Tony Gurr

Posts Tagged ‘real learning’

What are the 3 QUESTIONS you have to ask EVERY student you meet?

In Classroom Teaching, Teacher Learning on 15/09/2013 at 2:37 am

In a recent post…I asked my own version of a question that has become ever-so-fashionable in the blogosphere of late:

Quick Fix 02


…I had friends that really gave me a “hard time” for getting so “touchy-feely” (YES…they were all “Brits”) with my bouts of bloggery!

Come on, guys – you know how I feel about that stuff…


Quick Fix 00


That having been said – it does feel good to do these shorter posts!

HEYI might even turn them into a book!


But, and in my defence, I have been feeling these feelings for so longthey just spilled out!

Problem was…what also accompanied these feelings was an uncontrollable urge to do one of those very “Top 10” postsposts I have grown to love ‘n hate…as you well know!


Must fight the “urge”!


My original question was a heartfelt one… – OK, it was created by a feeling of pissed-offness (at paying so much money for a very average LEARNing Opportunity):

What I want my TEACHers to say to me


BUT…I “meant” it…HONEST to God!


As I thought about that “core question”…and, the fact that so many of us TEACHers were meeting so many of our students – for the first time this week, a couple of other questions peculated to the surface, too:


3 FQs (Core Questions)


Questions so few of my TEACHers asked me…ever!


Not touchy-feely at all – very practical.

Practical questions that give students a “voice” (on ‘Day One’)…and help us create the “climate” we need for REAL LEARNing.


…and “feel” the difference between:

Quick Fix 01


The GAMES we play……………. (Pt 01 of ???)

In Classroom Teaching, ELT and ELL, Teacher Learning, Technology on 15/01/2013 at 4:36 pm

Gamification 12 (winning the game)

As an EDUcator (and, perhaps moreso, as a TEACHer EDUcator) I am not interested in surface or superficial LEARNing…I am interested in “real” LEARNingdeep LEARNingtransformational LEARNing (even).

I have never been a “fan” of educators or institutions that simply say they want to be “different” – I have always found that this perspective on LEARNing is more about “What’s NEW” rather than the more important consideration of “What MATTERS”.


“Winning” has also never really interested me – though I must admit I hate “losing”!

COLLABORATION beats COMPETITION hands down – always!


I have also always been more interested in LEARNing that “makes a difference” to the lives of LEARNers – and I push this little “envelope” of mine a little further and actually “define” LEARNing as anything that:

Gamification 11 (defining LEARNing)


This is perhaps why I struggle with the way some EDUcators over-emphasise “games” in LEARNing.8

Gamification 10 (the hunger variety)

The recent resurgence of games and their role in LEARNing (or to use the sexier, upgraded term “gamification” – the global, cultural phenomenon) and their impact on the brave, new world of technologically-enabled EDUcation (and ELL – English Language LEARNing) has really got me thunking over the past few months.

Just do a search on the term (yes, right now…on Google) and see how many “hits” you get.

It’s scary stuff…for a “word” that ain’t even in most dictionaries, yet!


I was at an ELT Seminar recently (and why do we call them ELT…not ELL seminars, anyways) and witnessed something a bit “surreal”. A younger “digital cheerleader” and TEACHer I have seen on the “circuit” – did a session on “Gamification in ELT” – he got a half-decent crowd (buzz-words will always have that effect)!

Almost immediately – the first words out of his mouth were “TEACHers need to forget all their language syllabi – and teach English ONLY through games”…

You can imagine the response!

Rotten tomatoes whizzing past my ears (I like to sit in the middle row at seminars – all the “bad kids” sit at the back)…the room echoed with loud “Turkish tuts…and quiet whispers of “Manyak…yaa!

He didn’t seem to care…I got the impression that he was not a very good “listener”. He had a “speech” about a “sexy” topic…and he was gonna “deliver“! Mmmmm…

I did!

The thing is…and remember I’m pretty patient (tolerant, too)he really annoyed me. Actually, the suggestion that “games” should “replace” solid LEARNing and TEACHing practice in the classroom…was the thing that got me!


This is a job for “Super-Blogger”!


