Tony Gurr

Posts Tagged ‘adaptive learning’

Why on Earth Do We Need Teacher Training?

In Adult Educators, Classroom Teaching, ELT and ELL, Guest BLOGGERS, Our Universities, Teacher Learning on 28/04/2015 at 5:52 am

Adams Quote (for Steve)

I have had intriguing tidings from some of my final year learners recently.  They are currently engaged in their second semester of “school experience,” where they spend one day a week under the tutelage of their mentor educators in local high schools.  In theory they are supposed to watch their mentors in the first term, and gradually be allowed to assume responsibility for teaching their classes in the second.  In the end they are asked to teach one, perhaps two entire classes on their own.

 Thinkers wanted (blog ver 02 TG)

The idea sounds a practical one – it’s often best to learn the rudiments of teaching from a professional.  In practice what has happened is this:  learners spend most of their time sitting at the back of the classroom watching their mentors undertake a series of repetitive exercises involving little or no language practice – gap-filling, cloze procedure and the like.  They are easy to mark and require the educator to undertake little or no extra-curricular activity.  It’s an easy way to pass the time in class.

Consequently many learners have complained of wasting their time on “school experience.” Not only do they have little or no involvement in classroom activity, but they are introduced to the jobsworth mentality in which educators do the minimum amount necessary to keep their learners amused and collect their salaries at the end of the week.  When the learners are given the space to teach their own classes, they are told to do the same gap-filling activities, as their mentors cannot be bothered to think up anything new.

 21C LEARNing Culture (TG ver 02 upgrade)

I am not in any way suggesting that this state of affairs prevails at every high school; I have encountered many enthusiastic educators willing to challenge existing approaches to pedagogy.  But what proves particularly disconcerting is that this jobsworth mentality is allowed to prevail at any institution.  It suggests that all the teacher training initiatives spearheaded by the British Council, the book publishers and other institutions have little or no influence on the way in which educators handle the day-to-day business of working with their learners.  Resources are spent to little effect – except, perhaps, to encourage institutions to spend more money on glossy textbooks and thereby increase author royalties.

Is there any possibility for change, or at least create the conditions for change?  Institutionally speaking, the prospect is a pessimistic one: many educators are so imbued with the jobsworth mentality that they perceive little or no reason to change their methods.  Even if they wanted to change, there is little or no incentive to do so.  Personal development assumes less significance than the monthly pay-check.  Even if individuals want to change, they will have to negotiate with their superiors, who might disagree with their views entirely.  Why rock the boat when things are going fine?

 Hocam will this be on the test

Perhaps the only workable solution is to begin from the ground up: to find ways outside the institution to set up initiatives dedicated not to teacher training per se, but to investigate methods of learning, both virtual as well as face-to-face.  This might require us to rethink the way institutions work – perhaps technology needs to assume a more important role in facilitating communication between educators and learners.  Much of the teacher training I’ve encountered has been fundamentally top-down in approach; follow the example of the trainer (like the mentor educator), and you too can learn how to work in class.  I’d favor a flipped approach, in which educators tried to listen to their learners and reshaped their classroom strategies accordingly.  Undergraduate learners could be made part of the collaborative process; the insights they have acquired in the three years of their university curricula might prove invaluable in creating new learning strategies.  While jobsworth educators are difficult to shift, there are still opportunities available to create new generations of educators with a genuine and lasting commitment to listening to and learning from their learners.  Who knows – even the learners might want to become educators in the future.

 Creativity (Einstein Quote ver 03)

Yet time is running out: frustrations increase.  My fourth-year learners have a disillusioned view of their chosen profession.  For them it is not a matter of learning about the way people think and react, but simply a matter of rehearsing time-honored drills practiced by their mentors.  Perhaps the teacher training institutions and the publishers need to rethink their approach to working with institutions; rather than trying to foist their products on their so-called ‘customers,’ they might be better advised to take a lengthy time out and listen to what people want, especially those at the lowest end of the pedagogical scale.  Otherwise we are simply reinventing an educational wheel which will very soon come off the axle that drives it.

