Tony Gurr

Posts Tagged ‘teacher training’

Why on Earth Do We Need Teacher Training?

In Adult Educators, Classroom Teaching, ELT and ELL, Guest BLOGGERS, Our Universities, Teacher Learning on 28/04/2015 at 5:52 am

Adams Quote (for Steve)

I have had intriguing tidings from some of my final year learners recently.  They are currently engaged in their second semester of “school experience,” where they spend one day a week under the tutelage of their mentor educators in local high schools.  In theory they are supposed to watch their mentors in the first term, and gradually be allowed to assume responsibility for teaching their classes in the second.  In the end they are asked to teach one, perhaps two entire classes on their own.

 Thinkers wanted (blog ver 02 TG)

The idea sounds a practical one – it’s often best to learn the rudiments of teaching from a professional.  In practice what has happened is this:  learners spend most of their time sitting at the back of the classroom watching their mentors undertake a series of repetitive exercises involving little or no language practice – gap-filling, cloze procedure and the like.  They are easy to mark and require the educator to undertake little or no extra-curricular activity.  It’s an easy way to pass the time in class.

Consequently many learners have complained of wasting their time on “school experience.” Not only do they have little or no involvement in classroom activity, but they are introduced to the jobsworth mentality in which educators do the minimum amount necessary to keep their learners amused and collect their salaries at the end of the week.  When the learners are given the space to teach their own classes, they are told to do the same gap-filling activities, as their mentors cannot be bothered to think up anything new.

 21C LEARNing Culture (TG ver 02 upgrade)

I am not in any way suggesting that this state of affairs prevails at every high school; I have encountered many enthusiastic educators willing to challenge existing approaches to pedagogy.  But what proves particularly disconcerting is that this jobsworth mentality is allowed to prevail at any institution.  It suggests that all the teacher training initiatives spearheaded by the British Council, the book publishers and other institutions have little or no influence on the way in which educators handle the day-to-day business of working with their learners.  Resources are spent to little effect – except, perhaps, to encourage institutions to spend more money on glossy textbooks and thereby increase author royalties.

Is there any possibility for change, or at least create the conditions for change?  Institutionally speaking, the prospect is a pessimistic one: many educators are so imbued with the jobsworth mentality that they perceive little or no reason to change their methods.  Even if they wanted to change, there is little or no incentive to do so.  Personal development assumes less significance than the monthly pay-check.  Even if individuals want to change, they will have to negotiate with their superiors, who might disagree with their views entirely.  Why rock the boat when things are going fine?

 Hocam will this be on the test

Perhaps the only workable solution is to begin from the ground up: to find ways outside the institution to set up initiatives dedicated not to teacher training per se, but to investigate methods of learning, both virtual as well as face-to-face.  This might require us to rethink the way institutions work – perhaps technology needs to assume a more important role in facilitating communication between educators and learners.  Much of the teacher training I’ve encountered has been fundamentally top-down in approach; follow the example of the trainer (like the mentor educator), and you too can learn how to work in class.  I’d favor a flipped approach, in which educators tried to listen to their learners and reshaped their classroom strategies accordingly.  Undergraduate learners could be made part of the collaborative process; the insights they have acquired in the three years of their university curricula might prove invaluable in creating new learning strategies.  While jobsworth educators are difficult to shift, there are still opportunities available to create new generations of educators with a genuine and lasting commitment to listening to and learning from their learners.  Who knows – even the learners might want to become educators in the future.

 Creativity (Einstein Quote ver 03)

Yet time is running out: frustrations increase.  My fourth-year learners have a disillusioned view of their chosen profession.  For them it is not a matter of learning about the way people think and react, but simply a matter of rehearsing time-honored drills practiced by their mentors.  Perhaps the teacher training institutions and the publishers need to rethink their approach to working with institutions; rather than trying to foist their products on their so-called ‘customers,’ they might be better advised to take a lengthy time out and listen to what people want, especially those at the lowest end of the pedagogical scale.  Otherwise we are simply reinventing an educational wheel which will very soon come off the axle that drives it.

Laurence Raw

Ankara, Turkey – 27 Apr. 2015

When Spoon-feeding the “Kids” is NOT Enough… (not a RE-boot)!

