Tony Gurr

Posts Tagged ‘language learning’

How Good Are Your TEACHers?

In Classroom Teaching, ELT and ELL, Our Schools, Our Universities, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness, Teacher Learning on 07/07/2016 at 10:29 am

 

This is one of the first questions I ask when I sit down with a School Director or Teacher Trainer to develop a new PD (or CPD) initiative at one of our many Schools (both State and Private) and University Prep Schools (Hazırlık – also both State and Foundation) here in Canım Türkiyem.

Questions (Joseph O Connor quote) Ver 03

It’s not a bad question to kick off with, if you believe (as I do) that the talents, skills and savvy of language teachers is one of the critical determining factors in determining the level of LEARNing and success that LEARNers ultimately achieve.

 

Some TEACHers do not like it!

 

I guess that is because they assume I am only talking about the quality of their language and that I am taking on the role of the judgy-judger Native Speaker (NS) TEACHer – pushing elitism…and native speakerism!

 

I’m not – and my question is wider, closer to the advice of David Crystal:

“If I were in charge of a language-teaching institution, I would want to know four things about applicants: are they fluent? are they intelligible? do they know how to analyse language? are they good teachers? I would not be interested in where they were born, what their first language was, or whether they had a regional accent. There are absolutely no grounds for discrimination these days”.

 

Like David, my question is both about language quality and TEACHing ability – and, for safe measure, it is also about what a TEACHer knows about language / student LEARNing and what s/he does with that knowledge in (and out of) the classroom. It’s a question that touches upon the core ‘Educational Literacies’ that all TEACHers need.

Sith army knife (TG)

 

However, that question of mine is so often boiled down to a Language TEACHer’s knowledge and skills in English – their ‘Disciplinary Literacy’. And, I’ve been asked (a lot more than once):

So, what should the CEFR / GSE minimum level be – for a TEACHer?

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GSE vs CEFR

 

I’ve spent a lot of time thunking this one over, reading journals, and jumping around blogs this year. There are many that are pushing for minimum proficiency levels for TEACHers (including major ELT organisations and those that produce/administer ‘tests’…wonder why, acaba) – especially since the ELT paradigm shift towards performance-based understandings of what it means to ‘know’ a language. There are others who are resisting this idea…for many reasons.

TELLing the truth

 

Just like we would not want our kids to be taught maths by someone that did not know their multiplication tables (or even use a calculator effectively), the vast majority of LEARNers / administrators / parents (esp. parents) want their language TEACHers to be as good as they can be. Undergraduate TEACHers-to-be want their programmes to prepare them to be the best version of themselves before they step into the classroom. Being able to hear the answer to my question is surely the ‘right’ of each and every one of these critical stakeholders.

 

The problem is, of course, we all know (well, at least those that have LEARNed a second language) that language is not a finite or clearly defined entity, which you either know in its entirety or not at all. You do not ‘know’ a language in the same way you know ‘content’ – a poem, mathematical theorem or chemical formula. You can only know it more or less thoroughly. I know many people that ‘know’ Turkish grammar far better than I…but still struggle to win a battle with the Tax Office! I’ve also met many TEACHers with off-the-charts ALES scores (the m/c test all TEACHers need to pass to get a job in a Turkish university – and ‘technically’ the only tool these universities can use to hire their TEACHers)…but cannot have a half-decent chat with me!

 

However, most people seem to agree that language TEACHers need to:

  • be fluent
  • be intelligible
  • know the language they are TEACHing
  • be confident language users
  • know how to analyse language
  • know something about the language their students use (L1)
  • be an active language LEARNer themselves (improving their own language day-by-day)

 

The question, it seems to me, is how exactly a TEACHer (both NS and NNS TEACHers) ‘knows’ these things about him/herself – and how they ‘evidence’ these abilities to others.

What if 06

What do you thunk – remembering, for now, we are are only talking about the language skills / talents (or ‘Disciplinary Literacy’) of our TEACHers?