Laurence Raw

Ankara, Turkey – 27 Apr. 2015


Questions Students SHOULD Ask (aka “LEARNing THAT LASTS” – Pt 05)

In Classroom Teaching, The Paradigm Debate on 10/08/2012 at 8:39 pm

The “secret” (and, it ain’t Victoria’s) is OUT!

Yes, it’s all true…I too “flirt” with the “Dark Side” – the “Sith” who practice the dark arts of TEACHing and TRAINing. However, and as I pointed out, this is a “version” of the TEACHing/TRAINing Paradigm that does put LEARNing at the heart of its approach.

This is the end of this “dizi” – promise!


I am, of course, talking about 4MAT – developed by renowned educational theorist Bernice McCarthy.

This is my attempt to get 4MAT on a single “image”:

…Yep, as I thoughtfailed miserably!


But (if you haven’t already gone back to Twitter)…just take a closer look at it (if you are also not already familiar with the model)!

  • What do you think the numbers 1-4 represent?
  • Why do you think each number has a “question” attached to it?
  • What (the heck) does “feeling” and “thinking” have to do with the questions?
  • How do you thunk “doing” and “reflecting” are linked to the terms MEANING, CONCEPTS, SKILLS and ADAPTATION?


The thing is – you were probably asking a few of these questions yourself (or some that were very similar).

That’s how we is – that’s how we are “wired”! When students, however, ask questions like the ones noted by my (now infamous) TEACHer friend:

…we realise that they must have been “re-wired” in some way by school, by their experience with our curricular (and assessment methods), by TEACHers!

As the man sez:

If we want LEARNing THAT LASTS (with students who have been “traumatised” by all these things), we have to help them “re-discover” that natural talent we all have for asking questions – as it our questions that “drive” our LEARNing!


4MAT, in a nutshell, is basically a method of helping anyone LEARN – and has been used in thousands of TRAINıng and TEACHing contexts all over the world for the past 30+ years.

Yes, it’s a “model” (and I know many of “us” hate models as much as we do “pacing guides”) – but hear me out!

Bernice and all those lovely chaps at 4MAT (it has grown a wee bit since the early days – see, for example, 4MAT4BUSINESS or 4MAT4BIOLOGY or 4MAT4COLLEGE (to name but a few), have grounded the model on a surprisingly simple “cycle of LEARNing” – an “instructional approach” that begins with LEARNer engagement – and moves to knowledge acquisition to skills and fluency development to creative adaptation.

It is also backed-up by more research than you can shake a stick at! Now, you see why I can be forgiven for dipping my toe into the “ways of the Sith”!

Maybe, it’s a bit unfair of me to talk of them being “Sith Lords” in this way. I mean nearly of us, when asked what we “do”, will say “I’m a TEACHer”. Some of us might also say “Oh, I’m in the TEACHing game”even though, we are really in the “business of LEARNing”!


What Berniceknew” was that LEARNing is not really about TEACHing or TRAINing (à la the “LEARNing by LISTENing” models of knowledge transmission that were around in the mid-80s – and, by that, I mean the 1880s as well as the 1980s). She decided she wanted create an instructional model that was based on, in her opinion, the FOUR essential ingredients of LEARNing:

Any TEACHer, worth her salt, will recognise that almost all “great lessons”, great programmes even, will have all of these elements.


However, and perhaps more important than these ingredients (joking – will come back to these later, promise), the 4MAT model is grounded on the “interplay” in how people perceive (“feel” and “think”) and process (“reflect” and “do”) – and thus, LEARN.

