education transformation.

Editorial Review

Ranks as one of the most important and influential works on education. (Fortune)
“[A] gem of a book.” (Paul Goodman, The New York Herald Tribune)
A seminal work…on learning theory, readiness, structure, intuitive and analytical thinking, which grew out of the Woods Hole conference of 1959 on curriculum reform (of which Dr. Bruner was chairman). (Los Angeles Times)

What I took from the Book

The nature of intellectual activity

Bruner argues that intellectual activities (including learning) are all the same

The intellectual activity, anywhere, is the same (p. 14)

and that the differences between them are subtle and are essentially in degree not in kind. To better understand what Bruner means by that consider the example of a chemist in his laboratory and a novelist at his desk. Both are engaging is intellectual activities hat are essentially the same; they are both trying to understand the basic parts of their subjects and appreciate the relationship between those parts. The consequence of this proposition is enormous, for example, if you apply this at a school level, you will have to conclude that the intellectual activity of the child student is the same (at every level) with that of the scientist and the novelist. In fact, Bruner declares that when he says “the schoolboy learning physics is physicist” (p. 14)

Problems will begins to rise when you combine this point of view with the suggestion of abridging or boiling down whatever the subject you are trying to teach so students at every level can grasp the subject, ultimately and inevitably leading to adopting the lowest common denominator amongst the pool of your children who come in all shapes and sizes. I mean just look at the current “No Child Left Behind” policy and act, which I regard as a natural progression of adopting Bruner’s school of though.

Readiness for learning

Any subject can be taught effectively in some intellectually honest form to any child at any age of development (p. 33)

Bruner suggest this hypothesis which is at least contested and at most controversial. Although I have always been a fan of simplifying and repacking for the masses (for example Carl Sagan’s Cosmos that shared the same philosophy), but I don’t think that every topic can be treated as such and definitely not to an “effective” standard as Bruner claims. The problem is that there is a certain level of abstraction that all people will not be able to grasp at some stage, some will even never be able to do so. What’s amazing to me the fact that Bruner acknowledges this, yet he argues that is still possible to teach our children any concept effectively! Here’s what Bruner says in page 35 “Because of this fundamental lack the child cannot understand certain fundamental ideas that lie at the basis of mathematic and physics”.

The goal of education

Burner argues that the goal of education is creating general understanding about structures (structures of studied subjects). He also believes that schools should in fact contribute to the emotional and social development of the students. Helping to create members of the society who is able to fulfil their platonic functions as members of a family in their communities (remember the role of education in Plato’s Republic).

Still, I am critical

For Bruner learning should be designed to produce a general understanding of the structure of a subject matter, and what he means by a ‘structure of a subject’ is to recognise the relationships among the subject’s elements (p.7). that’s why he says: to learn structure, in short, is to learn how things are related.

And this is the problem I have with Burner’s school of thought; a fundamental difference in the perception of the goal on education, why we educate our children? Why we seek to learn? Why is education important?. It seems that for him, education is more functional and even mechanical.

What I mean by functional is that education is aimed at understanding a subject, so the value of education lies within the ‘external’ subject we are learning about. ‘External’ to us, the students and the teachers. I personally, think education has an intrinsic value on its own. An inherent benefit in learning regardless of the subject.

What I mean by mechanical is the notion that by disassembling an object we somehow get a grasp over it, like a mechanical watch. But I think that not all subjects can be learnt this way.

Is it recommended?
Well it depends, for graduate students interested in curriculum this is an absolute must-read (maybe even a prerequisite), the same thing goes for those interested in the history of education. But that's about it; the general reader might find interesting thoughts and still valid arguemnts but nothing else. Some ideas put forth by this book are now dated. So it is not quite recommended to the casual reader.

August 13, 2014

Modes of Learning: Distributed Collective

Distributed CollectiveThe distributed Collective learning mode assumes that people can learn without a hierarchal structure and that this learning is triggered and motivated by networks of common interest.

A network of common interest is a collection of people who share the same interest but with varying degrees of expertise and knowledge in the are of their interest.

What is this mode all about?

The goal of this mode of learning is to share the knowledge among a group whose members serve as teachers and learners. So, people can engage in many learning activities at the same time.

Here the learner chooses what to learn about, with what groups of people and how much interaction he or she is going to have with the group.

A very interesting feature of this mode of learning is the fact that the roles of the “student” and the “teacher” are not fixed; so the individual might take the role of a student for some time and the role of a teacher for another time. This is because the roles are determined by who has knowledge. Think for example about a family discussion about using social media (Twitter for example) here you can notice that the 12-year old child might take the role of the teacher and the parent (or grandparent) takes the role of the student.

How this learning happens?

The starting point for this mode lf learning is sharing the same interest, values and preferences. Once there is a set of people who share the same interest they can start the learning exercise right away.

Practically, the learning can take place either in the real world or virtually. The community of learners allows more flexibility in relation to other modes of learning.

This mode of learning is similar to the Distributed Individual in the capacity of regarding humans as natural born learners and that learning is dictated by our biological imperative. The difference, however, is that this mode of learning is collective meaning there is the assumption that learning happens best when people engage with others.

