Tony Gurr

Posts Tagged ‘engagement’

To LESSON PLAN or NOT to LESSON PLAN…that is the question! (the RE-boot)

In Classroom Teaching, Teacher Learning, Teacher Training on 02/07/2013 at 5:51 am

big bad İSTANBUL


Continuing with my series of 500K bloggery RE-boots here!


This one was one of my very earliest posts…from all the way back in March 2011. This probably accounts for it being one of the top posts I have ever done…despite the fact that it used very few images and I was still LEARNing how to “highlight” on WordPress.


Now, I’m not sure…but I think the element of this post that people seem to like is the “personal touch” in the two stories that the post uses.

You decide!

The VERY best TEACHers


An old friend of mine caught up with me on Facebook the other day. He was a great “natural” when we worked together in Dubai…a few years back – he was a bit of a “maverick”, an architect who taught maths and computing, and enjoyed taking risks.

My kinda teacher…


In his Facebook message he made a “confession” – in all the time we worked together – he had never prepared a “lesson plan”.

He explained that it was “against his religion” and noted:

I always hated the idea of lesson plans…because lesson plans are about what the teacher wants, not what the students need. Education should always start with students’ learning, not teachers’ teaching.


I pointed out that lesson plans were actually quite a good idea – if they were LEARNer-centred.


TEACHing is not LEARNing


His reply:

Sorry! I assume lesson plans to be TEACHer creatures that often have very little to do with students. I should have been more specific! Yes, ones that focus on students – good!


3 Lessons (of a TEACHer) Ver 03


It’s often said that every TEACHer teaches 3 lessons (in every lesson they do);

the lesson you plan to teach (Lesson #1),

the lesson you actually teach (Lesson #2) and

the lesson you wish you had taught (Lesson #3).


It always made total sense to me that if I wanted to see the difference between these 3 Lessons, I had to have some form of “lesson plan” for the first of these – so I would get better at the second type by reflecting on the third type.

Reflective Savvy (3 slides) Ver 02


Does that make sense – to YOU, too?


The problem was, as my friend noted, when I was TRAINed (as a TEACHer) I was asked to jump through all sorts of silly hoops and prepare 3 or 4 page lesson plans for every single “dreaded” observation.

Now, I know this was probably not the intention of my teacher trainers (we wrote on slates in those days and the LEARNing rEvolution hadn’t quite “kicked off) because we spoke about this – a lot!.


A typical conversation went something like this:


Tony: Come on, this is just a waste of time – you can’t seriously believe this is going to help me be a better teacher.

Trainer: Look, I know it and you know – but this is what {INSERT name of exam board} want. If you don’t do, they’ll fail you.

Tony: You mean YOU will fail me!

Trainer: YES!…just get through the observation…you can do what you want when you get the bit of paper!


I actually liked the trainer!

And, did everything she saidespecially the last bit!


When I started teaching full-time, I quickly realised that it was not what I wanted to do (as a teacher) that was important – it was what I wanted the students to do that really “mattered”!

It also dawned on me (some time after the fact) that everything my trainer had LEARNed me was not that stupid – the one thing on the lesson planning form I had to repeatedly complete in my training emphasised “objectives”.

The problem was that {INSERT name of exam board} defined these as TEACHing objectives”  – notLEARNing outcomes” (I think they may have evolved since then…but then again).


3 FQs (purpose)


OK – I had “translated” that to mean purposeand brought it together with the idea of “what will the students be able to do with what they LEARN”.

This focus on “purpose” led me to another discovery – that in every “lesson”, I should have a “big idea” that students would “get” and take away with them.


It was these three things that always formed the basis of Lesson #1 – the written version.

Rather than writing down every single “step” I was going to do (with “specific timings” and “classroom interaction patterns”), my lesson plans were about the steps the students would take (the “stuff” they would “do”) – and how I would know if the steps students were taking actually helped create LEARNing.


Engagement Ver 02 (credit)


This actually meant that Lesson #2 started to get better – I was more relaxed, I didn’t have to keep looking at my notes (written on a slate, of course) and I could focus on “BEing with” my students much more (rather than “TEACHing at” them).

The beauty of this approach meant that I was more willing to focus on Lesson #3 – and got better much faster.


