Tony Gurr

Imagineering the 21st Century Teacher…the PREQUEL!

In Classroom Teaching, Our Schools, Our Universities, Teacher Training on 23/09/2011 at 1:39 pm

After my last post on Imagineering the 21st Century Teacher, I got a lot of questions – mostly asking:

“What exactly is Educational Literacy”?

Pretty reasonable question, actually!


In a nutshell:

Educational Literacy (EdL) is all about the capacity of an individual to make a “real difference” to the lives of others – through learning and education.

In a way, Educational Literacy (let’s stick with the abbreviationEdL) is something that should concern everyone on the planet. Any parent wishing to help his or her child make “wise” decisions about schools, colleges or university – needs to have EdL. Any teacher walking into a classroom (for the “first” or the “50,000th” time) needs to have a lot of EdL, if she wants to be truly effective.

EdL is something parentsstudentsteacherseducational administrators or anyone involved or interested in the world of learning (including, dare I say, media representatives, publishers and politicians)must have!

In the case of teachers, EdL is more than the teaching-related knowledge and skills required to manage a classroom, present content and practice teaching points – that is known as Pedagogic Literacy. It touches on a teacher’s beliefs and values, the way she interacts with her learners and the extent to which she reflects on her own practice – to grow professionally and create even “better” learning opportunities for those around her.

As such, EdL is a multi-dimensional construct – a true “multiple literacy”. It is not simply the product of adding to “a stack of facts and figures” or throwing more tools into “a bag o’ tricks” – it is experienced and lived through the synaptic-type interrelationships between a number of Literacies (and Fluencies)…

  • EdL is a “talent” – a talent that is both “learned” and “learnable”.
  • EdL is an “ability set” – an ability set that is both “rational” and “emotional”.
  • EdL is a “passion” – a passion that drives improvement, progress and transformation!

EdL is also something that many people do not possessand this is what lies at the heart of many of the challenges we face in education.

For example:

  • Parents that tell teachers that their job is to “create” an engineer or doctor out of “Little Mehmet” – have low levels of EdL…sorry mum (and dad)!
  • Students that “blame” their failure on a given exam or the “academic clubs” that manipulate exam cut-offs – have low levels of EdL…sorry guys, time to take some responsibility (unless, that is, their educators also happen to have low levels of “Assessment Literacy”)!
  • Lecturers and teachers that do not even bother to learn the names of their students or “care” what these students “bring” to the classroom – have low levels of EdL…no apologies required here!
  • Educational Managers (up to and including Principals and Rectors) who value their “seat” more than the learning of their learners and still fail to see the importance of “walking-the-talk” – have low levels of EdL…guys, just move aside (the 21stCentury is here)!
  • Schools that live off the “fat” (or prestige) of the “past” or try to “fake-it-till-they-make-it” – have amazingly low levels of EdL…time to “get real” and evidence what you say you are!
  • Media representatives that report the “league tables” without helping students and their parents to ask the right questions about how the “rankings” were carried out – have no EdL wotsoever…come on, guys – earn your pay-cheques!
  • Publishers who tell educators/teacher-trainers to put on a “show” and not bother with all that “learning stuff” – fail the “EdL test” totally…you millionaires, time to pay back a slice of those profits you’ve been raking in!
  • Politicians…Mmmmm…hey, who the hell said it was possible to “save every soul”!

You get the idea!


EdL is essentially “realized” (and developed or learned) through the application of Critical Literacy to allthingseducationcritical reflection as applied to learning and teaching.

However, because of the very nature of both learning and teaching, EdL has a powerful emotional component. EdL appreciates that education and learning are fundamentally “emotional experiences” that require Emotional Intelligence (or EQ) is also brought to bear on matters of learning and teaching.

This is why learning and teaching professionals need to exhibit high levels of Emotional Literacy:

  • Emotional sensitivity
  • Emotional memory
  • Emotional problem-solving ability
  • Emotional learning ability

and, to borrow from Gardner:

  • “Intrapersonal Intelligence”
  • “Interpersonal Intelligence”

It’s funny how little we “pay” teachers – considering the job requirements!


EdL thus describes what an individual (especially educators) “thinks” or “knows” about education, learning and teaching, what s/he “does” with what s/he knows and also what s/he does to “improve” what s/he knows, does and feels in regard to allthingseducation.

EdL also respects the role of the ” professional teacher” – and what an “effective” teacher can do with what s/he can do with what s/he knows – as such, Pedagogic Literacy is also a focus of its attention, as is Curriculum Literacy and Assessment Literacy.

The problem is, taking Assessment Literacy as an example:

Assessment Literacy is perhaps the best-known of the components that make up EdLwell, in educational reading circles at least. It has been described in the following ways:

Assessment literacy is present when a person possesses the assessment-related knowledge and skills needed for the competent performance of that person’s responsibilities. 

W. James Popham (2009)

Assessment literate educators come to any assessment knowing what they are assessing, why they are doing so, how best to assess the achievement of interest, how to generate sound samples of performance, what can go wrong, and how to prevent these problems before they occur.

Stiggins (1995) – Assessment Literacy for the 21st Century


Using the questions we looked at for Learning Literacy, an educator could critically reflect on his own literacy in this area by asking:

Many do – many do not! Most are not given the opportunity to improve on what they cannot do with what they do not know!


OK – so what do we have, now?

  • Critical Literacy – CHECK!
  • Learning Literacy – CHECK!
  • Emotional Literacy – CHECK!
  • Pedagogic Literacy – CHECK!
  • Assessment Literacy – CHECK!


Anything else? Mmmmmmmmm….

My thanks to my dearest “editor” – you know who you is!

Also, to the HLU, Testing, Curriculum and Training Teams at AU-SFL for inspiring me to get this down on paper….or, was that “on screen”? More “badtime reading” for you guys!

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