Tony Gurr

Archive for the ‘Curriculum’ Category

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…

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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

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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)!

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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

Yes, FREE of CHARGE!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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Perspective

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)

  • Better see the ‘links’ between OUTCOMES – ASSESSMENT – CLASSROOM IMPLEMENTATION

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

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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!

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

Free (hanging labels)

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

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but...

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

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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)

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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.

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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…

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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…

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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’!

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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.

 

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So…What Exactly Should Curriculum Planning Look Like – for 2017/18? (Part 02)

In Curriculum, ELT and ELL, Our Schools, Our Universities, The Paradigm Debate on 22/10/2017 at 12:35 am

Urbanski Quote

Have you ever done a blog post that totally leads people down the garden path – then promises to make up for it by saying that Part 2 will be more focused, useful and better-written?

Have you ever forgotten to write that Part 2?

Whoops!

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So, as I was saying – ELT has been using this ridiculous, ‘best practice’ model for curriculum-developing and syllabus-making for over 40 years (teachers have also incorporated it into their lesson-planning)!

CPD Blog Post 170717 slide 09 TG

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It just don’t work…and we have (in our heart of hearts) known this for years!

Why not?

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Well, it ain’t that hard to work out:

Screaming Teacher

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OK, OK – I get that when we look at our ‘content’, we get pretty scared:

Curric Content

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We can panic about much of this ‘content’ we have to ‘cover’ in the limited time we have available with our learners – especially, if we are also working in an EGAP or EAP context:

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Academic Literacy

Academic Literacy is a total bi’ach to plan for!

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Covey Quote

But, the solution is NOT to ignore the learner…it is to make sure we put the learner at the heart of our decision-making.

Wiggins and McTighe Quote 2

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We have to recognise that more of the same is not the solution…

Do Different ZAMANI

Indeed, we just have to listen to some of the ELT Jedi Masters (although they may be few in number)…

ELT Jedi Masters

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Recognising the power of questions…

Mackenzie Quote

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Wiggins and McTighe gave use a new planning model with 3 phases:

OUTCOMES

ASSESSMENT

IMPLEMENTATION

…and gave use us 3 disarmingly-simple questions to help us get it right!

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The first of these drew attention to the fact that learner outcomes (not teacher inputs) are here to stay – and, if we are to have a hope in hell of expanding and improving student learning and success, we have to begin with the end in mind or recognise that curriculum-developing needs to begin where it ends – with the learning of individual students.

Backwards Model (1st questions) 2

That’s the essence of the job, guys – always has been!

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The second phase has frequently raised a few eyebrows – because we, so often, just tag on assessment at the end of the learning process. We forget that, for students, assessment IS the curriculum!

Backwards Model (2 questions) 2

Come on! How many times have you heard a student say:

“Hocam, that was a great lesson! I loved the way you combined the 21st century skills of critical thinking and collaboration with a truly communicative, task-based activity based on a meaningful information gap…and the way you supported us with just-in-time instruction and helped with all that emergent vocabulary and lexis – you are a great teacher…I love you”!

How many times have you heard this one?

“Hocam – will this be on the test…or what”?

You get the point…

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The fact is that if a teacher really knows and understands the nature of the assessment processes and tools that students need to engage with (and these are more than simplistic, high-stakes, multiple-choice tests) they can create lessons that promote more of a learning-driven culture…where learners welcome the type of formative feedback that helps them grow and succeed.

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Backwards Model (all 3 questions) 2

The final phase is where teachers can get creative – developing a lesson (or series of lessons) that both meets student needs and is engaging and, dare I say it, useful! Rather than starting with a textbook (and following up with content-driven and activity-driven lessons), we design learning opportunities and tasks that can make a difference…and be fun!

Surely, I do not have to sell this any harder…it just makes so much sense!

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OK, I may have simplified things a wee bit – but just jump back to Part 01 and tell me this is not an improvement…that this approach can’t help us deal with the challenge identified by Rogers…over 35 years ago!

Rogers Quote 1982

So…What Exactly Should Curriculum Planning Look Like – for 2017/18? (Part 01)

In Curriculum, ELT and ELL, Our Schools, Our Universities, The Paradigm Debate on 22/07/2017 at 7:37 am

Blog Post (Curric) Image 01 220717

I know, I know…most of us are still on holiday…but I am sure there are a few of us out there that are (already) experiencing anxiety about some of the tasks we have to complete when we get back to the factory floor. Especially, if a new textbook was selected just before the semester ended…

Do NOT worry…I am here to help you get over that anxiety and give you the PERFECT curriculum planning toolshiriously!

Blog Post (Curric) Image 02 220717

…and it won’t cost you any more than the price you paid for this blog post!

 

Blog Post (Curric) Image 03 220717

As with any planning system, we need to decide on the key concepts that will guide us – and I have found, as we are in ELT, that 3 work wonderfully:

PLANof course!

IMPLEMENTbecause we have to take stuff into the classroom!

TESTwell, just because…we love doing this! OK…we want to check what has been learned!

 

The first of these steps is sooooooo easy…and involves 3 more mini-steps – take a gander:

Blog Post (Curric) Image 04 220717And, here’s you getting all worked up during your holiday! Most of you have already done mini-step 01 (hey, some of you might even be using Headway…even though the authors died 10 years back)! The key, however, is mini-step 03 – once you have the pacing guideline (the weekly ‘checklist’ of stuff to teach), you are more than halfway home. Indeed, if you work in a Curriculum Unit you can start planning your holiday for July 2018!