And, you know what else? 

Observations stopped being so “dreaded”!

LEARNers and non LEARNers (Barber quote) Ver 02


So, to sum up:

YES, lesson planning is important and useful (when you focus on “purpose”)

YES, lesson plans should be about what the students will do (and what they will be able to do with what they LEARN “with” you)

YES, lesson planning can help you become a better TEACHer

NO, format does not matter – and size certainly doesn’t…


For those of interested in getting better at planning (and reflecting on) your lessons, why don’t you take a look at one of my libraries:




MOTİVASYON – …when TEACHers “LEARN” other TEACHers!

In Classroom Teaching, Our Schools, Our Universities, Teacher Learning, Teacher Training on 15/06/2013 at 5:25 am

A couple of posts ago…I left things with the word LEARNacy!


Nativation (blog)


That was a test…and a few of you still need to hit that “little, red word” (I have one of those lovely chaps/chapettes, their “happiness engineers”, at WordPress just sitting there…just for me…analysing my blog data…and she works 24/7…for “free”)!


LEARNacy is a real word…honest to God!


But as I have already done a load of posts on it, suffice to say…time to hit the “little, red words” again”:


Come on…it’s weekend… – “bedtime READing” is what weekends were imagineered for!


LEARNacy (new ver TG)


When I work with TEACHers on motivation, sometimes I get the feeling that we (as a profession) thunk that it is a whole different story…when it comes to kids in the CLASSroom.

To get round this, I try a little exercisea little “pop quiz”…if you will:

Motivation (the QUIZ)


TEACHers actually like this question (esp. when we take “money” off the table – I am sorry…there is nothing wrong with wanting to “feed your family” and it’s high time we stop beating up on TEACHers for “needing” what every single one of us needs) …and the answers we get would surprise you:


Motivation (the ANSWERS)

Yes, we TEACHers are human beings, too!


Now, I think I may have actually “stolen” this idea from somewhere – but, can’t…for the life of me…remember where. The point is that we all need to see that “kids” are not that different to us (when we get them away from the EXAMocracy mentality…and the silly pressures that parents…yes, mummy and daddy…place on their kids)!


Many of our motivations for coming to school…are social, emotional…all that touchy-feely stuff!


When we ask TEACHers (as I did with the idea in the last post) if they can apply (or adapt) these “understandings” to their CLASSroom practice, they can…they do:


Motivation (the AKP plug)


…but for some reason – this little graphic has been getting me in trouble of late! I paid bloody good money for that image!



Neyse…this is where…and all TEACHers “love” this…we get people to:

Share Share Share

YES! …again! TEACHers looovvveee sharing…and giving helpful ADVICE!




Even with all this thunking and sharing going on in my TRAINing room…I still get the occasional “question”, every now and again. The kinda question no trainer wants to get when they have just run a great workshop or seminar:


Motivation (final question from TEACHers)


Tony! Go on…TELL ME!


I have another “graphic” up my sleeve…for times like that:


Motivation (the CHALLENGE)


Your choice!


Just remember this one thunk – TEACHers always do it better with other TEACHers!


BTW…Put these books on your SUMMER READing Listyou will not be disappointed!

MOTİVASYON – …when students “LEARN” their TEACHers!

In Classroom Teaching, Our Schools, Our Universities, Teacher Learning on 14/06/2013 at 2:57 pm

Motivation (Hattie quote) Ver 04


Sure, there are lots of ways we TEACHers can learn about what motivates our kids (and young adults).

One thing I have been doing a lot of recently is asking TEACHers to “adapt” their own private LEARNing to the classroom context. For example, a while back there was a brilliant bit of “informal research” that came out from:

Kaplan Study 01


…really, really accessible from that internet-thingyyou know the one all our bloody kids are addicted to!


When I show this to teams of TEACHers, I ask them to have a thunk about what this might be “saying” to us – as classroom EDUcatorsthat can’t perhaps put little Zeynep on a flight to New Zealand (…she would probably love it, BTW)!