In Adult Educators, ELT and ELL, Teacher Learning, Teacher Training, The Paradigm Debate on 09/07/2013 at 11:53 am

Spoonfeeding TEACHers 02


This was a question a very irate TEACHer-cum-PARENT asked me the other week. She was, of course, talking about LEARNing our kids to feed themselves.

“They are turning my kid into a little test-drone” – she told me. Here, she was talking about her child’s school…and, probably, she wasn’t far wrong.


Most of our schools are firmly grounded on 4 ways of “doing business”:

Spoonfeeding TEACHers 03


Yeah…sorry about that – but, if it’s any consolation, that little image up there took me ages to do…guess I was making up for that last, imagesiz blog post I did.


I don’t want to get into all of them – one-by-one – and, besides, most of you know what I thunks:

LEARNing (cannot be delivered) Ver 02


You also know…in your heart-of-hearts that:

High Grades and LEARNers (Wiggins quote)


I do not really care how many practice books, online resources, mock tests, or so-called “extra-curriculuar” tutoring sessions a school offers its kids…if these materials or opportunities are of the just-in-case, EXAMocracy type (rather than the just-in-time, LEARNing type) – the result is the same.

Pigeon holes (even of the “multiple intelligence variety”) are too small for our kids!

Hey, I did manage to cover them all!


Twilight Zone 01b (TG edit).jpg

However, the story did not stop there.

I got a call from one of the “team” at the school (where my friend sends her kid) – quite by co-incidence.

They wanted me to to come to their school at the end of August and…wait for it…. “deliver a lecture” to their TEACHers…a 60-minute lecture, no less / no more (because, I was told, TEACHers cannot focus for more than 50-60 minutes) on….wait for it… “creativity with the new textbooks they have adopted” .

Do they not know me…at all?


HULK (keep calm TG Ver)


To add insult to injury…they also asked me if I knew any other native-speakers that would be prepared to come a give a 60-minute session on…and this was the killer… “any topic they wanted!


The SECRET (Expletive)


Now, I’m not going to get into the whole “NS vs. NNS TEACHer thingy” (though I would really love toI would)! But, it’s worth exploring some of the the other underlying assumptions…behind this seemingly simple request.


There are many schools (and universities, too) out there that are basically looking for a way to “fill up” the Summer schedules of their TEACHers…called back to work far too early…when nothing of much value has been planned.

Now, I’m not saying this is the case here…Vallahi Billahi…(yep, Google Translate still sucks!) – but the request “smelled” of something…something very fishy!

Balik bastan kokar (TR ver)


Why would a school want to invite a speaker or trainer to “do” a session on “anything they wanted” ?

Thunk about that for a minute…


Even worse…why (oh, bloody why) would they want someone to come and deliver a lecture on a topic area or theme that is clearly so grounded on critical thunking, classroom practice and collaborative co-creation?

We’re talking about “creativity“, guys – not exam prep classes!

Duh (TG ver 4 blog)


Now, call me old-fashioneddoesn’t happen very often…but I’m OK with it.

I’ve always believed that:


The ART of TEACHing (van Doren quote) Ver 02


…it just makes sense that TEACHer LEARNing (TRAINing, even – though I do prefer my other term), should follow the same principle…similar processes.

You know, all that stuff about “walking-our-talk” and “being the change we want to see in the classroom” –

posing and answering questions together,

working stuff out together,

solving real problemsTOGETHER!


Motivation (the CHALLENGE)


But, then again, maybe some schools just feel it’s easier to “manage” their TEACHers…when they manage their “diet”, too!


Feeding our TEACHers is important…


The problem is, however, that wonderful advice that Neila Hocam (yes, click on that link – it is a “real” book) gives us:


If you dont feed the TEACHers (Connors quote) Ver 02


…is also dependent on the “type of food” we make available to our TEACHers!


Reflections from a few “new hands”…

In Teacher Training on 06/03/2012 at 3:28 pm

By Esin Uysal and Tony Gurr

Some time ago I shared a post called Advice from a few “old hands”. This was a follow-up to some earlier posts written (primarily) for “teachers” (and their “trainers”) going through the transition to “trainer” – and suggested a workshop activity designed to help trainers-in-training imagineer their own “trainers creedo”.