As you see, we start to see the terms MEANING, CONCEPTS, SKILLS and ADAPTATION – kicking in here (I knew it was a mistake to start off with that all-you-eat-buffet image). Actually, when I think about it – I have not done justice to this bit of the model. Why not pop over to YouTube and listen to Bernice tell you about it herself? She does a far better “job” than I ever could…

BTW – thank you Symbolcoach for making these so easy to find


Now, if you “read” or “listened” well enough, you’ll have picked up that 4MAT does, in fact, stand on the shoulders of such “giants” as John Dewey, Carl Jung, and David Kolb – and also has its own FOUR 4MAT LEARNing Styles:



Simple (and “intuitive”) enough, yes?

The fact that each different “type of LEARNer” has a “favourite question” hints at a core “assumption” of the 4MAT model – WE all LEARN by seeking answers to our OWN questions.

You can check out all the other main assumptions HEREa quick “check” of these should help you see if your own beliefs are aligned with those of 4MAT.

Again, if you do this – you should see why I enjoy flirting with these “Sith Lords” so much!


…Come on! Not used a comic character all bloody weekThe Thing is kinda “cool”! 


while different LEARNers might have a preferred “LEARNing style” (and “question”), effective TEACHing (or TRAINing) requires that all LEARNers be encouraged to “focus” on all FOUR question types.

Fair (and “intuitive”) enough, yes?


This is where the power of “instruction” comes into play with allthingslearning – and, the 4MAT model encourages teachers and trainers to look at the types of questions they typically focus on before taking steps to ensure that the LEARNing opportunities they design do (in fact) “balance” attention to all four question types – and LEARNers.

And, NO

  • What is this?
  • This is a pencil!

…are NOT on the list!


What I really like is when we elaborate on these basic question words – and see the core  questions that students can be “LEARNed” to ask themselves:


Now, obviously – these questions (and others like them) work really well in day-to-day lessons, weekly assignments and bigger picture or longer-term projects. They can also be used to inform reflection or feedback sessions, guide team meetings and set the agenda for counselling sessions. But, they are much more effective when placed in a “questioning culture” – a classroom (and “online”) culture in which the “rules of the game” have been established by the types of LEARNing conversations we looked in Part 04 (…of this never-ending saga)!

I won’t try pulling the wool over your eyes – I am not totally convinced that all the terms and concepts used in the 4MAT model are totally aligned to my own views on “effective classroom practice”. As I said, we TEACHers do tend to put on our “doubting Thomas caps” when we hear the world “model” – as with any “tool”, the way the “handyman” uses it (or adapts it) is often more important.

But as “models” go, it does contain many of the things that I thunk “matter” (and matter a “lot”) – especially for those of us that might be new to the “game” or want to “play” the game a little differently (or better…).


One of these has to be the fact that the 4MAT model is based on a cycle of LEARNing  (not a single “lecture” or page from a “textbook”) that focusses attention on:

  • LEARNerEngagement”
  • TEACHer and LEARNer “Sharing”
  • LEARNerPractice
  • LEARNerPerformance” (and hopefully “feedback”)

…all fuelled by a “question-driven approach”.


This type of approach can, and should, also be used to encourage students to reflect on and evaluate their own LEARNing and the LEARNing opportunities they are provided (whether you “go-4MAT-or-not”) – via additional questions, such as:


Questions like these give us “answers” that can start to create even more “win-win” student LEARNing – and, teacher LEARNing to boot!

Now, I’m not sure if my “dear TEACHer friend” (I’m still waiting to see what he says when he reads these last few posts) would also consider these questions a “bit much” – but, you know what – what he didn’t say (after we wrapped up our little “chat”) was that he was still fed up with me banging on about TEACHers asking questions of themselves.

In fact, he offered me another of his favourite quotes – as soon as he got home:

Especially, if that “talking” is all about getting through the “pacing guide” or the “test”…


Me thunks…I’m now ready…for Part 05 of that “other dizi”!

Questions Students Ask (aka “LEARNing THAT LASTS” – Pt 04)

In Classroom Teaching, The Paradigm Debate on 10/08/2012 at 2:40 pm

Just like my friend…- a good teachera teacher who really cares about his studentsa teacher who works really hard to make the biggest difference he can… – a lot of us “blame” the systems, the schools, the curricular, the tests we have to work with. We are “human”, too!