This often “hurts” a few heads…


…Of course, I just get a tingly sensationall over…when someone says:

Motivation (Eureka)


Now, if the “climate” feels right…I might throw in another question or FOUR:

Motivation (5 FQs for TEACHers)


…or (just) continue to look at the stuff from those lovely chaps at Kaplan:

Kaplan Study 02…and they starting wishing they could put Zeynep on a plane to you-know-where!


The other stuff in this survey is more interesting. For example:

Kaplan Study 03Look at that % again…most governments would “kill” for a majority like that!


And…what about “music”?

Kaplan Study 04How many of YOU did the exact same thing?

…all my early Turkish came from İbrahim Tatlıses! OK – and bit from Sezen Aksu


If you do not much Turkish music, you have to “hit” those “red links”!


Want more?

Kaplan Study 06

This is where start to “see” the power of paragogypeeragogy, even!


Kids will work together on this stuff for hoursand hours….and hours – and then whine-themselves-to-sleep because they forgot to do the “worksheet” you asked them to complete for the pop-quiz tomorrow morning!


No…I’m not going to say that we should all start watching TV or listening to music for 5 hours a day (but maybejust maybe, come up with a way to get the kids to do that after school…with their friends – because they know they are going to “TEACH others” some of the stuff they LEARNed themselves (and eachother)!


Creativity (Angelou quote - NEW)


AND…No (again, sorry!), the secret is for us to: FIRSTask our kids stuff like this – and then, SECONDlook for ways to use some of these elements to “spice” up the “pacing document” we have to get through.


You “see” me?

See me (glasses and classroom)


You “see” the KIDS?


OK – so, how many of YOU use music / movies / TV…to do all this?

What resources do YOU use?


Could YOU help us ALL…?

Share Share Share

Yes, right now…go to the comment box and give us a few URLs! 


Even better…can you give us the URLs that your KIDS suggested to YOU?


Motivation (avatar phrase)


Sevgiyle kalın…sevgili hocalarım!

Motivating our LEARNers…or “Co-Creating” a CLIMATE of LEARNacy?

In Classroom Teaching, ELT and ELL, Our Schools, Our Universities, Teacher Learning on 12/06/2013 at 1:51 pm

YES (red exlam tilted)

…I know!


A few of you are saying things like:

The SECRET (Expletive)

Hey…do not shoot the “postman”!


OK…let me call on a few “bigger” guns…to convince you:


Motivation (and fishing)


You want a “bigger gun”?


The SECRET (Covey)

Go ondisagree with my favourite rahmetli hocam – I dare you!





Let me tell you…some of the real “secrets”


we have to go a bit negative on our own asses (or “arses“)…just for a wee minute (go on…guess away at my cultural heritage there)!


Firstly, “motivation” in the classroom (or out of it for that matter) is not about:

Motivation (sweeties)

Dentists just hate us when we do that!


Nor is it about:


No, you cannot watch another movie for 2 hours…Zeynep!

It’s not Friday, yet!

It ain’t

It ain’t even about the TECHnology we use:

Is is the TECH or the QUESTIONS

My “digital cheerleader” pals are gonna hate me for throwing that one in!


It should also never be about…

Motivation (abdication and Darth Principal)

Darth…is that a “carrot” or a “stick” in your mechanical hand?

…or are you just happy to see…my kids in detention again? We call that strategy “abdication of responsibility” (where I come from – did you guess, yet)…and you’ll never pass probation like that!


Good TEACHersGreat EDUcatorsjust know:

Classroom Management (feet)


Oh, yes…and, always make sure this is LOUDest message in the room:

Success (in my classroom)

…through who they are, what they do and how they LEARN themselves!


The alternative…?

Ms Pushover


But, motivation is about sooooooo much more than “classroom management” – perhaps, we should say CLASSroom LEADERship“…


Besides, didn’t we already say:

The SECRET (Really, really)


As I hinted, in my post early last week:

3 things from 30 years

…that last one is kinda important, esp. the bit about the “voice“!


When we ask “kids” and I have worked my way through pre-school to supporting PhD candidates – they frequently tell us they want certain things…things that do not vary that much:




Yes, that one at the top of list…is the one they say the most (esp. when they are not very “happy”).

Time we start to “hear” it…


OK – don’t believe me and my preference for very unscientific methods…other “big guns” (female, this time – to show you I am an “equal opportunities” blogger):


TEACHing and LEARNing

Told you so!