Recently, I was working on such a programme with Karabük Universityin the Black Sea region of Turkey. The programme was for a small team of largely younger teachers – and was designed to upgrade their classroom LEARNing and TEACHing abilities and also introduce them to the world of “teacher training”.

Most of the teachers on the programme were a little apprehensive about the teacher training components of the programme. It is a huge step for younger teachers to start thinking about becoming a teacher trainer – especially when they are still “LEARNing as teachers” themselves (…do any of us really stop)?

Because of this, the team of trainers looking after the programme placed a great deal of emphasis on combining “reflection-on-teaching-practice” with “reflection-for-training-practice” – as well as a focus on values, walking-our-talk and LEARNing-by-doing.


I was lucky enough to coordinate most of our introductory sessions on training, becoming a trainer and designing and planning workshops – by far the most interesting was “managing the transition” and I used the activity I described in the post above. What happened during this session was a great LEARNing experience for all of us – and also touched on how we use assessment/grading on training programme and how we give feedback to teachers.

I asked one of the participants, Esin, if she could write up her reflections on the session to share with other trainees-in-training for the blog.


She did – so, read on!


Most of us were quite nervous about the sessions on ‘becoming a trainer’ – we thought that they would be just too high-level for us and that we were not ready to make the move into teacher training. We still have a lot to learn but our trainers really made us explore our own classrooms (as teachers), look at what we do (as teachers) – and apply this to what trainers do.

We quickly realised that the jump was not as big as we all had thought.

However, in one session Tony began talking about “Pirates” and we thought this was funny as we all love Johnny Depp (as does Tony’s wife, we discovered – he prefers Johnny’s wife)! We thought pirates did nothing but steal, kidnap and murder – but he told us about the “democratic principles” that a lot of pirates had over 400 years ago – and we looked as some of the “values” they built into their “Pirates’ Creedo”.

It started to make sense…well, a bit!

Then he told us we were going to create our own creedo – a trainer’s creedo!

We took a look at some really great advice from some old hands in teacher training – and were happy to see so many of the things we had already agreed that teachers need to do in their classrooms. Then, we all thought about our priorities and chose our own top 8 elements individually – this was difficult as all the advice was great.

After that, we all got into goldfish bowls (yes, we learned about these, too) and shared our ideas with our group. The problem was that we also had to convince others in the group to accept our ideas – this was much more difficult. But, we managed it. It was really nice to see that others could accept different ideas and that we could reach agreement despite there being a lot of different points of view. What was interesting was that we really had to justify our choices to convince others in the group. This meant we really had to think deeply about what is behind the advice we give others and what is important for both teachers and trainers.

Then it was “poster time” (always the best part). Here are a couple of the posters we created:

We were so proud of ourselves!


Then, our trainer asked us to do something strange – he asked each group to grade each other’s posters. It was the first time we had done something like this – and what happened then shocked us all.

We graded the posters – but what we didn’t realise was that there was a different creedo guiding how we did this. It may sound funny (as we are teachers) but all the groups obviously thought they had done the best job – and we gave low marks to others because of this.

When the groups returned to their own posters, suddenly everybody got a bit annoyed because we thought we deserved much better grades. To calm things down someone suggested that it might be a good idea to explain the reasons behind our grades – and use post-it stickers to add our feedback to the posters themselves.

We had been talking about giving feedback to teachers and it seemed like a very good idea because everybody wanted to know why they got that grade they had been given. However, when we were writing down our feedback we discovered that we were actually doing something that could make the situation worse.

What we started to do was list all the points we didn’t like – and wrote notes highlighting the mistakes and errors on the posters. A few of the post-it notes were actually a bit cruel – still we were trying to make the point that our posters were better and justify our low grades. 

Our trainer then stepped in a made a few suggestions – he highlighted some of the words and phrases we had put on the posters and asked us to think about whether our post-it comments “matched” the things we had included in our creedos.

We had an “a-ha moment” – most of us realised that we were not walking-our-talk but rather falling back on our “old habits” (and some of our worst habits, too). We ripped up most of the post-it notes and version 2.0 of our post-it feedback was greatly improved. We had discussed observations and giving feedback – and realised that we were not just LEARNing for the sake of LEARNing. This “new” feedback was much more warm, with questions and supportive suggestions – not direct/negative comments. We had got back on track…


What did I LEARN from all of this?