  • Could we add anything else to this list?
  • Should there be a minimum proficiency level for TEACHers here in Canım Türkiyem?
  • How should we ‘measure’ this proficiency level (do not say ALES)?
  • If not, how can we ‘know’ exactly how good our TEACHers are?
  • Should NS TEACHers here also be required to demonstrate the same proficiency level?

 

T..

Tony (logo new) 260316 ACG

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Why there is no more room for the “Blame Game” in 21C LEARNing Culture…

In Educational Leadership, ELT and ELL, Our Schools, Our Universities, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness on 19/09/2013 at 10:47 pm

21C Logo TG ver 02

I know, I know

…I promised that I would stop using the phrase “21st Century LEARNing”.

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SUE me (Ver 02)

OK – so glad we got that out of the way!

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In one of my very first posts (seems like a lifetime or three ago…but it is, in fact, only 30 months) –  The End of the Highway – I talked about the type of organisational culture that I saw evolving over the next few years (for the Information Age and Knowledge Economyso now you see why I went with “21C” a wee bit later).

A culture, I suggested, that was characterized NOT by the “old world” my-way-or-the-highway approaches adopted by so many of the “bosses” we had when we were younger…but by a “new world” organisational culture grounded on:

21C Org Culture (ver 02)

OMG! My graphics were pretty lousy back in the day, yes?

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Now, that’s a place I want to live…the kind of place I want my grandkids to LEARN within (no, just stop asking me about that bloody “manopause” thing already)!

A true LEARNing Culture for the 21st Century!

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But, what happens, for example, if I meet with an untimely demise – there are many Mütevelli Heyeti Presidents out there (a few YÖK employees, too) that would not be too unhappy if Tony Hoca “disappeared” or just started sleeping with the fishes (shock-horror).

Or, perhaps…I just get eaten by Zombies

Zombie Grammar In Use

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Those grandkids of mine might grow up (in canım Türkiyem, of course) with a wonderful degree of control over their mother-tongue…but be not so hot in their grand-daddy’s tongue.

Heck, they might even have to go though Hazırlık for a few months…

Hazırlık Mob (Proficiency Test)

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As I suggested in my last postall is not well in the state of “hazırlık” – apathy and lack of interest in the most important medium of global communication on the part of many hazırlık students, has evolved into a zombie-like pandemic! 

Bloody hell – just typing those words scared the beejeebers outta me…

Hocam will this be on the test 

The Ottoman Empire was once described as the sick man of Europe – today, it is Hazırlık that is being described in similar terms:

Hazırlık (sick man of HEd) ver 01

In truth…all of HigherEd in canım Türkiyem…needs a check-up!

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However, rather than help “fix” this very real problem – there is many a faculty lecturer, a head of department, a dean (or Vice Rector…even) within our so-called English-medium universities that would love us all to believe this (perhaps to cover the fact that their own English language skills are not that great or that they are still “delivering” English-medium “courses” in Turkish – of course, all down to the fact that the Hazırlık “Team” taught them nowt)!

These critical hazırlık stakeholders” (many of whom do not even know where the hazırlık building is) just can’t get enough of passing-the-buck – or playing…

Blame Game (TG ver)

 …you know how it goes, yes?

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You also know the question that always gets asked…first!

Who is to blame

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Will they never LEARN?

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We could, of course, point all those fingers at the students themselves. I mean it’s not as if they don’t give us enough reasons.

Reasons, I might say, are all reinforced by the things many hazırlık teachers have been overheard sayingthunkingagain and again!

Kids today

Go on! Raise your hand, if you have NEVER said one of these…

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The parents?

Yes, they started all this…

Pointing at the belly

…and dragged their kids up to be all the things they never could…be…afterall!

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There is no shortage of “targets” for our fingers – just look at how many we have in both Hazırlık…and the post-Hazırlık world (remember guys…there is a life after the proficiency exam – before, too)!

The TARGETS

…and, let’s not forget those pesky trouble-makers – Teacher Trainers!

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BUT…

Hang on there

Weren’t we saying something about…a 21C LEARNing Culture?

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How does this “finger-pointing” fit in with a climate of collaboration… – and what were those other thingimejigs we all say we want to see in our institutions?