 

Now, the teacher steps up to the plate – ready to breathe life into the wonderful documents you have created.

What do they need to do?

Again…easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy:

Blog Post (Curric) Image 05 2207173 more mini-steps even a burger-flipper at McDonalds can execute! Again, the trick here is to make sure you stay on track…covering every activity (except those pesky ‘pronunciation boxes’ and maybe that last ‘speaking task’after all, who needs them…and besides…you’ve run out of time)!

 

 

Blog Post (Curric) Image 07 220717

Ahhh, now we come to the home stretch…because we all know that ‘assessment’ is really the ‘curriculum’ for every single student. I mean…come on…have you ever heard a student say, ‘Hocam, that was a wonderful lesson – I loved the way you blended those two Learning Outcomes with the notion of critical thinking and creativity through that truly authentic and communicative information gap task’!

Voilà – this is how:

Blog Post (Curric) Image 06 220717

3 final mini-steps even the most mathematically-challenged ELT teacher could follow (with a calculator and a pre-prepared spreadsheet)! OK, OK…that last one can be tough on the old heart-strings… ‘but I did warn you to study more and not play with that bloody phone of yours so much’!

AND, that…ladies and gentlemen…is how you do it!

 

Tried and tested all over the globe – a model that has found its way into…

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…and I gave it you HERE…for:

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Life doesn’t get better than that…for a teacher (and that means most of us) on a salary less than 50% of what she is worth!

 

CPD Blog Post 170717 slide 09 TG

Well, as a great Jedi…sorry…Reiki Master told me,

‘You get what you pay for’!

The Mother of all Curriculum Myths …(the RE-boot)

In Curriculum, The Paradigm Debate on 07/07/2013 at 7:26 am

Learning,

Reflecting,

Thunking,

…in big, bad İstanbul

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I lied…

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This one will be the last of my 500K celebration re-boots – but I wanted to try a little experiment.

This post was written in February 2012 and represented the very first time I had ever tried to get my thunks on curriculum down on paper (in a systematic way)…drawing on all the things I had learned over the past couple of decades.

However, when I decided to do the re-boot – I wondered what it might look like if I took away all the quirks that I use in my bloggery style.

You’ll notice there was no opening graphic

…there are no weird bits of bolding, no quotation marks (on words and phrases that do not really need them), no imagesat all!

Does it make a difference?

Can you still SEE (or HEAR) me?

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YOU tell ME…

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This be the REblogged post (header)

While cruising blogland this week (not sure if that little phrase is as suitable as it could be but my daughter is still telling me I have to stop saying surfing the web – as it shows my age), I saw that a number of bloggers had discovered the work of those really sensible folks at ICG (Independent Curriculum Group).

I’ve been following the schools that make up ICG for some time – impressed by the fact that all of them are really walking-their-talk with regards teacher-generated curriculum.

Come on…who is not going to be impressed by a bunch of schools that know their stuff with regards student learning and who put that stuff at the heart of their decision-making? 

Apparently, quite a few of us!

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What got the blogosphere buzzing this week was that the ICG schools had boiled their thinking down to a series of neat sound bites (sadly, sound bites still seem to get more attention than the serious thinking that underpins them these days) – and created a set of myths: 

  • Basic Facts Come Before Deep Learning This one translates roughly as, “Students must do the boring stuff before they can do the interesting stuff.” Or, “Students must memorize before they can be allowed to think.” In truth, students are most likely to achieve long-term mastery of basic facts in the context of engaging, student-directed learning.  
  • Rigorous Education Means a Teacher Talking Teachers have knowledge to impart, but durable learning is more likely when students talk, create, and integrate knowledge into meaningful projects. The art of a teacher is to construct ways for students to discover.  
  • Covering It Means Teaching It Teachers are often seduced by the idea that if they talk about a concept in class, they have taught it. At best, students get tentative ideas that will be quickly forgotten if not reinforced by a student-centred activity.  
  • Teaching to Student Interests Means Dumbing It Down If we could somehow see inside a student’s brain, its circuitry would correspond to its knowledge. Since new learning always builds on what is already in the brain, teachers must relate classroom teaching to what students already know. Teachers who fail to do so, whether due to ignorance or in pursuit of a false idea of rigor, are running afoul of a biological reality.  
  • Acceleration Means Rigor Some schools accelerate strong students so that they can cover more material. ICG schools are more likely to ask such students to delve deeper into important topics. Deep knowledge lays a stronger foundation for later learning.  
  • A Quiet Classroom Means Good Learning Students sitting quietly may simply be zoned out, if not immediately, then within 15 minutes. A loud classroom, if properly controlled, included the voices of many students who are actively engaged.  
  • Traditional Schooling Prepares Students for Life Listening to teachers and studying for tests has little to do with life in the world of work. People in the work world create, manage, evaluate, communicate, and collaborate, like students in ICG schools.

 

Now, lots of you might think that these myths are pretty obvious – but the fact that we still have so many soft spots in our schools and education systems (around the globe) tells me that these myths are, in fact, based on the underlying assumptions that guide the decision-making of many teachers, their administrators and schools and the ministries that (all too sadly) hold the reins of our educational systems – and that these assumptions remain invisible to many.

What was interesting for me was that the ICG myths were not, in the traditional sense, directly linked to the what we believe curriculum is all about – despite the very name of the group that produced them. However, the fact that so few of the myths might be viewed as curriculum issues shows the quality of thinking that these schools are engaged in…IMHO!

I have to say, however, that I felt the list was missing something…not just a few other myths that we could all probably add to the list…something bigger!