Take a closer look at MY list again – yes, I know that Julia and Jean’s has a sexier “soundbite” quality to it – but mine is also based on what kids and young adults have told me again and again…and again.

Honest – look at that face of mine…you could buy a second-hand car from me!


What other elements do you see?


John Hattie (quote)


What’s all that stuff about “real”?

Yes, I know Julia and Jean said that, too!

But what does it mean for YOU…for your LEARNers?


Another “big gun”, anyone?


Palmer QUOTATION - Circle of Trust


A “cannon”, perhaps?

Rogers QUOTE (Facilitation of LEARNing)


…and three cannonballs, me thunks:

3 cannonballs (quotes Carl Rogers)

I know…another “guy” talking about “guys”!

But…he is “THE guy”!


Yesterday, Laurence talked about “allowing” kids to keep in touch with their “childlike heart” duh…they are kids…and even young adults (and TEACHers) respond to this approach.


It’s about being “real”NOT just “covering” the curriculum!


It’s about LEARNingNOT just “TEACHing at” them!


Learnacy ZONE


It’s about LEARNacy


How to MOTIVATE your LEARNers…finally the “Magic Bullet” (from heaven)!

In Adult Educators, Classroom Teaching, ELT and ELL, Teacher Learning on 10/06/2013 at 10:06 am

Whatever was I thunking…yesterday?


I mean…come on…we all LOVE:


…well, at least “magic bullets“! Don’t we?


Herhalde, yani!

If I put a post out there with the title “The best kept secret…of how to MOTIVATE your LEARNers!” – of course, everyone is going to open it up. Even my daughter took a peek…

And…curse me to high heaven…for not delivering!


My daughter giggled…by the way!


Now, a lot of you probably thought I was going to start banging on about “intrinsic” or “extrinsic” motivation…or at least…come up with a “third way”

Motivation (a third way)

…I did consider it! Even “hygiene“…


A few of you might have even hoped for some insight from one of the “newer” theories of motivationyou know like

Motivation (16 Desires from Reiss)

Come on! Least it’s better that something from the 1950s…or 60s!


I get a lot of these ideas from Steven’s (wonderful) bookI really do.

BUT, I’m not so sure I want all my learners being motivated by romance or sex…let alone “vengence“! These themes would make for some very interesting lessons plans…and I’d love to see a CELTA assessor evaluate a class like that and keep one of those dead-pan faces they are so fond of!


Some of you…go on admit it…probably thunked that I would jump on the “Pink Band Wagon” and produce an image like this:

Motivation (Dan Pink)

Dan has had far too much press coverage already! 

I even have a link to his blog on mine!

I have to admit…I do love Dan’s work (go on…click on the picture or have a look at the video from RSA) – lots of common sense…common sense (in truth) that has been around for many, many years…we just ain’t heard it properly!


Actually, I did kinda “hint” at the very nature of…

The SECRET (logo 02)

…in an earlier post.


You know, the one when I told you my “3 other secrets”:

3 things from 30 years

I know, I know…perhaps, I did not spell it out as clearly as I could.


So, I guess the time has come…time to spill the beans…tell you the location of the holy grail…open the doors to the Vatican’s vault

The SECRET (logo 01)

…time to tell you the secret of all secrets!


Are you ready?

And, remember I am going against the advice of one of my heroes here… – in addition to risking the wrath of the brotherhood!


I really do feel like Acun…right now…I do!


Drum roll…

Drums (electronic)

…we are, afterall, 21st Century EDUcators…


The SECRET…the one nobody (well, very few people) tells us about is simply this


The SECRET (Really, really)


Yes, I told you that this would bake your noodle!



Motivation (doggie thunk)

…for a day or two!


Or…just use the “comment” box to swear at me…or threaten the life of my darling wife and first-born child – who is still giggling!


LEARNer Motivation …the best kept SECRET… “EVER”!

In Adult Learners, Classroom Teaching, ELT and ELL, Teacher Learning on 09/06/2013 at 4:16 pm

The SECRET (logo 01)

I’m guessing “this”… is why you have dropped into the ole blog today, ehh?