My aim is not to get into the definitions, history and trends of gamification (that’s been done to death on many other blogs) – but, as ever, Wiki to the “rescue”:

Gamification 07

Fair enough!


The rationale for the “explosion” in gamification in both our leisure activities and workplaces is equally easy to get our heads around:

Gamification 05


I mean, come on, even Ben Franklin “got” it (way back in the day…really back in the day – in 1750):

Gamification 06

…in matters of LEARNing!


As an EDUcator, my “gut” tells me:

Gamification 03

This is why I talked about “resurgence”good EDUcators have known for years that “games” can and do help promote effective LEARNing.

The thing is, I also “know” that:

Gamification 04

This is probably why I detest the phrase “EDUtainment” (especially when used to describe what TEACHer LEARNing opportunities “should” be “all” about)…but I (still) use it all the time when I speak to others.


Yes, for me

Gamification 02

– but is should not be the “goal” of EDUcational experiences!


I guess my challenge is that I am trying to reconcile myself with the notion of gamification at the level of “beliefs” or the fundamental “assumptions” that drive what I do as an EDUcator (or, perhaps, “how” I do it).

Like many thunking EDUcators (who operate in more “formal LEARNing contexts”), I still struggle with many of my beliefs…that’s the God’s-honest truth…especially when it comes to my own beliefs on informal LEARNing (or what is sometimes called “self-INSTRUCTion” or “self-TEACHing”) – even though I view myself as a very talented “self-TEACHer”!


What do I mean here?


It’s difficult for me (as a TEACHer) to separate my own intuitive assumptions about LEARNing from the stuff I am still LEARNing from the (emerging) “science” of good LEARNing and the notions that (rightly or wrongly) are functioning as the engine of change in EDUcation these days.

It is equally difficult for me to see the difference between what I have LEARNed (over years and years) about the “artistry of good TEACHing” (for myself, often by myself – by “failing”…a lot) and the things I have LEARNed (and continue to LEARN every day) from my interactions with those that I “LEARN” (OK – you know I mean “teach” there)!


Whoa! Heavy!

What the hell has happened to the Tony we know and love?


As I said, “FUN is a SERIOUS business”but LEARNing is “seriouser”!

With this in mind…I thought it was time for me to “thunk” over what happens if and when I am confronted with “ideas” that could (eventually) remove or replace “formal TEACHing and LEARNing” (in a face-2-face institutional context)…that’s what some “gamification cheerleaders” are saying these days! That’s what my young “digital gamification cheerleader” was banging on about!

Especially, when we thunk about ELL…or even “Chinese Language Learning” (the other “disruption” that keeps me awake some nights), if it comes to that.


I “know”, in my heart-of-hearts, that what Carl Rogers said:

Rogers QUOTE (Facilitation of LEARNing)

…makes more sense in ELL than it might in “other” disciplines.


Classroom interaction is a very “poor substitute” for immersion in the culture and the day-to-day happenings of an actual English-speaking environment (this is how I LEARNed Turkish – after dropping out of a couple of “courses” because the TEACHers were driving me up-the-bloody-wall)!

A pile of lessons on lexico-grammatical structures and skills-based strategies (in a very “artificial” classroom environment) can never match (blow-for-blow) the struggles of balancing life, study and work (not to mention a relationship with someone you fall in love with – and having to dance around the pitfalls of a “mixed-marriage-to-be”) on some distant shorewithout your mum and dad to protect you!

As I said…this is how I LEARNed Turkish!


What I keep coming back to is the basic “truth” that Language LEARNing is bloody hard work…but it’s hard work that can be made easier when there is a bit of “fun” involved…and when we hit the sense of “flow” that comes from engaging in “real” problem solving and the feeling of “success” that comes from solving those problems (feelings that are magnified when you know you did it…on your own)!

What I have just described there is exactly (maybe not word for word) what the gamification cheerleaders are saying about “doing ELL” through games!

At an intuitive level…I agree…but then again those bloody “belief-thingies” get in the way!

Gamification 08 (exploding head upgrade)

As such, I thought it might be a good idea for me to explore my own “beliefs” – and check out why it is that the term gamification (and the prospect of games replacing formal LEARNing) “scares” me so much.