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For me, there is a more sizeable myth that underpins the set suggested by ICG. This mother of all myths lies at the work of veteran educators like Harry and Rosemary Wong and has been most effectively hinted at (or sound bitten) by people like Ann Parker:

Effective teachers don’t cover the curriculum… – they uncover it.

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The myth is essentially this:

Curriculum is best conceptualised as content – arranged as a teaching plan

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Now, I’m not sure where this mother of all myths came from – but we can feel its omnipresence in almost every corner of education. We find it in universities and the way (far too many) lecturers see their own curricular as being the topics they will cover and the order in which these topics are to be delivered to learners.

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Wikipedia (*) has also helped to promote this understanding through its definition of what curriculum is all about:

…the set of courses, and their content, offered at a school or university

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There are still many teachers in our primary and secondary schools that begin their lessons with utterances like ‘What page were we on last time’? – and then instruct students to turn to the next one for today’s lesson… It is this type of approach to learning and teaching that has led many a teacher to believe that they could not possibly survive without the textbook – and has created the even more cynical and insipid version of this myth:  

Curriculum is best conceptualised as the content pages of our textbooks!

Wouldn’t publishers and their textbook writers just love this understanding of curriculum to win out?

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The thing is that it wasn’t always like this – and the solutions to this challenge do not seem to be available on our present or future list of how to fix things in education. As we look at commentary on the future of education in today’s blogosphere and the solutions to many of the challenges we currently face in education, we keep coming back to one word – technology! 

Sorry, that is just dumb

Technology is not going to save education – the quality of thinking from those involved in educational decision-making is going to do that. And, the starting point is challenging the underlying assumptions and myths that all too often dominate our decision-making.

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The Greeks and Romans had nowhere near the technology that the average family home or teachers’ room has access to today – but they had a far superior conceptualisation of what curriculum is mean to be all about:

…the original meaning of the term curriculum was ‘racecourse’

and the understanding that curriculum represents a meaningful and purposeful progression to some predetermined goal.

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Far from being about delivering the content on the course outline or covering the textbook, this understanding of curriculum got it right with its emphasis on purposeful progression and a predetermined goal

Yes, the Ancient Greeks and Romans knew that curriculum needs to begin where it ends – with the learning of individual students and with the thinking of teachers and educators about how this can best be realised.

If we look closer at what the great teachers of the time did with what they knew about curriculum, we also see many things that are missing in more modern conceptualisations of what curriculum is all about: 

  • A curriculum should answer the question what are we here to do for our students – it is the fundamental expression of our purposes, aims and convictions (as educators and institutions).
  • Curriculum thinking cannot be divorced from the values and beliefs of those involved in creating it. A great curriculum uncovers the underlying assumptions and aspirations that educators have for their learners and themselves – it is more than content, it is a conscious educational philosophy given form and substance.
  • Just as a curriculum needs to be seen as an expression of an educational philosophy, it also needs to be viewed as a framework of educational values that informs problem-solving on a day-to-day basis. A curriculum needs to scream this is who we are and this is how we do business – not simply list a series of dry topics to be presented by an equally dry teacher.
  • A curriculum has to be centred on learners, their learn and what they can do with that learning…!
  •  Effective curricular need to be more than about what we are teaching today (or Monday morning). Curriculum needs to move beyond now into the future learning of students and graduates – and is only as good as the way it prepares learners to keep on learning after the experience of formal education is over and done with.
  •  When teachers and learners only conceive of curriculum as a document, we might as well pack up and go home (these words are a rough translation of what Aristotle said). A real, breathing curriculum is one that teachers and learners see as an on-going process of questioning of what ought to happen and an on-going process of problem-solving with regards how to make that happen in practice.
  • Curriculum is a process, a process that gives us a way to imagine, explore, and critique ways of thinking about the purposes and practices of a curriculum. This very process helps teachers and educators grow as much as their learners – it allows them to revitalise their subjects and disciplines and look for more ways to cross traditional boundaries so as prioritise making a real difference to the real lives of their very real learners.
  • Assessment and curriculum are the currency used by teachers and students and they should embody the very nature of the relationships we hope to build in and out of the classroom. As such, teachers and educators need to have a central role in designing not only the learning opportunities and assessment activities – but also the curriculum itself. Before students can own a curriculum, teachers have to be invested in and believe in it.
  • Curriculum also needs to be viewed as interactive process of designing, experiencing, evaluating and improving what learners can do with what they know – this cannot be done by teachers alone, it is (or should be) a true process of co-creation.
  •  If a poor curriculum is one that looks more like a tick-box checklist of things to be poured into the heads of students, a great curriculum is one that has at its heart a meaningful sequence and structure that involves iterative revisiting and expansion over time – and one that makes room for co-creation by students. Concepts, themes and topic areas need to be revisited with greater sophistication, learners need to be given opportunities to demonstrate earlier understandings and also be presented with newer challenges and projects imagineered to lead them to higher ability levels – challenges and projects that also explore their evolving view of both learning and the world they are building through that learning.

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Perhaps, it is no coincidence that these ancient teachers did not have textbooks (or iPads) – neither did they have publishers, textbook writers and software developers constantly hawking their wares back then!

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In a nutshell, we need to start viewing curriculum as:

the expression of educational beliefs – in practice – or the whole educative process

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Yes, it is true that in today’s world content, textbooks and course outlines need to be factored in – but if we limit ourselves to these components, we are actually preparing the ground work for all of the myths that ICG have outlined for us.

