Tony Gurr

Archive for the ‘Adult Educators’ Category

The 21st Century Teacher Trainer…

In Adult Educators, Teacher Training on 14/01/2012 at 12:34 pm

…or even TEACHer EDUcator!


Twitter Blog Post 02 (21C Culture ver 03)


It seems you can’t throw a rock into the blogosphere these days without hitting a post or article on the 21st Century “something-or-other”.


Teaching is no different, teacher training is no different…so, and because I obviously have my “teacher educator” hat on these days, here’s my two cents on “trainers” of the present and future.



To be honest, I have done my own fair share of promoting the concept of the “21st Century Teacher”…but, and in my defense, I have also maintained that being a 21st Century teacher involves more than just the skills and tools peddled by “edtech visionaries”.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at a couple of earlier posts:

See, told you so!


Teaching, good teaching, has always been about authenticity, values and educational literacy (fluency, too).

OK – it is true – technology will play a larger and larger role in the lives of learners and teachers (and trainers, too) – and teachers and teacher educators will increasingly have to have the very same 21st Century technological skills and digital literacies that their students are expected to have.

Fair cop, guv!


…But, 21st Century education and teacher learning will never be all about the tech n’ toys. Well, it shouldn’t be…

I am not alone…and I’ll step on the shoulders of a “giant” to prove it:

Na, nah, na, na, nah – no talk of EdTech from Mr. Multiple Intelligencies himself.


A more recent “study” from another (very) tech-savvy edu-commentator, Meris Stansbury:

Told you so – last on the list and more about “knowing the difference” than “using the new and different”.


Tony, you are still on “teachers”…look at the “title” of the post, darling!

OK, OKgetting there. In a minute!


This week, Educational Origami also did a nice post on the 21st Century Teacher – and, surprise-surprise, my man Andrew did the same:

Like most sensible thinkers in education, I doubt if many of you will disagree that both teachers and trainers need to have many of the same “human” characteristics:



And, both teaching and training rely on the same basic “facts of life”what we know, what we do with what we know and what we do to improve what we do with what we know (yes, I know it’s a mouthful)!


So, and taking inspiration from all these sensible chaps and chapettes mentioned here today…

here’s my list of “roles” for the 21st Century Teacher Trainer:



OK – OK! And, you want to know what they actually do on a day-to-day basis, too?

Is there no pleasing you, at all?



I’m going to go out on a limb here (why change the habit of a lifetime) – and say exactly what I said about the 21st Century Teacher…


The 21st Century Teacher Educator…will (still) need to think more about the headware, the heartware and the careware – not just the hardware, the software and the webware everyone is trying to flog us!

I openly admit that these things can help us get the job of “teacher training” done…but they cannot replace what is at the heart of the job – teachers and how we make a real and significant difference to their lives (and the lives of their “kids”)!


That is unless YOU have anything you’d like to add to this little diatribe!


Advice from a few “old hands”…

In Adult Educators, Teacher Training on 09/01/2012 at 3:45 pm

In my last post, I shared some resources for those of you that might be considering the “leap” into teacher training (or “educator LEARNing” – please)!

This post went down quite well – and because I have been off the “matrix” for a few days, I thought I’d follow it up with a very practical activity that all trainers can use with their “trainee teacher trainers”.

Actually, it can also be used with newer teachers, too!

I developed this activity a few years back – bit of an accident, really. I was sitting with a few “old hands” and we got chatting about the ONE peice of advice that we would give to a group of trainers-in-training. We got quite a list together – and I built on this by e-mailing a few others (who couldn’t make our “beer o’clock session” – sorry, “trainer PD session”)!


The activity is quite simple:

1. Give your trainees the list of one-liners – and review it in a group of 3 or 4.

2. Then ask them to choose the bits of advice they want to include in their own “trainer’s creedo” – you’ll be surprised how many of them want to choose all of them (don’t let them – tell them they have to choose ONLY eight)!

3. Now, choosing 8 – as a group – is nigh on impossible (they have to discard two thirds of the items). So, ask them to come up with a rationale or justification as to why the items they have selected are sooooooooooo critical!