Well, participating on a train-the-trainer programme can be stimulating (and tough at times), talking about pirates can be surprisingly informative and doing a cool poster can be fun – but what matters is what we do with what we LEARN and how well we “walk-our-creedo” (both as teachers and trainers).


To see the original post and the advice we looked at – CLICK HERE

Bedtime Reading for Trainers-In-Training (Omnibus Edition)

In Teacher Training on 01/03/2012 at 5:54 pm

All that blogging about observations this week, made me realise that I hadn’t done an “update” on teacher educator resources for some time.

This is a list of allthingslearning “teacher training” posts (or “bits and bobs” that are most relevant to trainers) from the last 12 months – developed mostly for “trainers-in-training” but even more experienced teacher educators might find something of use.

I’ve broken them down into FOUR categories – and realised we could use a few more posts in a couple of categories. Mmmm – my blogging “to-do-list” groweth longer!

Enjoy! Feel free to add any other recommendations (from other sources or blogs) in the comments section.

From Teaching to Training


Teacher Education for the 21st Century


Classroom Observation


Workshops, Presentations & Conferences


The 21st Century Teacher Trainer…

In Adult Educators, Teacher Training on 14/01/2012 at 12:34 pm

…or even TEACHer EDUcator!


Twitter Blog Post 02 (21C Culture ver 03)


It seems you can’t throw a rock into the blogosphere these days without hitting a post or article on the 21st Century “something-or-other”.


Teaching is no different, teacher training is no different…so, and because I obviously have my “teacher educator” hat on these days, here’s my two cents on “trainers” of the present and future.



To be honest, I have done my own fair share of promoting the concept of the “21st Century Teacher”…but, and in my defense, I have also maintained that being a 21st Century teacher involves more than just the skills and tools peddled by “edtech visionaries”.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at a couple of earlier posts:

See, told you so!


Teaching, good teaching, has always been about authenticity, values and educational literacy (fluency, too).

OK – it is true – technology will play a larger and larger role in the lives of learners and teachers (and trainers, too) – and teachers and teacher educators will increasingly have to have the very same 21st Century technological skills and digital literacies that their students are expected to have.

Fair cop, guv!


…But, 21st Century education and teacher learning will never be all about the tech n’ toys. Well, it shouldn’t be…

I am not alone…and I’ll step on the shoulders of a “giant” to prove it:

Na, nah, na, na, nah – no talk of EdTech from Mr. Multiple Intelligencies himself.


A more recent “study” from another (very) tech-savvy edu-commentator, Meris Stansbury:

Told you so – last on the list and more about “knowing the difference” than “using the new and different”.


Tony, you are still on “teachers”…look at the “title” of the post, darling!

OK, OKgetting there. In a minute!


This week, Educational Origami also did a nice post on the 21st Century Teacher – and, surprise-surprise, my man Andrew did the same:

Like most sensible thinkers in education, I doubt if many of you will disagree that both teachers and trainers need to have many of the same “human” characteristics:



And, both teaching and training rely on the same basic “facts of life”what we know, what we do with what we know and what we do to improve what we do with what we know (yes, I know it’s a mouthful)!


So, and taking inspiration from all these sensible chaps and chapettes mentioned here today…

here’s my list of “roles” for the 21st Century Teacher Trainer:



OK – OK! And, you want to know what they actually do on a day-to-day basis, too?

Is there no pleasing you, at all?



I’m going to go out on a limb here (why change the habit of a lifetime) – and say exactly what I said about the 21st Century Teacher…


The 21st Century Teacher Educator…will (still) need to think more about the headware, the heartware and the careware – not just the hardware, the software and the webware everyone is trying to flog us!

I openly admit that these things can help us get the job of “teacher training” done…but they cannot replace what is at the heart of the job – teachers and how we make a real and significant difference to their lives (and the lives of their “kids”)!


That is unless YOU have anything you’d like to add to this little diatribe!


So, you wanna be an ELT Teacher Trainer…huh?

In ELT and ELL, Teacher Training on 04/01/2012 at 7:28 pm

Those of you that know me intimately (well, maybe not “that” intimately) will know that I spend some of my “free time” working with teachers and school leaders on various development programmes and LEARNing opportunities (gotta plug the blog – it is, afterall a brand new year)!