I’m assuming, for a start, you have not come here…for:

The SECRET (Victoria)

…BUT, then again!


Rather…”motivated” by my little tease of a blog post title, you are after…

The SECRET (logo 02)

…of motivating your students…your LEARNers!


Are you sure…? I have been doing a lot of this business lately – you know:

Truth (mini ver 02)

You know what they say about “getting” what you “wish” for…


The thing is…with this one, I might end up having to agree with Jack Nicholson:

Handle the truth

…I really do!


I mean…what happens, if you are disappointed by:

The SECRET (logo 02)

After all…all that glitters is not gold, my friends!


When you hear it…you might just thunk:

The SECRET (Expletive)

…and never come back to the blog…EVER!


I wouldn’t want that to happen…I care about you all too deeply for that!


I don’t know…don’t know what to do…really don’t…

Gamification 08 (exploding head upgrade)Let me sleep on it…then, I’ll decide!

Will the REAL 4C’s Please Stand Up…AGAIN!

In Classroom Teaching, Curriculum on 10/12/2011 at 10:15 am

Mmmmmmm….that one went out a bit too early!

Happiness Engineers” – not too happy (I want my “save” button back – when I try to re-post)!

Ne se! A few weeks back I did a post that tracked my own search to uncover what exactly the 4C’s were….you see, I’d been seeing a lot of the 4C’s around (no puns intended, OK – maybe a bit) – and a couple of people had asked me what I thought about them (esp. those people who were also keen on the 5E’s 

EngageExploreExplainElaborate and Evaluate

…from Roger Bybee and his team)

…and YES….we also have the 6E’s and the bloody 7E’s, too! There’s something about “models” that have both a number and a letter that fascinates teachers – bit like playing with matches or playing with a tooth that hurts with your tongue!


I mentioned that one of my favourite approaches to the 4C’s was from Ken Kay – and that Ken was in the middle of  a great “series” on the 4C’s on his Edutopia-based blog.

At that time, Ken had done an introductory post and discussed 5 of the 7 “steps”;

Since that time, he has wrapped up two more posts on Steps 6 and 7 – and these touch on the issues of  TEACHer “motivation” and “engagement” that Troy and I have been discussing this week.
So, I thought I’d share these two links with y’all (also been catching up with the US “X Factor” this week – really starting to hate “music” reality TV)….
Anyways, here they are:

If you want to see the original 4C’s post – just click HERE
Have a great weekend!

Are we on the right “track” with CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT? [Part ONE]…

In Classroom Teaching, Our Schools on 04/04/2011 at 9:30 am

I have just returned from a really good-to-great conference in Konya organised by the Merve schools and hosted by Mevlana University.

I have to say I am so happy to see more of these events happening outside of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir – teachers in the other cities around Turkey need these events just as much as those in our bigger cities. We need more of them…


I was asked to look at the issue of classroom management in my session…a topic many teachers are “keen” to learn more about.

We kicked off the session with a “mini-pop quiz” and I thought it might be useful to share this with you all.

I presented the participants with a series of statements and asked whether everyone thought they were TRUE or FALSE…You might be surprised by some of the answers (backed up by research into what effective teachers do with their learners).

Have a look … (the answers are at the bottom of this post):

  1. Teacher expectations of students do not influence how much students achieve in class (and in their lives).
  2. Student behavior will always be a problem in every classroom.
  3. “Grumpy” teachers always seem to have more classroom management issues than positive, happy teachers.
  4. Teachers who collaborate with other teachers have fewer classroom management issues than teachers who “work on their own”.
  5. Focusing on your “subject” is the best way to prevent discipline problems in the classroom.
  6. Classroom management has nothing to do with discipline.
  7. There are fewer classroom management problems in smaller classrooms.
  8. Teachers either “win” or “lose” their classes on the first few days of the school year.
  9. A teacher should spend more time covering material than managing their classrooms in the first 3 days of school.
  10. Most classroom management problems have nothing to do with students – they are the teacher’s fault.

Now, it seemed that some of the “correct answers” did cause a bit of a “stir” – especially, number 6 and 7, in addition to number 10!

