Tony Gurr

Posts Tagged ‘curriculum’

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

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




…in big, bad İstanbul


I lied…


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?


YOU tell ME…


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!


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!


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.


The myth is essentially this:

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


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.


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


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?


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.


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.


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.


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!


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

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


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.


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


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.

FIXing Hazırlık… (Pt 01 of 03)

In Adult Learners, ELT and ELL, Our Universities, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness on 21/05/2013 at 2:38 pm

Fixing FQ 01


Have you ever been on the sharp end of a question like that?

It’s a bit ‘rude’, innit?


BUT…that’s exactly the question (OK…I used the term ‘smarty-pants’ to convey the stress and intonation used…as well as some of the facial expressions I saw) that I have been asked in a number of conversations since I started:

Truth (mini ver 01)

…in the last few posts I have being doing:

(BTW – ‘hazırlık’ is the Turkish term for the English Language Preparatory Programmes run by many universities here…just so you know)!


Perhaps, I should just remind those people what my dear friend Hannibal ‘does’ with rude people

Hannibal (dinner)


I know, I know…I shouldn’t get upset by these types of questions. I know I have put myself in the firing line by popping my head out of the box. 

…just wait till I do the series on what actually happens in faculty departments!



The thing is that…this type of question started to be dropped into my in-box and the comments section of the posts before I’d even got to the second blog post. Some of them were not as rude…they were genuine questions, from genuine people…facing many of the genuine ‘problems’ that I was trying to draw attention to.

Questions like:

Fixing FQ 02

…fair enough!


The thing is…these questions reminded me of the wonderful work of Peter Block (esp. his perspective-shaking book – THE ANSWER TO HOW IS ‘YES’).

For Peter, these types of questions are (usually) a defense against getting an ‘improvement effort’ started, a defense against change.

No change (cartoon)

…so sad! …so true! …so common!


Now, I’m not so sure that everyone who asks a HOW-question is running from the truth (or is trying to postpone actually doing something about a problem). However, Peter’s questions are used a heck of a lot by people in our hazırlık schools (and the guys that ‘control’ these schools with their ‘decision-making’) – especially those with those heady job titles we discussed.

Very few of these hazırlık stakeholders, for example, ask one of the ‘alternative questions’ suggested by Peter:


Fixing FQ 07


…I wonder why, acaba? We’ll come back to this – promise!


Instead, many hazırlık stakeholders (including LEARNers…and their parents) ask questions like this:

Fixing FQ 03

This question tells us a lot.

  • Firstly, that these stakeholders are more interested in an ‘answer-orientated’ approach to ‘quality education’ – you know, ‘quick fixes’ or ‘magic bullets’.
  • Secondly, that they have more ‘faith’ in others (esp. foreigners…and, even better, foreign consultants) than they do in themselves and their own abilities.
  • Thirdly, that all it takes to ‘fix’ a problem is to do a bit more “alıntı, çalıntı and mış-gibi yapmak” (the Turkish translation for “borrowing, ripping off, and faking-it-till-you-make-it”).


Silly…misguided…(and) just plain dumb!


These people often jump to other questions (when they stumble onto a ‘solution’ they can ‘import’) – questions like these:

Fixing FQ 04 and 05

Mmmm…we were asking why so many Mütivelli Heyeti Başkanlar (Chairmen…and they are often ‘men’…of the Board) wanted to increase contact hours and class size!

Now, you know…

You see, many hazırlık stakeholders want the ‘cheapest’ version of the ‘quick fix’ possible – without really lifting a finger (for hazırlık that is…the Engineering Faculty can, as a rule, get whatever the bloody hell it wants). The question about length of time required kinda gives this away, too!



…my favourite question is this one:

Fixing FQ 06

What were we saying about the blame game?


…after all, it’s so easy to point the finger…when you do not really want to ‘fix’ stuff. Of course, we all want to give the impression that we…us…ourselves…have no trouble going the extra mile (to put LEARNing at the heart of our decision-making).