The other difference between the two distributed modes is that this one defines success from the point of view of both the individual and the collective (as opposed to the Distributed Individual mode that defines success solely from the point of view of the individual)

August 12, 2014

Modes of Learning: Distributed Individual

distributed-individualThe Distributed Individual mode is based on the assumption that individuals are natural learners. And that those individuals choose to learn on their own. Those choices are based on their intrinsic motivation as learners, their understanding of why they learn and their perception of the value of what they are learning.

This mode allows individuals to leanr that which they are most interested in and at the pace which they are conformatble with.

What is this mode all about?

This mode is about the learnier making consious decision to acquire the knowledge or skill they are most interested in. This mode of learning occurs voluntarily and could be formal (through instutions that provide the learnign material) or informally.

The great thing about htis mode of learning is the fact htat the learner's level of motivation is very high (compared ot other modes of learning).

How this learning happens?

HoltBasically, it is the indiviual's respinsibility to choose what to learn, sort out where, when and how and evaluate the success of the leanring process. This choise is based on the learner's own values, beliefs and personal interest.

In reality, this form of learning happens all the time. As biologists tell us how we have a "biological imperative" to learn.

According to John Holt (1923-1985) all education should take this form. In fact, Hold believed that schools are inherintly bad by artificially separating learning from living. This led him to become a proponent of homeschooling, as seen in his book Teach Your Own (1981).

The biggest enemy to learning is the talking teacher

~John Holt

Modes of Learning: Hierarchical Collective

Hierarchical CollectiveThe Hierarchical Collective mode of learning is a mode that focuses a lot on communal values that are identified in an Organisational Hierarchical Collective.An example of this is learning in an open discussion or a collaborative classroom.

What is this mode all about?

The Hierarchical Collective mode has one clear goal: shared values and beliefs must be acquired for the overall goal, which is to create successful citizens of the society. This is generally done through the educational institution having put into place proper mechanisms that support shared learning. It is these mechanisms that help the intuition normalise behaviours and dictate what the desired values are.

The responsibility for carrying this out lies with the educational leader; who will make sure there is a positive environment for the desired learning to take place.

How this learning happens?

Collaboration is the key concept here, and the cornerstone for this type of learning. So, the group -as a collective- act as teacher and learner, with the real teacher playing the role of a moderator largely and the role of a teacher partially.

If done correctly, the learner would have gained the necessary lessons to be a successful member of the community. After all, the goal of this mode is to help the learner prepare to participate in a productive and useful manner.

In practice, the Socratic Seminar is an example of this mode (see the wikipedia entry here) or better watch Professor Rob Reich (Stanford School of Education) speak about the Socratic Method here (it's a wonderful speech)

An underappreciated mode


In my opinion, this mode has a great prospect of not only passing by values that are accepted (because they are stemming from the collective) but also teaching critical thinking, collaboration and the appreciation of prospective. Here's what I mean by that: (1) students participating in a Socratic method will have to speak up and express their own points of view allowing other to comment, reflect and criticise, this has the potential of teaching critical thinking, (2) because it is a collective mode, meaning it stems from the collective it advocates the collective wisdom and values explicitly, but implicitly, it teaches that collaboration is a good thing and the fact that whole is larger than the sum of its parts. this is how this mode could teach collaboration and (3) the method could teach learners to appreciate different prospective simply by virtue of giving other space to express their own versions of the truth, again the whole is larger than the sum of its parts. But also, remember the seven blind men feeling an elephant? Each of them concluded that the part he was holding represented the elephant’s true form, but as it turned out the true form of the elephant was the combination of their perceptions. In other words, pluralism holds the truth.

Unfortunately, this mode is not widely practiced. In 20+ years as student, I can't recall more than a hanfull of time where this mode was used, most of these were during my postgraduate study! too late if you ask me.

I want to end with this quote from John Dewey's 1893's essay Self-Realization as the Moral Ideal, wehre he talks about schools to engage children in meaningful learning and democratic participation, an idea very much at the heart of the Hierarchical Collective mode:

If I were asked to name the most needed of all reforms in the spirit of education, I should say: 'Cease conceiving of education as mere preparation for later life, and make of it the full meaning of the present life.' … An activity which does not have worth enough to be carried on for its own sake cannot be very effective as a preparation for something else

~John Dewey

August 11, 2014

Modes of Learning: Hierarchical Individual

Writing about web page http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H14bBuluwB8

Hierarchical IndividualSo the Hierarchical Individual as a modes of Learning is a mode that emphasizes individual achievement and is described as having clearly-defined metrics for success. Prime examples of this mode of learning is the classical classroom learning that most people experience (either enjoyably or not) and might or might not learn from.

What is this mode all about?

This mode of learning has clear goals that could be smmarised as (1) achieving success in academic context and (2) scoring learners on a scale of academic success. The idea of academic success is deeply rooted in this kind of learning ideal. In fact, learners who are subject to this kind of learning are taught from a very early stage and throughout this mode that academic success is very important, so important, that it is the most important thing individuals learn. Those individuals who are mostly responsible for their success.

How this learning happens?

Basically, it is the responsibility of the individual to learn in this mode, that's why it is the effort of the learner that mostly shapes the outcome of the learning process. but that's not all, also, teacher play an important (but limited) role here; providing the academic work and knowledge that the learner has to acquire.