I believe:

  • All students can learn…and, indeed, have the right to LEARN and be LEARNed by others. 
  • LEARNing is (a lot) more than “knowing” – it is about doing something with what we know and our ability to continue to LEARN and grow after “formal EDUcation” is over. 
  • LEARNing is a complex process that involves the whole person in a constructive, situated and collaborative exercise of sense-making. 
  • LEARNers develop knowledge, skills and attitudes best when they are connected “to” and transformed “by” their LEARNing – in addition to “taking responsibility” for that LEARNing. 

FOUR types of LEARNing

I do…I really believe these things!

…and I can show you “evidence” of this…through what I “say” and “do” in my interactions with others! Hopefully, a few of those others (those that “know” me in the non-virtual world) will vouch for me on this!


I also recognise that I (yes, even me) was “socialised” by my experiences within “institutions” and systems of “formal” EDUcation. This is why I mentioned the second point above. Many of my beliefs on LEARNing have been shaped by my LEARNing within these formal institutions – and by the fact that TEACHing plays an important role within the schools, colleges and universities that have made me the EDUcator I am today.

This having been said I do not subscribe to the view that dominates the way many of these institutions “do business”this being that the “means” (TEACHing) are more important than the “ends” (student LEARNing and SUCCESS).

LEARNing vs TEACHing 01


Hence, I also believe:

  • The best EDUcational institutions maintain an unshakeable focus on student LEARNing and success in everything they do, they have a “living” mission (rather than one that is little more than “wall decoration” for visitors) and a “lived” educational philosophy (that they “walk” every day). 
  • A focus on “student engagement” is also the key to successful LEARNing in “formal LEARNing environments” and that this engagement has two key components: the time, effort and other activities students put into their studies and the ways in which an institution allocates its resources and organises LEARNing opportunities to encourage students to benefit from such activities. 
  • The primary role of EDUcators and institutions is to support LEARNers to achieve success – read that again (nuff said)! 
  • TEACHing and LEARNing are two sides of the same coin – the LEARNing of students (in an institutional context) is largely dependent on the quality of TEACHers, the TEACHing they receive and the level of student engagement created by TEACHers. 
  • The best institutions (and their TEACHers) do not simply “cover” their curriculum – they “UNcover” it by listening to their LEARNers, by hearing their LEARNers…and by adapting themselves and what they do to the reality of LEARNing environment in which they operate. 
  • Curricular should be (a lot more) more than a “TEACHing plan” – TEACHers and institutions should conceptualise of curriculum as the expression of “educational beliefs in practice” and must think of curriculum in terms of the “whole educative process” (rather than simply “content” or a document that collects dust on a shelf somewhere)! 
  • Many of the dispositions required for successful LEARNing are the same as the positive behaviours and dispositions that characterise effective TEACHing professionals (yani, the best TEACHers are also the best LEARNers). 
  • Effective TEACHing is grounded on a multi-dimensional set of abilities: what teachers know and understand about LEARNing, how they prepare to TEACH, what they expect of students, what they do when they TEACH and assess LEARNing, how they treat students, and how they evaluate their own practice and improve as professionals. 
  • Highly effective TEACHers help all students to identify their individual LEARNing goals, perform at their highest levels and achieve success. 
  • Highly effective TEACHers view students’ strengths and weaknesses as opportunities for LEARNing – and (actually) encourage their LEARNers to “fail” (by modelling this themselves as “real” people – not as infallible “knowers”). 
  • Great TEACHing involves articulating and generating enthusiasm for LEARNing and modelling the skills of a lifelong LEARNer. 
  • TEACHing grounded on a ‘just-in-case’ model is not as effective as TEACHing at times when students need to and are highly motivated to LEARN (a ‘just-in-time’ model).


Whoa! What the hell has happened to Tony, shiriously?

…why have you “kidnapped” him and replaced him with this “BOT-version”?


My beliefs have been further shaped (nearly there, guys) by my own “imagineering about the future” – what I believe is important for the future of LEARNers as we race into the brave, new word of 21st Century LEARNing (yes, I “hate” the phrase, too – but you get what I am saying).