Blame Game 01

…it’s just THEM…THEY…those (bloody) OTHERS – that ‘stop’ us!


And…if that don’t work, we always have the other

Change (50 reasons)

…up our sleeves!


The combination of a culture of blame (along with its sister culture – ‘CYA) and our unquestioning worship of “how-to” pragmatism (constantly asking “how” – rarely “why) basically means that most of our hazırlık schools are doing more and more about things that mean less and lessfor both LEARNers and EDUcators!

Insane (TG version)


The first of Peter’s alternative questions (the one I promised to come back to) has much to do with my current theme:

TELLing the truth


The question:

Fixing FQ 07

…is one for all stakeholdersteachers, administrators (including Rectors and the Mütevelli Heyeti), testing and curriculum specialists and LEARNers (no…they are not angels either). Rather than pointing the finger or passing-the-buck, this question asks us all to take personal responsibility for whatever might be ‘broken’ across our hazırlık schools.

Yes, ‘being’ truthful – before ‘telling the truth’!

Peter tells us that other questions can help us get to this question:

Fixing FQ 08 09 and 10


questions that recognise we need to ‘question’ our ‘purpose’ – and how well we might be meeting that purpose…and how far we believe (in our heart of hearts) that it is possible to create new kinds of LEARNing institutions (and workplaces) grounded on more positive values, such as respect, trust and listening

Fixing FQ 11 12 and 13

questions that require us to look at the reasons we have been putting off the ‘fixes’ all of us know are in the best interests of the individuals and communities that live, LEARN and work in our institutions:

…and commit to ‘do’ whatever it takes to make these things happen!


Yes…even LEARNers…especially with LEARNers!


This is where you scroll back to the top…while I draft Pt 02 of 03!

So…Hazırlık is BROKEN! – Time to play…

In Adult Learners, ELT and ELL, Our Universities, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness on 14/05/2013 at 9:14 pm

Blame Game 02 (parents and teachers)

I told you all (at the very start of this little series)…we’d come back to this!


You know how to play, yes?

We pick an individual (or group)…and start pointing fingers:

Blame Game (TG ver)

…where to begin – with allthingshazırlık? 


Even though we human beings have been playing this game for years…and (in education) we have elevated it to an art form – the first ‘target’ is usually the same!


Bedtime reading (teachers)

I mean, come on!

They are all bloody lazybeen doing the same kinds of thing for years. They refuse to changejust look at how many of them are still not using technology in their classrooms. Shiriously, I mean…we offer them all these workshops and development opportunities…and they just sit there!

I guess it might be OK if they actually got decent results…but look how many of their students are failing all those lovely tests and exams we have developed for them.

That Jeff Bliss kid on YouTube (you know the one with the lovely hair) is so right…most teachers are just in it for the pay cheque…nothing inspirational, nothing that makes kids think…nothing!

Fire them all!


Sorry (bw)

You know what I really think! Don’t you?


I did promise to uphold George Orwell’s advice in this series…

Truth (mini ver 02)

Yes, there are some teachers out there that are lazy and do not care (as in any profession)– they might even deserve to lose their jobs.

So, “deal” with them on a case by case basis – do not tar and feather a whole community for the sins of the few!

And, pleasepleasefor crying out loud…do not believe everything you see in the blogosphere (esp. on this blog)…or anything from the so-called ‘EDUreformers’ (esp. if they owned a software firm…or still own a construction company)!


Hang on a tick there, Tony! We are supposed to be playing the game…we do NOT apologise in this ‘game’!

Sorry, forgot meself there for a minute…well, if we are gonna play properly – we might as well start at the top.

YES (red exlam tilted)

Mmmm, where is the top, acaba?

  • The SYSTEM (whatever that is) is ‘crap’!
  • ADMINISTRATORS are ‘crap’!