Structurally, this mode of learning is (as the name suggests) hierarchical, where we see the learners on the bottom of a pyramid and the teacher on top. And according to the dogma of this mode, individuals who do well deserve success, not just academic but also social and economic, this is the philosophy behind our practices of 'rewarding' those who score highest in school with access to graduate schools and higher education.

Scoring high is very important here, because success is defined by measurements, standards and assessments.

Angela Lee DuckworthAccording to Psychology professor Angela Lee Duckworth, the key to success in this mode of learning is "Grit", who believes that people succeed when they set long-term goals and stick to them.

Grit is sticking with your future — day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years — and working really hard to make that future a reality.

~Angela Lee Duckworth

You can listen to Prof. Duckworth explain her theory of “Grit” in a six-minute TED talk here.

My own personal creed

So in a previous post (see here), i mentioned that this mode of learning represents best my own perception of learning. people who self-identify with this mode of learning enjoy learning in a classroom and believe in discrete measurement of outcome. I believe knowledge transfer is a prime goal to learning and that validation of this transfer is necessary to evaluate the learning process. That's why, I think this mode of learning is valid. It has served us for millennia and continues to do so.

August 10, 2014

Modes of Learning: introduction

Professor Richard Elmore

I am discovering the wonderfull "Modes of Learning" which is a collective of a groups of theories on how different individual learn, how are they motvated to learn and what social structure serve each learning mode.

Professor Richard Elmore is a Professor of Educational Leadership at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He has fifteen years on research and clinical practice, concentrated on the improvement of instructional practice in schools and classrooms, and the development of organizational systems to support those improvements.

Prof. Elmore categorized modes of learning into four quadrants, using two contiums axes; (1) heirarchical to disctibuted learning and (2) individual to collective learning.

  1. Heirarchical learning is organized into blocks and has sequences
  2. Distibuted learning means the value of what is learnt is determined by use, and that the learner makes choices about what to learn and what to do with waht is learnt.
  3. Individual learning has the person as the primary unit of learning, therefore, it is individual activity
  4. Collective learning is a social activity

Modes of learning

So i took a questionnaire to help me decide where do i fit in the modes of elarning, apparently my conception of learnin falls into the Hierarchical Individual Quadrant 53% and the Distributed Individual Quadrant 51%. I only scored 19% on the Distributed Collective Quadrant.

I think this reflects my conception of learning should be institutionalized, accredited and very formal. For example, I have always sough accreditation for my learning, that's why I have two BScs an MSc and a PhD on the way. Furthermore, wouldn't have subscribed to any online courses (which i have dont alot in the past) if they didn't offer a certificate of completion. I mean the certificate serves as a guarantee of a well-organised learning process. Now i cannot say that the assessment surprised me but it has definitely challenged me. I though i would be more into collective learning than individual. I think i have to justify why individual learning is more "valid" than collective from an epistemological point of view. Not sure i can do that!

According to Prof. Elmore All the "Modes of learning" assessment does is to identify your initial disposition toward learning! he argues that we might expect change our mind by learning more aobut the different modes and or probably move toward the boundaries of one quadrant or another. I will have to follow up on that.

July 27, 2014

Plato and Education

4 out of 5 stars

At a Glance

Plato and EducationThe Book

The book is an introduction to Plato’s philosophical and educational thoughts. Plato was arguably the first philosopher of education (Barrow). This book seeks to offer authoritative accounts on main topics to the non-specialist reader.

The author is defending Plato’s classical interpretation of the role of educators against his prominent ‘liberal-democratic’ critics, such as Bertrand Russell.

The author claims that the greatness of Plato is his ability to still relate to our modern times. Throughout the book, readers will note how Plato’s words still echo with contemporary issues. I think this is the feature that makes this book (and any similar work) a timeless work.

Book Construction

The book has 8 chapters; the first two offer an introduction and set a historical background. The third discusses The Republic as a political framework and an educational charter. Chapter 5 expands on the Republic and asks other works of Plato about the distribution of education. Chapter 6 moves to discuss methodology of education. And finally the last three chapters are concerned with curriculum. With chapters 6 and 7 focusing on knowledge and art respectively, and chapter 8 examining moral education and “upbringing”.

The Author

Professor Robin Barrow has a PhD in Philosophy. He works in Simon Fraser University. He has authored numerous books on Philosophy of Education, Epistemology and Moral Philosophy (24 to the date of this review).

What I Took from the Book

Much of the book is reflecting material, meaning one can spend hours of end entertaining the implications of what is discussed in the book. Here are some main points I found quite interesting


The Republic

The republic is mainly concerned with the question “what is justice?” rejecting the claim by Thrasymachus that Justice is noting more than the advantage of the stronger! While Socrates for examples saw that in essence justice is inherently good to any man who can truly understand it. Plato draws from the two arguments that there should be an outline for a perfect state where justice is universal and served. This is done through The Guardians; lovers of wisdom and truth, who play the role of good watch–dogs. In this state children will be brought up under the nurses appointed by The Guardians. Until they reach an age of morality maturity when they can make their own minds about day-to-day issues, having “learnt” the one truth about all the major issues.


