Tony Gurr

What can I do for YOU?

In Educational Leadership, ELT and ELL, News & Updates (from the CBO), Our Schools, Our Universities, Uncategorized on 13/07/2018 at 11:35 am

The recent parliamentary and presidential elections here in canım Türkiyem left a lot of the so-called ‘white Turks’ a wee bit unhappy (to say the least). Muharrem İnce put up a brave fight as the CHP candidate…but most of knew it was always going to be a one-horse race!

Screen Shot 2018-07-13 at 11.45.16

The real surprise came, however, when Erdoğan announced his new cabinet. In the line-up, there was a face that many described as ‘totally unexpected’!

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No…not that one…the ‘Son-in-Law’ just sent investors running for the hills and helped the dollar make a bloody great hole in my newly-painted ceiling!


This one…

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Ziya Selçuk…a well-known Professor from Gazi University…a progressive educational thunker and founder of Maya Okulları (originally in Ankara and now in Manavgat and Diyarbakır)a teacher’s teacher!

A surprise? A surprise?

Shouldn’t every country have a Minster of Education with this type of background… pedigree…sense of humour, even?


I guess many people thought it was unexpected because ‘Ziya Hoca’ had been the Head of the Instruction and Education Board (Talim Terbiye), a key arm of the Ministry of Education (MEB) when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) first came to power in the early 2000s…at the time Dark Lord Hüseyin Çelik held the reigns of power.

Ziya Hoca walked away.


Others might have thought it was a surprise that Ziya Hoca agreed to take the appointment!

The MEB has the reputation for changing its ‘leader’ more often than its underwear (5 times since 2002 and the start of AKP rule). Sadly, all these leaders also demonstrated amazingly low levels of Educational Literacy and Turkish Educational policy, some might think, was produced by this type of discussion…

Talking Ass

…and those very decisions then frequently falling foul of…

Baby U-turn

…’revisions’ that totally confused parents, students, teachers…even God herself!

This is not how Ziya Hoca does busyness and his appointment has, on the whole, been met with a lot of praise and given a lot of educators ‘hope’ (whatever you may think about Erdoğan, stupid he is not…not at all)!


So, why am I writing this post?

Well…on a lot of the Leadership and Middle Management Training programmes I run, we talk about what ‘new leaders’ have to do in their first 90 days in office (regardless of experience, qualifications and ‘personal vision’)…

Top of the list:

  • SHUT UP!

Hence, the title of this post…


I’ve been chatting to a lot of friends on the phone since the appointment (mostly because I can’t leave the house…after a ‘fight’ with a 6cm step left me with 4 fractures in my foot, a ripped calf on the other leg, bruised ribs…and a shiriously red-faced ego! Size really doesn’t matter!!!) and talking about what Ziya Hoca could do to improve the quality of language learning, teaching and assessment across canım Türkiyem.

A few ideas are:

  • Work closely with the Council for Higher Education (YÖK) and Universities with ELT Departments to ensure teachers-in-training are given more opportunities to actually graduate with higher levels of fluency and accuracy (at least a minimum of CEFR – B2+/C1 or GSE 70-78) – via language support across all 4 years of their courses, 6-month exchange programmes with schools in the UK, US or Canada, etc.
  • Ensure every school has access to a Professional Learning Budget for its language departments and has the authority to use this budget to meet the ‘bottom-up’ needs of teachers.
  • Create training opportunities that tackle the serious issues of ‘content-driven’ or ‘activity-based’ teaching that are the product of schools’ obsessions with ‘covering the textbook’ and develop teacher ability to meet commonly-agreed learning outcomes by creating motivating and engaging learning opportunities – not simply turning pages like a burger-flipper at Macdonalds.
  • Remove the current conventional wisdom that language tests have to be dominated by ‘objective’ multiple-choice questions and prepare the groundwork for a fundamental shift towards ‘formative assessment’ in our language classrooms and the use of valid and reliable ‘communicative tests’ which prioritise the importance of speaking.
  • NEVER, everever…repeat the ‘cock-up’ that was the Fatih Project!

There are many, many more…


If Ziya Hoca asked YOU, what would you tell HIM?


Tony (logo new) 260316 ACG


HERE’S the graphic on ‘trust’ that I could not add into the comments section (15/07/18):

Workplace Trust (Jacobs 2012)



Corruption, Bribery & Graft in the Busyness of ELT…

In Conferences, ELT and ELL, Our Schools, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness on 02/06/2018 at 6:59 pm

Say NO To Corruption (TG ver)

In Turkish there is a little saying that, at first sight, looks quite innocent – ‘…bal tutan parmağını yalar’!

In English, it translates literally as ‘he who holds the honeypot will (always) lick his finger’  but is more commonly explained as ‘anyone in charge of distributing things of value will always take something for himself’.