OK, OK…but we meant the ‘top…top’:

  • YÖK is ‘crap’!
  • The UNIVERSITY EXAM is ‘crap’!


…didn’t you say something about the serenity prayer, earlier?

Serenity Prayer

Let’s just stay with the easy stuff:

  • RECTORS are ‘crap’!
  • DEANS are ‘crap’!
  • DIRECTORS are ‘crap’!
  • DEPUTY DIRECTORS are ‘crap’!
  • CHAIRS are ‘crap’!
  • DEPARTMENT HEADS are ‘crap’!
  • COORDINATORS are ‘crap’!
  • LECTURERS are ‘crap’!


Hang on…we work at a Vakıf University!

  • The MÜTEVELLİ HEYETİ is ‘crap’!

Langwich Scool cartoon

Wait a minute…didn’t these kids study English at school?

  • PRIMARY TEACHERS are ‘crap’!
  • SECONDARY TEACHERS are ‘crap’!

And…what about all those ‘sweat-shops’ – parents paid them a bloody fortune?

  • DERSHANE TEACHERS are ‘crap’!
  • PRIVATE TUTORS are ‘crap’!


Are we forgetting anyone?

  • PARENTS are ‘crap’!

all of them are ‘idiots’! And, there’s really something about all those ‘sonradan görme’ parents, you know…the ‘new rich upstarts’ – the ‘kültürsüz nouveau riche’ we all love to hate!


Ahhhh, we forgot one group – a very important group!

  • STUDENTS are ‘crap’!

expletive bubble

…they are lazy, never want to do any work (let alone homework or those wonderful online practice activities we give them)…always on their bloody phones! All they want to know and ask is “Hocam, is this gonna be on the test?” …then get straight to Facebook or Instagram. We were never like that when we were younger…what’s wrong with them?

I mean do they not care about LEARNing…at all?

Sound familiar? Bet you have even said a few of these things yourself, yes?


Oh, yeah – before we wrap up! And, what about those stupid books we have to use?

  • PUBLISHERS are ‘crap’!

Selection what?


Feel better?

So, how much have we ‘fixed’?


FAILure (Covey quote)

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’!


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!


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’!


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!


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


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…


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!


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!


Hey, just me…

Truth (mini ver 02)



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)!


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!


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’!


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?


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!


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!


For mestandards are critical:

Standards (are good)


…but not when we regard them as:

Quality McNuggets

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


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)



Truth (mini ver 02)



Joker (Why So Serious)


Well, we have to get it right with allthingsquality

Broken Quality (TG definition)

…and you can take that to the IMF!


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!



ONE thing I do know


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)!


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.


Truth (mini ver 02)


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!


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…


One of my opening slides was this one:

Uncover the curriculum

Only an idiot would disagree with this!


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!


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:


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!


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!


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?


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???


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!


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


…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…


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



What does it mean to “UNcover” a CURRICULUM? (The Postscript)

In Classroom Teaching, Curriculum on 09/10/2012 at 9:28 pm

At the very start of this mini-series (Pt 01), I kicked off with a little mini-quiz asking you to thunk about the collocations and synonyms stored in your grey matter vis-a-vis the word “curriculum”

OK – so I stacked to odds in my favour a wee bit!

But, I felt “cheeky” enough to ask whether my seeming ability to “guess” what was on your mind meant that (either) I was a really smart cookie or just really good at Jedi Mind Tricks

I’m not really that smart (as my darling wife knows all too well) – just got almost 30 years of making silly EDUmistakes under me belt…and a whole lot of LEARNing from them!


However, I am savvy enough to know that when I do a post…like the last one (Pt 06)…or the Pt 05 that I did a couple of days ago, I’m going to get a reaction or 3

One of these…from one of my favourite “friendly critics”…came almost 2 minutes…yes, I said 2 minutes…after I published the last installment.

It went something like this:

Now, I know this was probably a cunning ruse to get a rise from me…someone trying to rattle my cage.

It worked!


