Tony Gurr

Posts Tagged ‘curriculum renewal’

Will the REAL 4C’s Please Stand Up…

In Classroom Teaching, Curriculum on 21/10/2011 at 10:20 am

4Cs (logo 4 hands) Ver 02

A few weeks ago, I was asked if I had come across the 4C’s – I had to own up and said the only ones I knew of were from “sales & marketing” (giving away my background in “economics and banking” – did not go down well with my “trainee teachers”, especially ones who love the idea of Wall Street being taken over by the “people”)!

Had to have a “gander”…


Shock, horror….the web is awash with talk of the 4C’s – but not always the 4C’s of allthingslearning. For example, did you know that the 4C’s are also used in – Marketing (knew these ones), Healthcare, the Retail Business and (even) the Diamond Business?

The first set of 4C’s I stumbled on was because of a friend’s blog – and I was “directed” to a website called simply 4C. This site is run by Tyson Seburn, an educator in Toronto, and he has a lot to say about professional development for teachers – especially ELTers interested in tech and design. His 4C’s are:

Community Collaborate Connectivism Consulting

But, I guessed that last one of his meant I was barking up the wrong tree! That having been said – it’s a great site!




Then I got a bit “lost” – some surfing on the waves of the “21st Century Teacher” took me to the ACTFL site (the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages). And…blow me down if I didn’t find the 5C’s (of foreign language education):



That looked promising – but then I noticed “comparisons” and thought “Mmmmmmm….“!



Spoilt for choice, I decided that procrastination was my best option

– and so decided to “delay” my research (and this post).


Twitter….to the rescue. Out of the blue, a few days later, a tweet led me to come across what I thunk I was looking for – the 4C’s I had originally been told about:

4Cs (logo 4 components) Ver 02


Ahhhh – that’s better, I thought…


I liked the way this set covered the priorities we need to have for kids (and teachers) as we walk down the road towards the Brave New World that is unfolding before us – and this one also included “creativity“!

But, there’s one final twist to this story!


I once heard it said that “coincidence” is what we call something when we can’t see the “levels or pulleys”…So, yesterday morning I was pulling all my stuff together to finally do this post – I get another tweet, from Stephen Covey this time, (not a personal one, mind) saying – “…rid yourself of the five Emotional Cancers“:


Bloody hell…all this digital stuff is getting a bit much – need to “unplug” a little!


Of course, Covey’s 5C’s were not what I had in mind – but they do “contrast” nicely with the new “kids” on the block. Afterall, isn’t it easy (in “uncertain times”) to get all wrapped up in negativity?

The 4C’s do not do this – they represent a constructive, positive and optimistic “way ahead” for those of us that have lost faith in the “McCurricular” we are so-often asked to serve up our LEARNers.


Ken Kay, CEO of EdLeader21, has been running a great “series” on his Edutopia-based blog the past few weeks. In this series, he has been outlining how schools and districts can implement the P21 Framework for Learning (developed to assist teachers get their heads around the LEARNing outcomes that students need to become effective citizens, parents and employees in the 21st Century).


There are THREE reasons (I tried to come up with FOUR – but these worked fine) why I like this work:

  1. The P21 guys have taken the care and time to prepare a cool video that neatly shows the “challenge” – helping kids take it “above and bejond”.
  2. They have established solid links with Project-Based Learning – a favourite at Edutopia – that aims to encourage learners to explore real-world problems and challenges with a view to creating more active and engaged LEARNing.
  3. They have also paid attention to the practical steps that schools can take to “breathe life” into the 4C’s (often a “missing” ingredient with models like this).


Ken hasn’t quite finished all of his “steps” – but the final two (6 and 7) are on the way very soon. Why not take a look at the first few (and keep yours eyes open for the others):

My LAST word on this…a “big”
…to all the steps!
P.S: Since I first published this post, Ken had finished his wonderful series (and the book that goes with it). Check it out!

Seriously…what is CURRICULUM…Seriously? [Part SIX of SIX…for now]

In Curriculum, Our Schools, Our Universities on 01/04/2011 at 4:55 pm

An old, dear friend of mine in Abu Dhabi got me a note this morning and said I should “rename” my blog…to “allthingscurriculum”!

So, I have decided that today is the last day of the “saga”… for the time being!