If we do not include a vision of the type of graduate we are working to create (and not just a version for wall decoration), teacher talk will remain at the heart of the teaching process – and covering it will still be equated with teaching it.

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We need to see curriculum for what it really is – not a document (or table of contents from a textbook) but what we do with what we believe it is all about:

  • Graduate Profile
  • Content
  • Course Outlines
  • Textbooks
  • Projects
  • Self-Study Modules
  • On-line Learning Resources
  • Practice Activities
  • Homework
  • Assessment Critreria
  • Tests
  • Feedback
  • Student/Teacher Interactions
  • Teacher Values
  • Educational Beliefs
  • Institutional Vision

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Curriculum needs to be about choice and principles (I stole that from Covey) – and those principles need to be:

  • Spiral
  • Purposeful
  • Explicit
  • Values-centred
  • Learning-driven
  • Future-orientated
  • Living
  • Dynamic
  • Teacher-owned
  • Creative

 

Now, tell me if that ain’t better than the myths and their mother!

 

 

(*) Since this post was first published (on 20th February, 2012) Wikipedia has changed its definition of curriculum…Mmmm, do not ask me why.

Why More of Us Need to TAKE a LEARNing Perspective …(the RE-Boot)

In Curriculum, Our Schools, Our Universities on 06/07/2013 at 10:46 am

big bad İSTANBUL

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I’m THUNKing this one will be my last 500K RE-boot – but I chose this one for a very personal reason.

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Over the years, I have grown to TAKE a LEARNing Perspectiveas if you didn’t know!

This has involved LEARNing a great deal from others (far smarter than I), reflecting on my own beliefs, values and assumptions…but, more importantly, seeing my own “flaws” as a TEACHer…as an EDUcator (not too mention – as a husband and father, too)!

8

This is the post that I used to explain what this idea of  TAKing a LEARNing Perspective is all about, where I stumbled upon it…and told a wee story about a major “turning point” for me as both a LEARNer and a TEACHer.

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And, this was all started by…a “mushroom”!

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Wear the talk Ver 02

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Surfing the web a few days ago (my big, little girl tells me it’s not “cool” to use this collocation any more – what to do – I’m a “digital immigrant”…) – I came across this amazing TED video from artist and innovative designer Jae Rhim Lee.

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In the video (which has to be one of the most “out there” on the TED siteJae Rhim Lee introduced her “mushroom death suit” (or, as she jokes, her “ninja PJs”) and the Infinity Burial Project – both imagineered to decompose a human body once we learn, grow and get off the planet!

OMG – I know you are all probably thunking that…Tony has totally lost the plot, finally! Hear me outhear me out, I sayYou know how I love my mushrooms…

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What Jae Rhim Lee was really doing was (reallyTAKING an Environmental PERSPECTIVEshe said what she meant, she meant what she said and she “did” something about it! She really did “wear-her-talk – and I, for one, love her for it!

If only more politicians did the same!

And, I ain’t just talking about taking an interest in allthingsENVIRONMENTAL

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Most of us HAVE a PERSPECTIVE on the environment. I mean…we all “think” that looking after the environment is a “great” idea, don’t we?

something that is importantsomething that we need to care about?

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But many of us do not “do” enough…not all of us “walk-our-environmental-talk”!

Walk the talk (Ver 03)

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Not so “out there”, now…huh?

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So, what the heck does this have to do with LEARNing?

EVERYTHING….

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There is a huge difference between “thinking” that something is a “cool idea” – and “doing something” about that same thing. Or, even by working to make a “real difference” by:

living it,

breathing it and

putting it at the heart of our decision-making

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How many of us…and those we work for…can put our hands on our hearts and say we truly do this with student LEARNing?

I feel a “story” coming on!

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Servant fish (Tolstot quote) Ver 03

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When I was much younger, I was (by some accounts) a half-decent TEACHer – I was popular with kids and adults alike…I used humour to my advantage…and was really quite good at communicating potted explanations of terms, concepts and (even) “rules“..

BUT…I also discovered I was a far better LEARNer.

As a younger TEACHer, I worked my butt off…read like my hair was on fire…and realised I actually got better at the TEACHing “stuff” by doing more of the LEARNing “stuff”.

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The problem was I actually thought it was all about “ME”:

my TEACHing abilities,

my TEACHing style,

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my TEACHing “stuff”…

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Sure, student LEARNing was important…but insofar as my “performances” contributed to that LEARNing…I actually believed that the LEARNing of my students was because of what I did!

The  EGO on the bloke!

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This was until I travelled to Milwaukee – to a little place called Alverno – and (finally) “got” it:

You are here (universe) Ver 02

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OK – perhaps it was not all Alverno – my wife had been “working” on me, too (and what a “job” she did over the years – all the good stuff is “her”, the rest is residual “me”)….

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But, what the Alverno guys LEARNed me was that there were people out there that realised that the “calling” was not TEACHing.

People who knew that it was “service” to LEARNing that was important.

People who had decided to TAKE a curriculum PERSPECTIVE

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Just like Jae Rhim Lee (without the “ninja PJs”) the faculty at Alverno realised that simply “having a perspective on curriculum” was not enough – if they wanted to make a “real difference” to the lives of their students, they had to TAKE a PERSPECTIVE on allthingsCURRICULUM (and allthingsASSESSMENT, too).

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Alverno “got” that, to borrow from Ghandi, it had to “be” the change it wanted to see in Milwakee and Wisconsin – and decided to change the “rules of the game”…

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Be the CHENGE (Ghandi quote) Ver 03

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They realised that REthunking EDUcation and LEARNing was not just about changing course content (or course codes) – it requires new thinking about curriculum, assessment and TEACHer development.

