Tony Gurr

Posts Tagged ‘teaching’

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?




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?



Tony (logo new) 260316 ACG

The DNA of GREAT Teachers – 3 “listicles” you have to read!

In Classroom Teaching, Guest BLOGGERS, Our Schools, Teacher Learning, Teacher Training, Uncategorized on 18/03/2014 at 9:59 am

Last week, allthingsLEARNing offered a bout of bloggery from guest-blogger Steve Brown (Is it all in the Genes?).

Today we have a follow-up guest-post from Cas Olivier (all the way from Harties“, a small resort town in the North West Province of South Africa). I never actually got to Hartbeespoort on “my walkabouts” around South Africa – but now I have a reason to do so…next time.

Cas (guest post slide) 01


The story of how I bumped into Cas in the blogosphere is a funny one!


About 8 months ago, I was desperately looking for some new images to “steal” for one of my own posts on “GREAT TEACHers”. Yes, I know…some of you “hate” this phrase – but, come on – who among us all does not want their students to say something like – “Tony Hocam is a GREAT TEACHer”?

go on, tell the truth now!


Well, I was at a total loss – couldn’t find anything new to steal…sorry, “inspire” me! I had got totally fed up of using “brains” and “mirrors”!

I had lunch with my big, little girl and told her what was going on (actually, she wanted to know what all the “swearing” was about…the foul language that had been pouring out of my study all morning)!

Expletive (four)

I mentioned that I had overdone the whole “brain” thing – but I (still) liked the notion of “organic” TEACHing! She looked up and said “Dad…what about DNA – that’s cool”!

I jumped up…kissed her…and ran back to the study!


Not five minutes had passed…and the wave of obscene expletives began againbloody Google had spat out Cas’ book The DNA of GREAT TEACHers (spat it out straight in my eye it did) and I hated him almost immediately…with a passion!

Expletive (sixteen)

Hey, I am human – get over it! Least I’m honest…


You see…the same thing had happened to me when I “invented” (yes, I also “steal” ideas from me daughter – I am THAT daddy!) the term ASSESSment Literacy back in 2011 (I still “hate” Richard Stiggins…not really!) LEARNing, CURRICULUM and EDUCATIONAL Literacy, however, are still “mine” (and my big, little girl had nothing to do with them…that time it was “Dexter”, my dog…who will soon have a blog)!

I calmed down…and started “stalkingCas via his website-cum-blogLEARNingDESIGNs – could he be my long-lost brother (my dad had spent time in Cape Town, Durban and the Free State in the late-40’s), acaba?

Cas Hocam – I know you were born in the Free State…but, when exactly WERE you born? I want a date…and a pregnancy calendar!


I fell in love with the sample chapters that Cas was so generously sharing on his blog – I liked the complex simplicity of his THUNKs…and the common sense those thunks were screaming at me!

I forgave him (!)…got in touch via mail…and, his first act of cyber friendship was to send me a copy of his book. 

Paying It Forward is alive and well…in the “Harties”!


Cas and I started chatting about him doing a follow-up to Steve’s post – and although neither of us are fans of “listicles” (TY – Kevin Stein aka @kevchanwow in the big, bad Tweetiverse) he thought it might be fun…to do THREE of themin one post!

So, over to Cas!

DNA Question (for Cas)


The DNA of GREAT teachers are described from a plethora of vantage points and they all have merit.

My vantage point is my latest book: The DNA of Great Teachers in which I use the ‘DNA-concept’ as metaphor to explain teaching paradigms and explain how teachers’ genetic teaching make-up influences their mindsets and teaching practices.

Once I started to “decode” teaching-DNA, I began to understand more and more about what made GREAT teachers so GREAT!


GREAT Teachers (for Cas) 01

Let’s start with beliefs – and my first “listicle”:


The 10 Beliefs of GREAT TEACHers

  1. Teaching means to facilitate learning.
  2. Lesson planning means converting the curriculum into learning challenges.
  3. Their main tasks are to guide and support students.
  4. Are firstly followers and then leaders.
  5. Teaching is like developing new medicine. It must be based on patient needs and not the design preference of the manufacturer.
  6. The momentum of great teaching is maintained by questions asked by both themselves and the students.
  7. When students are not learning as expected, they change their approach.
  8. They cannot teach learners anything, but can make them think.
  9. Learning always starts from the known and progresses to the unknown.
  10. Lesson must cater for ‘short-legged’ and ‘long-legged’ students.


