Meeting December 1st 2011 Dr John Mathers

Our speker for the meeting on December ist 2011 was Dr John F. Mathers

Dr John F. Mathers is a Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society (BPS) and a BASES Accredited Sports Psychologist. He is the Director of Learning and Teaching in Sports Studies at the University of Stirling and lectures on sports science topics within the Sport Studies Degree Programmes.

Dr John F. Mathers 

Dr John F Mathers

Dr John F Mathers

Director of Learning and Teaching, School of Sport, University of Stirling

Subject: “Coping with Failure”

John’s Powerpoint presentation


Coping with Failure 2011


Letter from John Mathers


Hi John,



 Just a brief note to thank you for inviting me to speak at last night’s event. I note that the number of delegates was small, but I hope this allowed them to engage with the work reasonably well.


 I would also like to thank you for the book voucher that you gave me as a token of the work. It is much appreciated and will be put to good use.


 I have attached the ppt slides here for you as requested.


 Many thanks again for your invitation.



 Kind regards





Posted in Meetings, Programme and Speakers | 2 Comments

A post by Dr Who

My staff will be calling me Dr Who. I’m never in school such are the state of thinks at the moment – very busy.

Where was I on Thursday? On Thursday I had a meeting with the Chief Executive’s group (am) on Leadership in the corporate body – very good indeed and I’m meaning all of this – genuine consultation in difficult LA times.

Thursday pm I was at the annual Conference of Schoool Leaders Scotland (SLS). This was also very good with the networking opportunities that bit more beneficial than the formal input. I missed the workshops but hear they were very good.


A sort called ‘Mick Jackson’ spoke to us – watch this space – outstanding! I’ll add a link to his work:

Mick Jackson

Mick Jackson

Please have a look – wonderful work


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First Meeting 3rd November 2011


Welcome to a new session of the colloquium.

Our Speaker on Thursday 3rd December was:

Graham Short  Executive Director of Educational and Social Services, East Ayrshire Council his subject will be “The Management of Morale”


Graham Short

Graham Short

Graham Short TD, MA (Cantab), Med

Graham started working life with RHM Foods as a transport manager working throughout the UK. He then attended Hamilton College of Education and his first teaching post was in Kilmarnock. Following work with TVEI, he was a member of Strathclyde Region’s Quality Assurance Unit. At Government reorganisation in 1996, he joined East Ayrshire Council as the Head of Quality Improvement and then as Depute Director of Education. In 2006 he was appointed Executive Director of Educational and Social Services. For 19 years he has served with the Territorial Army. He has run marathons, including Mongolia and Antarctica, but now prefer to watch them on TV.

 He is married with 2 sons.

The Colloquium very much appreciates him taking time out of his very busy schedule to share his views and experience with us on this important matter:

Dr John B.  Cavanagh


“The Management of Morale”

Summary of Graham’s presentation




Powerpoint Slides by Graham Short

Management of Morale November 2011 Handouts




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“Experience matters for nothing when they make the rules up as they go along.”

 Tonight I’ve been watching a film called ” The Consipator” a ‘based-on-fact’ account of the trial and execution of those responsible for the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Very good indeed!

At: [Last accessed 01:15. 30/10/11]



You must now watch it – the film script contains the quote (from an astute Lawyer for the defence)

 “Experience matters for nothing when they make the rules up as they go along.”

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to reflect on your role(s) in management. Are there any resonances? Perhaps of interest to those of us in management roles at present?

John Cavanagh

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Nisbet Lecture 29th November 2011


The Stanley Nisbet Educational Colloquium Lecture

This year’s lecture will be delivered by Professor Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, and is entitled:

‘Autonomy, regulation and the performance of public Universities across Europe and the US: what does the evidence tell us?’

Professor Anton Muscatelli

Professor Anton Muscatelli


Date: Tuesday, November 29 2011
Time: 18:00
Venue: Sir Charles Wilson Building – Lecture Theatre
Category: Public lectures
Speaker: Professor Anton Muscatelli

Further Details:


Diary Date

Diary Date

The Speaker is Professor Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow.