Sadly, this saying has become so ingrained in the Turkish psyche that the majority of us think nothing of using the phrase on a day-to-day basis. Indeed, many of us have come to see the message behind the saying – corruption is ‘inevitable’ and (perhaps worse) even OK – as natural! After all, if we were ‘in power’, we’d find jobs for family members (look at how Trump has filled the White House with his spawn, in-laws and cronies), help out our friends in business and (even) build a nicer ‘house’ to entertain guests…wouldn’t we?

Shoe box (TG ver) (1)

We saw a blatant example of this in 2013 when canım Türkiyem glimpsed (for a few weeks) the biggest corruption scandal the country had ever seen…at the highest levels of government. OK…the claims may have been hushed up pretty sharpish (with a couple of sacrificial lambs) and the evidence dismissed on the ‘technical grounds’ that it was obtained via illegal wiretaps but the bottom line was that almost half the population didn’t even blink an eye!


Sam Varkin has described how corruption, bribery and graft can and do hurt a country:

‘It skews the level playing field; it guarantees extra returns where none should have been had; it encourages the misallocation of economic resources, and it subverts the proper functioning of institutions. It is, in other words, without a single redeeming feature, a scourge’.

However, he also notes that this is not how it is perceived by its perpetrators: both the ‘givers’ and the ‘recipients’ (it takes two to tango…and corruption can never work when one party says ‘NO’).

‘They believe that corruption helps facilitate the flow and exchange of goods and services in hopelessly clogged and dysfunctional systems and markets (corruption and the informal economy “get things done” and “keep people employed”); that it serves as an organising principle where chaos reigns and institutions are in their early formative stages; that it supplements income and thus helps the state employ qualified and skilled personnel; and that it preserves peace and harmony by financing networks of cronyism, nepotism, and patronage’.



Corruption is all about theft and abuse of power..carried out by unethical and immoral individuals. And, THEY know what they are doing is wrong!

This is why I get so upset when I hear about it happening in education – a business sector (yes, it is a business…no escaping that fact these days) that acts as the backdrop and early environment for every single young person in a country. Education needs role models beyond reproach…some might say ‘angel-like’ mentors that can guide young minds and ensure they learn about and stay on the straight and narrow!


The good news?

Rotten Apple

In education, across canım Türkiyem, the givers and recipients are a SMALL group of ‘rotten apples’ that tarnish the good reputation of their schools and universities as well as their own organisations (if they are suppliers to those schools).


What can be done?

Well, there are a number of steps that can be taken immediately:

1. All suppliers to schools and universities can affirm (or reaffirm) their commitment to programmes of anti-corruption by publishing their own policies on bribery and graft.

2. Schools and universities themselves can build similar policies into their codes of professional practice and job descriptions. They can also ensure that there are strong checks and balances in place to ensure fewer irregularities when making purchases from suppliers.

3. Suppliers need to especially vigilant when offering additional professional development support to schools and universities as ‘package solutions’ and make sure that these ‘grey areas’ are not interpreted as ‘bribe-driven gifts’. This is true of conference visits that involve foreign travel, flights and hotel staysthe best way is to simply avoid them altogether!

4. School and university decision-makers make sure that they are last in line…when sharing the ‘honey’ attached to purchasing arrangements and that teachers are first in line when making decisions about those purchases (e.g. textbook and materials selection).

5. Schools and their suppliers should have zero tolerance for staff / affiliates / distributors that break any and all of these anti-corruption programmes by (a) ‘naming and shaming’ the individuals involved in the communities in which they operate, (b) reporting all infringements to the authorities, and (c) ensuring these individuals are not re-employed within the sector.

Stop Corruption (row of apples) TG ver (1)

I’m guessing that all of us, with the exception of those few ‘rotten apples’, will applaud and support steps like this – without reservation.


I just wonder how many will…

Is the Global Scale of English (GSE) Really the “Love-Child” of Lucifer and Empusa?

In Assessment, Curriculum, ELT and ELL, Teacher Learning on 23/10/2017 at 6:41 pm

Love Child

Unless you have been living under a rock (in the Nevada desert…close to Area 51) for the last couple of years, you will have noticed a ‘new kid’ playing in the ELT Learning Outcomes (LO) sandbox…


The Global Scale of English (GSE) came into this world, kicking and screaming…with ten fingers and ten toes, in 2014-15. The Pearson GSE Team described the ‘delivery’ as long and painful – but well worth the time, effort and money they had invested (and ask the CEFR Team – that’s just the tip of the iceberg) to co-create the world’s first ‘truly global English language standard’.

The CEFR, which had done much to put learning-driven curricular on the map for us, was essentially an EU initiative – and it was just a matter of time before someone picked up the ball and helped spread the word to our friends across the pond and down-under!