As Tony might say – have a THUNK about it.

How many of these reflect your understanding of your own DNA? How many of them are beliefs – that walk-their-talk in your classrooms? Are there any in there that you might disagree with? Why / Why not?


GREAT Teachers (for Cas) 02

The second of my “listicles” is more focused on the classroom (I’m not that sure if that term is growing on me or not)!

Before you read mine…What would your own Top 10 List include?


Questions (Joseph O Connor quote) Ver 03


The 10 Things That GREAT TEACHers “DO” in the Classroom

  1. Determine the learning status of students and then become leaders to guide their learning.
  2. Manage their classes through good relationships.
  3. Deviate from their lesson-plan to enable students to gain quick learning-wins.
  4. Provide learners with scaffolds to work out their own answers.
  5. To achieve productive silence in a class, they ask questions. To achieve productive noise give students an activity to do.
  6. Use at least 5 teaching methods.
  7. Never give answers to questions. Rather provide students with scaffolds to enable them to work out their own answers.
  8. Ensure learners are acknowledged and feel clever.
  9. Ensure students master logical, critical, creative and big picture thinking skills.
  10. Encourage learning risk takers to speak their minds.


How many were similar to your own listicle?


GREAT Teachers (for Cas) 03

List 03now, this is one of my favourites.

None of us are “perfect”…we all have room to grow. But, GREAT TEACHers often take their DNA…and turn it into an “art form”:


The Top 10 Things that GREAT TEACHers “do” to Improve

  1. Discuss their teaching with colleagues.
  2. Learn from any source to improve their teaching.
  3. Appreciate positive and negative critique on their teaching.
  4. Do not take critique personally.
  5. Keep on looking for better ways to engage students in more creative and challenging learning.
  6. Open to advice.
  7. Willingness to change.
  8. Remind themselves that they should not be the main source of information during lessons.
  9. Keep on looking for ways students can discover and create their own answers.
  10. Keep abreast by reading about teaching.


Now, here’s a thunk or 2 (again, to “steal”…sorry, to be “inspired”…from Tony)!

How many of you work in schools that give you the “space” to do these things? Schools that create the conditions for “DNA mutation and adaptation” to take place – through LEARNing conversations between LEARNing teachers


GREAT Teachers (for Cas) 04 (with cover)


Cas Olivier   –   – 

Is it all in the Genes? (from GUEST BLOGGER – Steve Brown)

In Classroom Teaching, ELT and ELL, Guest BLOGGERS, Teacher Learning, Teacher Training on 05/03/2014 at 8:25 am

Today’s bout of bloggery is from Steve Brown (aka @sbrowntweets on Twitter).

I first came across Steve when I was pointed in the direction of his blog post “21 Questions for Language TEACHers”. I have to admit I had not stumbled upon Steve’s blog – the very-easy-to-remember(The) Steve Brown Blog” – until Mike Griffin gave him a nod in one of his posts and I kicked meself for not seeing it earlier.

I loved his questions so I decided to stalk his blog pages a wee bit more. When I came up for air, I told him (via Twitter) that I was sorry I had had not recognised his “bloggery genius” earlier – and then asked if he’d be interested in answering a question (rather than just helping us thunk over his – he has just done another wonderful “quiz” for all us teachers, too…take a look)!


He agreed – and here we are this morning!

THUNKers Wanted (for Steve)


When Tony asked me to do a guest post on his blog I was flattered, then excited, then a bit scared.

I got (really) scared at the point when he “suggested” I try answering this question:

DNA (LEARNing TEACHer) Blog ver 01

Freakishly scary, right?


I mean, where do you start? This question isn’t just about what makes a good teacher, but what (if anything) is hard-wired into a person that predisposes them to effective, reflective, developmental teaching.

At least I think that’s what the question is!


So, let’s start with a definition of a LEARNing TEACHer.

I would suggest that this is a teacher who continues to LEARN throughout their career. Someone who recognises that completing a teacher training qualification does not make you the “finished article”. Someone who realises that there is no finished article.


Parker Quote (for Steve)


Someone who constantly seeks ways to…


develop and

enhance their skills & talents.


If this is our definition of a LEARNing Teacher, maybe we can identify what qualities such a person needs to have.

They need to be able to take new information on board, to respond well to feedback, to pick up new information and ideas, and to have the technical skills to put them into practice.