21C LEARNing Culture (TG ver 02 upgrade)

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Heck, if we look at our websites – we ALREADY have them…ALL!

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If we really believe that this type of LEARNing Culture is who we arewhat we need – is there “room” for the BLAME GAME?

NO

Sorry about that full stop…beating off Zombies here!

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Call me a “dreamer” (I take that as a compliment, BTW)!

Call me a “fool” (Mmmm, this one…not so much)!

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Is it just me…acaba…that thunks…

Different QUESTIONS

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A good start is this one:

Rather than (Peter Block)

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Every single “stakeholder” in every single university across canım Türkiyem has, in some way, contributed to the pandemic spread of the Lise5 Syndrome – even the parents (and those Vice Rectors I mentioned).

And, you know what?

I’m guessing many other English-medium universities around the globe…have their own strain of the Zombie virus we have been looking at.

You can take that to the bank…

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b

THUNKing a wee bit differently…is the key!

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If we could just get to that first “question flip”, we might have a chancewe might survive!

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Hey, you never know…we could then perhaps ask a few other questions:

Perhaps then (Peter Block)

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That having been said…

Give LIFE a SHAKE (Ian Gilbert)

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…maybe, we can just keep “living” with the “walking dead”!

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NOTE from the CBO

This post is a “potted” (and updated) version of a mini-dizi I did back in May 2013 (for all you busy, busy folk). If you want to take a closer look (and consider even more “thunking questions” for the challenge that is hazırlık here in Turkey, take a look at the following posts:

Is the “Lise5 Syndrome” the NEW Zombie Apocalypse in ELT?

In ELT and ELL, Our Universities on 19/09/2013 at 8:38 am

Lise5 01

We hear you Natalie…we hear you!

Or, do we?

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Many of you may know that I went through a major “change” this year…

No, not the “manopause”!

Lise5 06 (The Change)

…not just a status update on Facebook, is it?

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Yes, to be sure…a major change – but one I am very happy with!

Heck, I can even “vote” in the next electionchoices, choices, choices!

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I never really liked the term “gavur” (now, you see why I prefer using Urban Dictionary these days)…even when my darling wife used it as a term of endearment.

What I have found though…is that my new status is actually quite “liberating”…afterall, I can now talk about OUR schools, OUR students and OUR challenges…here in canım Türkiyem.

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Some of you also know that I was on holiday…for around 15 years!

When I got back to my adopted home, a few things had changed. Many of these changes were very positivefor example, no longer will I say that the NHS back in the UK is the envy of Europe…and never will I have doubts about having surgery (minor or major) in Turkey.

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Lise5 02

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However, we Turks (did you hear that…) are facing a new health threat…the likes of which Brad Pitt may not even be able to help us with (or even RTE and all his “hospital projeler”).

Lise5 03

Now, I may be wrong…but we did not have the “Lise 5 Syndrome” 15 or 20 years back.

Students going through ELL programmes in our university “prep” schools back in the day just did not exhibit the symptoms we see in so many of our students these days:

  • An almost immediate allergic reaction (and nasty rash) when they see any ELT or ELL materials before 09:00 and after 16:00
  • An inability to get up for morning classes (starting at around 09:00…even those that start at 13:00)
  • Preference for playing the “blame game” (over accepting personal responsibility)
  • Unwillingness to speak English in pair work and group work tasks (unless they come with multiple-choice stimuli)
  • Frequent bouts of “forgetfulness” (esp. with notebooks, pens, textbooks…but never the cell…never the cell)
  • Reports of symptoms being passed to family “pets” (who subsequently start to consume homework sheets and project reports)
  • Viewing English as a “course to be studied” rather than a language to be “explored” and “used” (with humans)
  • Refusal to do any ELL activities if they do not mirror (exactly) “exam-type tasks”
  • Uncontrollable urge to make frequent “wise cracks” about class climate (in Turkish…via text, WhatsApp, PrivyTalks, Line, WaZapp – you get the picture)
  • Loss of logic and reflective thinking abilities (esp. with regards the value of portfolios, drafting and editing, peer feedback)
  • Making rude, inappropriate, disturbing comments in earshot of other students (things they would not probably say to their grandmothers)
  • Excessive use of the phrases – “Uff! Çok şaçma”, “Yine…bey!”,  “Bu ne, yaaa?”, “Yine? Speak to your partner, miş!”, “Aman! Nefret ediyorum, yaaa!”, “Gerizekalı! – not YOU, hocam!”

etc, etc.