In short, they “got” that reinvention of their approach to curriculum and assessment first required that they make explicit their assumptions (and values) about LEARNing itself.

Now, you see why I have been asking so many questions on me little ‘ole blog here…and inviting people to do the same.

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The result – Alverno established its core purpose as being to develop those abilities students need to be successful as LEARNers, employees and citizens.

In doing so they redefined curriculum around an explicit set of eight abilities, developed a collaborative, interdisciplinary pedagogy and LEARNing process capable of continuous improvement, and…(wait for this ONE)…required students to demonstrate competence in the eight abilities as a condition for graduation.

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The Alverno model has become a best practice model for “doing business” very differently in EDUcation and “adding value” to students – value that is praised by the business and community organisations around Wisconsin and the U.S.

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Alverno got it so RIGHT…so many years ago!

So, why do so FEW institutions not get it TODAY?

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Probably because TAKING a curriculum (or LEARNing) PERSPECTIVE takes bloodsweat and tears

…and recognition that there are no magic bullets (especially of the hardware, software and webware variety)…

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More next time…

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Got EDUcational Literacy…?

In Assessment, Classroom Teaching, Curriculum, Educational Leadership, ELT and ELL, Teacher Learning on 09/06/2013 at 10:10 am

Got EdL (TG ver)

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I’ve just read Scott Thornbury’s latest (and last) post on his wonderful blog – An A-Z of ELT.

I was gob-smacked!

What a way to go out…with a wonderful list of “must-read” posts!

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Not to worry…he’ll have a new one  for us after Summer!

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Scott’s blog personifies…for me…the thunks that characterise an educator with a high degree of “fluency” in what I have dubbed EDUcational Literacy (esp. for those in the world of ELT) – just take a look at the 30 posts he highlights in that last post of his!

Soooooo much great “bedtime” reading for the Summer!

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Yeah…you guessed it! I was in the middle of doing my own “Sunday Post” when Scott’s landed in my in-box! But, I meant what I said…he just gave me a nice “hook”!

So…

“What exactly is EDUcational Literacy”?

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Pretty reasonable question, actually!

In a nutshell:

EDUCATIONAL LITERACY 01

 

In a way, Educational Literacy (let’s stick with the abbreviation – EdL) 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” timeneeds to have a lot of EdL, if she wants to be truly effective.

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

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In the case of teachersEdL 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. Nor is also just our knowledge of grammar, structure and vocabulary (major components of Disciplinary Literacyin the world of ELL and ELT).

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)…

EDUCATIONAL LITERACY 02

EdL is also something that many people (sadly) do not possess – and 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…!
  • Politicians…Mmmmm…hey, who the hell said it was possible to “save every soul”!?!?

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You get the idea!

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EdL is essentially “realized” (and developed or learned) through the application of Critical Literacy to allthingseducation – critical reflection as applied to LEARNing and TEACHing.

EDUCATIONAL LITERACY 05

However, because of the very nature of both LEARNing and TEACHingEdL has a powerful emotional componentEdL 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.

EdL (Care and Emotions)

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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”

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With so many abilities, skills and talents required of TEACHerstell me again:

EDUCATIONAL LITERACY 04

I must have missed that memo!

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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.

EDUCATIONAL LITERACY 03

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EdL also respects the role of theprofessional 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:

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

Assess Lit 01

BUT…I have to admitI prefer this one:

Assess Lit 02

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If most of us were really, really honest…we’d recognise that we all need to do a bit of LEARNing in this area – especially, when we remember these two little thunks

Assess Lit 03

And…then…we have the matter of Curriculum Literacy!

from A1 to B2 (in 9 months)

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Have YOU…has YOUR school (and its leaders):

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Got EdL (TG ver)

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Scott does! Thanks for the thunks. brother…

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Could it be our understanding of ‘Quality’…that is BROKEN, perhaps?

In Adult Learners, Curriculum, Educational Leadership, ELT and ELL, Our Universities, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness on 12/05/2013 at 10:38 pm

Quality (Deming quote)

If you knocked on the door of all of the 175+ institutions of ‘higher LEARNing’ (HEIs) we have here in canım Türkiyem, you’d be pushed to find ONE that would publicly disagree with the words of Jedi Quality Master Deming!

This is only natural!

Look at all the wonderful communications we find on their web-sites, the messages stuck on the side of buses and bridges, the huge one-page adverts we find in every ‘quality’ Sunday newspaper:

Marketing (HEIs)

Oh, yes…and ‘DIFFERENT’…gotta be ‘DIFFERENT’!

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I mean afterall…what parent would want to send their darling, little Arca (or Ayşe) or Dogükan (or Ali) to a university that proclaims it wants to be a pretty ‘average’ school…or worse…is prepared to wash all its dirty linen in publicfor the sake of student LEARNing!

Truth (mini ver 01)

Here’s an idea…

If you are planning to choose a university for the fruit of your loins over the next few months, why not visit and ask the schools to ‘define’ what quality means to them – seriously!

You never know…

Monkey (laughing)

…one of them might actually listen to you!

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If they do and tell you something like this

Quality (blind guys)

or even

Quality (Pirsig quote) (1)

…push them – ‘cos these schools do love their ‘smoke and mirrors’!

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If the school is ‘smart‘, they might say something like this:

Quality (Winder quote)

…these universities are pretty good at the old ‘alıntı, çalıntı and miş-gibi yapmak’ business!