LEARNing Quote 01 (Steve)


Of course, much is made of such qualities in the world of ELT teacher training courses. Trainees are expected to make steady progress from observed lesson to observed lesson, absorbing new information from input and feedback sessions then putting it into practice at the very next opportunity.


But all that stuff is LEARNable!

Adams Quote (for Steve)


You can LEARN how to manage a class, how to give instructions, how to do effective boardwork, how to clarify language, how to correct errors. This is what the ancient Greeks called poeisis – the implementation of techniques. You learn what needs to be done, then you do it.

Is that all that teaching involves though? Is it just a matter of following set procedures, using tried and tested techniques?

Sure, you need to be able to acquire those technical skills, but you also need to know when to use them.

Best TEACHers (new ver) TG


Teaching is an essentially human activity; you’re working closely with real people, and these real people will respond in very varied ways to the techniques you implement.

A sensitivity to these responses and an ability to react appropriately are therefore crucial. This is more like what the ancient Greeks called praxis – action that is informed by a wider context, taking into account the moral, socio-economic or political consequences that your teaching might have, beyond the classroom.

I mean the impact on the students’ lives, and the resulting consequences for society in general.

Resnick Quote (for Steve) TG ver


In terms of what goes into a teacher’s DNA, therefore, the skills themselves are less important because they are LEARNable. What is more fundamental is an inherent AWAREness of the “implications” of employing these skills.


But the question isn’t just about a good teacher; it’s about a LEARNing teacher.

So as well as an awareness of what you’re doing, there needs to be something else in the DNA that “drives” you forward, that keeps you “wanting” to LEARN more.

Resnick Quote TG ver


I would suggest that this requires FOUR qualities:


You can’t LEARN how to be interested in something – either you’re interested or you’re not. So you need to have an interest in the subject you teach, and you also need to have an interest in the whole “business” of teaching and LEARNing.


Again, this has to go in the DNA because you can’t LEARN how to want to do something. Desire to take action comes from somewhere very deep down. 


I suppose you could argue that this is very closely related to motivation, but it’s not exactly the same. While motivation is a desire to take action, inquiry is a desire to find things out. You can have your interest piqued or your curiosity raised, but I think that a constantly questioning approach to life, or a reluctance to just accept everything as it is, is something you either have or you don’t have.


Tolstoy Fish Quote (new ver) TG



In order to get better at something, it is important to be able to recognise how bad you are at it. In fact, failures or shortcomings need to be welcomed and embraced as opportunities for development.

We tell this to our students, so we need to demonstrate these qualities in ourselves as well. Humility is certainly something that can be developed, but the ability to equate failure with opportunity is something that some people find very difficult, and others find impossible.



I’m not sure I’m doing very well here in describing what the DNA of a LEARNing teacher looks like, though.

Can we visualise it?


Apparently, regular DNA looks like this:

DNA (Steves Ver)


You’ve got the four chemicals Adenine, Cyostine, Thymine and Guanine, surrounded by sugar and phosphate.

Maybe the DNA of a LEARNing Teacher can look pretty similar.

Replace the four chemicals with Interest, Motivation, Inquiry and Humility, and surround it all with…AWAREness!


What if 06


Of course this is incredibly “unscientific” and I apologise to everyone who actually knows something about DNA. I would welcome any comments from such people.

Trying to answer Tony’s question has raised three related questions for me, which I think I can answer now:



Steve Brown


So You Think You Can TEACH?

In Classroom Teaching, Teacher Learning on 19/06/2013 at 7:33 am


Yes…even I have a fewguilty TV pleasures”!


Now, you would know this…if you read the blog closely:


The show – So You Think You Can DANCE – brings my wife and I to tears so often we are embarrassed (but NOT with eachother).

The BEAUTY of being able to express yourself so well…through dance…is something both of us are totally new to (or we were…till a few years back).

Actually, many people said (when I was a younger “delikanlı) that I was not half-bad when I trip the light fantastic or shake the old hips (they were so much younger then). I just loved letting my hair down…and “did” what I do in the classroom – expressed MEself!

My darling wife, Nazlı Hanım (OMG! Google Translate is as awful as ever), was at the back of the queue…when this “stuff” was being dished out – same with cooking skills! Tell me again why I took a Turkish bride – no belly-dancing, no love of cooking (but she has done so much of it – for her family…day-in-day-out)!