A tricking discovery I found is that Plato seemed to be an advocate to censorship! In page 21, Barrow says referring to the Homeric poems: “Plato’s intension is to censor this material radically […] anything that is false and anything that might encourage immorality or moral laxity must go”. The main question here is who gets to decide what might encourage immorality? I guess Plato would say, the Guardians, of course. (clearly this could easily lead to an oligarchy)

Higher Education

Higher Education in the Republic seems to be very selective and only available to those who have proven their competence and went through military education. The main topic they study is the rigorous training in abstract thought. What I find fascinating is how Plato was able to notice that practical knowledge is ever changing and it makes no sense to teach the method of today for those who will live tomorrow and discover the best methods for their time. So instead they should be taught only abstracts.

“One cannot know something that is false and one cannot know something that is uncertain or changing” (adapted from Plato, page 45).

But our whole physical world is ever changing; does this mean we can no nothing? Plato gives us the answer by concluding that the physical or material world is not in fact real at all and hence not worthy of knowing any thing about! What shall we learn then? Abstracts and forms. That’s why Plato built us a world of ideas and pure forms where a physical object like a table for example or an activity like running a marathon are mere imperfect manifestations of two pure forms or ideas; the idea of a table and the idea of running a marathon (read on the Theory of Forms if you’re not familiar with this). And finally, the knowledge, therefore, is rendered to the knowledge of the world of forms or ideas. This is essentially what Plato meant by teaching only abstracts in higher education.

Method of education

The method of education is also a critical matter, and according to Plato, the preferred method is discovery (page 33), learning by discovery. Barrow points to an excerpt from Socrates’s Meno, where he (Socrates) is teaching a slave of his how to double the size of a square. Instead of saying, “this is how you do it”, Socrates dives into a series of bit-size questions aimed at the slave. The Slave discovers the “truth” and Socrates turns to Meno to explain how he teaches the slave without dictating to him anything but rather giving him questions. In other words, the teacher here leads the curiosity of the student. Here’s the excerpt (from http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/meno.html)

Soc.: Tell me, boy, do you know that a figure like this is a square?
Slave: I do.
Soc.: And you know that a square figure has these four lines equal?
Slave: Certainly.
Soc.: And these lines which I have drawn through the middle of the square are also equal?
Slave: Yes.
Soc.: A square may be of any size?
Slave: Certainly.
Soc.: And if one side of the figure be of two feet, and the other side be of two feet, how much will the whole be? Let me explain: if in one direction the space was of two feet, and in other direction of one foot, the whole would be of two feet taken once?
Slave: Yes.
Soc.: But since this side is also of two feet, there are twice two feet?
Slave: There are.
Soc.: Then the square is of twice two feet?
Slave: Yes.
Soc.: And how many are twice two feet? count and tell me.
Slave: Four, Socrates.
Soc.: And might there not be another square twice as large as this, and having like this the lines equal?
Slave: Yes.
Soc.: And of how many feet will that be?
Slave: Of eight feet.
Soc.: And now try and tell me the length of the line which forms the side of that double square: this is two feet-what will that be?
Slave: Clearly, Socrates, it will be double.
Soc.: Do you observe, Meno, that I am not teaching the boy anything, but only asking him questions; and now he fancies that he knows how long a line is necessary in order to produce a figure of eight square feet; does he not?
Men. Yes.

What I find truly fascinating is the fact that Socrates is here teaching (or should I say mentoring) not only the slave, whom he refers to as ‘boy’, but also Meno in the same manner. Notice how he directs a question at Meno in the end!

This method of teaching requires 4 main foundations, (1) the teacher must know the answer, (2) the practice has to look –to the student- as not teaching, (3) the exercise is constructed in a way where the teacher has to give some information as is (for example the term diagonal) and (4) the teacher has to be very committed and patient with the student. It’s only left to say that these four foundational remarks -paradoxically- constitute the main criticism to this method.

What I think of the Book

An absolute rewarding read! I recommend this book very highly, although I would draw your attention to two points related to reading this book. First, this book is not particularly new there are, I’m sure, lots and lots of other books that revolve around the same issue. So you might want to check them as well. And secondly, this book can be boring at times, but being a less that a hundred pages, this can’t be a real problem. You will get over the boring parts and enjoy the intellectually rewarding ones soon enough.

May 21, 2014

Tony Bush's Leadership and Management Development in Education

5 out of 5 stars

Tony BushDescription

Title: Leadership and Management Development in Education

Size: 169 pages (Octavo)

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd (2008)

ISBN: 9781412921817

At a Glance

The Book

Consisting of 9 chapters; this book covers the most critical issues facing education leaders, such as school improvement, models of educational leadership, educational leaders in developed countries and in developing countries, and the future of leadership development.

Drawing form a wealth of experience and detailed research, Bush presents his ideas in a concise and clear way.

The Author

Tony Bush is Professor of Educational Leadership at Nottingham, with responsibilities in the UK and Malaysia. Bush is a vice-president and a Council member of the British Educational Leadership Society (BELMAS) and a leading author and researcher on leadership and management both in the UK and internationally.

What I think of the Book

The book’s foreword illuminates the importance of the book by citing that “without adequate supply of effective leaders, changes [to issues in education] simply will not happen”, then claim that the book provides us with how are leaders in education prepared and developed.

This is of course not the only book dealing with educational leadership, however, what Tony Bush can offer that other authors cannot is an international prospective of this issue. The book, therefore is aimed at helping leaders in education context deal with major issues confronting their institutions such as “diversity and inclusion in increasingly pluralistic societies”.