We all know that a “good STUDENT” is not necessarily a “good LEARNer” (what did my darling Padmé say earlier?) – we all know…that much school LEARNing (often and sadly) is not really LEARNing at all…it’s just STUDYing (moreso in some countries than others)…worse, it’s just STUDYing designed to help TEACHers cover the “pacing guide” and achieve “test success”!

Now, I’m not saying that covering the curriculum…and passing “the test”…are a waste of time (OK – maybe I am, especially when the curricular “suck” and the tests are, shall we say, “crap”)! What I am saying is that we, as TEACHers, have to reflect on how we might be “supporting” all these things by doing stuff we know is “wrong”, how we might have adapted ourselves (often reluctantly or unconsciously) to things that we know (in our heart-of-hearts) are “harmful“…to the LEARNing of our students!

In our rush to create as many “successful STUDENTS” as possible, are we perhaps using a “classroom currency” that is holding them back from becoming “successful LEARNers”?

Let’s stick with my friend’s story and our “chat” for a minute or three.


So, I bought him another drink…and asked if he had ever used the following questions at the start of an academic year:

He told me that that he never had…but I saw a “smile” come back to his face. He told me that he often started the year with a discussion around “the rules of the game” (in the classroom and the “acts of STUDYing”)…but, he really liked the idea of upfronting this with a “LEARNing conversation” on the nature of “success” – in school, at work ,in life (as it does really exists – after school – really, really)! 

The second question, he told me, looked liked one that could help “change” a few habits – even, “flag” that he wanted to “do” business differently (in line with the list of things that students “need”) and that he could “do” that “business” differently “with” the students and build it into his “rules of the game”!

I told him that I would “steal” that idea, too!


I also asked if he had tried to get them away from his “question horribalis by getting them to ask two slightly different questions:

He thought these two were “pretty neat” (his words) and could help students take a closer look at the curriculum – take a bit of “ownership”. However, he wanted to know why I would want to “encourage” them to use such similar questions to the one he hated.

Basically, I said, the second question is just about acknowledging that (for most students) the “mode of assessment” IS the “curriculum” – and, while we might not be able to change the “test” (or create more “meaningful curricular”) overnight, there are bigger issues than the short-term goals of the “test” – goals that emphasise LEARNing THAT LASTS and what students need to do with what they LEARN long after the test is over and done with…

…and, it’s the TEACHer’s job…yes, I said the “TEACHer’s job”to assist in the discovery of this “truth”!


We talked for a while about the whole “questioning culture thingy” and the “currency jobbie” – and then he said that a part of his big problem this year was that he had quite simply “forgotten” that a big chunk of the “currency that matters” is the questions we use with students or (more importantlythe questions they LEARN from us.

What he said then really “hit the spot”!

“You know what? These two questions could really have helped me put a stop to those other silly questions, couldn’t they?” – OK, maybe not what he said exactly (word-for-word) – but this was, “I guess I forgot to invest in the right questions this year – I guess I forgot that my job is not to just cover the curriculum…but LEARN them stuff that makes my doing that a bit easier”!


We were on a rollI suggested a few more:

These he liked – and were similiar to other “activities” he did use at the start of the year. He had always loved that last question – used it as a way to encourage more “critical thunking” in his students. The thing was, he noted, was that he’d never really used it in discussions on “approaches to LEARNing” or “LEARNing styles” – this is because (he said) the activities he used did not move beyond “awareness” to “action“.

I reminded him of a couple of things on the “list” (I can never remember them all – thank God for iPads) – and suggested a couple more questions that would fit in with his “contract-building” and “the rules of the game” activities:

These he liked – but told me they might need a translation! I did not recommend Google Translate!


He reminded me that I’d said something about “goals” and I told him about four other questions that I’d found really useful to pull all the other LEARNing conversations with students “together”:

OK – he told me I might be “pushing” it with those ones! But, he liked them, too…especially, the “insights” he could glean about his students from these (and similar) questions.