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If you do get a reply like this (miracles do happen – and there might be a ‘quality team’ out there that actually does their ‘homework’), ask them how they actually assess the needs of their students and how these needs are used to develop and renew the curricular they useyou know, to align what is ‘taught’ with what students are supposed to be able to do with what they LEARN…and keep on LEARNing after they graduate!

I dare you!

Handle the truth

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If the school is an English-medium school (a HUGE ‘selling point’ for most Turkish universities), ask them how their departmental academics communicate with the hazırlık team (and ‘how often’) – to ensure that the ELL programmes at the university are relevant, meaningful and motivating.

While you are at it (and if you are feeling ‘naughty’)…you might even ask how many Deans or Heads of Department even know where the hazırlık building is…

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Then…ask them if their Senate or Mütivelli Heyeti (Board of Trustees) has any plans to:

1) Increase the number of contact hours that the teachers in hazırlık are expected to do each week!

2) Increase the average class size across their hazırlık programmes!

3) Increase the (sad, sad) salaries that most hazırlık teachers are paid!

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OK, that was a bit unfair of me…but, in my defence, my inbox is overflowing with mails from schools around the country since I started this little ‘dizi  – and they ain’t about pay increases, I’ll tell you that much!

However (and I will run down Atatürk Bulvarı…and pretty soon…İstiklâl Caddesi…naked – yes, in my birthday suit), if the Rector or Mütivelli Heyeti Başkanı (Chairman of the Board of Trustees) has not also (recently) told the Hazırlık Director at these schools to ‘get accredited’– and sharpish!

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Hey, just me…

Truth (mini ver 02)

…here!

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BTW…if I ‘disappear’ over the next few days, the first people who should be questioned are all those ‘educators’ that carry the heady title Mütivelli Heyeti Başkanı – especially the ones that have ‘interests’ in construction, furniture and paper-products, as well as anyone that owns a ‘dershane’ (yes, I know that’s a long list of suspects)!

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Don’t get me wrong…I am not against accreditation bodies or standardsquite the opposite!

I just get a little worked up when I hear schools throwing around terms like ‘Quality Assurance’‘Excellence’‘Highest Standards’…when what they are really concerned with is …

Quality (the real prizes)

…rather than LEARNing – of both the student and institutional variety!

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You see…it doesn’t really matter what a university (or hazırlık school, for that matter) says about itself!

Sorry, to burst that little bubble, guys…

What matters (and I mean really matters) is what others say about how you ‘do business’!

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What did we say many teachers and students are saying these days…something about covering a curriculum that does not exist…something about Lise 6 or 7

Factory Model TEACHing

So, tell me again…how EXACTLY will increasing teacher contact hours…improve QUALITY and STANDARDS?

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For me…

Quality (is a means)

For mereal quality is not about ‘faking-it-till-you-make-it’ by asking (and answering) dumb-ass questions

Standards (books n reading)

Standards (observation post it)

…it’s about asking powerful questions:

Standards (wrıtten curriculum)

…powerful questions that matter!

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For mereal quality is not about ‘prestige’ (or ‘beating’ the school down the road)…

Harvard and their screw up

…even our educational ‘giants’ screw up!

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For mestandards are critical:

Standards (are good)

8

…but not when we regard them as:

Quality McNuggets

…to be ‘ticked off’ on some silly checklist!

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Our ‘institutions of higher LEARNing’…need to ‘get real’…they need to ‘get together’ (across the ‘whole career’ of our LEARNers – not disciplinary lines)…they need to ‘get informed’ (and really inform ‘others’ – not engage in shameless self-promotion) about what matters in allthingsquality – more, they need to ‘get consistent’!

They need a new ‘perspective’ on quality…and this requires a wee ‘shift’

Quality Perspective (having vs taking)

or two:

Shift (culture of learning)

or three

Shift (transformation)

or four

Shift (creativity)

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Just.. 

Truth (mini ver 02)

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But…but…Tony:

Joker (Why So Serious)

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Well, we have to get it right with allthingsquality

Broken Quality (TG definition)

…and you can take that to the IMF!

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But, hey…what the hell do I know?

My citation index in the field of allthingsengineering is pretty crap – and, worse than that…I’ve never owned a software firm…or…construction company!

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but...

ONE thing I do know

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Canım Türkiyem

Is it our ‘Curriculum Thunking’ wot is BROKEN?

In Adult Learners, Assessment, Curriculum, ELT and ELL, Our Universities, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness on 09/05/2013 at 2:28 pm

Where were we?

Ahh, I remember…we were discussing the importance of:

Truth (mini ver 01)

…and Hazırlık (ELL Prep Schools)!

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The two conferences I noted in Part 01 of this post were, in fact, a breath of fresh air – we rarely see ELT events with themes that touch on Curriculum or Quality / Standards. Many of our conferences (and we have a LOT of them here in Turkey, we do…ask the publishers who are hassled to foot the various bills) are often little more than PR vehicles for the schools that put them on. Far too many of them operate like a show n’ tell or pot luck gathering – fronted by the same big names, the same faces and the same themes.

Sorry…just

Truth (mini ver 02)

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Maybe a conference about technology is just ‘sexier‘ than a serious discussion on the challenges we face in the areas of curriculum and assessment…maybe what the conference pundits tell us is right – “all teachers want are practical ideas to take into the classroom on Monday morning…and to be kept amused for a few hours” (I really hate it when people say this – with a passion)!

Maybe, we do not want to take a closer look at how our institutions are doing business, what type of smoke and mirrors really come into play in our curriculum thinking or why our students are so switched off by what we are doing in our classrooms.