21C earth logo mid (TG ver)


These beliefs are:

  • Knowledge in the 21st Century is expanding so rapidly (bla,bla,bla!) and, just as students can’t LEARN everything about a “discipline” (especially “language”) or even everything across a range of disciplines (trans-disciplinary LEARNing is the “way ahead”) during their school or university career, TEACHers can NOT (and should NOT) try to TEACH “everything”. 
  • Facilitating “real” student LEARNing (that continues to “evolve” after “graduation”) must involve developing students’ critical thunking, independent problem-solving and performance capabilities (towards the same multi-dimensional sets of abilities that make for great TEACHers). 
  • EDUcational institutions need to make technology integral to LEARNing and adopt new digital technologies to achieve TEACHing practices more appropriate to 21st Century LEARNing. 
  • 20th Century institutions will only survive into the 21st Century, if they can adapt (and re-adapt) themselves by first creating and nurturing institutional cultures that are open and responsive to meaningful change and real LEARNing – the days of creating institutions for TEACHers and administrators are well and truly “over”, boys n’ girls! 
  • To survive – schools, colleges and universities must realign their processes, policies and practices around the notion of student LEARNing (and put that LEARNing at the heart of their decision-making) – because “survival is not mandatory” and systems that place their “means” over LEARNer “ends” will also go the way of the dinosaurs!


What is it about all these beliefs that might account for the “bad taste” that many of the current discussions on gamification leave in my mouth?

Many of them do, in fact, seem to support the “theory” that gamers and EDUgamers work with…


Actually, after getting all those thunks on “paper” and re-reading them

I suddenly feel very “naked”!

Gamification 09 (explosing beliefs)

Is that part of the problem, acaba?



Gamification 01


We ARE how we TEACH…

In Adult Learners, Classroom Teaching, Our Universities, Teacher Learning on 12/12/2012 at 1:11 pm

A few days back I did a very short post…and some of you thought I could never do it!

I drew on a few of the ideas of Carl Rogers to highlight what “MATTERS” when we thunk about allthingslearning. Actually, I’m still entertaining the fantasy that “Uncle Carl” may be my “birth father” and spreading rumours that he was actually in the UK around 9 months before I was born!


Although, I loved what he said about “real LEARNing”…my favourite quote from Carl Amca is:

Rogers QUOTE (Facilitation of LEARNing)

See that? He said “his LEARNing“…

…”proof”definitive proof…that he had an illegitimate “son”…during his stay in the UK!


The problem is, of course, that we all “define” ourselves as TEACHers (saying “I’m a facilitator of LEARNing” is still a bit of a mouthful for most of us)…and, sadly, most of us are still evaluated by how well we “sages” on our “stages”…

Tony Wagner QUOTATION (isolation)

…or, far worse, by the “grades” our LEARNers get by listening to (and memorizing) the diatribes of their EDUthespians – especially in our schools of so-called “higher LEARNing”!

BUT, I digress!


There is nothing wrong with being a TEACHer (despite what many parents “say”Thanks Pat) – what matters more, however, is the kind of TEACHer we is…

Another of my favourite quotes comes from Parker Palmerindeed, I “stole” today’s title from this very non-EDUthespian TEACHer:

Palmer QUOTATION (TEACH who we are)

Take another lookwhat do you thunk Parker is saying to YOU?


It makes total sense…when we work it out (it took me a few stabs)!

The first step in becoming a better TEACHer is all about LEARNing more about “who we are” as TEACHers (pre-, while- and post-classroom “performances”).


This, in turn, requires that we recognise…

Whitby QUOTATION (Better EDU cators)

…Yes, I am on a roll with all my “stealing” today!


In recent years, we TEACHers have started to talk a lot more about LEARNacy – the LEARNacy of our students.

This is wonderful…but not enough.

We really have to explore our own levels of LEARNacya wee bit more, first!


So, here’s another whacky idea – I’m coming up with a lot of these of late – why don’t you speak with your Head of Department…your Supervisor…your Dean…today…

…and ask her to cancel this week’s (boring) “meeting” (you know it’s going to be a waste of time, anyways)…and replace it with a “brown bag TEACHer LEARNing Forum”.