I have to also credit the book for not claiming to provide a simple answer to solve these issues, instead it is very clear in stating that it aims at providing the fullest possible picture of the field.

Editorial Review

This book is far and away the best international comparative study of leadership development for schools.

Prof. Brian Caldwell, Managing Director and Principal Consultant at Educational Transformations Pty Ltd and former Dean of Education at the University of Melbourne, Australia.

What I took from the Book

I liked the table of management and leadership models, as well as the definitions and extensive description of each model.

Table: Typology of management and leadership models

Management models

Leadership models
















Source: Bush, 2003.

  • Managerial leadership: Assumes that the focus of leaders ought to be on functions, tasks and behaviours.
  • Transformational leadership: Assumes that the central focus of leadership ought to be the commitments and capacities of organizational members.
  • Participative leadership: Assumes that the decision-making process pf the group ought to be the central focus of the group.
  • Interpersonal leadership: Links to collegiality in that it stresses the importance of collaboration and interpersonal relationships.
  • Transactional leadership: Bush links this to the political model.
  • Postmodern leadership: Aligns closely with the subjective model of management. A relatively recent model of leadership with no generally agreed definition.
  • Moral leadership: Assumes that the critical focus of leadership ought to be on values, beliefs and ethics of leaders themselves.
  • Instructional leadership: It focuses on the direction of influence, rather than its nature and source.
  • Contingent leadership: Assumes that what is important is how leaders respond to the unique organizational circumstances or problems.

Is it recommended?

Absolutely! Almost every type of reader can take something form this book. Most important of those are current and prospect leaders in education as well as researchers and policy makers. Given the importance of the subject, it is no surprise that I find this book valuable and worth re-reading. I especially like how Bush dictates that the future of leadership –being very critical- should not be left to chance. Apparently, leadership is now recognised to be the second most significant factor influencing school and pupil outcomes, after classroom practice (Leithwood et al, “Seven strong claims about successful school leadership”, 2006).

January 29, 2014

Stephen Ball's Markets, morality, and equality in education

3 out of 5 stars



Title: Markets, Morality and Equality in Education (Hillcole Group paper)
Size: 23 pages (Octavo)
Publisher: Tufnell Press (13 Oct 1993)
ISBN: (10) 187276715X, (13) 978-1872767154

At a Glance

The Book

“Stephen Ball explores the political and ideological antecedents of the education market established by the Education Reform Act […] The book argues that the education market fulfils the requirements of the market forces outlined by neo-liberal economist Frederich Hayek […] (And thus) the ERA constitutes a fundamental social and political experiments with the lives and futures of the children of England and Wales.”

The Author

Stephen Ball is the Karl Mannheim professor of sociology of education at the Institute of Education, University of London, and author of the report Education, Justice and Democracy: The Struggle Over Ignorance and Opportunity for the Centre for Labour and Social Studies

What I Think of the Book

On the definition of leadership

Before I discuss the book I should mention that the fact the book was published in 1993 so to be fair the financial crisis of 2007-08 hadn’t have happened and the trust in free-market was still intact.

The book argues towards Hayek’s economics based on the notion that the market is the only guarantee of progress and civilization, and that inequality is not only inevitable but also necessary in the market to stimulate competition.

Ball claims that the application of Hayekian market in education will bring many benefits and that the core to these benefits is the notion of diversity. Ball explains that in a comprehensive system of schools, all schools will be giving the same service, and offer no choice, hence the ERA comes to the rescue with it’s variety that suits everybody’s needs. I have an issue with this logic; first of all, the premise “in a comprehensive system, all schools will be giving the same service” does not necessarily mean lack of choice in school type instead in means the unity of the quality level. A governed school system can still offer options, but ‘equal options’. The rhetoric comprising words such as ‘freedom’, ‘choice’, ‘variety’ and ‘diversity’ is very attractive and prominent in the book, but let’s not lose focus because of these big words. What a market led system offers in term of choice that is not offered by a regulated system is this: a choice of the quality level of the school, and I don’t claim to speak for others but I doubt any parent would want their child in a school whose quality is any thing less of the best. In other words, parents have the option to choose from a variety of quality levels; the bad schools, the OK schools, the good schools and the really good schools, Mmm, I wonder how valuable if this choice to people. So the premise is unjust and the conclusion is miss represented to mean something else.

Furthermore, when discussing the benefits of the market force, Ball talk about governing bodies, which leads me to my main critique of the education market. As Ball says “Local Education Authority policies on employment will no longer apply. Schools will not be bound by any equal opportunities policies or […]” (p. 13) “another context for analysing the LMS provisions of the ERA is the antipathy of the Conservative leadership towards local government and local democracy. LMS severely curtails the role of local authorities in educational planning and decision-making” (P. 19) now I’m not saying that local authority policies are perfect, but what is the alternative here? Firstly, the policies could be (and in fact are) reviewed; secondly, there could be more nation-wide oversight and regulation; and thirdly, there is a whole spectrum of regulated education markets that could solve the policy issues. However, it seems that the only alternative for Ball is the complete free market. Back to my original concern: if local authorities are no longer in control, then who is? Businesses? I doubt they are either responsible or accountable enough. Besides no free-market scenario should be completely trusted after the Subprime mortgage crisis and the subsequent financial and economic crisis of the 2007-08.