Even in the so-called “top” schools around the country!

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Serious (art work)

I shit you not, Sherlock…this is a serious matter!

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Patient Zero seems to have been based in Ankara – but the school she was attending is protected under the Turkish National Secrets Act of 1923. Her boyfriend was found a few hours later at a prestigious private university in İstanbul. He was staggering around the school coffee shop (during class time)…but it was…too late. Far too late!

It was later discovered that he had taken a Pegasus flight that night…that plane had visited at least 12 other cities before dawn!

…pretty soon, cases were popping up all over the country. Some say the “spread” along the coastal areas was helped along by “tourists” & “back-packers”.

This is yet to be verified…

Lise5 04

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Although, there are many cases of “hazırlık students” that seem to be immune to the disease and her symptoms  – enrolment in a “state” or “private/vakıf” university does not seem to be a critical factor!

Many experts believe that the Lise5 Syndrome may, in fact, be caused by a “sleeping virus” (like HSV-2) – a virus that enters the body in the first or second year of High School  (some argue Lise3 is a better guess) and stays dormant for 24-36 months.

A number of high school teachers have suggested that early outbreaks may actually start at the time students register at their first “Dershane” or “prep course” for the ÖSS (Öğrenci Seçme Sınavı or Student Selection Examination – University entrance).

At the age of 8, yani!

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We many never know for sure!

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However, the UN has just released the results of its most recent study into this terrifying disease. The results are a surprise to many hazırlık teachers:

Lise5 05 (Health Chart)

Many are now asking themselves – Are WE also “carriers”?

 

 What was Natalie saying again?

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FIXing Hazırlık…(the Postscript)

In Educational Leadership, ELT and ELL, Our Universities, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness on 26/05/2013 at 11:12 pm

Dummies (fixing hazırlık))

Some of you might be thunking…a postscript?

What the heck for?

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That last post gave us so many good best practices to get our teeth into…actually, we’ve already got / done a few of them.

All we need to do is put all the others in place!

8Checklist (WRONG)

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You might be right! Maybe…I should just get round to writing that book I mentioned…the one above?

Afterall, it’s that type of advice that ‘sells’…yes?

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Certainly sells more than wishy-washy, idealisticquixotic stuff like:

Learning and Improving 01

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…or even,

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Learning and Improving 02

 

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Sorry (bw)

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My turn to say…

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NO

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Now, don’t get me wrong…a lot of those suggestions can be very good for an institution. Getting involved in an accreditation process can really help an institution to ‘see’ itself…

REFLECTing ourselves

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My worry is…

…exactly how much can going through the motions of an accreditation process (I did not say anything about…jumping through hoops…honest!) help us with problems like the ones we noted in the very first post of this mini-series:

Lise 5

you know, remember…we said something about ‘hazırlık’ being ‘broken’!

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Seriously, go back and take a look at all those suggestions (this is where you CLICK…on the ‘red’ stuff)…

put yourself in the shoes of a ‘typical’ student at your own institution (no, not one of those ‘süper-inek’, 100% scholarship students that our schools ‘love’ to cream off the YÖK lists)…

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…and ‘answer’ this little question:

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Litmus Test FQ

Hey! Maybe, you could even ask a few students…for REAL?

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Or, you could just ask the teachers, too!

Teacher (hands tied)

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Yes, it’s that simple – that is the ‘litmus test’ for any ‘quality’ initiative or any ‘improvement’ strategy!

Anything else, especially the way I presented those ideas, is a bit like:

Quality (the wrong way)

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Remember…

Broken Quality (TG definition)

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Now, you might also (round about this time) be thunking:

WHY (joker Face)

…is Tony telling us this?

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Those ‘lovely’ accreditation folks (and the expense-paid trip)…painted a very different picture!