…25 years of marriage is built on many things…many other things!

DarlingI SEE YOU (always will)…nuff said!


BUT, we both LOVE the show!

Heck, we will even lie (OK…tell little “fibs” – go to #07) to family members and friends (we love so much – sorry guys) and turn down dinner invitations…just to sit at home and watch these “kids” do their thing…together!

TOGETHER…that is the deal!

 Success (what it really looks like) TG ver


There’s a bit of the show that we both loveadore, even!

All the “kids” get to Las Vegasto dance for their lives…literally! They have to compete (over days and days) to get to the “Top 20”.


OK – as an EDUcator, I always hated “competitions”…schools pick the “best” kids (to “show off”), “coach” them to death, and take credit for what the kids would have done anyway!

BUT…this is a DANCE competition…and only the best can survive!




During “Vegas Week”, after days of grueling “battles”…there’s a TEAM-based phase. All these super-talented (and ambitious / hungry) “kids” are asked to listen to a bit of music and CREATE a new dance piece…in a group of 4 or 5!

This part of the show has Nazlı Hanım and I wiping our eyes for hours (and more than a little bit pissed off about all the “prima donas”).

The THING is...

…this phase is where CHARACTER “shines”.

These exhausted kids (after 3 or 4 days) have to stay up all nite and CREATE a routine…a routine that will make the judges “cry” (NOT just Tony Abi and Nazlı Abla)…and get them closer to that “magic Top 20”!

I cannot repeat what Nazlı Hanım says about Adam…and all his crying (he is BTW – a lovely guy)!


Of course, there’s a lot of “hype” and “fake drama” (Tony Abi and Nazlı Abla are not that “thick”)! BUT, these dancers try to do (and are tested on) what matters!

For a performance…that will bring tears to Tony Abi and Nazlı Abla’s eyes…these kids will find out what each dancer brings to the “game”, they will interpret the MUSIC (the classrom environment and LEARNers…for us TEACHers)…LEARN to ADAPT to eachother and work to make the “audienceFEEL (also the LEARNers…for we TEACHers)…

They stay up all night…they question…they fight! 

They work it out…they WIN!


UNcover Welcome NEO 02


In the world of EDUcation…we TEACHers also stay up all nite (hopefully not just to grade tests), we question…we fight (with our wives mostly…Nazlı Hanım refers to my string of desktops, laptops and mobile devices as “Tony’s mistresses”)!


Isolation (Wagner quote) Ver 03


But, what a lot of us do not do (enough) is…do all this “together”…


We “dance“, we do… but…many of us look at it, sadly,  as an individual sport!


Here’s what I thunk

I wish more of us realised that the notion of MY course is really a bit silly!

What matters (really matters) is the kidsand their LEARNing! More of us need to look at SCHool not as a series of courses (and their tests) – but rather as a number of years that make up the LEARNing “career” of a student.

From the mouths of babes (TG ver)

WHEN…HOW…WHY…did “we” LEARN “them” this!


If we did that, we might be more tempted to stop preparing individual lessons plans…and start looking for ways to produce the best LEARNing opportunites we can – the best LEARNing environments




Nigel…if you ever need a co-producer (cum judge) or two for SYTYCTNazlı Abla and I are in!

LEARNing (Adams quote) Ver 02

MOTİVASYON – …when TEACHers “LEARN” other TEACHers!

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

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


Nativation (blog)


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


LEARNacy is a real word…honest to God!


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


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


LEARNacy (new ver TG)


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

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

Motivation (the QUIZ)


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


Motivation (the ANSWERS)

Yes, we TEACHers are human beings, too!


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


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


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


Motivation (the AKP plug)


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



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

Share Share Share

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




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


Motivation (final question from TEACHers)


Tony! Go on…TELL ME!


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


Motivation (the CHALLENGE)


Your choice!