You see, on the individual level, the real problem with the free market is its favouritism towards the successful and the fortunate. So the big cities will get all the best schools at the expense of rural areas. So what would be of the kid born in a small rural town? Do we have to make things harder for him to get to a high-quality respectable school (only found in the big city) is it not enough he is most likely to be poor? Do we have to add another problem? And speaking of poor, the costs of these free market schools are highly contrasting.

Is it Recommended

Well, it's not that relevant now but nice to read. Ball is a great writer who present interesting point of view.

I really enjoyed reading the book and thinking about the ideas it presented.

January 22, 2014

Leadership: A Very Short Introduction

4 out of 5 stars

K. GrintDescription

Title: Leadership: A Very Short Introduction
Size: 160 pages (Duodecimo)
Publisher: Oxford University Press (29 July 2010)
ISBN: (10) 0199569916, (13) 978-0199569915

At a Glance

The Book

The book ponders upon the major questions relating to leadership, encouraging the reader to reconsider what they knew about it. The book looks at leadership development throughout history arriving at present time, and considering the value of leaders in society today.
The book is easy to read thanks to its simplified language and interesting ideas (as such are many of the wonderful titles of Oxford’s Very Short Introductions series).

Book Construction

There are 8 chapters in the book; the first three are aimed at identifying and defining leadership, they are titled ‘What is leadership?’, ‘What isn’t leadership?’ and ‘What was leadership?’; next a chapter on the age-long question ‘Are leaders born or bred?’; Chapters 5,6,& 7 reflect upon the identities of leaders and followers; and finally, chapter 8 deals on a practical level with the true value of leadership asking the question ‘can we do without leaders?’

The Author

Keith Grint is a Professor of Public Leadership and Management at the University of Warwick. He is a founding co-editor of the journal Leadership published by sage and founding co-organizer of the International conference in leadership research.

A Topology of Leadership Development - CopyWhat I Took from the Book

On the definition of leadership

The meaning of leadership itself is much contested; even after “thousands of years of pondering and a century of academic research into it”. Prof. Grint suggests that the more we know about it the less we understand it. However, in an attempt to define leadership, Grint makes differences in four main types of leadership:

  • Position-based leadership: activity undertaken by someone whose position on a vertical and usually formal hierarchy provides then with sources to lead.

  • Person-based leadership: it is who you are that determines whether you are a leader or not, characteristics and magnetism play a major role here.

  • Result-based leadership: the reasoning here is that the purpose of leadership is achieving results, so he who achieves most is a better leader.

  • Process-based leadership: assuming those leaders are generously different from non-leaders, acting like a leader makes the best leader, what this means is the context is critical and leaders must be exemplary.

On the born-or-bred debate

I found it nice to have all parts of the discussion on represented one continuous scale, I am referring to the table on page 51 that offers a topology of leadership development, starting from two axes; 1) nature vs. nurture; and 2) individual vs. collective.

Is it Recommended

Yes, I would mostly recommend this for people who know nothing about the field, but also to those who study leadership or are leaders, because I believe it has something to offer for everyone, both academically and practically. Maybe this because the prof. Grint spent 10 years in industry before switching to an academic career.

One final note

What is really interesting about this book is the fact that although its chapters have questions as their titles (meaning chapters themselves are aimed at being answers), but the books poses more questions that it does answers. In fact, you will mostly put this book down having more questions about leadership than you have when you started reading it! Especially toward the end, where the reading takes an interesting turn discussing controversial matters such as sacrifice, scapegoats, and exclusion. But I think this was by design not by mistake, the author definitely want us to reflect upon what we already know about this mystery called Leadership.

January 20, 2014

Mind In Society: The Development Of Higher Psychological Processes

5 out of 5 stars


Title: Mind In Society; The Development Of Higher Psychological Processes

Size: 159 pages (Octavo)

Publisher: Harvard University Press (November 14, 1980)

ISBN: (10) 0674576292 , (13) 978-0674576292

At a Glance

The Book

The book is concerned with human behaviour and what makes humans unique. This is discussed through three fundamental questions: (1) what is the relationshio betwenn humans and their environment? (2) what activities create this relationship and what are the psychological consequensex of these activities? (3) how is using tools related to speech development?

Book Construction

The book has 8 chapters; the first four chapters introduce ‘Tools and Symbol’ the fifth summarizes the major theoretical and methodological point. Together the first five chapters are entitled ‘Basic Theory and Data’, the following three chapters discuss the ‘Educational Implications’.

The Author

Lev S. Vygotsky (1896 – 1934) was a Soviet Belarusian psychologist, the founder of a theory of human cultural and biosocial development commonly referred to as cultural-historical psychology, and leader of the Vygotsky Circle.

Vygotsky was educated as a lawyer and a philologist, he became a pioneer of developmental psychology. Vygotsky is known for his Cultural-historical psychology and Zone of proximal development.

The Editors

Edited by Michael Cole and his co-workers

Michael Cole is Professor of Communication and Psychology and Director of the Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition at the University of California, San Diego.

What I Took from the Book

There is quite a lot to take from this book, here are a few thoughts that I found quite interesting

On Using Tools

Vygotsky argues that the minds cannot be understood in isolation from the surrounding society. Man is the only animal who uses tools to modify his environment (inner and outer). From the simplest device imaginable to the complexities of symbolic language, society offers technology to people that can be used to shape processes of the mind.