4. When all the groups have finished – pair a couple up and ask them to share their “trainer’s creedo”. However, the trick is to try and convince members of the other group to change a few of their items – easier said than done, look at the list of items (you can modify this to include a few of your “pet” ideas, too):

  • Focus on LEARNing – not TRAINing
  • Focus on emotional intelligence, integrity and compassion
  • Develop the person, not just the skills and knowledge
  • Develop the fluency – not just the literacy
  • Ask – don’t just tell
  • Prioritise “doing” – not just learning-by-listening
  • Think about growing a person from the inside – not changing them from the outside
  • Think “knowledge co-creation” – not knowledge transfer
  • Focus on individuals – not just the group
  • Remember adults (kids, too) want the 3Rs – Real, Respect, Responsibility
  • Think activities and tasks – not “content”
  • See yourself as an educator – not simply an “edutainer”
  • Think “story-telling” and learning conversations – not mini-lectures
  • Always “walk-your-talk”
  • Trainees want challenge, collaboration and choice – always (even when they don’t know it)!
  • Use variety in your materials, activities and grouping techniques
  • Feedback, feedback, feedback…and act on it!
  • Leave the ego at the door – it’s about “them”, not “you”
  • Try to create “learning opportunities” – not just humorous sound bites
  • Build trust – before getting to attitudes, beliefs and assumptions
  • Think engagement – not just artificial impact
  • Accentuate the positives – always
  • Resist the temptation to give answers – questions, questions, questions
  • Always have faith in people’s ability to learn for themselves

5. The follow-up “assignment” is to ask individuals to draft their own “creedo” – and “live” it!


Have a go! It’s good fun…

How to Make a Mushroom Omelette!

In Adult Educators, Classroom Teaching, Our Schools, Our Universities, Technology, The Paradigm Debate on 29/08/2011 at 11:24 am

Yesterday, I did a post on Literacy – and (hopefully) showed that the research and thinking around this most slippery of concepts had done more than a bit of “mushrooming”!

I forgot, however, to paste in this image – duh!

At the end of my feeble attempt to synthesise the work of many far smarter individuals than I, I think I ended up logging 4 (or 5 – depending on the wind) Uber-literacies, 10 Sub-literacies (that was a bit of a cop out – just google to find many, many more), 38 Literacy-like abilities, 8 Digital (or “New”) literacies (again, there’s more where these came from), 5 Fluencies and also said we need to think about the notion of Multiple Literacies and Learnacy.

That’s a lot of ingredients!


And, guess what? A few of you agreed with me when I said – Mmmm, ALL of them make sense”!

The problem was that I was asked…how do we “teach” them all…

The secret? ……You DON’T!

One of the things I have often said about “good teaching” is that:


However, many of us (even the most dedicated) are often overwhelmed with a desire to:

…whenever we see “lists” like this (this was not my intention, BTW)!


As teachers and educators we initially say I already have enough on my plate – how the hell can I fit all this in”?

We think about it for a while – and slowly start to move through some version of the Kübler-Ross Grief Cycle! The problem is often that we often reach the point of “acceptance” by asking the question:

How do we TEACH them all?

I say again – we DON’Twe CAN’Twe SHOULDN’T!


We all know – in our heart-of-hearts – that we can never make a “real difference” to our learners by teaching them “about” stuff. Being successful in both pedagogy and andragogy is truly about “Learnacy” (our own) – and the impact we have on how our learners feel, think and act.

  • Is literacy enough?
  • Is teaching enough?
  • Is content enough?
  • Is technology enough?
  • Is fluency enough?
  • Is learnacy enough?

No! But – together all of them will give us a better shot and achieving the “impact” we know we need to have.


So, what’s the “recipe”?

STEP 1 – Read, learn and discuss more about “traditional literacy” and the newer “literacies/fluencies” – and what they “mean” for your learners and your learning-and-teaching context!

STEP 2 – Be the change you want to see in education! (nuff said – who is going to disagree with Gandhi)!

STEP 3 – Begin with the end in mind (Go on – click on it – dare you)!

STEP 4 – Just do it!

STEP 5 – Start small, begin slowly and focus on doing a few things “differently” and “well” (Rome was not built in a day…)!

STEP 6 – Know that for real improvement in learning and teaching, we need to build in a “curriculum perspective” into our planning (what do they say – “a lack of planning is almost as if we were planning to fail”)!

STEP 7 – Remember that for real change in learning and teaching, we need to build in an “assessment perspective” into our planning (after all, we all know that if it ain’t “tested”, it don’t get done)!

STEP 8 – Use technology – but remember learning is not about the hardware, the software, or the webware…it’s the “headware”, dummy!