You know…so you can share some thunks on the following questions:



these ones even:



…and, here’s a few that will “retire” a few cells of that old grey matter:



Aristotle QUOTATION (we are what we do)

I WANT to talk about LEARNing…

In Adult Learners, Assessment, Classroom Teaching, Our Schools, Our Universities on 10/12/2012 at 8:37 am

This will be one of my shortest postsever!

So, I’ll let “Uncle Carl” speak…

Rogers Quote Pt 01

Rogers Quote Pt 02

Rogers Quote Pt 03


Time…me thunks…to ask some questions:


Q3 (typo corrected)



Bringing “The Voice” to EDUcation…

In News & Updates (from the CBO), Our Schools, Our Universities on 26/11/2012 at 9:56 am

Move over “Idol“!

…we now have:

Those of you that have been with the blog from the early days know that I have a couple of guilty pleasuresI do love me “musical TV reality shows”.


The Voice is one of my new favourites – and, although we now have versions all over the world…in canım Türkiyem (I do love Mustafa-I-still-have-an-araba), Brazil, Ireland, the Phillipines (those guys should win), Holland, the UK (haven’t got a bloody chance…check out our Eurovision results of late), Vietnam….and even a few “kiddie versions”


….I gotta admit – I still love the original US version!

…sorry Acun!


I just love the idea that we have a panel of judges that have to form a team from a number of “voices” – without “faces”!

Yes, this actually means that anyone…regardless of colour, shape or size (gender, too – in some cases)…with a great voice…has a chance at winning!

What’s even better

…is when a couple of judges (or even all four of them) turn around for the same singer (by hitting their button and turning their “magic” chair to “see” who they have chosen), the singer gets to witness a battle between the judges (Adam and Blake are so much fun to watch…) before she or he chooses the judge that will become their mentor!

How cool is that?


The fun has increased this year (in the US version)…because (after the infamous “battle rounds) judges can actually “steal” voices from the other judges’ teams!

Brilliant….absolutely brilliant!


SO, I hear you ask…what the heck does this have to do with EDUcation?

Well, you all know I have been a wee bit critical of all the silly rankings and league tables we have dragged into our schools, colleges and universities!

These “scorecards” say nothing (nowt, nada…hiç bir sey, yani) about the quality of LEARNing these institutions co-create with the LEARNers that “select” them as “mentors”…sadly, these institutions (the ones that get a warm, tingly sensation in their loins when they hear phrases like “THE World Reputation Rankings) are, in a nutshell, more interested in getting their tape measures out and flashing their citation indicesthan they are in the students that help them pay the bills!


Here’s what I thunk!


Wouldn’t it be great if STUDENTS, PARENTS and EMPLOYERS could sit in the judges’ chairs!

The “voices” our new judges “listen to” are the promise statements the institutions make to all of them:

their beliefs about LEARNing and TEACHing (“curriculum” and “assessment”, too)

what they “do” (for LEARNers) with these beliefs (in practice)…and

…how they will make a (real) difference to the lives of every, single LEARNer that walks through their doors!


Now, that’s a reality show I’d be proud to put on my list of guilty pleasures!

Would you?

LEARNer Engagement in a Culture of LEARNacy (Postscript)

In Classroom Teaching, Teacher Training on 16/09/2012 at 1:27 pm

ShirourslyPart 05 was supposed to be the “end”! It was…


About half way through Part 04, I actually had doubts about even doing Part 05 at all! You see, it dawned on me (as it has done before) that those of you that read my bouts of bloggery, probably do not need to be reading this stuff…

Those that might need to read (and reflect on) these things are the:

  • TEACHers that run Classroom A
  • School “LEADers”
  • Politicians

…exactly the people who might say…BLOGS…never bloody ‘erd of ‘em!

What to do? 


Well, the deal is that…just as we all have a moral responsibility to thunk about STUDENT LEARNing (I was gonna say “LEARNer LEARNing – but that just seems a bit of “overkill”)…we have a moral responsibility to help each other as educatorsto thunk about TEACHer LEARNing!

Now, this duty is just not to ensure that LEARNers are not sent back to Classroom A (after they have done a session with us…in Classroom B)…but because we are TEACHers!

We help eachother…we LEARN eachother…and we “do” it best together!