Tony’s suggestions (or rather…those of his ‘mates’) are very similar to those standards they showed us…the action points they suggested we put into our ‘self-study audit’

…all the things we have to put on our 18-24 month ‘to-do-list

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Sorry (bw)

…again…

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But, in my defence, I did tell you this mini-series was gonna be all about…

Truth (mini ver 01)

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The thing is, when me and me mates, did that listwe kinda forgot ourselves (the wine did not help either)

…we became:

Cheerleaders (accreditation)

…rather than EDUcators!

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…just for a couple of hours, mind! We’re OK…now.

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We just forgot that many of the people who put accreditation body ‘standards’ together have actually been in the ‘quality game’ for years (decades even). They have worked in schools that have built and re-invented their own traditions over timeand made many a mistake along the way!

ADAPTation (Paul Schoemaker quote 01)

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These schools have been able to grow, adapt and LEARN new ‘cultures’ – because they have created ‘thunking teams’ who asked the ‘right’ questions.

And, the answers they have ‘co-created’…led them to create thecommunities of purpose we discussed earlier.

ADAPTation (Charles Darwin quote 01)

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These schools were not interested in accreditation

Quality (the real prizes)

…for all the wrong reasons!

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They did not fall foul of the ‘trap’ that many schools have found themselves in:

Quality (Harvey quote)

…they lived ‘quality’!

…and they took the time to LEARN  how to walk-their-own-talk!

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These schools and their ‘quality’ leaders realised that:

Change (BPNE)

…especially if we ‘borrow’ without ‘thunking’ – or, at the very least, consider the issue of ‘fitness-for-purpose’!

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In a nutshell, they realised that they needed to create NEXT Practice’ for their OWN Institutions – and this takes TIME, CARE and LEADERSHIP

LEADERSHIP final definition

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As I noted in Part 02 of this series, many of the people who created accreditation programmes asked themselves the type of questions Peter Block has suggested can help us ‘fix’ many of the challenges we face in our schools, colleges and universities.

And, I bet you all the profits from my next book (LOL) – they also took the advice of Arthur Ashe:

The ARTHUR TEST

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So, if you are serious about ‘fixing’ your hazırlık…what about asking some other questions, too:

4 FQs (where are we right now)

…the more, the merrier – when you thunk these over!

Hazırlık COMMUNITY

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What about these:

What STOPS (teachers and learners)

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Or, one of my favourites:

One SINGLE Problem

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But, double-check this by asking:

2 FQs (to double check)

Forget, the ‘easy’ questions:

Fixing FQ 06

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It is the more ‘profound’ (tougher) questions that will open the minds of your people and connect those in your own community of purpose:

Fixing FQ 08 09 and 10

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Sevgiyle kalın!

FIXing Hazırlık… (Pt 03 of 03)

In Adult Learners, Educational Leadership, ELT and ELL, Our Universities, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness on 25/05/2013 at 1:53 pm

But TONY

Come on, guys! Give me a break…for crying out loud!

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I had wanted to stick with Arthur – but my in-box overfloweth…and not with stuff that I can repeat on this blog (my daughter still reads the posts…from time to time…when I ‘bribe’ her or drop a subtle hint that I have been gossiping about her…again)!

I mean…what the Eternal Example tells us is just goldengolden advice from a golden bloke:

The ARTHUR TEST

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What Nikos Amca tells us about the need to create a ‘community of purpose‘ is ‘golden’:

Purpose 1 (Mourkogiannis quote)

…not to mention, a moral imperative, if we (really) want to do something about the ‘rust’ that has been building up on the hull of the ‘good ship hazırlık’ over the past few years…

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And, what about Peter Block? Those wonderful questions…of his…

YES (red exlam tilted)

…this is what WE need in OUR hazırlık…in ELL Prep Schools across the globe!

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Innit?

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What do you mean…

NO

…you want ‘what’…WHAT?

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Practical advice?

Tips n’ hintsyou can use on Monday morning?

Best practices?

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Al buna!

OK…that was a bit rude of me!