OK – so, yesterday I left you with 10 words – 10 words that I felt “capture” the spirit or the principles required for a “curriculum rEvolution”.

Many of those words essentially convey concepts that need to underpin how we approach “doing curriculum”.

However, as I simply “gave” you the words yesterday, I thought I’d give you all a bit of an “exercise” today.

Below I have some explanations that relate to the 10 words – “…your mission, should you decide to accept it…” is to match the explanations below to the words from yesterday:


Principle A: an effective curriculum needs to be more than about what we are “teaching” today. It needs to move beyond “now” into the “future learning” of 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. [“the word” = ______________]

Yes, the correct word is: Future-orientated


Principle B: 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”. [“the word” = ______________]


Principle C: 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. [“the word” = ______________]


Principle D: a curriculum should answer the question “what are we here to do for our students” – it is the fundamental expression of an organisation’s aims and convictions. [“the word” = ______________]


Principle E: if a poor curriculum is one that looks more like a “checklist” of things to be poured into the heads of students, a great curriculum is one that has at its heart a sequence and structure that involves iterative revisiting and expansion over time. Concepts, themes and topic areas are revisited with greater sophistication, learners are given opportunities to demonstrate earlier understandings and presented with newer challenges and projects imagineered to lead them to higher ability levels. [“the word” = ______________]


Principle F: a curriculum has to be centred on learners, their learning and what they can do with that learning…nuff said! [“the word” = ______________]


Principle G: 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. [“the word” = ______________]


Principle H: when teachers and learners only conceive of curriculum as a “document”, we might as well pack up and go home. A real, breathing curriculum is one that teachers and learners see as an “ongoing process of questioning” of what ought to happen and an “ongoing process of problem-solving” with regards how to make that happen “in practice”. [“the word” = ______________]


Principle I: as such, curriculum also needs to be viewed as interactive process of designing, experiencing, evaluating and improving what learners can do with what they know. [“the word” = ______________]

…last but not least


Principle J: curriculum is a process (yes, I think we get this now, Tony), 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. [“the word” = ______________]

There is a “prize” for the first person who mails me the “correct answers”!


In a way, all these principles help teachers and educators move from the more simplistic conceptualisation of curriculum (the “teaching plan”) towards a more dynamic and expansive “perspective” focussed on answering the “three critical curriculum” questions:

  • What are we here to do for our students?
  • What should our students be learning?
  • How do we know that learning is taking place?

You would be surprised how many people struggle to answer these questions for their own institutions…from Rectors to Librarians.

This new “focus” or “perspective on real learning” necessarily involves a shift away from simply “teaching” maths, science, engineering, graphic design or English – to an understanding that recognises both students and educators are in the “production business”. And, they are in this process – together.

Students are in the business of “producing and creating knowledge” (understandings, attitudes, and abilities) that will make them effective learners, employees and citizens.

Educators, other staff and community partners are all ideally placed to act as “role-models” in this process and help learners deepen their life experiences, abilities and understanding of the world around them.

The process occurs in a collaborative and developmental manner as students interact with each other, educators and other staff, in addition to the community and workplace partners we all work with – it is not about “delivery” of a “lifeless document”.


OK – so what “actual steps” follow on from such principles?

Well, that’s the $10 million question!

But, a good start is to consider the following (in no particular order):

Schools, Colleges and Universities SHOULD……

  • Inspire their staff and faculty – “dare them to dream” about doing something different in education.
  • Support staff and faculty to access their own thinking, values and underlying assumptions about education, learning and teaching.
  • Establish forums and focus groups that allow teachers and educators (and other staff) to explore their beliefs of what constitutes learning, an education, curriculum, assessment, disciplinary thinking, and a 21st Century graduate.

  • Develop explicit statements about the whole educational process they are seeking to create for their learners (not just mission statements for “wall decoration”).
  • Create a “graduate profile” for the ideal student at their institution – a generic abilities framework that describes what graduates can do with they know.
  • Dedicate resources and support for the creation of a curriculum framework focussed on student achievement of the desired abilities and learning outcomes (not simply outputs or knowledge) in a principled, developmental and iterative, spiralling manner (yes, here is the answer to “Principle E”).