How do we do this? What sort of things can we do, acaba?


…for TEACHers!


Next time you have a scheduled Teachers’ Meeting (you know, the “boring” ones…where all we do is talk about stuff that is not related to LEARNing), ask your HoD if you can have a spot on the agenda (try to keep this spot on EVERY agenda…really)!

Tell everyone you want to have a LEARNing Conversation about the classrooms…and have copies of Alfie Kohn’s “chart” at the ready (from his post “What to look for in the classroom” – this is hot-link, BTW).

Hand out the chartand tell everyone that this was produced in 1996 – and you want to see how well “we” are doing. Let your teachers run through the chart – celebrate, if you have more “good signs” than “possible reasons to worry”.

But, still ask:


If not, get the team to “see” where they are…and, come up with their own “ideas” – ways to improve how you all “do business” in the classroom. If you have some “Classroom B teachers”, get them to share what they have done…what workswhat matters!


…and making a few of these changes needn’t have the same price tag as the Death Star!




…for a TEACHer (perhaps, who lives in Classroom A – but loved the meeting and your agenda item).


Offer to have coffee or lunch with them…shiriously! Tell them you saw the way they got so involved with the classroom ideas…help them make it happen in their classroom!

Over time, follow up…ask how things are going and what things are getting better!

Invest in them (they teach your LEARNers, too) and try to get the relationship to the point where you can ask and answer questions togetherimprove things together.


See if you can’t both discuss questions like these:

…all the time…and, talk specifically about “our” STUDENTS and “our” LEARNers!


Get into the habit of talking about questions like these:

Many of us do this all the time…but usually with other TEACHers from Classroom B.


BUT…what about Classroom A? …remember “perspective” in the questions:

And, because we know…

…you might want to try “real” powerful questions like:


…and keep asking questions that help us “celebrate”:

Yes, I know this is a “big ask” – but, it works…it gets results…and, if you think engaging a “kid” is “cool”wait until you “feel” it with a TEACHer from Classroom A!


Mmmmmm…what to do with School LEADers and Politicians, acaba?

Send them a link to this blog…and tell them I’m doing a really “cool” mini-series on how “standardised testing” is the next best thing after sliced ekmek!

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

LEARNer Engagement in a Culture of LEARNacy (Part 05)

In Classroom Teaching, Our Schools, Our Universities on 14/09/2012 at 4:45 pm

Krissy’s wonderful image…sums up why all is not so well in Denmark. 


It’s true, we have been able to create a fair few LEARNacy Zones in many classrooms, in many schools…even a few universities…

…but as I noted in Part 04 of this series:


Do you remember Part 02?

You know…I asked you all a few questions – and three of my favourites were:

…a lot of you “passed”, by the way!


An old friend got me a note (not to thank me for the questions – he’s always telling me that I need to give more “answers” than “questions”…but we agree to disagree on that).

What he said was quite interesting:

The funny thing is…that most us would never have come across questions like this 25-30 years ago. We just didn’t do much of that kind of thunking in teaching then…!

He went on:

…I showed the questions to a few teachers in our staff room…many of them answered “NO”…and said you are a total LEARNatic…and not in the nice sense!

As I have said before – WE can’t win ‘em all!


The issue is, of course, what happens to a student that walks out of “Classroom B” (after a really engaging lesson…with a thunking TEACHer) and has to do a “double” in “Classroom A”…with you-know-who! 

In Part 02, I asked the question: 

…but surely the more important questions are: 

  • What are the consequences of this on the LEARNacy of individual LEARNers?
  • What are the consequences of doing nothing about this?
  • What are the consequences…?


For sure…advances in psychology, cognitive science and neuroscience have picked up the pace of our thunking over the last decade…but, in essence, education has been witness to a broader paradigm shift in how we approach TEACHing and LEARNing for much longer…so much so that many of us now prefer to talk of LEARNing and TEACHing!

Indeed, TEACHing itself has become redefined as the “facilitation of LEARNing” and we now routinely talk of LEARNing outcomes – rather than just delivering “CONTENT”. Further, over the last 25-30 years, LEARNers have become of central importance – as have the motives, activities and feelings of individual LEARNers.