But, it’s all honest-to-goodness truth (“trust me” – you could buy a second-hand car from me and feel totally “safe”)…


The biggest problem for many teachers doing a pop-quiz like this is that we have all been “learned” that CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT is about “DISCIPLINE”…

This might be true…if we were all learning about teaching in the 1950s!

We are not – and we are in the business of teaching “little people” (not school subjects) to be even better “grown-ups” (this is the job we “really” all signed up for – whether we knew it at the time or not).

There is a huge difference between helping our students learn about the importance of (self) discipline and “using discipline” as a “teaching tool”.

Sadly, this focus on discipline comes from the assumptions we often have about children:

  • Children are little “devils”!
  • As they GROW UP…they just get…worse, “worser” and “worsest”!
  • They have to be “controlled”!

This emphasis on “discipline” also suggests that many teachers see classroom management as a “cure” to some form of “disease” that affects every student and every classroom (look at statements 2 and 7 again) – rather than the “systems” a teacher designs to minimise the interruptions to learning, to keep students engaged and to get things done in the classroom!

As such, teachers feel they have to act in an authoritarian manner, prioritise “keeping control” and focus on our “subjects” – rather than focussing on our students while being our best, most authentic selves, prioritising ways to creatively engage our students and facilitating the love of allthingslearning.


I’m sorry…what a load of “rubbish”!


As Maria Montessori noted (almost 100 years ago):

…create the right environment and even small children will “explode” into LEARNing

Children are “learning machines” – they are “engineered” for learning. AND, they are far better at it than we “adults”!

The problem is the assumptions we adults have about them and the way these assumptions and beliefs have been turned into the systems and rules that we have created for our schools.

As Guy Claxton points out:

Perhaps, we need to think about another “track”…another way of looking at the issue of classroom management – and recognize that statement number 10 is “truer” than we all might think.


KEY to the POP-QUIZ: 1-F, 2-F, 3-T, 4-T, 5-F, 6-T, 7-F, 8-T, 9-F, 10-T

What’s the “weather” like…in your SCHOOL? (Part Two)

In Our Schools, Our Universities, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness on 22/03/2011 at 5:31 pm

I have always loved educational institutions that work to measure their own effectiveness and levels of student engagement by asking themselves:

  • How many books do we have in our library?
  • How many citations do our academics pick up in an average year?
  • How many square meters are our classrooms and lecture halls – and how many learners do we manage to squeeze into each one?

OK. That last one was a bit “mean” – but you would be amazed how many institutions still use it as a “quality indicator” – albeit under the nom de plume of “classroom utilisation figures”.


I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news – I feel I just simply have to “pop that little bubble”.

Frederick Taylor has sadly passed awayalmost 100 years ago!

Our schools and universities are not factories – our learners were never meant to be viewed as “raw materials” to be “whipped into shape” by standardised 50-minute “monologues” and put through a quality control process defined primarily by “high-stakes tests”.

We got it all wrong!

We cannot increase levels of student engagement by telling learners how many books we have in the library – and most learners will never see the relevance of a citation index (unless they start a PhD and are forced into the game of “publish or peril” themselves).

Student engagement begins and ends with the notion of “learning” – it is not about “content delivery”, it is not about “passing exams” and (another bubble is heard “popping”) it is not even about “grades” (that’s just what we have “learned” students that it is all about – and most parents, too).

Engagement is closer to what Carl Rogers said of the “significant learning” we should all aim to produce in our learners:

  • ……learning which is more than an accumulation of facts. It is learning which makes a difference – in the individual’s behaviour, in the course of action (s) he chooses in the future, in (her) his attitudes, and in (her) his personality.
  • I want to talk about learning. But not the lifeless, sterile, futile, quickly forgotten stuff that is crammed in to the mind of the poor helpless individual tied into (her) his seat by ironclad bonds of conformity! I am talking about LEARNING – the insatiable curiosity that drives the adolescent boy (girls) to absorb everything (she) he can see or hear or read about gasoline engines in order to improve the efficiency and speed of (her) his ‘cruiser’.
  • I am talking about the student who says, “I am discovering, drawing in from the outside, and making that which is drawn in – a real part of me”. I am talking about any learning in which the experience of the learner progresses along this line: “No, no, that’s not what I want”; “Wait! This is closer to what I am interested in, what I need”; “Ah, here it is! Now I’m grasping and comprehending what I need and what I want to know!”