  • Expose staff and teachers to the concepts behind the “learning revolution” and “learning paradigm” and offer wider professional development opportunities that help staff look at education from the point of view of the learner.
  • Create mechanisms that relate an “evolving study of curriculum and assessment practices” to an on-going search for more effective ways to teach, create significant and engaging learning opportunities for students and support that learning through processes of assessment-for-learning, self-assessment and collection of longitudinal performance data (culture of evidence) across the whole career of learners.
  • Build professional development systems and communities that assist individual faculty members and teams to plan, teach, assess and evaluate their own practice (and move away from a generic, one-off, “expert” workshop model).

  • Put someone “in charge” of learning, curriculum & assessment, and institutional effectiveness.
  • Establish a “participative mechanism” for all teachers to take ownership of evolving the abilities framework.
  • Support disciplinary teams to explore wider opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration and the creation of “shared” projects and learning opportunities for students – in addition to establishing mechanisms for different teams to share knowledge, best practices and innovations with others.


Looking back at all six “episodes” (George Lucas would be so proud of his little “educational padawan”) – I see we have covered so much ground.

But, in actual fact, we have only begun to scratch the surface…

Alverno College began a similar “imagineering process” in 1973 – they are still “polishing” their model. It’s a process, it does not stop – and it all begins with a “first step”!

I know that many of you work with Ministries and Councils of Higher Educationperhaps, the first steps could come from them, too!

Seriously…what is CURRICULUM…Seriously? [Part FIVE of ???]

In Curriculum, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness on 31/03/2011 at 10:01 am

OK – back from “sunny” London (yes, I kid you not – we had some lovely weather and I was able to spend so much time with my big, little girl)…I am a happy daddy!

So, where were we all?


If we did a quick summary of the last four “episodes”, there would be a number of key bullets:

  • We need a “new lens” to help us reconceptualise curriculum…it is not enough for us to think of curriculum as a “teaching plan”.
  • A powerful roadblock to wider curriculum renewal are the values and beliefs of educators (and their institutions) about what curriculum needs to be about – and the fact that we all live in an “answer-orientated” world that puts “quick-fix solutions” before a “questioning mindset”
  • This, in turn, means that most of us are still required to work with models of curriculum that focus almost exclusively on “content” and fail to fully expose learners to the processes used by “real people” and “professionals” to practice their “crafts” and gain knowledge by carrying out tasks requiring higher order thinking – and keep on learning well after “formal education” is over and done with.

All-in-all this looks like a pretty tall order – and it is.


The challenge facing those of us that want to change the way we “do curriculum” was summed up by John Ralston Saul in his wonderful book Voltaire’s Bastards:

Ten geographers who think the world is flat will tend to reinforce each others errors….Only a sailor can set them straight.

In Parts Three and Four of this blogging saga, I tried to help those of you that want to be a “curriculum sailor”.

I offered some sets of questions designed to promote the type of questioning mindset we need to advance the way we think about allthingscurriculum – and, in a way, challenged everyone to question whether we are “sailing-our-talk”.

We also touched on the issue of “organisational culture” and hinted at the type of institutions that were best equipped to manage the type of “curriculum rEvolution” we need to see in our schools, colleges and universities.

Before we move on, however, I also wanted to remind everyone of something that we discussed in an earlier post on the type of “leadership” required to create and nurture an organisational culture that is open and responsive to change and learning.

One of the “FIVE CORNERS of leadership” is PRINCIPLES – and these do not have to be limited to how we “do business” with others. Principles can be applied to how we tackle the very issue of curriculum renewal.

Now, obviously it would not be fair of me to simply tell you to go away and think about what your principles are (as they relate to curriculum) – I have used that technique a lot of late!

I’ll tell you mine and there are ten words that capture these principles:

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


What I will do, however, is leave you with these 10 words – until tomorrow

Seriously…what is CURRICULUM…Seriously? [Part TWO of ???]

In Curriculum, Our Schools, Our Universities on 20/03/2011 at 6:23 am

Where were we?

Ahh, yes!

Curriculum planning processes that focus almost exclusively on content fail to fully expose learners to the processes used by “real people” and “professionals” to practice their craft and gain knowledge by carrying out tasks requiring higher order thinking.