…guess I’ll be dining with Hannibal tonight!

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So, I sat down with some of me mates…and we came up with a few ideas…for you all.

Dummies (fixing hazırlık))

…NO, this does NOT mean you are ‘dummies’ – some of you are soooooo sensitive!

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OK – first off:

Improvement advice 01

Got that? Easy…yes?

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Then,

Improvement advice 02

All good…out there?

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Oh, yes…don’t forget:

Improvement advice 03

What? You want more…?

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OK – you asked for it:

Improvement advice 06

Now, there’s one that can go on everyone’s list!

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Next…and read this one carefully:

Improvement advice 05

I said…’carefully’!

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A few more?…you guys are ‘good’…bloody good:

Improvement advice 04

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More?

Improvement advice 09

…gotta get us some of those ‘handbooks’! Now, how do I Google…

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What about…these three?

Improvement advice 10

This little lot should keep us busy…till Thursday!

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And…on Friday…we can have a stab at this one:

Improvement advice 07

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Whoopsie-daisies…I forgot this one – the ‘bestest practice’ of all:

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Improvement advice 08

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That’s how WE  fix OUR  hazırlık programmes, yes?

ID Card

Türküz…Doğruyuz……Çalışkanız…

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Me thunks…I need a post-script!

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FIXing Hazırlık… (Pt 02 of 03)

In Adult Learners, Educational Leadership, ELT and ELL, Our Universities, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness on 23/05/2013 at 7:48 pm

Change (Arthur Ashe quote)

Love this quote from Arthur Ashe… – go on, take another (closer) look at it…

  • Start where you ARE.
  • Use what you HAVE.
  • Do what you CAN.

If ever there was a recipe (or ‘magic bullet’…even) for ‘fixing’ something that would be it!

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In truthcos that’s what I’m doing a lot of these days…I did not know much about Arthur (we didn’t ‘do’ tennis where I was dragged up)!

It was this very quote, a few years back, that made me take note of his life, character and courageI soooo get (now) why he is referred to as the Eternal Example’ (and why some citizens of ‘my’ canım Türkiyem also hold him in such high regard).

 the PROBLEM (obs)

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It is just…such a pity so many educational institutions (and their ‘leaders’ or ‘in-house experts’), consultants (especially those so-called ‘quality consultants’) and ‘national educational bodies’ have not taken Arthur as their example. 

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Tony! Come on…we said we were ‘done with’:

Blame Game (TG ver)

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I know…I know!

I wasn’t planning to launch into another rantpromise! It’s just that the ideas of Arthur and Peter (whose questions we looked at in the last post) are most often ‘blocked’ by the blame game…or rather those that play the blame game (as well as those that are blamed) – people!

You see…many of the problems we have in our hazırlık schools basically come down to the people that ‘live’ in our universities…and the reason these problems have not been ‘fixed’ is because…these people ain’t fixed them.

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We all get that…

Most people can only SEE

…or their KNOWLEDGE, or their SKILL SET…or their EGO!

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Hazırlık schools form part of a wider university community (though you would never know this by the way many academics and lecturers ‘look down’ on hazırlik staff and their LEARNers)…and a much wider academic community (on a national level).

Ego plays a big role in such communities – and, sadly, these communities are (as a resultnot too good at all this LEARNing stuff…and working together!

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expletive bubble

I…$#*%…you not, Sherlock!

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The Academic Community (and its educators), for the most part, actually see LEARNing (the type they have to do…for themselves) as an ‘admission of ignorance’.

Being seen not to KNOW something about something is almost as bad as not being published in, say, the last 3 years!

This is why so many professors (despite being an ‘expert’ in a very narrow specialty that very few others really care about) suddenly become ‘accreditation experts’ when asked a little question about ‘quality in education’. Isn’t the internet a great ‘research tool’?

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When it comes to language LEARNing, everyone becomes an expert in a ‘flash’ (and an even better finger-pointer) – despite the fact that very few academics or lecturers have taken a methodology course, reflected on their own teaching methods with the help of a peer observer (or a video camera)…or even developed an outcomes-based curriculum model (let alone align this to a framework like the CEFR) – just take a look at all the cut n’ paste jobbies that pass as ‘Bologna compliant documents’ these days!

