Tony Gurr

Questions Students Ask (aka “LEARNing THAT LASTS” – Pt 03)

In Classroom Teaching, The Paradigm Debate on 10/08/2012 at 12:08 pm

This last set of posts was never meant to become a “series”…a “soap” ! Perhaps, I have been watching too much Turkish TV of late…the summer re-runs!

In fact, I haven’t even finished the last “dizi” I was working on…Actually, the more I think about it – the more I realise that I have just been putting off Part 05 (of the Rocks n’ Hard Places series)…

Ne se! This set of posts seems to be “growing” into “required reading” for that finale!


So, in the last post, I finished up with a question:


I was, of course, asking after the long list of things that students “need” – to get them to LEARNing THAT LASTS:


  • to be involved in diagnosing and formulating their LEARNing needs
  • to participate in setting their own LEARNing goals
  • to be involved in the planning their LEARNing opportunities
  • to be in control of choosing and implementing appropriate LEARNing strategies
  • to be encouraged to identify meaningful LEARNing resources / materials
  • to be seen as “proactive LEARNers” (rather than “reactive students”)
  • to feel that their experience and backgrounds are valued – and that they are respected as a “whole person”
  • to LEARN in a “warm, friendly and informal climate” that provides for flexibility in the LEARNing process
  • guidance and support that maintains their motivation to LEARN and keeps them actively involved in their own LEARNing 
  • to know why they should bother to LEARN something
  • opportunities to solve real-life (and relevant) problems (not be spoon-fed content)
  • opportunities to discover, critique and create
  • to LEARN-by-doing and engage in active experimentation (and reflection on mistakes)
  • “just-in-time” teaching (not the “just-in-case” variety)
  • instructional support that is task-oriented and contextualised (rather than memorisation)
  • peer support and group-based activities, as well as individual attention from teachers 
  • to know that their needs form the basis of any curriculum and that self-direction is the core principle of any instructional methodology
  • to share responsibility for and take ownership of monitoring the progress of the LEARNing experience
  • to be involved in evaluating LEARNing outcomes and measuring their success
  • to experience a sense of progress towards their goals – and success

…just in case you needed a recap…an “özet!

I guess what I was doing with this “list” (and asking TEACHers how many of these things they “facilitate” in their classrooms and the LEARNing opportunities they “offer” their LEARNers) was suggesting that greater involvement (or “engagement”) in planning and decision-making could perhaps stop many students donning the t-shirts Guy Claxton tells us so many students actually “wear” under their uniforms!

University students do not seem to have that problem these days…they are more than happy to put their feelings on their chests!

What puts a lot of students off school (or college) is STUDYing (specifically TEACHing-driven STUDYing)LEARNing (or rather greater involvement and engagement) in formal LEARNing environments and opportunities is not usually a problem at all…

And, so are you my darling Padmé!


That list was something I did a few months back – and, in a way, summarised all the “best practice” we have built up in androgogy (“adult” LEARNing). In that post, I actually argued that these “needs” were also common to “kids” (and pedagogy, too). However, getting to the points on the list requires TEACHers ask a lot of questions about “where they are right now” – and “doing something” about any “soft spots” they uncover. You know, making a few changes to how they “do business” – adapting, growing, LEARNing

but that’s not really the point right now. 


The point (and the “story” behind this post) is how some people responded to that last post (and its “longer” version) ….especially a “dear friend” of mine that read them both – and decided to “have a go” at me!

Now, this friend of mine (he does not know I am writing this – hence the lack of “name-dropping”) is a really dedicated TEACHer. He is a good teachera teacher who really cares about his studentsa teacher who works really hard to make the biggest difference he can. He also reads my bouts of bloggery on a pretty regular basis and is usually very complimentary...frequently sending me things that he finds and link to the stuff I write (I’m guessing around 10-15% of my “quotes database” comes from him)!

This is why I was a bit taken aback by how wound up he was when I last saw him!


He told me that he “got” what I was saying (even enjoyed thunking through a few of the questions)…BUT, he also mentioned that he was getting a bit frustrated (he used a more “colourful” phrasal verb – in actual fact) that I had not covered enough ground on the “student side of things“. He pointed out that I never touched on the questions that students have in real classrooms” in the “real world”“not once, not bloody once” (his words) – very common questions like (again his words):



He threw in another one (or three):


Now, I was guessing that something else was going on in my friend’s head (it was – and he told me later that a lot of his kids had “failed” the year and were having to do “summer school” – summer school that many of them would not get through)!

Normally, I’d let him blow off some steam – tell him how much I understood what he was going through (my wife LEARNed me that) and buy him another drink!

But, I decided to ask him why he thought that his “kids” (they are, in fact, younger adults – 19 to 22 years old) asked questions like these.

His response: “That’s just the way many students are these days…maybe that’s the way they have always been!”


Couldn’t let that go, could I?

…I asked. 


He didn’t answer immediately…so I reminded him of a quote he had sent me a few weeks back – a quote he had fallen in love with:

Yes, even I can be a bit of a pitbull – an “evil” one at times!


He thunked a bit more and finally said:



We all created the “monster” that we all currently have to “deal with” …

motivate” ….”cajole” ….”trick” ….”put up with” ….”get through the test”!



As I said, I had sensed there was “something else” happening inside my friend’s head  – it wasn’t just the frustration these questions had created in my friend when the students “used” them in the “real world”, in his “real classroom”.

He had worked really hard all year (trying, IMHO, to “do” the impossible) – but felt he had “let down” many of his students.

Let himself down!


He qualified his “mini a-ha moment” by saying, “…the real problem is that…”

I’m guessing many of you might feel the same…from time to time!


We’re not done just yet…but I’m trying to avoid another “one-shot OPUS-MAXIMUS”!

More on the “story”…tomorrow!

It does get better…and has a “happy ending”!


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