We also talked about how questions like these really “set the tone” for a more collaborative, a more “personal” relationship with studentswe all know how much students are just plain tired of all the “fake relationships” they experience in school, college and universities. This “tone”. we agreed, was the very basis of “engagement”.

What was really interesting (for me) was how he had “changed” in the 10 to 15 minutes since he’d had a bitch about the curriculum and tests (and, it wasn’t just the other drink I had bought him). The questions had helped us “connect” more, helped us “explore options“, helped us “map out” a couple of strategies – together.

All of them (even the ones about “heart” and “values”), he told – me made a lot of sense. Sense he had not used in many of his classes this year (bloody curricular, bloody tests)  – but sense that had energised him and reminded him about what really matters…


Far from “having a go at me” or “me” being a pitbull with “him” – what we had co-created was as authentic a collaborative TEACHer LEARNing conversation as you can get.

We LEARNed eathother so much…ohh, that more of our institutions created these types of “spaces”…facilitated these types of LEARNing conversations for TEACHers…

Hey, you never know…more “chats” like this might actually lead to a few more real changes to all those curricular and tests we love to hate!


He did ask me if I had come up with the idea for all these “student LEARNing questions” from my trip to Alverno (I mentioned this in the post – Can a teacher “create” LEARNing THAT LASTS?).

I think the Alverno questions had helped but I also told him I’d got a lot of the ideas from books I had stumbled upon:

1) Peter Block’s – THE ANSWER TO HOW IS YES 

2) Michael Marquardt’s – LEADING WITH QUESTIONS 




…I also told him that I’d modified a lot of the coaching / mentoring questions I’d been exposed to over the years – and also by “forgetting” loads of stuff myself.

I guess Will Rogers was right when he said:

…I think most of us need to do all three and remember we can sometimes LEARN best from “high-voltage experiences”!



I also had to “come clean” with him…and tell him that I had developed a lot of these “student LEARNing questions” from a bunch of guys working with the “Dark Side” – the “Sith” who practice the dark arts of TEACHing and TRAINing.

In my defence (theirs, too) – a “version” of the TEACHing/TRAINing Paradigm that does put LEARNing at the heart of its approach.


And, you thought the “end was in sight” for this “dizi”!

– More on this later!


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”!


LEARNing THAT LASTS – the “Pinterest” VERSION!

In Classroom Teaching, The Paradigm Debate on 29/07/2012 at 1:41 pm

A few days ago…feels like “years” with this bloody heat here in Ankara – I did a post calledCan a teacher “create” LEARNing THAT LASTS? 

The feedback was great – some said it was a real “THUNKing” post that got their juices flowing


A couple of others said…”too long”:

“Age of distraction”…”content is king”…”wordbites” 

you know the deal!


So…to help “win” back my clients (both the visually-talented and the textually-challenged)…this is the PINTEREST version!

The question we all need to ask more.




Duh! We actually pay money for these dictionaries? 

OK – BUT is that it?


Mmmm, also true – BUT is that it?

Nice – and very true. BUT….I say again, is that IT!

Novel – got me attention! What happens “between” these two?

Wiki – not too shabby here! Well done – BUT is it enough…still?

The other question we need to ask – sometimes more than the first one! 


I mean have we not heard what “the” man said:


This is what we need to do – boyz n’ gurlz…


So, ask a few more questions…with TEACHing friends, perhaps!


Mmmmm – this is gonna hurt a few heads!

 This one, too 😉 

The “killer”….how many times have we asked this one at a TEACHer’s meeting?


I need an aspirin! BUT wait…this is THE question….THE QUESTION!


This is the ANSWER….


This is what the question produced…at Alverno!





Duh! So, why has so little changed over the past 5, 15, 50 years….???  And, this is the stuff the LEARNers have to do…do we need to do this to….as TEACHers?


Maybe we need to do this!

Well said, my man….you been workin’ out?