The lecture will be held in the Sir Charles Wilson Building (see map).

Our thanks is wextended to Professor Bob Davis and to his PA Jennifer (Jenni) Thomson for all the preparatory work. We have been in touch with Stanley’s daughter Isabel in Singaporeand both she and Stanley’s brother John are, again, looking very much forward to listening to Professor Muscatelli’s remarks.

Sir Charles Wilson Building

Sir Charles Wilson Building

Sir Charles Wilson Building

Sir Charles Wilson Building

Watch these pages and the main website for updates.






Isabel, Professor Stanley’s daughter and Professor John – his brother will be in attendance.



Isabel Nisbet

Isabel Nisbet

Isabel Nisbet

Isabel was born inBelfastand brought up inGlasgow, where she attendedJordanhillCollegeSchooland theUniversityofGlasgow. She studied philosophy as a postgraduate atOxfordUniversityand then entered the civil service, where she worked in a succession of posts in the Scottish Office, Cabinet Office and the Department of Health. She was Deputy Health Service Ombudsman for theUKand then held senior posts in the regulation of medicine, postgraduate medical education and academic and vocational qualifications. Isabel was the first Chief Executive of Ofqual, the statutory regulatory body overseeing examinations and qualifications inEngland. In2011 she moved to a new senior advisory post at Cambridge International Examinations (CIE), covering educational policy developments in the Asia-Pacific region and based in Singapore.

Professor John  Nisbet

Professor John Nisbet

Professor John Nisbet


Professor of Education, University of Aberdeen, 1963 – 88. First President of the British Educational Research Association, 1975. Chair of Educational Research Board of Social Science Research Council, 1972 – 75, and of Scottish Council for Research in Education, 1975 – 78. Research interests and publications formerly in educational psychology and research policy, now primarily history of educational research.

Invitations are now issued. It would be pleasing if the Colloquium could be well represented and we would also welcome guests on the evening. If you have name(s) of interested individuals please be in touch ASAP.



Thanks are also extended to Christine Wicklow, Julie Wicklow, Margaret McFarlane, Malcolm L. MacKenzie and Joe McDowall for the background work so necessesary to bring an event like this to reality.

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Colloquium dinner – most enjoyable – Photo