Engagement is today seen as having two key components:

  1. The amount of time and effort students put into their studies and other activities that lead to the experiences and outcomes that constitute student success
  2. The ways in which an institution allocates its human and other resources and organises learning opportunities and services to encourage students to participate in and benefit from such activities.

We, as teachers and educators, can have a direct and profound impact on the first of these – our institutions can do the same by putting learning at the heart of their decision-making processes.

The bottom line is: the more engaged learners are, the better the chances that learning will take place.


It always seemed to me that the best way to try and measure the level of student engagement is not to ask:

  • How many books are in the library?
  • Do your teachers and lecturers “teach” well?

But rather questions like:

  • How many books have you read this month?
  • How much work do you do with other learners outside of class?
  • What types of real-world problem solving projects have you been assigned?
  • How often have you been on field trips to art exhibits or other cultural events?
  • Which are you required to do more of in class – memorise facts or analyse ideas?
  • How often do you teach or tutor other students – in or out of class?
  • How frequently do you use e-mail or other forms of social media to communicate with your teachers?
  • How often do you work with teachers and lecturers on activities other than coursework (community projects, school committees, college events, etc?

Am I just being dumb? A dreamer, perhaps?



The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE – pronounced “nessie”), an annual questionnaire by Indiana University researchers, does just this – and MORE!

You might not have heard about it – after all hardly any of the traditional Ivy League schools use itnot that they are “scared” by such surveys or anything like that!

In the 10 years since it was first administered, NSSE has become the pre-eminent survey of college students in the USA – and nearly 1,400 four-year colleges and universities have participated at least once, with over 3.5 million students having completed the survey.

NSSE is designed around questions that seek to gauge whether (and how often) students “do things” such as interact with faculty and classmates, use campus services and put effort into their studies.

Along the way, it has helped reframe the discussion about “what matters” in college.

Of course, NSSE doesn’t directly measure learning, the end goal. But what it does measure – student engagement – offers a very useful “proxy”.

It is certainly a huge leap forward from many of the “university league tables – that ask presidents, provosts and deans to rate their “peers” (and themselves). Bit like me saying I am the most handsome and intelligent guy around – and my wife agrees – so it must be true!

In the USA, NSSE is not universally used. It has, however, become popular with those colleges and universities that have reputations for putting learning at the heart of what they do and inspired similar surveys for community colleges, law schools and high schools. It has spawned companion surveys of faculty and subsets of students.

Further, versions are now being used or explored in Australia, South Africa, the UK and elsewhere. Many schools use custom-designed surveys of their own schools, too, but a big part of NSSE’s appeal is that it enables schools to compare themselves with peer institutions.

Why not take a closer look at the samples – and see for yourself. You might also want to look at the other partner surveys – all great ways to take the GALLUP “Magic 12” to the next level.


If you are interested in some “bedtime reading” on engagement and climate, take a look at my “new” library: Tony’s ENGAGEMENT Library

What’s the “weather” like…in your SCHOOL? (Part One)

In Our Schools, Our Universities, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness on 22/03/2011 at 2:54 pm

If you are anything like me, you probably read a lot … and will have noticed how often the words “climate” and “engagement” pop up in the educator’s lexicon these days.

These two little words carry much more weight than they used to…and it is no longer just that the wind is blowing, it is more about what that wind is blowing into our schools, colleges and universities.

Indeed, it is not only educational institutions that have recognised the moral responsibility to focus on matters of climate and prioritise efforts to engage stakeholders – it has become a mantra of “how we need to do business” these days across almost every sector.

One of the organisations responsible for much of this attention is GALLUP.


Now, the GALLUP organisation is perhaps better known for its “political polls” – before and around election time across most major democracies in the world. It has been in the “polling business” for over seventy years.

However, the organisation has also been fortunate enough to have worked with most of the best companies and organisations in the world – and been able to study “excellence” in hundreds of distinct roles across these companies.

For these companies, the issue of “climate” is a matter of business survivalif you do not look after “your people”, they walk across the road to your “competitors”.

Attempting to summarise this project in a few paragraphs is almost as challenging a task as the project itself!