The thing is that there are still many of us out there in EDUland that do not get what Krissy was getting at…or the thunking behind many of the choices that great TEACHers make…Every. Single. Day…

I guess I need to explain this a wee bit…


When someone asks you for a “checklist” or a set of Top 10 “tricks n’ hints”, what they are really asking is:

Looks harmless enough, yes?


Unless you “notice”…something in the “way” they ask this question. That “way” can tell you a lot more than the six little letters that make up the question itself.

In fact, you can tell even more from the other questions that often come in its wake:

Do you “smell” it now?


…especially “that” last onestinks to high heaven of:


Now, I wish I could say all these questions were the product of my own grey matter – created by Peter Block they were (see, I did not forget what I hinted at in Pt 06 – and, it’s almost as if my “friendly critic” were as good at Jedi Mind Tricks as I is, too)!

But…I’ve “heard” them enough (or versions of them) over the decades!


Peter highlights these questions to show how we have all become obsessed with “how-to pragmatism” – a product of living in an answer-orientated world and its love affair with the notion of best practice

…and a preference for asking the quick-fix question “What works?” rather than the far more important question “What matters?”!


The resultin EDUcation?

The McDonaldification of LEARNing…embodied is such lovely little projects as “School-in-a-box” – projects that make some people almost as rich as God but…you know the rest!


The problemall over the world?

When we ask “how to do” something, suggests Peter, the very question expresses our bias for what is practical, concrete, and immediately useful, often at the expense of the really important stuff!

Often, the very question itself (and all its little “mates”) becomes a defence against action. If you smelled me earlier, you’d have worked out that these questions are frequently used as “tools” by those who want to “keep their heads down and stick to the rules”rather than “acting on what matters”.


The solution…says Peter (again) is to get back to asking powerful questionsthe right questions and paying careful attention to bringing people together as an engaged community.


Questions like:





Now, you see where I get it all from…it’s in the genes, too!


I dare you!


OK – let me be dead honest hereyes, I usually tells fibs left, right and centre on the blog!

I do not actually believe that most TEACHers do ask all of Peter’s “how-to-pragmatism” questions (administrators and EDUmoney-guys – Mmmm, that’s a different story) or use them as “tools” to avoid “change”.

I think many of us have simply fallen foul of the 21st Century “illness” in EDUcationmore and more of us are doing more and more about things that mean less and less!

…and WE let this happen to US!


Now, I know some of you actually follow the posts in sequence…and are probably asking:

“What the hell does all this have to do with…”

…around about NOW!


I thunk we can actually use Peter’s logic…to formulate the right kind of questions we should be asking of our curricular, our syllabiour (bloody awful) pacing guides!

…and ask these “together” with other TEACHers…to help re-create the engaged communities of purpose that are hard-wired into all our genes!


Questions like:


…and, you guessed it, others like these:


…in for a kuruş, in for a lira:


…and (not forgetting where I comes from) – in for a pound, in for a penny:




Because…Alberts says so:


…and, you just know he is more than just a pretty face!


Peter (though not as “sexy” as Albert) tells us that meaningful change or transformation can never come from collecting lists of best practices (or “tweets”) –

…to have to “pop” that little bubble (again)!


…it comes from asking profound questions that “entail paradox, questions that recognize that every answer creates its own set of problems” (2003: p.27).


Time to “take back” our classrooms, our curricular…our own CPD!



If you read only ONE book today, make it Peter Block’s THE ANSWER TO HOW IS YES 

What does it mean to “UNcover” a CURRICULUM? (Pt 06)

In Classroom Teaching, Curriculum on 09/10/2012 at 8:37 am

Yes…ME…”Mr. Question” himself…was asking the wrong bloody question…all the way through this mini-series!

Yep…the bloke who has been saying:

…for ages!


The same geezer who has been talking about a questioning culture – and has not been answering the questions you want him to answer…because he became a “disciple” of Peter Block so many bloody years ago!