We have made huge steps in helping LEARNers become “insiders”insiders in their own LEARNing…

 …I’m thinking you “feel” me!


There are many out there (Bill Gates and Chris Woodhead should really “do coffee” some time) who see “bad TEACHers” at the root of all these woes…however, it’s much more likely that many TEACHers are “poor consumers” of LEARNing

The thing is…just as LEARNers need to exercise their LEARNing muscles in a LEARNing gymnasiumso do TEACHers… 


…it’s not as if most TEACHers aren’t trying! 

 Why else would TEACHers… 

The list goes on…


Yes, of course, there are those in “the teaching game” who are in it for the regular paycheck…or because they can’t see any other alternatives.

But, these are in the minority…

If we now recognise that LEARNers need Julia and Jean’s 3Rs and 3Cs, surely it’s not too much of a stretch to see how TEACHers might need these things, too? Surely, in developing a true Culture of LEARNacy – we have to emphasize TEACHer Engagement and much as we do LEARNer Engagement?


Guy Claxton talks of the need to create a classroom climate and culture that actively builds the LEARNing Power and the innate LEARNing dispositions and capabilities that all kids have.

What happens when: 

  • …we have school climates that do not emphasise TEACHer LEARNing or meaningful improvement in how TEACHers might expand and improve student LEARNing? 
  • …we have school leaders that create a stressful climate based on the fear of failure (and play “the blame game”)? 
  • …we have national educational agendas based on the whims of politicians and their “examocrat buddies” or so-called “educational reformers” (who couldn’t even spell LEARNacy, if you paid them – and we do)?

I’ll tell you:

Dream much, Tony…?

LEARNer Engagement in a Culture of LEARNacy (Part 04)

In Classroom Teaching, Our Schools, Our Universities on 14/09/2012 at 12:20 pm

LEARNacy (or the capacity of human beings to LEARN and also LEARN how to get better at LEARNing) is certainly not new – Maria Montessori just “got” it over 100 years ago when she “discovered” that:

…but it was Guy Claxton that gave the idea a “name”.


Guy draws heavily on the concept of the LEARNing gymnasium – and the metaphor of sport and exercise. Just as our muscles need exercise – so do our minds.

The four muscles he drills down into are his “4Rs”:


…and it is pumping iron in the classroom that can help LEARNers get better at..


In truth, although Guy coined the phrase – he does not dwell on it that much (that’s all my “bad” – just a sucker for “sexy” words, I guess). His priority is LEARNing Power – the building of all those innate LEARNing dispositions and capabilities that we all have and the classroom practices that help to cultivate those habits of mind.

His “vision”, if you will is to, is to get this sign:

…into every school and university (OK – that’s just me, again)!

And, by all reports (except those that come from Chris Woodhead’s desk)…he’s done a bloody good job! A lot of dedicated, forward-thunking TEACHers have breathed life into these ideas…and got results!


  • Does this mean they “stopped” TEACHing?
  • Does this mean they “threw out” all their CONTENT?
  • Does this mean they went over to the Dark Side?



Our kids will always need “great TEACHing” – they will always need “STUFF” that also LEARNs and ENGAGEs them…we just need to restore “greater balance” (…to the Force, Luke)!


Oh, yesand before I forget (again)…

Yes, I was supposed to use this in Part 03!


…YOU just had to know something like this was coming…


All is still not well in the state of Denmarkbut more on that in Part 05!


LEARNer Engagement in a Culture of LEARNacy (Part 03)

In Classroom Teaching, Our Schools, Our Universities on 13/09/2012 at 1:35 pm

One of the challenges of running a mini-series on your blog (apart from the fact that they never seem to end…) is you can, if you are not careful, leave a few loose ends

For example, in Part 02 of this “dizi” – I posed this question:

This one touches at the very heart of student engagement debates in our 21st Century world…but I kinda left it hanging there and did not really plan to talk about EdTECH that much in the series.

Fortunately (for me), Bill Ferriter did a guest post on Larry Cuban’s blog recently and drew on Dina Strasser’s wonderful one-liner:


Like most EDUsmart LEARNatics, Bill and Dina both recognise that TEACHers cannot really “engage” students with TECHnology – for LEARNers the TECH is “invisible” and our attempts to make it more “visible” (and thus “motivating”) will probably get us as many giggles as when we told them that we did not have the internet when we were LEARNers! 