I’m not sure either!

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OK – coming back to the first of these conferences I mentioned. The idea of a conference centred on ‘a LEARNing Curriculum’ was just up my street – and the fact that the team at Beykent University (in Istanbul) went with this theme just made me feel chuffed to bits…

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One of my opening slides was this one:

Uncover the curriculum

Only an idiot would disagree with this!

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Luckily, there were none of them around at the Beykent Conference – at least none of them came to my session. It’s funny, isn’t it? How the people who really need to come to conferences are exactly the people who are usually absent!

The slide touched a few hearts (and minds, I hope)…I heard more than few saying how true it is…and a lot more bemoaning the fact that their institutions just did not ‘get’ this type of thunking!

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However, I also noted that these statements are a wee bit motherhood’ishthey sound great…but are of little value if we do not take a closer look at ourselves:

Slide002

I asked the administrators and teachers that came to my session whether they felt that the curriculum framework they had in place at their schools was ‘golden’you know, something they could be proud of!

All but a handful admitted that they did not have a ‘curriculum’  per se (shock-horror) – many used the phrase “contents page of our textbooks” to describe their course outlines, syllabi and pacing documents.

This was not a surprise…of course! We all know this (again, even at some of the so-called ‘top’ schools)…it’s just one of those things we do not talk about very much. I mean, we have far more serious worries. Take, for example, the current pressures to ‘graduate’ all those false beginners that walk through our doors every September – when the conventional ‘wisdom’ (I use this word very loosely) goes something like this:

from A1 to B2 (in 9 months)

Only an idiot would insist that our prep programmes can do this – successfully!

But, we try…boy, do we try!

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Sure, everyone is banging on about the importance of the CEFR (‘irresistible force’ that it is) these days…but what happens when it hits an ‘immoveable object’?

CEFR Vs Raymond Murphy

Raymond is still winning…

…and the war on ‘LEARNing-by-gap-fill-exercise’ has definitely taken a ceasefire – across many schools!

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But, what happens when we bring these two facts of hazırlık life together – when we look at the consequences of placing unrealistic demands into a curriculum-free zone? I tried to highlight this by asking conference participants if we ELT professionals are guilty of the ‘twins sins’ that more and more of our primary and secondary colleagues are being forced to commit:

Twin Sins

 Guess what they said?

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In the absence of an effective curriculum framework (or clear ‘purpose’), we continue to ‘do’ the simple past on Monday…‘do’ the past continuous on Wednesday…and finish the week on Friday by ‘doing’ the present perfect (as well as every single activity in ‘the book’)!

How we ‘do’ even one of these in a week is beyond me – and, what the hell does it mean to ‘do’ a tense anyways???

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And, then there’s the assessment…all the exams, tests and pop quizzes we tag onto this type of curriculum practice. Even though…in our hearts of hearts…we know:

Fattening pigs (assessment)

…we weigh, we weigh, we weigh!

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It’s almost as if the only ‘strategy‘ we have to maintain our ‘quality standards‘ is the mantra…

Quality STRATEGY

…and, when this fails to get our students from to B (actually, A1 to B2in 9 months), the best ‘improvement‘ programme we can come up with is…

IMPROVEMENT strategy

But, then…I’m jumping the gun on tomorrow’s post!

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Slide87

Is Hazırlık BROKEN?

In Adult Learners, Assessment, Curriculum, Our Universities, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness on 08/05/2013 at 7:28 pm

This is a question I have been thunking about a lot recently – and you know what they say about questions, don’t you?

Questions (O'Conner Quote) NEW

…by Hazırlık I am, of course, talking about the university-level ELL or ELT ‘prep programmes’ we offer here in canım Türkiyem…so go to another blog, if you are not that interested in this kinda stuff…

Or not, if you work in the same ‘sector’ in another part of the world (and, there are lots of you – I know)!

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Now, don’t get me wrong…I am not asking the question in the title of this post to start another round of ‘finger-pointing’ or to pour petrol onto what is already the raging bonfire of …

Blame Game (TG ver)

…we tend to play when we talk about the ‘quality’ of English language teaching (and LEARNing) that our universities offer. We’ll come back to this little ‘game’ a wee bit later – if the truth was known it is perhaps this aspect of how we ‘do’ business (in our schools of ‘higher LEARNing’) that needs the most ‘fixing‘!

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I am asking the question…

Is hazırlık BROKEN

…because at a couple of recent ELT conferences here in Turkey (one on Curriculum and another on Quality and Standards), I have been thunking and talking about George Orwell’s suggestion that…

TELLing the truth

…a ‘revolutionary act’ whose time has come!

Besides, our marathon conference season is wrapping up soon…I have finished me book (plug, plug, plug) and I needed to get back to me blogging!

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When we go to a lot of conferences, we do a lot of feel-good ‘sharing’…we network…we pick up a few ‘classroom McNuggets’…and occasionally we stumble across an idea or three that really makes us ‘thunk’ (and we hear a lot of back-door self-promotion…did you know the book is available on Amazon, too – and a lot of very lame jokes we have probably heard before – but that’s for another post).

Great stuff (except those last two)! But, we do not often hear people…

Truth (mini ver 01)

…enough!

…the REAL truth, that is!

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This is what I challenged myself to do in the last couple of sessions I have done at conferences. I wasn’t quite sure what type of response I would get…

In both events, I shared this image

John Rogers QUOTE

John said this at around about the time I started teaching – yes, I am that old! The funny thing was that nearly everybody (in both conference rooms) agreed that it was STILL true TODAY…in canım Türkiye (and probably in many other countries around the globe)!