These are questions that every institution, every department and every TEACHer needs to ask. Institutions and departments “work” because of TEACHers (not as we may think the so-called leaders that run departments and institutions) – TEACHers are the “fuel” that fire up the “engine”. 

We know:



BUT…As we noted above:

…thunking about LEARNing is the “key” – and thunking about LEARNers.

So, what do LEARNers need – hadi bakalım!  (Google Translate STILL sucks)!


And – this is the bit that might “tire” a few of my “critics”…


  • 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

So, the real question is:

Can a teacher “create” LEARNing THAT LASTS?

In Classroom Teaching, The Paradigm Debate on 26/07/2012 at 10:41 pm

Some of you (that drop into the blog from time to time) will have noticed that my “bouts of bloggery” have been a bit few and far between over the past few weeks (with the exception of the mega mini-soap I have been doing on the Rocks n’ Hard Places in “curriculum pacing guides” – BTW, I’ve taken a bit of “time off” before I do Part 05)…

The reason? Well, I’ve been working on a book with an old pal of mine here in Ankara (trust me – “books” are far more hard work than throwing out a few hundred words of “blog-o-rrea” every week or so). I won’t get into the details of the book (but Part 04 of Rocks n’ Hard Places will give you an idea of how we are trying to make it a bit “different”) – suffice to say – the idea of “LEARNing that lasts” is a big part of it.


Now, some of you might say – “Duh! Of course, LEARNing should last…if not, what’s the point?”

…and, you’d be right!

…even though we know (in our heart-of-hearts) LEARNing needs to be at heart of our decision-making in education, it is NOT…well, not “LEARNing of the LASTing variety”!

Oh, God! He’s off again…

Hear me out! Hear me out!

I promise this is not a “rant” – well, not too much of a “rant”!


You see, in the institutional coin toss between LEARNing and TEACHingand, despite what we might think we know about “probability on the heads or tails frontTEACHing still comes up trumps with more frequency than it should!

You see… 

Most people have a perspective on TEACHing (especially, it would seem, politicians and so-called edu-reformers) – they have a viewpoint, an “opinion” on TEACHing. Usually, this viewpoint is all about that a crap job educators and teachers are doing these days – and how we could all do a far better job if we just used more technology or did more standardised tests).

Yeah, right!


Teachers, however, especially “thunking teachers” tend to take a TEACHing PERSPECTIVE” (they take a “stance”, they take a position) – and this position informs their “practice”).

Think about the “difference” between the “have” and the “take” for a minute – very different, yes?

Taking a TEACHing Perspective is usually more “principled”, more “conscious”, more “informed– in classroom TEACHing it means what is said and done in the classroom is more likely to be based on more principled approaches or methods, and guide what teachers do in the classroom. Nothing wrong with that – if only more politicians and “self-anointed reformers” did the same (or just knew what the hell they were banging on about)!

However, we also have to realise that TEACHers “grow up” in educational institutions – some of them do teacher education programmes, some of them take the more academic track (but end up doing more TEACHing than research – what they are trained to do). Both of these groups, so the research tells us, do more LEARNing on-the-job or keep on with the ways they were LEARNed (by others on-the-job) – in institutions. These institutions “socialise” TEACHers into certain ways of thinking, certain ways of doing – or acting.


The problem is – wait for it – most of these institutions are (still) grounded on a fundamental “design flaw”. In fact, we could say – or rather, I would say:

Barr and Tagg said it better than I ever could (over 15 years ago)…


They elaborated (over 15 years ago)…


A lot of  teachers “heard” them…a few institutions “read” the article…but…not much has changed since then – 17 years ago!

Which is why, lads n’ lasses… so many teachers still focus on “taking a TEACHing PERSPECTIVE” rather than “taking a LEARNing PERSPECTIVE”.

Even though we know (don’t we?) that…


Perhaps, this is why we see so such “poverty” in the way we define LEARNing. For example, look at how this world-famous dictionary “explains” what LEARNing is:

Shiriously? Is that the best we do???