Colloquium Dinner Photo

Educational Colloquium Opening Dinner 6th October 2011

Front (L to R) John Cavanagh, Colin Holroyd, Malcolm MacKenzie, Bob Davis

Colin Holroyd’s after dinner speech

Malcolm MacKenzie in his vote of thanks pointed to Colin’s ability to ‘hold’ his audience. Colin has kindly agreed to our publishing his speech on the blog and possibly on the website. I’m sure many of us would enjoy the chance to ‘listen’ to Colin’s most eloquent and entertaining speech again.
See Below
Three things in preamble.
1. When Margaret wrote asking me to speak, my first reaction was “certainly not”. People come to the Colloquium in the hope of being updated and keeping in touch with educational developments – not to hear the ramblings of some old geezer detached from education. My second thought was that the secretaries of voluntary organisations are routinely over-worked and under-valued. Whenever someone says “no”, it means the secretary has extra work to do.
 2. When my father was eighty, he wrote a wee book; he just called it Holroyds.  A couple of months ago my family insisted that I should update my father’s book with a chunk about me. I wrote chapter 1 – and thought it incredibly tedious. So I sent it to a person whose judgement is sound. This is my grand-daughter Katie – she’s 12. I got a reply by return: “It’s good – keep going”. But what was more interesting was her mother’s reaction. “I’ve read the chapter you sent to Katie. It’s just a collection of silly wee stories, when are you getting to the bit that grandfathers ought to do? Where are the big themes, the big ideas? 
 3. I drafted out a talk for this evening. It had nothing to do with the funding of higher education, or the over-payment of senior managers in universities; I’ll leave that to Anton Muscatelli next month. It was another collection of silly wee stories, this time about my life in education and I attempted to link the stories to big ideas. I read it though and decided to chuck it in the bin. I had tried hard to be modest, humble and self-deprecating, but the whole thing risked alienating you all by my self-absorption. 
 So you’re going to get my second attempt. I’ve pruned out all the wee stories except those that relate in one way or another to higher education in Glasgow and the talk as a whole is intended to be a tribute to Professor Stanley Nisbet. – and a preparation for next month’s Stanley Nisbet lecture. Of course there is another risk now. To those of you who are Glasgow MEds it may all be yawningly familiar; to those who are not Glasgow MEds it may seem like dated, in-group nostalgia, remote and irrelevant to contemporary concerns.  
Story No 1
 My older son and his wife have adopted two young children. They are nice kids, but they come from appallingly difficult and deprived backgrounds. On a visit to Buchlyvie, I took them to the local play-park. Said Cindy, aged five, “Let’s go on the see-saw ,Papa”.  OK – so we did. But I weigh 90 kilos and Cindy unsurprisingly does not. I said, “Perhaps you and Robbie should both go one side and I’ll go on the other”. Said she, “No – you just move in close to the middle”.
 Brilliant. Bruner was right: 1966 Towards a Theory of Instruction.  Three modes of representation: enactive, iconic and symbolic. Cindy, through play, had already arrived at the Principle of Moments. When we got home, I said “Let’s draw pictures of big people and wee people on a see-saw.” You see – I’m a relentless teacher – I was nudging her from the enactive to the iconic.
 Story no 2
I have spent too much of my life sitting on committees. I have now managed to reduce these to just three. On one of these, I’m the secretary – hence my sympathy for Margaret. It’s an interesting role, and I am quite certain my job is to support the chairman a lot and only  to interfere a little. At our last meeting we were discussing a tricky topic. We explored it, we went round in circles, people started repeating themselves – this could have gone on all day. In exasperation, I whispered to our chairman: “For God’s sake, move them on from romance to precision”.  He was, of course, mystified – he wasn’t a Glasgow MEd. You’re ahead of me, aren’t you?
 The Rhythm of Education – Whitehead 1929
 And now a chunk about my first experience of higher education
I was the first member of our family to go to university – and I was acutely aware of a burden of expectation on me. I was at Glasgow University from 1955 – 1959 doing a degree in chemistry. Looking back on those four years, I have to conclude that they were almost wholly non-educational. This seems harsh.  Three aspects…
 (i) The teaching methods were deplorable. Undoubtedly the worst were in mathematics. The standard method at that time was for the lecturer to come in at 5 past the hour, to face the blackboard  and talk and write for 50 minutes, then leave.
 This reached ludicrous depths with one lecturer who was ambidextrous. She faced the board, stood still and wrote like this. [Demo]  We all wrote a column down the left hand side of the page – and another down the right hand side – with a blank bit in the middle. When she moved on to the next board we all scribbled in the bits in the middle.
 This may explain why I was delighted to be working from 1998 – 2003 with the Teaching and Learning Service at Glasgow. I was working with university staff, with those who wanted to improve the learning of their students or those who had been told that they had to, 
 (ii) In science in the 50s the staff appeared to have no interest in us at all, either as people or as learners. Their job was to transmit; if we didn’t receive and understand, then obviously either we were stupid or we didn’t work hard enough.
 There was one obvious exception to this criticism. Her name was Edith Munro; and we all loved her. She took us for histology. Not only was she a gifted and concerned teacher; she invited the whole lab class to to an evening at her home at the end of October. Superb, I thought, an evening being stimulated by an encounter with great minds. This would be higher education at last. I celebrated the invitation by buying a pair of expensive brown suede shoes. It was a Halloween party; the first game involved scones on a string dripping with black treacle, which I managed to get all over my shoes. I spent the rest of the evening pretending not to care.