Right now, I’m getting ready to work with a bunch of ELT teachers – who have taken the “leap” and are planning the “transformation” into the role of ELL Teacher Educator (sounds so much better than “ELT Trainer”, dunnit)?

I was pulling together some on-line “bedtime reading” resources together as pre-sessional prep – and actually went back to one of my very first posts (almost a year ago to see what had changed – to see if I have changed)!


In that post, I made a few observations – as have others before and after me:



  • There is no one best “route” for becoming a teacher educator – and sometimes many of the so-called “trainer-training” programmes that have sprung up over the years are a waste of time!
  • There is no one best “trainer profile” – trainers and teacher educators come in all shapes and sizes (but many of them are “rounder” than most – and, not sure why, a large proportion of them still smoke)!
  • Teacher training or educator LEARNing, as a job, is about “service” – to teachers and the profession. It’s about“serving” – not being “served”.
  • Teacher-training is really about who you are, what you know, what you stand forand how you share all of that and get others to “find their voice” and share what they have to offer.
  • It’s bloody hard work – not just about “winning the crowd” or “having a laugh” (what I call the “ka-ka-kee school of teacher training”) – and requires a lot of varied and multiple experiences if you really want to add value to the LEARNing and teaching of others.


NONE of these have changed – over the past 12 months!



What had changed for me, however, was the resources I was recommending to people. In my early days as a teacher trainer, I focussed vey much on “content”. If I was working with ELT professionals, all my recommendations were about ELL – if I was working with engineering lecturers, all my stuff would come from the literature about “engineering education” (go on, I dare you, try and find that kind of stuff)!

With the recommendations I have been making more recently, there’s much more of a “variety” – much more “transdisciplinarity” (is that a real word, acaba)! This has got to be a good thing and it made me realise that I have another area in which I am walking-my-talk.

Yes, reading is good – and sexy – but reading outside of our disciplines, our comfort zones is sexier!


Anyways, I thought I’d share the most recent “bedtime reading list” with you – especially, if you are thinking of taking the “leap”:






What I will say, to wrap up, is also that a few other of my ideas and bits of advice (from last year) also remain unchanged.

Just as we are starting to realise that “intelligence is learnable” (finally), we are starting to see that teacher training abilities can be learned – but require Disraeli’s “three pillars”.



So, what does all this mean for teachers who are thinking about moving into teacher training (or educator LEARNing):

  • Watch a lot – go to as many training sessions as you can, check out as many conference papers as you can, get on the web and find other presenters. LEARN like your hair’s on fire!
  • Reflect a lot – think about the sessions you go to and draw up a list. Think about the “best” training sessions you have been to – ask yourself: What worked? What mattered most? What did the presenter/facilitator “do” and how did that make you feel? – DO IT! Also, think about the “worst” sessions you went to – ask yourself: How did I feel? What got in the way of my learning? What stopped my engagement? DON’T DO IT – EVER!

Most importantly:

  • Get your hands “dirty” a lot – as a wise man (I actually thought it was a woman last year) once said:



You will LEARN more by doing “teacher-trainer-type” things and “failing” than by reading a bookand you will figure out how to make it happen, if you really want it!


Bedtime Reading – for TEACHER TRAINERS this time…

In Book Reviews, Teacher Training on 01/03/2011 at 8:24 pm

This post “was born” from a simple question – posed by Gamze (thank you, canım – and you “will” make it work)!

Gamze asked for a list of my recommendations about “teacher training books” and some resource books to help her make her sessions “sexier” (OK – those were my words) – she is far too nice to use a phrase like that!

But, I thought I had to “contextualise” a book-list within a few reflections…


I think it was Disraeli that said that the three pillars of learning are “seeing much, suffering much, and studying much” – as teachers we can all relate to this.

As a teacher-trainer you will “feel” this much more in your bones.

I work with a lot of young “trainers-in-training” and also talk to a lot of teachers who ask me: How can I become a teacher-trainer?