Furthermore, this type of “curriculum thinking” inhibits collaboration with others to develop generic and discipline-specific strategies and fails to adequately consider orientations to problem solving and creative thinking, student dispositions towards learning and collaborative practices, and the need to understand and value multiple perspectives in decision-making.

OK – that’s cleared the air! At least, you know where I’m coming from!

Many educational institutions, recognising the weaknesses of such one-dimensional conceptual models of learning and curriculum, have turned their attention to outcomes-based approaches or learning objectives.

In doing so these institutions have worked to redefine curriculum by identifying and defining the learning outcomes they use to answer the key question of:

  • What should students be learning?

Sadly, many of these curriculum renewal initiatives have failed as the learning objectives or outcomes developed are, in fact, teaching objectives and are often cast in the language of curriculum planners (Watkins, 2003).

The culture of “alıntı, çalıntı and mış-gibi yapmak” (the Turkish translation for “borrowing, ripping off, and faking-it-till-you-make-it”) rears its “ugliest of heads” again!


Why is this?

Firstly, there exists a great deal of confusion about the terminology used to describe learning outcomes – this is because the language of curriculum development has become so amazingly complex and confusing.

The most commonly used term in the curriculum lexicon is “skill” and is often used to discuss the “learned capacity to carry out pre-determined results”.

Skills are often divided into domain-general and domain-specific skills and the  term “skill”, rightly or wrongly, has also been linked to Bloom’s well-known (but little-understood and over-used) taxonomy of learning.

“The taxonomy” was an attempt (within the behavioural paradigm) to classify forms and levels of learning – it’s amazing how few lecturers both to point this out to all their students (on undergraduate education programmes) in fact, I have my doubts whether these lecturers bother to point out that Bloom’s taxonomy covers three sets of skills (more accurately his “domains of learning”): Cognitive, Affective and Psychomotor.

Today, the notion of skills has become a catch-all phrase for all learned capacities from basic skills to interpersonal skills to academic skills and even to soft skills or “adaptability skills”.

Don’t we just love all those “sexy” words brought into education – on the back of “fads” and “the latest trends”!


But, it does not stop at the notion of “skills”.

The original use of the term “competence” was intended to convey a similar notion as aptitude or talent, as it was in Roman or Greek times.

During the 1980s, competence came to mean (in the UK) “the ability to do a particular activity to a prescribed standard” (Working Group on Vocational Qualifications, 1986) and a focus on what people can “do” rather than what they “know”.

As such, and as is the case in Australia, the term has been largely stripped of its social, moral and intellectual value and is mainly associated with “vocational training” – rather than “understanding” in a more cognitive senseSadly, the term is today associated with the more atomistic concept used to label particular events or episodes of “instruction” – or the jigsaw of “McLearning”!

One weakness of these two terms is that skill or competence do not effectively convey the importance of affective factors in the learning process. All too often, the terms skill or competence focus on “performance” or the product of learning – maybe the reason we, as educators, “practice” skills rather than design learning opportunities that really help students to “learn” these self-same skills.

As Watkins (2003) notes, “performance is not learning, though it may develop from learning”.

The literature also suggests that that a focus on performance can actually depress performance: learners end up with negative ideas about their competence, they seek help less, use fewer strategies, and become organised by the very judgements which “do them down”.

The bottom line is that – the weight of evidence is that a focus on learning can enhance performance (Watkins).


The term talent, often defined as a “personal gift”, has become increasingly popular with the accelerated use of the term “talent development” by business and HR gurus since the early-1990s.

Many organisations in the US and UK have now closed down their training departments, replacing them with talent development and career management units. Indeed, Buckingham’s (1999) best-selling management title was based on a critical argument that managers today need to redefine their roles and recreate themselves as “talent development specialists”.

This has recently started to find favour in educational circles – but goes back further!

Stephenson & Yorke (1998) have noted that thinkers in the UK have attempted to shift to the term capabilities to convey more recent educational thinking and promote the confluence of integrated competence and lifelong learning. However, this has not been adopted in an especially widespread manner. What is interesting with the terms talent and capability, interestingly, is the way that they bring together the concepts of skill, competence, knowledge and a process by which all can be developed through experience and performance.

Perry (1970) was one of the first educational thinkers to cite the need to consider the concept of learning processes “interwoven” with outcomes over time in order to take account of the development of the whole person.