The BLUE Books (both of them) 2

Pearson’s stated ambition was to allow learners to measure their progress accurately and easily (like the CEFR – whose stated goal was to help learners take real ownership of their own learning…hence the whole CAN-DO thingy – this was about what learners CAN DO not what teachers WILL TEACH).

CEFR and GSE Aims


The GSE Team took this a step further and was also seeking a way to help learners answer 3 simple questions:

  • How good is my English?

  • Am I progressing?

  • What do I need to do next?

The questions are simple! The answers…not so much!


Now, I’m not going to get into the ins and outs of the GSE (you can explore this here and the other hotlinks – the red links – below).

GSE LO Booklets 2

Suffice to say…not too shabby – a very useful project (for students)!


Pearson even went so far as to create an on-line GSE Teachers Toolkit to help schools ‘audit’ their curriculum outcomes and syllabi and create their own sets of learning outcomes (LOs)…from a huge array of learning outcomes for YLs, EAP / EGAP students, ESP learners and folk interested in General English (whatever that might be)!

Oh, and did I mention that all this was OPEN-SOURCE and…

Free (hanging labels-red) 2



I have to admit I fell in love with this chubby, little baby as soon as I saw her…and I watched her grow as she began to play with Grammar and Lexical learning outcomes, too.

She’s not quite there with those ones…but she is making rapid progress and Pearson’s better use of research, corpora and technology suggests she’ll get there soon…inşallah!


Now, you might ask ‘why’…why I grabbed her rosy, little cheeks and said I just wanna eat you all up’!

Well, in my work I spend a lot of time working with schools on Curriculum Renewal initiatives. Back in the bad, old days…I would spend months helping teachers learn how to write Learning Outcomes (LOs).

The teachers I was working with would also spend hours sending me ‘hate-mail’…saying things like:

  • I am not qualified to do this…

  • This is killing me…I just can’t cope…

  • All this is wasting my time…I just want to be in the classroom…

I felt many of these ‘pains’, I did!


However, I recognised that many teachers:

  • Had fallen into the ‘trap’ of textbook-driven teaching…

  • Were running lessons that were little more than activity-based or content-driven classroom ‘TO-DO’ checklists…

  • Lacked the curriculum and assessment ‘literacy’ to design the type of lessons that linked clear outcomes to effective learning opportunities…

Yani, many teachers were not doing the type of things they wanted to do (deep down…in their heart of hearts)…they were not using the creativity they had…and were (frequently) getting more and more frustrated (and burned out) by this.



Using the GSE outcomes allowed me to jump-start the Curriculum Renewal process and help teams focus on the high priority areas for their syllabi, help them focus on a Curriculum Planning model that made more sense (than textbook page-turning…like a burger-flipper at McDonalds) and focus on planning better lessons.

In a nutshell, using the GSE helped teachers develop their curriculum and assessment literacy levels – and helped them ‘TAKE a curriculum PERSPECTIVE’ (rather than simply just ‘HAVING a PERSPECTIVE on curriculum’).

That is:

  • Take a clearer position on the power of Learning Outcomes (LOs)


  • ‘Walk-their-talk’ more when planning, designing and reflecting on the lessons they create


Now, maybe I was being a bit naïve…I looked at the GSE as a tool and I used it to help people I work with!

After playing lots of ‘familiarisation games’ with GSE descriptors (often with a bit of mild competition), we’d brainstorm the most effective ways to assess these descriptors and gather evidence that our students CAN, in fact, DO this stuff fluently and automatically. We wrapped up these sessions by planning ‘mini-lessons’ describing how we could help our students get there.

Backwards Lesson Planning 2

It was this last phase, the mini-lesson planning – done collaboratively, that began to put smiles back on teachers faces. As they shared ideas, critiqued the order and sequence of activities and input and double-checked they were ‘hitting’ the correct LOs and eliciting the best evidence they could…they realised they could use all that creativity they have inside!

This is ‘real’ PDTeacher LearningReflective PracticeI remember thunking to meself!


Hey, and did I say…it is OPEN-SOURCE and…

Free (hanging labels)


However, and as usual, there is always a BIG…



Pretty soon, I began to realise all was not well in the state of Denmark and the sandbox our GSE baby was playing in!


I started to see some less than positive reviews of the GSE coming out on social media and blogs – some of them before most people had even had the chance to work out what the GSE was…let alone review the draft LOs that were coming out!

Some of these were linked to the advance of ‘learnification’ in education. To be honest, I still really do not get this (how the bloody hell can more of a focus on learners and learning possibly be ‘a bad thing’…maybe, I’m just really thick)!