I always refer them to few good “starters” on the web to get to get them thinking:

  • Tessa Woodward wrote a really good “Think-Piece” (in 2009) entitled Am I ready to be a teacher trainer? Tessa’s advice will help you see if there is a “fit” between your ambitions and your abilities.
  • Scott Thornbury offers some solid advice and gives over the letter “T” to teacher training on his excellent blog (go through his alphabet some time). His advice to roll your sleeves up, get your hands dirty, and gain confidence before taking the “leap” is some of the best I have seen.



Then the hard work begins….

As both Scott and Tessa note there is no simple answer to the question. There is no “CELTA or DELTA in Teacher Training” (yet) – there is no one best way to become a teacher trainer.

It is true that the core ability set of both a teacher and a teacher-trainer have a lot in common – but as a teacher-trainer you have got to take things to “the next level” (teachers are a “tough” crowd to please – trust me)!

And, there is a lot of “noise” about what it takes to be a good teacher trainer – sadly much of this is from “non-teachers”.

I was one of the first “teachers” to be hired by a publishing company in Turkey (as long ago as as 1987) to be a “publishing house trainer”” and I am still offered a lot of “training gigs” (people actually say this to me). Usually the first thing the “sponsor” tells me is “they must have fun in your session – dance around, be crazy” or “you must give them a bag of tricks to take away“. I’ve even heard people say “teachers are lazy and just want to be spoon-fed ready-made recipes to take into the class“.

I disagree (as I did in 1987)! Actually, I’m going to say something stronger – “crap” (I wanted to say something even more obscene – but Gamze will read this)!

This is my blog.

It’s not just about “winning the crowd” or “having a laugh” (that’s what I call the “ka-ka-kee school of teacher training”). This approach to “teacher learning” is a bit like having a Chinese meal – great at the time but leaves you feeling “peckish” a while later – and wondering why you did not have something more “substantial” in the first place.

Teachers want to make a real difference – they want to be inspired and they want to learn how to do both better – for their own students! If you want to graduate from the “ka-ka-kee school of teacher training”, you are reading the wrong blog!

Teacher training is about “service” – to teachers and the profession. It’s about “serving” not being “served”.

If you “get” this – you are a probably a good potential trainer!

That’s the job description! That is “service” – just like teaching!

What I have found is that you either “fall into” teacher training by accident or you make a conscious decision to do what Stephen Covey refers to as the “8th Habit” – “find your voice & inspire others to find theirs”.

And the best trainers fall into the second group!


However, “finding your voice” means a lot more than those three simple words.

“Inspiring others to find theirs” is a whole new ball-game for most teachers (ask the guys that come onto our “train-the trainer” programmes).

The two elements of Covey’s 8th Habit rely on your “experience” (lots of it), your “creativity” (even more of it) and “your own ability to learn” (perhaps the most important of all).

Teacher-training is really about who you are, what you know, what you stand for and how you share all of that and get others to share what they have to offer.

The first three of these are the “voice”, the fourth is the “inspiration” side of things. Without knowing your voice, it’s difficult to inspire others.

I know this might sound a bit like the “nature or nurture debate” when we discuss leadership – it is not. No-one is a “born” teacher trainer.

But you can learn how to be one!


Just as we are starting to realise that “intelligence is learnable” (finally), we are starting to see that teacher training abilities can be learned – but require Disraeli’s “three pillars”.

Headache approaching – get me an aspirin (or ten)!

So, what does all this mean for teachers who are thinking about moving into teacher training:

  • Watch a lot – go to as many training sessions as you can, check out as many conference papers as you can, get on the web and find other presenters (remember the TED videos). Learn!
  • Reflect a lot – think about the sessions you go to and draw up a list. Think about the “best” training sessions you have been to – ask yourself: What worked? What mattered most? What did the presenter/facilitator “do” and how did that make you feel?DO IT! Also, think about the “worst” sessions you went to – ask yourself: How did I feel? What got in the way of my learning? What stopped my engagement? DON’T DO IT – EVER!
  • Get your hands “dirty” a lot – as a wise woman once said “risk taking is inherently failure-prone – otherwise, it would be called sure-thing-taking”. You will learn more by doing “teacher-trainer-type” things and “failing” than by reading a book – and you will figure out how to make it happen, if you really want it!

I’d love to hear some stories about how people became teacher trainers – or advice from those going through the process as we speak (you know who you are)!

Take care.


My thanks to John Hughes who also has a super blogTraining ELTeachers – pop over and say “hi”!