For the last 40+ years, GALLUP has also been working on a major project into human strengths / talents and the nature of the workplace. In a way, this research project was also aimed at devising a way to measure “strong” (or highly effective) workplaces.

In another aspect of the project, GALLUP has been trying to develop a model that describes the path between the individual contribution of every employee and business or organisational “success”. To do this, the boffins at GALLUP have focussed on a number of key questions:

  • What do employees need from their workplace?
  • What does a strong, vibrant workplace look like?

Although most educators frown on the “import” of business concepts into the world of teaching and learning, these questions are of fundamental importance to everyone who works in education – they are, one might argue, universal questions for any organisation that wishes to grow, develop and improve how it “does business”.

Like most of us, GALLUP realised that clichés like “happy employees are more productive” or “a motivated employee treats the customer well” were essentially useless – they give no real information or ideas on how to improve the workplace or how to help employees grow and develop. GALLUP’s research, on the other hand, has uncovered “mountains” of data and several critical discoveries – one of the most striking was this:

  • Measuring the “strength” of a workplace can be simplified to twelve questions

In the initial stages of their research and through extensive use of focus groups GALLUP had begun a search for those “special questions” where the most engaged employees (both loyal and productive) would respond positively. They eventually “discovered” twelve of these.

The twelve questions they formulated do not capture everything we might want to know about an organisation but GALLUP discovered (after millions of interviews) that they do capture the most information and the most important information.

So, what are the “Magic 12”:

  1. Do I know what is expected of me?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for good work?
  5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission of my organisation make me feel my job is important?
  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do I have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last six months, has someone talked with me about my progress?
  12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow?


For GALLUP, the twelve questions became the most simple, direct and accurate way to measure the strength of a workplace – they maintain that organisations that are able to create the kind of environment where employees answer positively to all twelve questions will have “built” a great place to work and grow.

This is because GALLUP also discovered that those employees that responded positively to the twelve questions also worked in the most productive departments and companies and also had higher levels of profit, staff retention and customer satisfaction.

This much data and this many correlations cannot be a co-incidence!

Have a quick look at the “Magic 12” again:

  • Can you see how these questions might reflect the climate?
  • Are there any questions there that you feel are especially important?
  • Are there any questions you feel should not be there?


Whenever I am asked to help an organisation with issues of climate, I always recommend that we use the “Magic 12” as a starting point – and develop further, more specific tools from the data we gather.

It’s also useful for an organisation starting out on a major climate improvement initiative to break down the questions into themes.

GALLUP uses the analogy of mountain-climbing to describe how individuals grow in a job role and how organisations can grow and develop into stronger and more effective entities. Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, we can’t expect to climb a mountain in a single leap – we need to establish a series of stages and “camps” on the way to the summit.

The twelve questions are thus clustered into “4 camps”. The mountain represents the “psychological climb” we all make from when we join an organisation and finally get to the point of “engagement” and “satisfaction” with what we do and who we are at work.

  • Base Camp – What do I get? [Questions 1 and 2]
  • Camp 1 – What do I give? [Questions 3 to 6]
  • Camp 2 – Do I belong here? [Questions 7 to 10]
  • Camp 3 – How can we all learn and grow? [Questions 11 and 12]

The stages, or camps, represent the various “perspectives” or “sets of needs” we have (as employees) as we move to the transition from being a new employee – to one who is motivated and satisfied in the role we have.

“Base Camp questions” are fundamental do your people have job descriptions, have they been given an orientation, have they been introduced to other people that help them get things done, do they have a comfortable place to call “a-home-away-from-home”, can they get their hands on office supplies, do they have enough of the “tools” to “get the job done”?

You’d be surprised how many educators struggle to leave Base Camp with a smile on their face!

“Camp 2 questions” are just as critical – these touch on feelings of “care” of being “looked after” and being “part of something” bigger. The stuff that helps us get through the “tougher times” we all face.

And, we haven’t even got to issues of learning, growth and self-fulfillment, yet…

Have another think:

  • How would you and your colleagues probably answer the “Magic 12”?
  • What should be done about the less positive responses?


In Part Two of this series, we’ll take a closer look at engagementstudent engagement this time.