Peter…like me…just “hates” (OK – that may be an over-statement) the quick “fix” approach to LEARNing:

…the approach that so many schools, colleges and universities seem to have adopted over the years!


But, let’s stick with individual TEACHers for a moment…so much more “fun”!


In Pt 03, I told you about Krissy (aka @ktvee)well, I went back to her blog after finishing up Pt 05…and saw that she had modified her poster on Classroom A and Classroom B to this:

What she was doing here was “adapting” or “evolving” her own thunking about TEACHing…about LEARNing – like all good TEACHers…she does this a lot!

AND…does it very publicly (like all good bloggers).

She was also emphasising that her “description” of Classroom A and Classroom B…was not meant to be seen as a Sith “either-or-option (something I might be accused of)!

…but rather was trying to reinforce the idea that we all need to be looking for “Classroom C” – the classroom that captures the “spirit” of what UNcovering your CURRICULUM…is meant to be.


The key, Krissy tells us is, is to “DEFINE YOUR CLASSROOM”:


When I look at TEACHers like Krissy, I don’t just see a great TEACHer with a great blog (with some even greater graphics – you know, I luvs me graphics too) – I see some thunking, some principles…some choices:



…about the type of LEARNing that will be co-created in the classroom. A clue – it is NOT one of the “red” ones!



…about the perspective we take on what curriculum is really all about. And, one that moves on from just “having a perspective on curriculum”to “TAKING a CURRICULUM PERSPECTIVE”.



…about the way we “do business” in the classroom. Erica says it all!


These CHOICES are not “quick fixes”…these are not “magic bullet recipes” for “UNcovering your CURRICULUM”

…they are CHOICES that matter!

What does it mean to “UNcover” a CURRICULUM? (Pt 05)

In Classroom Teaching, Curriculum on 07/10/2012 at 11:39 am

NO….I did not ask all those questions in Pt 04 of this mini-dizi just to give you a headache!



I did it to show that many institutions (even some of the so-called “EDUhigh-fliers”) have a long way to go to really help their TEACHersUNcover the CURRICULUM. They simply have not made the “paradigm jump” (and sorry for what you are about to look at below, again)…that would make their TEACHers’ jobs a lot easier…a lot more fulfilling and satisfying!


Till they do…it falls to individual TEACHers!


I know that I am sometimes a wee bit too cerebral (hence all the piccies of grey matter) – I know some people get a bit annoyed that I “ask” far more than I “answer”.


But…when I started this series I actually promised meself that I’d make it really “practical” – you know, focus on practical ways that TEACHers could LEARN about UNcovering their own CURRICULUM…

…as I noted in Pt 02, more people just use the phrase…rather than talk about how they do it…in practice (or so I thought)!


So, what I did was put a call out…to the tweetiverse:

…my darling wife is always telling me to send out more “positive energy” and “requests” to the tweetiverse…more often…or was that “universe” she was talking about?


Ne se…I got a number of responses:


I also received a fair few e-mails with some suggestions:

ALL…brilliant ideas!


…but still the hashtag (#UNcoveryourcurriculum) was getting pretty “lonely”. So…I decided to hit up a few members of my tweetiverse PLN…with direct messages (DMs) – DMs “begging” for ideas…

The begging worked…sort of:

…wot to do?


I had a deadline…and the best I could manage was a couple of brains (brains that people really did not like to look at – at all)! They were gonna “hate” me again!


…@whatedsaid to the rescue!

Ed (and her “gang”) and I had swapped a couple of mails…and I had vented my frustration that “nobody” was actually saying what they do to UNcover their CURRICULAR!

She corrected me…gave me a bunch of links.


Then it dawned on me (told you I can be a bit thick from time to time)…LOADS of people are talking about it! It’s just that they do not link their ideas to that sexy, sexy phrase!

…Ed even reminded me that “I” do it all the time!