On Talking to Tour Self

Talking to oneself as an activity is not irrelevant. Because the tranfomation from though to speech helps focus on the problem. This is why talking to one’s self can be seen as a ‘cognitive tool‘. Vygotsky proved this point with his research on how children solved problems.

On The Development of Perception or How Speech is Pivotal in Perception Development

By means of words, the child is able to perceive the world not only by vision but also through speech. As such, speech becomes an essential part of the child’s cognitive development.

Editorial Reviews

This selection of Vygotsky's important writings (most were previously unavailable in English) offers the Western reader a new appreciation of the seminal contributions of one of Russia's most influential psychologists.

Psychology Today

Vygotsky was a genius. After more than a half a century in science I am unable to name another person who even approaches his incredible analytic ability and foresight. All of my work has been no more than the working out of the psychological theory which he constructed.

A. R. Luria

This little book is an intellectual excitement; it abounds with all manner of ideas, insights, and novel formulations.

Kevin Connolly Nature

This is a landmark book, compulsory reading for students of developmental and adult cognition… Mind in Society should stimulate an awakened interest in Vygotsky as a contemporary force rather than a figure of historical interest.

Ann L. Brown Contemporary Psychology

One Final Note

Vygotsky readers might be tempted to view his ideas as historical relics, especially when viewed in the historical context of someone who was contemporary to Ivan Pavlov and John Watson of the stimulus-response theory of behaviour as well as Kohler and Lewin of the Gestalt psychology movement. But in fact, Vygotsky’s contributions offer great insights in contemporary psychology and education theory while still being interesting from an intellectual historical point of view.

This Book is extremely rewarding reading that will shake your understanding of how your brain works.

June 23, 2012

Everything is O.K.

Writing about web page http://make-everything-ok.com/

worrying.pngNature of worrying

I've been worrying alot lately, which has been hindering my productivity and negatively influencing my mood. The thing about worrying is that it doesn't help anyone, in fact it could be quite a destructive force that causes harm and no good at all. I say 'could be' because i think a little bit of worrying once in a while keep us on the edge of what we are doing and probably is a positive thing.

Think of a past experince that you were worried about; you either succeded anyways, so the worrying feelings were a waste of time and energy, or you failed, so you ended up feeling worst, not only because you lost but because you spent the whole time worrying over something that wasn't going to happen anyways.

The reality

I guess, we all agree on this, but practice is so much different! right? wrong! it doesn't have to be; if you belive it make it real, especially if you know it's all in your head, for this I invite you to play this little mind game: "make everything O.K. and it will be O.K." you are wlecome to try it. Just flip the switch, press the buttun. here I give you the button.


this is not about wishful thinking, this is abut reality; in reality, it doens't ,atter whether you worry over something or not, what matters is what you do about it. Pressing that button was your first action, now go on to the next....

image credits: Focus N'Joy, http://focusnjoy.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Worrying-1024x694.png

June 09, 2012

The many faces of learning cycles

PDCAThe almost identical asymmetry of the steps in different learning cycles caught my attention while reading about knowledge management, this is a quick look at some of them and what I think is the best representation and why.

First of all,

We have to agree that there are some very similar models or step-by-step representations of the learning cycle such as DMAIC, PDCA, and others. Actually if you studied Six Sigma you must have came across the comparison of these two, but it’s not only these, consider the following:

a) OODA loop (observe, orient, decide and act): comes from military origins, and is applied in operations management

b) CRAR cycle (conceptualize, reflect, act and review): created by Van Der Spek as a knowledge cycle

And, of course, there are the DMAIC (define, measure, analyse, improve and control) and PDCA (plan, do, check and act)

These are just a couple of examples; hundreds of models exist in the literature.

Now, why the similarity?

Because -I think- learning is a universal activity that humans experience in the same way, and respond to similarly as well. The stretch is (arguably) in assuming that organizations are similar to humans in this regard. Debating for this point of view is not hard, for once, it not only humans that share the learning cycle but also many animals, besides, there is evidence that these viewing organizational learning by these models actually works. In short, I find it quit intuitive that there are many similarities; the odd thing is having more than one cycle.

So why the different copies?

I think there are many reasons for this (how convenient!) but the most important two are –in my opinion-

1) The fact that different models come from different backgrounds, including different research fields (military/management/psychology) and different scholars/professionals.

2) Some authors/professional consultants form their own interpretation of the cycle for many reasons, either their experience dictates a certain adjustment or they just want to convince companies that they are gurus of their fields, and hence, their models are just shades of the original thing!

So Who is the winner?

I believe that simplicity is bliss, and therefore, find myself leaning towards the good old PDCA, less known as the Deming cycle and originally Shewhart cycle. Which originally was PDSA (plan, do, study and act)


May 31, 2012

Warwick Skills Portfolio Award (done)

Bev & meI have finally got the Warwick Skills Portfolio Award (WSPA); part of Warwick development scheme that targets academic, personal and professional skills; I was lucky to attend 9 workshops and privileged to meet the amazing tutors, I leant so much about many things, namely personal and academic skill.