What about this one? I stumbled on this yesterday…in a (very) popular blog for teachersby teachers:

Me thinks I might have to stop defending me teacher-blogger pals, if this the best we can do!

Sorry, guys – this just does not cut it…


This one? This time a favourite of psychologists and therapists:

OK – I’m seeing “something” here. But, did Hannibal’s behaviour really “change” in a LASTing mannerClarice?



As much as the “novelty” of this one (from a world famous “self-help guru” – also a “teacher”) almost got me, again it just lacked the “stuff”!


Actually, and it pains me to say this, but Wikipedia managed to come up with a half-decent definition:

Shock, horror! Credit where credit’s due, boys and girls! Pity they won’t be around much longer!

Tony, stay focussed – we’re talking about “LEARNing that LASTS”!


OK – in an earlier post, I told you about a little place I visited a fair few years ago – Alverno College, in Milwaukee. A place that had quite a profound effect on how I (now) “do business” in education.

In that post, I think I said something like – the “guys” at Alverno made me see…


You see, they “invented” the phrase “LEARNing That Lasts” (you have to check out “The” BOOK, if you haven’t already – it became one of my LEARNing “Bibles” – and still is)!

For example, take a look at their “definition” of LEARNingcompare it with the ones we have just looked at… 

Much better, yes? 


What I saw in the work the faculty at Alverno had been doing (since 197322 years before Barr and Tagg talked about their “design flaw”) was that to get to “LEARNing that LASTS” we have to move on further than what students “know” – we have to move onto what they can “do” with what they know. Even more than that – we also have to move onto how they can “keep improving” what they can do with what they know (and LEARN – with us)!

It’s a mouthful…I know!

It’s also about how students think, feel and actand how these things impact their decision-making, choices and interactions with otherswell beyond “graduation” and their “formal” education…

That is “LEARNing that LASTS”LEARNing that makes a significant and sustainable (and “real”) difference to the lives of LEARNers…


Now, I’m guessing that around about “now” – the question on your lips is:

…sure it is!

That was the exact same question I had all those years back!


Did they have bags of money? Did they have more resources than God? Did they have hundreds of teachers just sitting around twiddling their thumbs?


They just realised “something” was not “quite right” – they realised that they could be doing better…and that “something” was all about…


Bet you your next pay-check that you thought I was going to say “LEARNing”yes?


Remember a bit earlier – we were going on about having a perspective on TEACHing and taking a TEACHing PERSPECTIVE. The same “distinction” is true of curriculum. Most educators “have a perspective on curriculum” (we hate it – especially when it comes in the form of a “pacing guide”) – but very few of us:

Sorry about that…could not resist…this is a looooooooong post!


This is what Alverno set out to do.

However, what I think (IMHO) they were “really” doing was starting out on a journey that ultimately would lead them to “take a LEARNing PERSPECTIVE” – and create a “real” (educational) “LEARNing Organisation”.

This was very significant – a very radical (institutional) change!

They realised that “rethunking education” and LEARNing was not just about changing course content (or course codes) – it requires new thunking about curriculum, assessment, and teacher development.

What did Dexter say?


They just “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…and inviting people to do the same on the blog (with a little help from Peter Blockfor those of you that want to go back to Türkçe).

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:

…and developed a collaborativeinterdisciplinary 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.

They actually…and this will make you crap your pants (if you work in a “testing unit”)…they “did away with”grades – and opted for a system that focussed on “results”!

And…you wonder why I fell in love with the place…and all the lovely faculty there!


Now, if you are a “HOW-Guy” (rather than a “WHY-Guy” or “Gal”) – you have probably realised that I have not fully answered the question:

…and, you’d be right!


I am actually thinking (yes, right now – as I type away) whether to split this post into two (Mmmmm, split it up I might) – but hey, what the hell – you survived this far!

Welcome to Tony’s OPUS-MAXIMUS…for the month!