 (iii) We were aware that elsewhere in the university there were people having a good experience of higher education. There were people who went to libraries and beer bars; they met in small groups and discussed things; they went to debates here in the Union. They were called Arts students – and they included people like Donald Dewar, John Smith and even Malcolm MacKenzie.   All most of us did was arrive at 9 am for three hour long lectures; then go to  labs from 2 to 5 and then go home.
 In May 1959 I was struggling to understand some obscure bit of inorganic chemistry, getting depressed and feeling that abject failure was inevitable. So I decided to do something completely mindless – I would learn the Periodic Table off by heart. This I did – mind you, there were only 92 elements then, not the 118 known today. This turned out not to be a pointless exercise; it gave me a party trick I can still perform. More importantly the first question in the honours inorganic paper required relating the chemical behaviour of the rare earths to their atomic structure. I started writing: “There are fourteen rare earths, their names are lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium” – and so forth.  And by the time I had done this I had relaxed and knew how to do the rest of the question.
 To my huge surprise I got a First Class Honours degree. I suppose I should have felt pleased with myself, but I didn’t. I was convinced that I didn’t deserve it; there was something wrong with an examination system that could come up with such a result. Thus began my life-long interest in the quality of educational assessment. It was the topic of my doctoral research only ten years ago.
 I had decided that I wouldn’t stay on to do a PhD in chemistry.  I knew I wanted to teach. There was another reason; I could no longer stand the smell in Glasgow University chemistry department at that time.
 1959-1960 was a mad year. I did the Dip Ed concurrently with teacher training at Jordanhill. So it was Jordanhill from September to April; GU from October to June and teaching from April to June in Edinburgh. I spent the session running about – I doubt if I did any thinking at all. My two most vivid memories of that time are both trivial and ridiculous.
 There were I think 150 in the diploma class. We had a bloke from psychology introducing us to statistics. I won’t tell you his name, to protect the guilty. He filled the board with figures about mortality rates, then he said: “We can conclude that more people die in the first year of their lives than at any other time”. I think we got his meaning. Then the chap next to me put up his hand and asked “Can we also conclude that more people die in the last year of their lives than at any other time?” To which the lecturer responded “Let’s look at the figures and see.”
 I have a vivid memory of my first day of teaching. I was summoned to the Rector’s study to meet him. This was in the Royal High School of Edinburgh, proud of being founded in 1128. At this time the school was in Regent Road in the building modelled on the Theseion in Athens that should have become the home of the Scottish Parliament. I knocked tentatively on the Rector’s door; I was bidden to enter. There in the far distance across a mile of red carpet and under heavy Victorian portraits was the then rector, Dr David Stuart Melville Imrie – in gown and mortar board. Counting the dinner money….. 
 I taught in Edinburgh and then in Cyprus. In the latter, amongst other things I applied myself to learning Greek. The relevance of that may appear in a minute.
 I didn’t enrol on the MEd until 1965; and  I joined the staff of the education department in 1968. Please, recall my criticisms of my first experience of higher education: the teaching methods were poor, the staff did not appear to care, there was no discussion of big ideas. Within the MEd degree the teaching was good, the staff cared about us, big ideas and their discussion were a central feature. At last I discovered what education could be about – and how fascinating its study could be.
 However, my first impressions of Stanley Nisbet and of the MEd degree were both wrong.  I feel a need to make this confession and put the record straight.
 On first meeting Stanley I thought, in the stupidity of youth, that he was elderly, old-fashioned and dithery. He did look older than he actually was and certainly there was nothing about him that was trendy, modern or fashionable.   Stanley belonged to a generation of academics who gained their reputation not by high-profile research and an impressive number of publications, but by the quality of their thinking and their scholarship. He did not possess a doctorate, a thing unthinkable today. He only produced one major publication, his book called Purpose in the Curriculum.  I re-read it recently and was deeply impressed all over again; it has a beautifully memorable structure, it is readable, it is full of valuable insights, above all it is wise.
 Conversations with Stanley were unlike those with most other people. One would say something and there would be a silence; one had to learn to shut up and not rush to fill that silence with meaningless babble. Stanley was giving you the respect of thinking about what you said. Then he would say: “I’m not sure whether you mean A or B.”  You then had to think very carefully before speaking again. And you realised that many discussions are actually concurrent monologues; there’s plenty of talking, little careful listening and no real meeting of minds.
 I hope this influenced me. Later in my career it seems I gained a reputation for being a rather formidable member of interviewing panels. This was due entirely to my habit of looking earnestly, and I hope benignly, at the candidate and saying “Please, would you help me to understand something?”
 One other thing. Stanley had a passionate and well-informed love of language. His contribution to Esperanto was very significant. His original degree was in classics and he was fascinated by my meagre knowledge of Modern Greek. One time I warbled on to him about the degeneration of both vowels and consonants in Modern Greek. He was deeply shocked to learn that Euripides was now pronounced Evreepeethees. But he fell about laughing when I called Thucydides, Thookeetheethees. About this time Stanley arranged for students to come on the MEd each year from Greece. The first three were due to arrive; my job was to meet them and take them up to Stanley’s room to introduce him.  Their spokesman was a bit overawed by the occasion. He said: “Professor Nisbet; we are deeply honoured. In Athens your name is —-upstairs”.  