Just do not get me started on assessment in most of these faculty departments…

Bad ASSESSMENT (Boud QUOTE)

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Sure, we hear lots of lecturers and chairs talking about their own language LEARNing experiences…“when I was in the States” – but is really isn’t the same as teaching in a hazırlık school in big, bad İstanbul, is it now?

Context…matters!

Neither does it help when Rectors and their Deans explain that all language LEARNers (and their teachers) really need is a textbook from the 1970s (the one they used), a pencil and that vocabulary list from you-know-where (also from the 70s…or was it the mid-80s)!

Change (Deming quote)

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Many of the guys charged with running our hazırlık schools are not much better at all this ‘collaboration stuff’ either.

Sorry, guys…just:

Truth (mini ver 02)

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I mean forget not having a curriculum for a minute (just a minute mind)…many have not even bothered to find out what their LEARNers actually need to do with what they LEARN about English when they get to faculty (let alone ‘sit’ through a lecture or tutorial session).

It’s almost as if they do not know that most of their students are there to do departmental studies in English (!) – not LEARN about what Mr and Mrs Brown ‘used to do’ before retirement …besides, who needs to conduct a ‘needs analysis’ we bloody well know what they need, don’t we Raymond?

CEFR Vs Raymond Murphy

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It’s really OK…not to KNOW something.

LEARNing…real LEARNing…within a community (as an active decision-maker in that community) is one of the best ways to ‘fix’ anything! We can move mountains…together!

It’s not OK…to not LEARN…especially when that LEARNing can help the institution and its LEARNers – and (instead) ‘choose’ to play the blame game.

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Many members of the academic or ‘higher LEARNing’ community (and the hazırlık sub-community) in canım Türkiyem just need to recognise that…

You are HERE

…the same as most academic communities all over the globe!

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Bearing that little thunk in mind…it becomes eminently clear that no single person (even if she is the ‘Director-from-heaven’) can ‘fix’ all of the problems we have been looking at in the last few posts. A hazırlık school cannot solve its problems in isolation from the rest of a university – and it should not be expected to!

…or be expected to ‘fix’ stuff…while there is so much dumb, uninformed, cookie-cutter decision-making going on around the Mütevelli Heyeti meeting room table! Yes, I am still talking about increasing contact hours…as a means to improve the quality of student LEARNing!

Ass Backwards (badge)

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Just as it ‘takes a village to raise a child’, it takes every single member of a university community to produce a successful graduate (especially from a school that markets itself as an English-medium university)! These graduates (regardless of which ‘stage’ of their ‘university career’ they are at) ‘belong’ to all of us – their LEARNing is what should guide our decision-making.

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Do you see where I am going with this?

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What Peter (and Arthur, too – even though he did not play a ‘team sport’ either) was basically saying was that the questions he proposes…have to be answered by all those involved in a given community…and that all members of that community play whatever role they can in getting things back on track!

YES (red exlam tilted)

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The hazırlık ‘community’ is a pretty complex one – made up of people who ‘do’ the day-to-day ‘work’ of the community and others that either impact how it ‘does business’ or have an interest is how that business is ‘done’:

Hazırlık COMMUNITY

…and, yes…I know I have probably missed a few!

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The questions Peter proposed:

Peter's QUESTIONS

…can only be effectively addressed when all members of the community speak the same languageare on the same page – (and) speaking (and listening) to eachother might be a good way to start!

Tony Wagner QUOTATION (isolation)

Dream much, Tony?

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And, that’s because a community-that-is-not-really-a-community ain’t gonna be able to do much ‘fixing’ at all!

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We all know that a…

Band aid

…just ain’t gonna do it for our hazırlık woes, don’t we?

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To do that (and you are all gonna hate me for this)…we need a ‘Community of Purpose‘ (or even a community with a ‘common’ purpose…esp. with English-medium, university LEARNing).

Purpose 2 (Mourkogiannis quote)

I have a dream…a dream that involves sitting these guys:

Hazırlık COMMUNITY

…around a table (yes, the SAME table)!