As we noted in Part 01LEARNers want choicechallenge and collaboration (to feed their need for responsibilityrespect and real’). 

As Bill puts it: 

What students are really motivated by are opportunities to be social — to interact around challenging concepts in powerful conversations with their peers. They are motivated by issues connected to fairness and justice. They are motivated by the important people in their lives, by the opportunity to wrestle with the big ideas rolling around in their minds, and by the often-troubling changes they see happening in the world around them.


The role of the TECH – is just to “help” them do that, as effectively and efficiently as they canReal engagement and a real culture of LEARNacy means that, as TEACHers, we prioritize the purpose, success (or “mastery”, if you are a fan of Dan Pink) and autonomy – and make sure we build on the curiosity that LEARNers naturally bring to the table.

The starting point is to ask our LEARNers to LEARN us


The second loose end was a question I asked at the very end of Part 01:

Now, I have to admit this was a tough question – but what I was getting at was that to really make student engagement “work” (in a school context) is that the whole school community has to be committed to LEARNacya community of purpose committed to creating a culture of LEARNacy. 

Many TEACHers (and I got a few e-mails to prove it) say that this is their real challenge…that their schools do not give them the opportunities and the time to “work ON” the business… 

 …and, sadly, focus on “working IN” the business – and what is convenient for them!


If TEACHers cannot answer that question in the affirmative, the first thing the school or university needs to do is open up “space” for all staff to ask other questions:

  • Why not? What is stopping us?
  • What needs to change in us, our TEACHing and our school to make this the way we all “do” the business of LEARNing?

Because, you know…

…if we don’t!


The really big loose end is, of course, that I have not really defined what I mean by a Culture of LEARNacy.

That’s easy (gulp!) – when I get round to Part 04!

LEARNer Engagement in a Culture of LEARNacy (Part 02)

In Classroom Teaching, Our Schools, Our Universities on 11/09/2012 at 5:57 pm

The other week (caused, in part, by the little image you see above and a few of the questions I shared with you in Part 01 of this little mini-series) someone called me a “LEARNatic” – a term I had not heard before!

I actually thought it was quite “smart”…and I took it for what it was – a bit of venting by a TEACHer who was clearly bored of life…and certainly wasn’t interested in student engagement or post-summer CPD workshops!

Hey, we can’t win them all!


What I didn’t know was that the term itself also served to put me in some very esteemed company – a community made up of people like Carl Rogers…like Jerome Bruner…like Jean Rudduck…like Guy Claxton…please let me go on…please!

I was chuffed to bits!


The term LEARNatic was in fact coined by that pillar of virtue, Chris Woodhead, the former Chief Inspector of Ofsted (the UK’s Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) – basically Darth Vader’s “school inspectors”.

Woodhead used the term to describe the ideas of people like Guy Claxton – you know, those UK-based LEARNatics that were suggesting that schools hadn’t quite got it right and that they all needed to be thinking about Julia and Jean’s 3Rs and 3Cs…those LEARNatics that were suggesting that the “examocracies” we had created all over the bloody planet just weren’t working…and we needed a new educational agenda for the 21st Century…

…an agenda based on LEARNacy!


BTW, Chris Woodhead also earned himself the reputation of being Righteous, Reactionary and Rong – the 3Rs UK educators use to describe him…but that’s for another post!


It was Guy, actually, that thunked up the term LEARNacy…in his 2002 book – Building Learning Power.

Now, I bet you are now expecting me to jump right in and “tell” you what it is all about!

…and, you’d be totally “wrong”


Well, what I thought was that I’d prefer to ask you a few…questionsand see if you are a LEARNatic, too!

Is that OK?


Here we go (and remember…be “honest”…no copying!):

Nearly there…just 2 more to go!

Would you like an “answer key”? 


Now – boyz n’ gurlz, if you answered all those questions (well, 8 out of 10 of them) in the affirmative – congratulations!

You are a LEARNatic – welcome to the community!

Bedtime Reading…