 At first I thought the MEd degree course seemed a bit muddled. It was only with time that I realised just how cunning the structure was. Let me try to explain.
 Let’s accept that the practice of education is always going to be problematic and controversial. That practice is illuminated by a few descriptive theories which have little prescriptive potency. It is also illuminated by a great number of insights from a range of theoretical subject areas or disciplines. Things like philosophy, psychology, sociology, history. 
 One of the core courses, taught by Stanley was called Theory of Education. In this students were asked to study in depth three great figures from the past; in my time they were Plato, Dewey and Mannheim. We also looked less rigorously at people like Rousseau, Skinner, Whitehead and Bruner. In the spaces between these studies Stanley considered big issues of the day, making use of the insights from his “great thinkers”.  These issues included things like discipline, assessment and comprehensive schooling. In the other core course were psychology and sociology.  One quarter of the whole course was devoted to a thesis dependent on our own research. Herein, in my view, lay the only inadequacy in the whole programme. As students we were expected to do respectable research without any adequate grounding in the available range of research strategies and methods. I only fully realised this many years later when I taught the research methods courses for the Open University MA Education and EdD degrees. I had to do a great deal of independent study before I considered myself adequately equipped.
 I lectured on various topics from 1968 to 1971, but by far the most important, interesting and satisfying part of my duties was  taking seminar groups on Contemporary Issues. These were conducted in a format devised by Stanley which I thought quite superb – and I still do. At the risk of boring some of you let me go into some detail.
 The theoretical basis lay in Whitehead’s Rhythm of Education. The central idea of this is that all education should proceed by moving through three repeating phases. He called these Romance, Precision and Generalisation. Romance is messy, involving, emotional and unstructured. Precision involves the development of structure and system based on experience gained and to generate principles; generalisation means the use of these in real and practical situations. Think of the stages being playing, finding order and then using – then repeating the cycle; generalisation is the next stage of romance.  Think if you like of playing on a see-saw, formulating the principle of moments and then solving a problem about levers. Yes, Bruner can be related to Whitehead.
 Suppose you have eight students in a group; the class meets for sixteen meetings; each student is in charge of two meetings; each is guided in a section of a topic; for the first meeting he or she has to generate six statements worth making (what makes a statement worthwhile has been clarified). At the first of the meetings the student has to clarify and defend his or her statements and then chair a general discussion on these. The discussion is relatively unstructured, it is wide-ranging and often emotionally charged and laughter-provoking. At the second meeting the student chairman has to secure agreement of the group to as many of the statements as possible, re-wording as necessary. A record of the meetings is kept and each student has to sign his or her name to the statements agreed with. These second meetings are serious, business-like, they involve precision and negotiation. The decisions taken do matter.
 Those of you who haven’t taken such seminars may think they give the tutor an easy life: leaving the students to do all the work. Not at all, it is jolly hard work being a facilitator, a clarifier, an unobtrusive helper – as well as being a participant. This aspect of my work in the department earned me more praise and student affection than any other. I still meet people who tell me that this seminar was the highlight of their higher education. I am still deeply grateful to Stanley for providing a framework in which I could work and derive huge personal and professional satisfaction.
 You and I all know that the biggest source of time-wasting on committees is those people who cannot distinguish between exploring a topic and agreeing necessary action. Just think how many times you have emerged from a meeting and heard people saying either (a) we’ve agreed things with wholly inadequate discussion or (b) that was quote an enjoyable discussion, but I’m not at all sure what’s been agreed.  Everyone could do with having been a member of a Stanley seminar. 
 One last story. I had been a member of such a seminar myself.  My topic was “The role of the teacher”. I negotiated success with my first five statements making a few compromises. But I was determined to get agreement to statement 6 without making any compromise at all. This was a bit of a disreputable distortion of the process.   I can still remember statement number 6: “It is more important for a teacher to love than to think”.   I managed to convince my student colleagues, but the tutor was adamant that the statement was plain wrong.  We had a very-spirited ding-dong (not really in the spirit of phase 2). “Your statement cannot apply generally. It could never apply to a university teacher. In doing research for example, it’s far more important to think than to love”.  For once in my life my head worked fast enough. “If you are doing research on your own, there is no one present to teach; the statement clearly applies to teaching.”  As you can see, I have never forgotten that incident. 
 If Stanley were here, he would now give me a mild rebuke.  “Colin, you have carefully defined loving and thinking. Why do you have to argue that one is more important than the other?  Perhaps they are equally important.”    This is my tribute to Stanley. He was a very rare person; one who in all his dealings with both staff and students showed how to attach equal importance to loving and to thinking.
Thanks for your patience.
Thank you Colin!!
Posted in Opening Dinner | 3 Comments