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


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

Personal Reflections on MOTIVATION – Guest Post (by Laurence Raw)

In Classroom Teaching, Guest BLOGGERS, Learning & Parenting, Our Schools on 11/06/2013 at 3:53 pm
I have decided to take the day off – to allow you all to ponder my last couple of posts.
We have been looking at the issue of motivation – and the current challenges across canım Türkiyem have been causing more than a few of us to reflect on our lives, our work and our families.
This guest post is the result of both these processes.
Laurence (guest post header 04)
The question of how to motivate learners is a difficult one.
I was talking to my fourteen-year-old niece last Sunday, who is contemplating changing schools, as her current institution is “boring” with its incessant focus on exams and knowledge-based education.  I asked her what she would like as an alternative, and she quoted her father, who had previously described her as “a creative person.
A good education in her view should help to stimulate creativity.
Creativity (Maya Angelou quote)
However “creativity” is a slippery term.  Entire schools exist in universities devoted to “the creative industries;” despite the positive-sounding nature of the term, many of their members are caught in the educational treadmill of producing papers and/or research, or finding outside funding for projects, so as to ensure their futures.
Failure (failure zone)
It would be great if we could adopt alternative visions of “creativity”for example, by encouraging our learners to rearrange what they know in order to discover something they do not know.  Maybe we need to remember what the fourth century BC philosopher Mencius once said: to promote an atmosphere of creativity we need to remember how “great is the human who has not lost his childlike heart.”
I told my fourteen-year-old niece of how I used to amuse myself; as an only child, I didn’t have many friends and learned how to play on my own.  I used to make up stories, using my soft toys as characters; and subsequently wrote them down on an old typewriter.  Through this activity I learned how much I liked to write; I continue doing so to this day.  In other words, that “childlike heart” within me still blazes, even though it’s a long time since I played with my soft toys.
A genuinely creative classroom values the “childlike heart” in all of its members, learners and educators alike.  It permits experiment; lets people take risks; and does not place any stigma on failure.  As Tim Harford once remarked, success always starts with failure as individuals learn from their mistakes and are encouraged to creative something new and different.  They can only achieve this in a mutually supportive atmosphere, once which recognizes that all of us, whatever our age and/or experience in life, have that childlike quality within us.
Learnacy ZONE
This is a far more important motivation for LEARNing than any of the rulescurricula, syllabi, and exams – that govern the most classrooms.  Thomas Edison was once asked by one of his laboratory attendants: “Mr. Edison, tell me what rules you want to observe?”  The great inventor replied crisply: “There ain’t no rules around here.  We’re tryin’ to accomplish somethin.'”  Exactly what that “somethin'” might be in the classroom should be determined through collaboration between educator and learners.  If everyone listens to each other, then they will learn to value their “childlike heart.”
Risk-taking (quotes)
None of these ideas can make my fourteen-year-old niece’s search for a good education any easier, as she decides whether to find a new school or stay at her existing one.  But at least by listening to her “childlike heart,” she might sustain her motivation; if she can find like-minded people to work with in any type of institution (the home, at school, in a private course, or wherever), then perhaps she can recognize the value of LEARNing.
LEARNing vs TEACHing 02
Maybe we should all recognize the importance of this.
Laurence Raw

(aka @laurenceraw on Twitter)
Baskent University – Ankara, Turkey
Editor: Journal of American Studies of Turkey

Got EDUcational Literacy…?

In Assessment, Classroom Teaching, Curriculum, Educational Leadership, ELT and ELL, Teacher Learning on 09/06/2013 at 10:10 am

Got EdL (TG ver)


I’ve just read Scott Thornbury’s latest (and last) post on his wonderful blog – An A-Z of ELT.

I was gob-smacked!

What a way to go out…with a wonderful list of “must-read” posts!


Not to worry…he’ll have a new one  for us after Summer!


Scott’s blog personifies…for me…the thunks that characterise an educator with a high degree of “fluency” in what I have dubbed EDUcational Literacy (esp. for those in the world of ELT) – just take a look at the 30 posts he highlights in that last post of his!

Soooooo much great “bedtime” reading for the Summer!


Yeah…you guessed it! I was in the middle of doing my own “Sunday Post” when Scott’s landed in my in-box! But, I meant what I said…he just gave me a nice “hook”!


“What exactly is EDUcational Literacy”?


Pretty reasonable question, actually!

In a nutshell:



In a way, Educational Literacy (let’s stick with the abbreviation – EdL) is something that should concern everyone on the planet. Any parent wishing to help his or her child make “wise” decisions about schools, colleges or university – needs to have EdL. Any teacher walking into a classroom (for the “first” or the “50,000th” timeneeds to have a lot of EdL, if she wants to be truly effective.


EdL is something parentsstudentsteacherseducational administrators or anyone involved or interested in the world of learning (including, dare I say, media representativespublishers and politicians) – must have!