STEP 9 – Review, evaluate and upgrade – Microsoft does not still “control” the world because it always gets-it-right-first-time (actually, it hardly ever does), it does well because it learns from our frustrations and pumps out upgrades faster than you can say “where’s my credit card”!

STEP 10 – Remember “best practice” is seldom ever enough – it is, more often than not, about somebody else’s solution to somebody else’s problem. Surely, it’s better to heed what Covey tells us about the “end” and “bearing it in mind” – and look for “Next Practice” for ourselves!

STEP 11 – Know thy learners, their needs and their current “headware” (you never know – you may not have to “teach” as much as you thought)!

STEP 12 – Damn! Why can you never think of a 12th Stepwhen you need one! Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference


Does this all mean we can come up with a decent mushroom omelette? Maybe not straight away……after all…

Go back to STEP 4!


P.S: A couple of you also asked about “Orality”. This is a really neat idea – that never really “caught on” in more recent literacy discussions, sadly. Orality has been around since we stood upright and, many would claim is the basis of language (and literacy) itself.

The notion was given serious attention by Walter Ong in his 1982 book “Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word” (he also had some pretty cool things to say about “the future of literacy” and “the end of the age of literacy”).

Personally, I think people just had “trouble” getting their tongues around the word (it is a strange one) – and opted for “Speaking” or “Communication Literacy” (and even “Story-telling“) as the easier options! Even my spell-checker doesn’t want to recognise it…

As an interesting side-bar – one of the things that Ong discussed was the idea that “secondary orality” is again on the rise! You guessed it – because of that pesky Internet!

Teachers are from Mars, Learners are from Venus

In Adult Educators, Adult Learners, Classroom Teaching, The Paradigm Debate on 28/08/2011 at 12:19 pm

In 1973, Malcom Knowles (who is widely acknowledged as the “grandfather” of andragogy) wrote a book entitled “The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species” – you can download a full version here.

He noted:

“We know more about how animals (especially rodents and pigeons) learn than about how children learn: and we know much more about how children learn than about how adults learn.”

For Knowles this “gap” in what we know about the learning of adults began when the teachings of Confucious, Socrates and Aristotle were abandoned in favour of the “pedagogy” adopted by the church and “monastic life” (in around the 7th Century) – a pedagogy that has, in fact, very little to do with “learning” and was further advanced in the 1950s and 60s when experimental psychologists took the reins of “the study of learning”!

In trying to redress the balance towards greater attention to adult learning, Knowles dedicated his life (well, that’s what his wife says) to formulating a theory of adult learning and creating principles that would help teachers make a difference to the lives of their adult learners. Borrowing the concept of andragogy from Eastern Europe – he set about to remove the “millstone” of pedagogy from the necks of adult educators!

Things have changed since 1973 – we know a lot more, don’t we?

It’s true we have learned a great deal about allthingslearning, we have a far bigger army of dedicated and professional “adult educators” and we have many institutions that are trying to make a difference.

So, why – in the 21st Century – do we still have so many commentators bemoaning the continued:

  • existence of “progressively regressive” schools and colleges (and so-called “LLL Centres”)
  • avoidance of learner needs in curriculum practices
  • dominance of “stand-and-deliver” and content-orientated “teaching”

Why is it that we still have institutions, leaders and teachers that appear to have come from another planet – and work to impose “alien educational practices” on the adults of our wonderful home-world? Did Knowles learn us nothing…

In thinking through the practices and principles developed for adult, self-directed learning I tried to summarise all the advice that Knowles and his collaborators came up with over the 1970s and 1980s (he also produced another classic book in 1984 – “Andragogy in Action”).

What I came up with was a “list” of the things that adult learners “need”:

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

How “alien” are your practices?

This list is not exhaustive – but it’s a good start! And, we haven’t even got to the place of technology in all of this…

Knowles wrapped up his book “Andragogy in Action” with the following words:

“We are nearing the end of the era of our edifice complex and its basic belief that respectable learning takes place only in buildings and on campuses. Adults are beginning to demand that their learning take place at a time, place, and pace convenient to them.

In fact, I feel confident that most educational services by the end of this century (if not decade) will be delivered electronically…Our great challenge now is to find ways to maintain the human touch as we learn to use the media in new ways.“

I wonder – why is Knowles’ “prediction” still a bit off. Is it because Martian and Venetian technology are “different”?