Competing visions

Filling the pail

“‘You can go out this morning, my dears, with Mr. Spencer,’ said the governess to her pupils, after listening with pursed-up lips to one of the philosopher’s breakfast tirades against discipline… the philosopher found himself presently in a neighbouring beech wood pinned down in a leaf-filled hollow by little demons, all legs, arms, grins and dancing dark eyes, whilst the elder and more discreet tormentors pelted him with decaying beech leaves.” Beatrice Webb reflecting on the philosopher Herbert Spencer in her memoir, ‘My Apprenticeship’.

In a recent blog post, literacy expert and Professor Emeritus, Tim Shanahan, expressed surprise at the popularity of a teaching approach known as ‘Reading Workshop’. Reading Workshop seems to involve students selecting books to read themselves with the teacher largely getting out of the way. Shanahan notes that this idea has been around for a long time and there is very little evidence to…

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