In the case of teachersEdL is more than the teaching-related knowledge and skills required to manage a classroom, present content and practice teaching points – that is known as Pedagogic Literacy. Nor is also just our knowledge of grammar, structure and vocabulary (major components of Disciplinary Literacyin the world of ELL and ELT).

It touches on a teacher’s beliefs and values, the way she interacts with her learners and the extent to which she reflects on her own practice – to grow professionally and create even “better” LEARNing opportunities for those around her.

As such, EdL is a multi-dimensional construct – a true “multiple literacy”. It is not simply the product of adding to “a stack of facts and figures” or throwing more tools into “a bag o’ tricks” – it is experienced and lived through the synaptic-type interrelationships between a number of literacies (and fluencies)…


EdL is also something that many people (sadly) do not possess – and this is what lies at the heart of many of the challenges we face in education.

For example:

  • Parents that tell teachers that their job is to “create” an engineer or doctor out of “Little Mehmet” – have low levels of EdL…sorry mum (and dad)!
  • Students that “blame” their failure on a given exam or the “academic clubs” that manipulate exam cut-offs – have low levels of EdL…sorry guys, time to take some responsibility (unless, that is, their educators also happen to have low levels of “Assessment Literacy”)!
  • Lecturers and teachers that do not even bother to learn the names of their students or “care” what these students “bring” to the classroom – have low levels of EdL…no apologies required here!
  • Educational Managers (up to and including Principals and Rectors) who value their “seat” more than the LEARNing of their learners and still fail to see the importance of “walking-the-talk” – have low levels of EdL…guys, just move aside (the 21stCentury is here)!
  • Schools that live off the “fat” (or prestige) of the “past” or try to “fake-it-till-they-make-it” – have amazingly low levels of EdL…time to “get real” and evidence what you “say” you “are”!
  • Media representatives that report the “league tables” without helping students and their parents to ask the right questions about how the “rankings” were carried out – have no EdL wotsoever…come on, guys – earn your pay-cheques!
  • Publishers who tell educators/teacher-trainers to put on a “show” and not bother with all that “LEARNing stuff” – fail the “EdL test”…totally…!
  • Politicians…Mmmmm…hey, who the hell said it was possible to “save every soul”!?!?


You get the idea!


EdL is essentially “realized” (and developed or learned) through the application of Critical Literacy to allthingseducation – critical reflection as applied to LEARNing and TEACHing.


However, because of the very nature of both LEARNing and TEACHingEdL has a powerful emotional componentEdL appreciates that EDUcation and LEARNing are fundamentally “emotional experiences” that require Emotional Intelligence (or EQ) is also brought to bear on matters of LEARNing and TEACHing.

EdL (Care and Emotions)


This is why LEARNing and TEACHing professionals need to exhibit high levels of Emotional Literacy:

  • Emotional sensitivity
  • Emotional memory
  • Emotional problem-solving ability
  • Emotional learning ability

and, to borrow from Gardner:

  • “Intrapersonal Intelligence”
  • “Interpersonal Intelligence”


With so many abilities, skills and talents required of TEACHerstell me again:


I must have missed that memo!


EdL thus describes what an individual (especially EDUcators) “thinks” or “knows” about EDUcation, LEARNing and TEACHing, what s/he “does” with what s/he knows and also what s/he does to “improve” what s/he knows, does and feels in regard to allthingsEDUcation.



EdL also respects the role of theprofessional teacher – and what an “effective” teacher can do with what s/he can do with what s/he knows – as such, Pedagogic Literacy is also a focus of its attention, as is Curriculum Literacy and Assessment Literacy.

The problem is, taking Assessment Literacy as an example:


Assessment Literacy is perhaps the best-known of the components that make up EdL – well, in educational reading circles at least. It has been described in the following way:

Assess Lit 01

BUT…I have to admitI prefer this one:

Assess Lit 02


If most of us were really, really honest…we’d recognise that we all need to do a bit of LEARNing in this area – especially, when we remember these two little thunks

Assess Lit 03

And…then…we have the matter of Curriculum Literacy!

from A1 to B2 (in 9 months)


Have YOU…has YOUR school (and its leaders):


Got EdL (TG ver)


Scott does! Thanks for the thunks. brother…


Between a ROCK and a very HARD PLACE (Pt 05) – “The End” (or is it)?

In Curriculum, ELT and ELL, Our Schools, Our Universities on 15/08/2012 at 3:54 pm

Obviously, as Flash noted, not very much!