They focussed on TEACHer LEARNing! Well, actually, it was a bit more like a process of Q-CBL and CPD for Educators (I’m still working on that acronym – not quite there, yet)

…and “yes”…I do own the “rights” to that one!


Like all sensible institutions, the Alverno guys, knew that:

So, they started a series of LEARNing Conversations in their faculty teams (within and across all their teams). They also knew that there was a huge difference between questions like:

Just about “heads or tails” it is not…


The core question they started with was, of course (canlarım benim):

Now, if you want (and you need a “rest”) – take 5 minutes and write your own version. Tweet it to 10 other teachersand see what you get back (seriously)!

The point here is that teachers can answer these questions on their “own” – but with collaboration, the benefits really start to kick in.

Institutions you have no choice! If you want to do “right” by your TEACHers and LEARNers!


The Alverno faculty did not stop there (though I hear it took around 6 months to get something half-decent on that first question). They then tackled these two:

They look pretty self-explanatory – do not be fooled! It’s the “LEARNing conversations” around these questions which is the focus. The “process” is what gets “results” – the “product” is sharing, clarification and “adaptation”!


There were others:


And, they just kept getting better and better;

Now, here we have a couple of seriously heavy-weight questions – as soon as we put the focus on LEARNing (and LEARNers), all that “content” just seems a waste of time.

OK, that’s a bit harsh – but, compare the question “What CONTENT do I want to TEACH?” and the question “What TYPE of HUMAN BEING do I want to help BUILD?”

…no contest really!


This is where Alverno really began to evaluate what they were TEACHing – and started to reinvent their curriculum around the set of eight abilities we noted above (do take some time to wander around their website – just been updated and very cool)!

These two questions alone should give teachers days-and-days of fun – especially, when part of a “curriculum renewal” project.


Obviously, I am cutting a few corners here (that’s what we bloggers do, yes?) – they had many more questions that they worked to get to grips with and what they were doing was starting a long (a very long) process of trying to work out how they, the faculty, could best “cultivate” integrative and expansive capabilities across the lifetime of their LEARNersknock this off in a long weekend, we cannot!

To do this, they also had to bring the two side of the coin together – with TWO of my personal favourites:


…followed by my all-time favourite – that “question-of-questions”:


“The” BOOK I mentioned earlier, tracks the first 20 years of the Alverno “project” – a longitudinal study of how the faculty at the college created “LEARNing That LASTS” for their students with their highly acclaimed curriculum/assessment (and LEARNing-TEACHing) model.

Their “project” continues today…as it should…as it will always!

…I hear someone scream!


“You got me to read over 2,000 words – not including all the text in the images – and you ain’t even answered the question you posed in the post title”!



Always wondered what it would be like to say something like “that”!

I am not that “mean” – for me, what the Alverno project shows is that it is very possiblevery possibleThe secret – creating “LEARNing That LASTS” is essentially a question of:

…and ongoing “adaptation”:

After all, “adaptation” is LEARNing – for both LEARNers and TEACHers!

In this post (though it was not really my “plan” – blogging is kinda like that), we’ve explored the nature of LEARNing. I offered my own definition (birthed with the help of many hands), as well as other (not always so great) definitions.

When we think about TEACHing in this context – it is really all about helping or supporting this process and includes all of the things that we do to make it happen – whatever that definition might be (and this will “vary” according to context – in addition to teacher or institution).

These things we must be “aligned” – to what we believe, what we say we believe, what we “do” and, most importantly – what we do to “improve” in everything we do to make LEARNing happen (and LAST).


The starting point is to make these things “explicit” – for ourselves, initially – working with “others” (or on twitter) takes care of the rest…

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

Alverno got it so RIGHT…so many years ago!


And, the set of Q-CBL questions developed and used by Alverno faculty are the nuts n’ bolts of the three questions every teacher (and institution) needs to ask on a regular and on-going basis:


The other question:



In the end, and this will not be in “the book”:

I am such a “geek”!