For the first time, this year, there was a showcase event in which the student who have participated in the WSPA scheme and successfully finished it could present about their experience to a group of fellow student, prospect students and tutors. Five students presented that day, I was the first one, and it was awesome! after the presentations there was a dinner buffet followed by a question and answer panel hosted by the presenters, again, it was extraordinary!! Especially that it was my first panel :)

Many things to reflect upon, for instance, the experience of networking with people after giving a presentation is something else. But I want to consider the panel experience since it was brand new for me, when the event organizer first told me about it, asking whether or not I want to participate, I knew what i should do; get out of my comfort zone and do the thing that will benefit me, so I said "I would love to", later on, when it was time for the panel, I dealt with it just like a presentation; expect in a presentation you get to ask the question and answer it, in a panel someone else get to ask you the question. The techniques I applied were also very similar; take a good breath, speak clearly, pause and check for understanding.

Getting feedback is probably the most important thing to improve presentations, you get it from the body language of your audience, and if you’re lucky enough someone will come up to you afterwards and tell you what they think of your presentation, usually it’s praise, otherwise, they wouldn’t even bother.

Anyways, I got loads of feedback from students and tutors, mostly positive, all constructive criticism. The one piece of feedback that I loved the most was from Bev Welsh, an expert in education with a huge experience in communication skills training (me with her in photo) told me after the showcase was done "you are a superstar!" this was the best feedback I had for a long time, especially coming from Bev, needless to say, this really meant very much to me.

So apparently, a applying presentation techniques to the panel worked for me, this shouldn’t be a surprise since I remember Bev saying in her workshop on “delivering effective presentations” that almost all communications could be regarded as presentations, think of introducing yourself to your department head or meeting with your project supervisor, all presentations in a way.


May 25, 2012

The end of classrooms

classroomToday is a very special day for me; it’s the last day of my last module in WMG. The reason why this is a very special day is not only the fact that I finished all the taught part of my masters degree, but also the fact that this is mostly my last day to sit in a class room.

After 20 years of attending school, college and graduate school, and going through about 20,000 hours of class attending, this part of my journey is now over, no more sitting in a class room, which makes me both happy and sad.

This got me thinking about the class activities as part of education, students spend thousands of hours in class, hopefully learning and exploring the world of ideas, but in the same time creating bonds with their class mates, I wonder if this will fade away with the technology wave of cyberspace and the virtual class rooms. I have attended virtual classes, and I have to say, they are dull. For this I think the traditional classrooms will be missed missed if they faded away. It will be such a shame if our kids didn’t get the chance to experience them.

Wither way, I know I will be missing sitting in a classroom, so here’s to all the hours spent in school, to all my class mates, friends and colleagues, to all the amazing teachers and professors, to home works, projects and exams, you all made me who I am today.

May 21, 2012

EFQM framework for KM

EFQMI was lucky enough to find a true gem; the EFQM framework for knowledge management, its an EFQM guidebook, of less than 50 pages, relating KM to the EFQM framework. This is what I learnt form it.

First of all, the starting point for any company in its KM excellent is to define exactly where the company stands now, this makes perfect sense, since the suggested framework is based on self-assessment.

KM is not an end, but rather a means to an end, this intuitive statements leads to an important question; what is the “end”? it is better performance and improved results. In EFQM terminology, good KM supports both enablers and results.

KM is most effective when it is approached holistically, integrating leadership, HR and processes. This is the justification for incorporating KM with the whole EFQM framework.

Finally, I think the book is worth owning and definitely worth reading. It could be found in the library: http://webcat.warwick.ac.uk/record=b2525740~S1

May 14, 2012

Facilities management vs. property management

Facilities Management is the process by which an organization delivers and sustains support services in a quality environment to meet strategic needs” (Canter for Facilities Management)

Property management is the operation, control, and oversight of commercial, industrial or residential real estate.

Although many similarities exist between the two, I was interested in knowing the defining criteria for each, and what are the key differences between them.

My first impression was that the differences rely on the defining characteristics, which are in turn determent on the context, in other words the differences between facilities and facilityproperty management for the banking sector are not similar to those in the pharmaceutical businesses.

However, the key responsibilities for each management type could be summed as following:

The facility management responsible for the long-term aspects of the building or facility, and is aimed at creating the optimum working environment for staff

The property management is responsible for day-to-day operational aspects of the building or facility, like repairs and refurbishments. It is aimed at maintaining the status quo.

Asset management, however, is an umbrella term for a combination of activities aimed at maximizing value.

Finally, another term is related to these; space management, which in short is the allocation of space, in other words how the building’s available apace (rooms, corridors…etc.) used and what are they allocated to.

May 12, 2012


PLKKnowledge-based product life cycle management is an integrated field of study that combines elements from KM and Product life cycle management and is called PLK.

PLK is a combination of knowledge about the product throughout its life cycle and the processes that the product goes under. In other words a combination of the product and its environment. Under PLK an organization doesn’t simply regard its product as an independent item but considers its integration in the environment, how does it effect the surrounding environment and how is it affected by it.

An example immediately jumps to mind; how do some Apple product change people’s life style and their relations. Also, the social media products, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, these products are clear examples of having a direct effect on the way we live, just consider the Arab spring phenomena being heavily influenced –if not almost exclusively led by- these social media outlets.

The application of this, is in considering all the product planned and speculated usages in its future environment, a good PLK will ensure more robust products that last the strongest competition, and even become a market leader.