Website to Blog and Back

Blog and website now linked


Website to Blog and back

Members can now link between the official website and the blog and can return to the website from the blog.

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A great evening – thanks to all!

Opening Dinner

A night to remember


I felt very honoured to stand last night where many of those whose views, work, intellect and friendship I respect enormously, have stood before me. It was great to be at an ‘intellectual’ family gathering. I went along to the colloquium as a baby- faced student and teacher in 1988 on the encouragement of Malcolm MacKenzie. Malcolm at that time warned me of the dangers of ‘intellectual isolation’; he saw the colloquium as being a protection against this. We have been exchanging books and thoughts since. Apart from a 3 year period in the mid-nineties (when I developed other pastimes), I have missed very few meetings. I never suspected I would have the honour of being nominated as chairman. Thank you all for your confidence. Thank you all also for your friendship, encouragement and kind words. The Colloquium meetings have become a very important part of my social life in that they allow me to remain connected with, people important to me, a time in my life which I remember with great fondness and with an Institution in a City both of which hold very fond (yes Proustian) memories for me also.
The guests I brought along last night enjoyed the meal very much and they know too (Mrs C and Melvyn) that the colloquium is a very important part in my life. I think the venue was excellent and (the acid test for any colloquium meeting for me) I left with knowledge and insights I did not have when I arrived.
Thanks to all who work in whatever way to keep what is such an important tradition alive.
I look forward to seeing you:
  1. Next month
  2. On the Blog and – at any time
  3. in contact by E-Mail, Skype or phone (se my e-Mails for details).

John Cavanagh

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Summary of Contributions

Might it be an idea  to invite speakers to leave summary notes of their contributions. These can be developed and placed on the blog for discussion after the event. As well as allowing on-going discussion and debate, this would provide a log of the contributions across the session and from year to year. The cross linking of the blog with the website might allow access to powerpoint presentations as well and to relevant references identified during presentations.

Note taking

Note taking

Volunteers to summarise contributions please?

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Teachers rules – Pre McCormac

The following is reputedly from a document on conditions of service for teachers in Yonkers circa 1872.

Originally from a book by Dorothy Westby-Gibson (Can’t recall the title)

The quotation appears in many other places

Don’t tell COSLA!!


[Last accessed 24.9.11 (22:45)]

Teachers' Rules

Teachers' Rules

Posted in For interest and reflection | 3 Comments