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For starters, they all agree that…

Questions (Marilee Adams quote - NEW)

…and accept that:

Lunacy (Einstein quote - NEW)

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The questions they start to ask themselves are not ‘rocket science’:

3 FQs (purpose)

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but they are ‘important’:

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What is SUCCESS and OUR BUSINESS

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…so much more important than mere ‘prestige’ or ‘status’ …or ‘wall decoration’:

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What are we here to DO (2 FQs)

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These are real questions that ‘matter’ – that show a true understanding of what quality education is all about:

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Broken Quality (TG definition)

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…and that the journey is best undertaken by a ‘true’ communitya community of purpose! This community listens to eachother…LEARNs from eachother…and recognises that:

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Block (fingerprint quote)

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FIXing stuff in this kinda environment would be so much easier…don’t you thunk?

The ARTHUR TEST

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

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

It’s a bit ‘rude’, innit?

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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)!

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

Hannibal (dinner)

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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!

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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!

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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:

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Fixing FQ 07

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

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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”).

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Silly…misguided…(and) just plain dumb!

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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!

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but...

…my favourite question is this one:

Fixing FQ 06

What were we saying about the blame game?

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…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!

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

Change (50 reasons)

…up our sleeves!

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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)

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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

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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

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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!

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Yes…even LEARNers…especially with LEARNers!

But TONY

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!

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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? 

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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!

TEACHERS!

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!

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Sorry (bw)

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

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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)!

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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’!

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OK, OK…but we meant the ‘top…top’:

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

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…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’!

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Hang on…we work at a Vakıf University!

  • The MÜTEVELLİ HEYETİ is ‘crap’!
  • The MÜTEVELLİ HEYETİ BAŞKANI 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’!

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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!

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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?

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

  • PUBLISHERS are ‘crap’!
  • TEXTBOOK SELECTION COMMITTEES are ‘crap’!

Selection what?

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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’!

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

Truth (mini ver 01)

Here’s an idea…

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

You never know…

Monkey (laughing)

…one of them might actually listen to you!

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If they do and tell you something like this

Quality (blind guys)

or even

Quality (Pirsig quote) (1)

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

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

Quality (Winder quote)

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

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

I dare you!

Handle the truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hey, just me…

Truth (mini ver 02)

…here!

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

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

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

Quality (the real prizes)

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

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

Sorry, to burst that little bubble, guys…

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

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

Factory Model TEACHing

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

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For me…

Quality (is a means)

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

Standards (books n reading)

Standards (observation post it)

…it’s about asking powerful questions:

Standards (wrıtten curriculum)

…powerful questions that matter!

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

Harvard and their screw up

…even our educational ‘giants’ screw up!

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For mestandards are critical:

Standards (are good)

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…but not when we regard them as:

Quality McNuggets

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

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

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

Quality Perspective (having vs taking)

or two:

Shift (culture of learning)

or three

Shift (transformation)

or four

Shift (creativity)

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Just.. 

Truth (mini ver 02)

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But…but…Tony:

Joker (Why So Serious)

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Well, we have to get it right with allthingsquality

Broken Quality (TG definition)

…and you can take that to the IMF!

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But, hey…what the hell do I know?

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

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but...

ONE thing I do know

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Canım Türkiyem

Is it our ‘Curriculum Thunking’ wot is BROKEN?

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

Where were we?

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

Truth (mini ver 01)

…and Hazırlık (ELL Prep Schools)!

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

Sorry…just

Truth (mini ver 02)

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

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

I’m not sure either!

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

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One of my opening slides was this one:

Uncover the curriculum

Only an idiot would disagree with this!

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

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

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

Slide002

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

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

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

from A1 to B2 (in 9 months)

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

But, we try…boy, do we try!

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

CEFR Vs Raymond Murphy

Raymond is still winning…

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

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

Twin Sins

 Guess what they said?

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

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

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

Fattening pigs (assessment)

…we weigh, we weigh, we weigh!

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

Quality STRATEGY

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

IMPROVEMENT strategy

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

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Slide87