LEARNing Quote 01 (Steve)


The name-calling also began early on with GSE being referred to as ‘the Son of CEFR Frankenstein Reanimated’ (my use of Empusa is much smarter!)…and built on the views of some that the CEFR has been indiscriminately exported for use in standards-based education and assessment in non-European contexts (Fulcher, 2010) and has reduced diversity and experimentation in pedagogy and research (Davies, 2008). Geoff Jordon, whose views I usually have a lot of time for, expanded on this and suggested that Pearson’s ‘Grand Vision’ is one of world domination, sorry Geoff, ’standardised everything’.

Illuminati and GSE

Again, a lot of this is pure speculation (by CEFR and GSE ‘outsiders’) fuelled by what can only be described by a conspiracy theory orientation.

Besides, I have always found that it is schools and school administrators that are more obsessed with ‘standardisation’ – falsely assuming that if teachers cover the same pages (at the same time), students will ‘learn’ the same amount! Teachers, for their part, are often terrified of being seen not to follow their ‘pacing guides’ or ‘weekly plans’ (to the letter, page or activity) and come to believe that ‘standardisation’ is the best way to ‘cover-their-own-arse’ – just in case something is on the test!

Nothing could be further from the truth…students do not learn more because we standardise ‘inputs’ and any publisher worth their salt knows they can sell more (or at least curry favour with teachers) by promoting creative use of textbooks and materials and ideas to personalise activities and textbook tasks.


Gunpoint (cat)

The bottom line is that no one can be ‘forced’ to adopt the tools or materials offered by Pearson – free will (and after-sales service) play a much bigger role in the creation of real-world book lists and school adoptions than these commentators know. The truth of the matter is that schools themselves do more of the arm-twisting…and end up harming the morale and motivation of both their teachers and students in the process!

The other criticism that has been raised is that of the ‘granular’ nature of the GSE. This is true but it is this very fact that makes the GSE a more ‘precise scale of proficiency’. A key ‘weakness’ of the CEFR ‘levels’ was that they were not ‘granular’ enough (this is why feedback from teachers…yes, I said teachers…not publishers, led to the addition of the A2+, B1+, B2+ levels).

If students, as the CEFR originally envisioned, are to take more control of their own learning and the very language they are engaging with, they need ‘granular’they need accessiblethey need transparent!

This is what the GSE has done…


Thinkers wanted (blog ver 02 TG)

Unlike many of ELT’s ‘blue bloods’, I read…a great deal! I totally get the criticisms from SLA experts that suggest that:

  • ‘CAN-DO‘ outcomes may not evolve in the way the CEFR and GSE describe them

  • Many current LOs in the CEFR and GSE are not as ‘meaningful’ as they could be

  • We do not have the corpora to link grammar and lexis to the various levels and scales we are using

  • ELT (and educational sciences in general) needs to prioritise evidence-based practice (not Eminence-Based EDUmyths from EDUquacks)

However, teaching is as much an art as it should be a science. Sadly, we are not quite there with the science…


Now, some of you might say, “Tony, you naïve little boy! Wake up, smell the coffee and see that ELT has become an industry dominated by Illuminati-type publishers”!

Blog Post (Curric Pt 02) Image 05 230717

I haven’t got time to worry about imaginary threats of world domination. Like everything on the planet (except God…and my darling wife), nothing is perfect.


Yes, Pearson is a huge company…that wants to make money (nothing wrong with that – I am the same…need to put bread on the table for my family and in my dog’s bowl) – but there are so many challenges we face as teacher educators:

Most of us work in the real world where we face very real problems:

  • Schools and universities operating without a ‘written curriculum’ – and extremely low levels of curriculum and assessment literacy (even among school leaders)

  • Teachers with little real, practical classroom training (even after graduating from an Education Faculty) blindly using textbooks

  • Testing Teams inflicting unfair and unreliable tests on students

  • Students unprepared to take responsibility for their own learning – because schools and teachers do not ‘walk’ their student-centred ‘talk’

I could go on…YOU could add to this, I’m sure!


GSE Tools (more the better)

We need all the help (and tools) we can get our hands on! And, I repeat again, no one is being forced to adopt the GSE (just like no one was forced to adopt the CEFR, the Communicative Approach or Task-Based Learning)!

They are simply ‘tools’tools to be exploited as we see fit or dismissed.


By the way, did I mention that not all of us are as well-paid as our colleagues in Finland and when we are given an open-source ‘gift’…we should:

Blog Post (Curric) Image 02 220717

…and say ‘Thank You’!


Telling the truth (TG ver) 080517

I do not work for Pearson. I have not been paid to produce this post (I earn nothing from any of my bouts of bloggery).

However, I do work with Pearson (as a training and consulting partner) and Pearson do sponsor some of my work with their key clients and, occasionally, I do support those clients with a keynote or seminar at a conference.

In all these duties, I am never required to engage in any form of product placement – I work in the best interests of the schools, teams and teachers that choose to work with Pearson.