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Despite this fact, there were a few people that the question made a wee bit ‘uncomfortable’. Many of them jumped in to defend themselves by saying it was not their ‘fault’ (ahh, the power of ‘the blame game’) – they reminded us about ‘educational culture’ we have to live with and highlighted the change has (sadly) taken hold of Turkey over the last decade or so…

Canım EXAMOCRACY

…I know many a US ‘educational reformer’ that would love to have the network of exams and tests Turkey has been able (so effectively) to put in place all the way from primary to post-university…and even ‘job selection’.

The Higher Education Council (YÖK) has even managed to put systems in place that…

YÖK and mct hiring

8I find it’s best, with allthingsYÖK at least…to remember the ‘serenity prayer’:

Serenity Prayer

…but I’m getting off the point!

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If we take the time to look (really ‘look’) at the challenges our hazırlık schools face (the ones that are more in our ‘circle of influence’), there are many things that need more than a bit of attention.

Take, for instance, the ‘feelings’ that many teachers have about the way they have to ‘do business’ in many of our schools (even the so-called ‘top schools’)…

Teacher (hands tied)

How many of you know a teacher that feels like this from time to timemost of the time…and has to ‘break-the-rules’ (quietly…when no one is looking…to get some real language LEARNing done)? In the two sessions I did recently, almost 100% of participants did…and many said they felt like this themselves most of the time!

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I also asked if people had come across a phrase that many hazırlık students are using to describe their current pre-freshman ELL / ELT experiences:

Lise 5

…a ‘sweet’ turn-of-phrase but one that captures how many hazırlık LEARNers feel about how and what they are being taught, the way hazırlik schools treat them as ‘customers’ and how similar it all is to high school.

The bottom line is, of course, if our two key groups of stakeholders (teachers and LEARNers) are feeling, shall we say, less than satisfied with their experiences…we have to listen…heck, we have to do more than listen!

Teachers, especially those with families to provide for, might not be able to ‘vote with their feet’…but many hazırlık schools (especially those of the ‘vakıf’ or ‘foundation/private’ variety) are getting more than a bit worried about the recent upsurge of footsteps on the LEARNer side of things.

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Of course, I am not suggesting that every teacher and every student feels this way. We have some really good people in some really good schools that are doing some great things (many of them have been doing these things for years – and some of them have been connecting the dots between institutions more and more recently). I am taking about a general ‘state-of-the-nation’ challenge across the ‘sector’ – about the way we ‘do the business of ELL’ across the country in general. And, I’m guessing that many of these core challenges will resonate with my fellow bloggers in other countries.

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There are other areas – and I want to take a look at a few of them over the next few posts. BUT, I’m gonna need some help!

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What do you thunk? Is hazırlık ‘broken’? Where? In what ways? …and, how do ‘we’ fix it?

More of the same (my dogs)

Should we be TELLing or ASKing LEARNers…about “their” LEARNing? (Pt 01)

In Assessment, Classroom Teaching, Curriculum, Teacher Learning on 10/12/2012 at 1:04 pm

This one is for Gökhan

What were we thinking (TG ver)

…and any other TEACHer that wants to make a real difference to the lives of their LEARNersrather than just be a TESTUcator!

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A while back I did a mini-series about how best we can help TEACHers LEARN more about how they are “doing business” in the classroom…when we do classroom observation.

There were 3 parts to the series…

…but there could have been 30!

And, “yes” Adam…still flogging the blog!

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In a nutshell, this series highlighted the fact that if we want more TEACHer LEARNing…we need more ASKing from those whose job it is to “observe” (always hated that word) the classes of others.

And…a lot more LISTENing!

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Isn’t this the same with LEARNers?

John Holt Quote

You’d THUNKwould you not?

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Miracle (Einstein quote)

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Sadly, most of us are so busyCOVERing the CURRICULUM” (and TELLing)…that we (sometimes) forget to ASK…and LISTEN…and DO “something” with what we HEAR.

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OK heres the thing

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Let’s try a really “wacky” idea!

Just for TODAYforget the CURRICULUM…and…throw those wonderful LESSON PLANS in the bin!

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YES…I’m saying… “join” the…

Children Of The Revolution

…and ASK your “kids” a few “questions”!

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Try this one first:

Gokhan 03

…turn it into an “activity” poster creation, mini-presentations, class debate – anything that gets them “off” their seats!

USE what you “HEAR”…tomorrow!

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What about this:

Gokhan 05

You will be amazed what they come up with!

USE what you “HEAR”…tomorrow!

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Now, “personalise” it…with questions like this:

Gokhan 02

Get them to tell “their stories”…hammer home the importance of that third question (and ASK them why THEY thunk you are ASKıng this one)!

USE what you “HEAR”…tomorrow!

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Go on…now really push that envelope! ASK:

Gokhan 04

…by getting them “together” to record what they share (yes, I am saying iPhones are “good”)

USE what you “HEAR” (and “SEE”)…tomorrow!

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Wrap it up with this one:

Gokhan 01

…and get them to “own” their promises to YOU and EACHOTHER!

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JUST for TODAY!

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What?

You have too much to “do”…you have to “COVER” that curriculum of yours…you have “the test” at the end of the week?

The CLASSROOM - weapons of mass instruction

Your CHOICE!

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The EXPERIENCE eye (TG ver 4 blog)

THEIR future!

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TOMORROW, tomorrow…I love ‘ya tomorrow
You’re ONLY a day away!