His work contributed a great deal to the shift away from content or knowledge-driven conceptualisations of curriculum (pity more people have not “learned” him enough over the years).

Many educational “thinkers” still believe that terms like “acquisition of skill or competence” are limited in higher education because there remains, because of the very nature of higher learning itself, a dichotomy between “knowledge” and “skill” that needs to be bridged by curriculum planners in education.

DeCorte (1995) introduced the term aptitudes to discuss more complex learning and thinking in higher education.

However, and despite his excellent work, the term aptitudes has been affected by its over-use in psychological assessment processes and decontextualised testing.

Why am I having to use the word “however” so much in this post?


Anastasi (1983) was the first to introduce the term “developed abilities” and this term has gained a great deal of respect in educational circles because it does seem to communicate very well – with employers and professionals, too.

The term abilities is broader than that of skill and competence and suggests a more dynamic interaction of attitudes, strategies, behaviours and even beliefs. Alverno College has linked abilities to multiple intelligences and defined them as:

…complex combinations of motivations, dispositions, attitudes, values, strategies, behaviours, self-perceptions and knowledge of concepts and procedures (Mentkowski & Associates, 2000).

It remains, however, that many in education are reluctant to move away from notions of skill and knowledge because of the importance they attach to the fact that all learning outcomes must be capable of being validly assessed.

While this is true, it remains that effective performance is the result of the interaction of the components noted by Alverno – and rather than valuing what we measure, educators are recognising that we should work towards measuring what we value.

Many educational thinkers now believe that we can never validly assess learning per se but maintain that we must strive to measure what we say we produce as educators.

Mentkowski & Associates (2000) maintain that complex abilities must lie at the heart of educational practice and curriculum development processes; however, they accept that these complex abilities cannot be observed directly – they must be inferred from performance.

This suggests that assessment processes be designed to allow students to “do” something with what they “know” – and showcase their evolving abilities and talents over time.

This wider debate on terminology also hides a far more important discussion of how educators and curriculum teams embark on their task by defining what they want students to get from their programmes of study.

Many universities, teaching teams and individual faculty still draw on concepts from Bloom’s taxonomy as their main curriculum development methodology.

The cognitive domain, the most popular of Bloom’s three taxonomies focuses on six types of learning:

  • Knowledge (recall)
  • Comprehension
  • Application
  • Analysis
  • Synthesis
  • Evaluation

While there can be no doubt of the value of a model that has remained so influential for over 50 years, this framework fails to adequately take account of the “new types of learning” educators, employers and students are calling for (Fink, 2003).

Bloom’s taxonomy (or the updated version produced by Anderson and Krathwohl’s) simply does not fit with our interest in values, character and attitudes as learning outcomes, nor does it allow more detailed attention to the issues of learning to learn, interpersonal skills, ethics, or the ability to tolerate ambiguity and deal with change.

Recognition of this fact has led curriculum developers to focus on Bloom’s second domain of learning: the affective domain. The fact is that this is the least understood of the three domains and the new types of learning noted above go beyond both the affective and cognitive domains.

The good news is that more recent discussions of aptitudes and developed abilities offer much promise to educators.


A final noteworthy point relates to how educational institutions have traditionally developed systems around these concepts.

Sadly (there is another of “those” words), in most institutions curriculum renewal is rather simplistically seen as the process of writing a new curriculum or new teaching plan, rather than the opportunity to revitalise disciplines, programmes or courses and align what we say and what we do.

The better organised institutions know that organisational support for curriculum renewal is critical and many of them offer workshops or training in curriculum and course development. These programmes expose teachers to the various taxonomies and decision-making models designed to help teachers create effective courses.

The main flaw in this approach is that it is organised at the course level and fails to take account of the development of the whole-student across his or her “learning career”.

As a result, we often end up with a series of discrete courses that have been designed as teaching plans because content remains the central organising principle.

Such practices are little more than reorganising deckchairs on the Titanic – by organisations attempting to “tweak” their curriculum documentation rather than exploring their core purpose and assumptions about the nature of learning.


What do YOU want to be – “a deckchair attendant” or “an architect” re-imagineering the foundations of the future for our kids?

YOUR choice…