You see…

…and “sharing” – over coffee with other TEACHers, in the blogosphere…on the tweetiverse!


I’d become so bloody obsessed with a “wordbite”…that I was missing the whole bloody point! I had been asking the wrong question…

Me thunks…I need a Pt 06!

What does it mean to “UNcover” a CURRICULUM? (Pt 04)

In Classroom Teaching, Curriculum on 05/10/2012 at 3:10 pm

As we saw in Pt 03UNcovering your CURRICULUM is all about…

TEACHing for LEARNing


Let me elaboratewith the help of a couple of friends!

When a TEACHer starts to UNcover his CURRICULUM we see a rush of collocations and synonyms that we do not typically associate with Classroom A:

The TEACHer in Classroom B is NOT about…

TEACHing for COVERage


She gets really angry when others try to force her to “just” focus on:

…and you really wouldn’t like her when she’s “angry”!


As we said – it IS all about TEACHers!

Most “UNcovering” is done in the classroom (why do you think we TEACHers get in trouble for “exposing” our students to everything left, right and centre) – what TEACHers “know” and what they “do with” what they know is almost as important as who they “are”! 

BUT…we all have to work with a CURRICULUM, of some sort – and this is why I asked the question I asked right at the start of this post:


OK – so here’s the deal…let me give you 5 minutes to dig out yours…yes, I know you might call it a syllabus (or even a “pacing guide”) – but pull it out, anyways!

Got it?

Sitting comfortably?

Let’s begin…


Well, just before that – could I ask:

We’ll come back to these – promise!


So, take a couple of minutes to shake the dust off it…sorry…flick through it.

Now, ask yourself this:

 If not, you is so lucky – do not leave that institution!


Otherwise…and like most of us…you are probably thunking…and whispering…

 …under your breath!



You see…most institutions do not operate in the way you might assume (from looking at the things they “say” about themselves on their websites…and the brochures they send out to parents)!


…to have to “pop” that little bubble!


If all schools, colleges and universities really caredand I mean “really cared”…about their LEARNers (and TEACHers), they would operate with a curriculum framework that would allow all of us to answer:

…to the following questions:


And then…

…TEACHers would also KNOW how the institution KNOWS these things …as well as KNOWıng that the institution checks in with LEARNers them on a regular basis!


There are a couple of questions that highlight the need for this information in a user-friendly way (LEARNers are users, too):


However,there is another critical factor:


BUT…this is the ONE:


…rather than their “rankings” or how many of their students out-did those “other guys” in the various high-stakes or do-or-die tests we are forced to take these days!

What does it mean to “UNcover” a CURRICULUM? (Pt 03)

In Classroom Teaching, Curriculum on 05/10/2012 at 8:25 am

I used that imageClassroom A and Classroom B – in a recent post. However, that time I was focussing on whether the “type” of classroom impacted how effectively EdTECH would be adopted – by the TEACHers in that classroom.

Yes, it was really about the TEACHerit still really about the TEACHer, when we talk about UNcovering the Curriculum

I borrowed that image from Krissy (aka @ktvee in the tweetiverse) and recently she did a post entitled – Beyond the Curriculum – yes, you guessed it…you have a reading assignment!

Go onclick on the link (above) to the post…it will take you TWO minutes…and I promise (cross my heart and hope to drop dead) my post will not be as “long” as my last one!


Nice post, yes? Wouldn’t you love to be a kid in that Classroom B!


OK – so just one, tweeny-weeny question:


…well, maybe just one moreWhy does she NOT say this:


TEACHers, like Krissy, just do not say things like this:

…TEACHers like Kath, too!


TEACHers, like Krissy and Kath, believe certain things…have principles like:

…and walk-their-talk…like Ed!


See…I did promise this post would not be that long!


If we are talking about UNcovering our CURRICULUM, surely we need to take a look at the “nature” of the curriculum that lets TEACHers (like Krissy, like Kate, like Ed….like YOU) do what they do even better!

See you soon!