It was a bit of a challenge for me to select an appropriate “opening image” for this post (especially because I used all me best ones for that bloody summary postThe “STORY” so far…).

The most important thing is – I kinda left Part 04 by saying something about me “answering” the following questions:

How dumb was that?

What was I smoking that night? I mean – the balls on the guy – suggesting that I had the “know-how” and “savvy” to fix this stuff. Not only that – I got all holier-than-thoupretentious and spiritual, even – with that touchy-feely stuff about:

 Sorry about that! You have to admit though, the Dexter quote was pretty “cool”yes?


Actually, I bet half of you are just reading this to see how badly I fall flat on me face with this one, right?

So, here goes nothing…



The fundamental “whinge” at the heart of this overly-long “serial rant” is that…

“we” in education (more specifically – ministries, departments of education, school administrators, curriculum co-ordinators, course designers, teachers and…my dog) have introduced systems of curriculum pacing (more specifically – sets of curriculum pacing guides, grounded on either test specifications or textbook content pages) designed to keep teachers “on track” and “on schedule” vis-à-vis the so-called outcomes we find on our curricular – but, in practice, tell” teachers what to teachwhen and how to teach it and how “fast” to “get through” everything (often in terms of weeks, days, class periods and – for crying-out-loud – even minutes).

I ain’t finished, boys n’ girls… 

These curriculum “support” tools, we are told, are essentially to make sure “no child, or young adult, is left behind” – but we all know it’s more about “not flunking the test”. The reality is, and “we” all know this (by “we” I refer now to all those poor saps that have to breathe life into these documents – by racing, non-stop, from page-to-page-to-page from pop-quiz-to-pop, from…you get the point) – is little more than an attempt to ensure “standardisation” of the teaching that takes place in a school or system.

Wait for it… 

The result? These types of practices and pacing guides prevent teachers from being the great LEARNers, QUESTIONers and CONNECTors that they can all be, almost always guarantee these same TEACHers have to go back to traditional forms of “teacher-centered instruction” and make adaptations to the curricular (or simply “dump” stuff) that make them even more ineffective – yani, usher in “factory model TEACHing”! 

Oh, yes – almost forgot!  

These very same practices reinforce “assembly line LEARNing” in students, hinder real and meaning growth in our kids and young adults – and make them hate “us” (and by “us” I mean all those lovely teachers). 

And, to add insult to injury many of them STILL fail the bloody tests…


Now, I’m guessing a few of you are asking…“Why the HELL did you not just say this (the start of the first post) – and save me almost 10,000 words of READing”?

Where’s the FUN in that?


The “real” question, of course, remains:

Who should we “give the finger”sorrypoint the finger at”?

I told you earlier – we do love our blame games in education…


If you want my “two cents”I know, I know…but I’m gonna give it to you anyways!

This goes TWO ways – Firstly…

…and then…



You see…the problem is NOT really about “pacing guides” at all.

It’s about the assumptions, the beliefs, the so-called “knowledge”…that we have allowed to “rule” our decision-making across our schools, colleges and universities!


INSTITUTIONSI say unto thee (the image is mostly because I forgot to jump on the “Olympics-cum-blogging-band-wagon” in time):


TEACHers (well, some of us)…I say unto thee:


…and (for BOTH):



…oh, yeah…not to forget:

Just so you know how “great” Usain Bolt really is…

Let’s stick with the running / racing theme for a minute – I might not have hitched my blogging-wagon to the Olympics, but I did use The Flash as part of this mini-series…

Most of us know that:

…the thing is…when the Greeks thunked up this notion, what they were really thunking about was (essentially) that a curriculum represented a  purposeful progression towards some predetermined goalThat goal, however, was never about how much “content” we could spoon-feed into the mouths of their LEARNers…nor was it simply a matter of how fast they could shovel that “content” from the “pacing guide” into the classroom.

BTW, and only if you are interested, the ancient Greek TEACHers did not have “fixed timetables” of 45-minute periods (or “doubles”) and they certainly did not have standarised, “do-or-die” paper-based “tests” – just in case you are interested!

The predetermined goal these ancient akademies had in mind was all about how they could best make a real difference to the real lives of their very real LEARNers – how, you might say, they could best contribute to a significant (and sustainable) improvement in those LEARNers.

…and make the world a better place!

Not too shabby…and, before I forgeta purposeful progression towards integrating LEARNing, development and performancecome on, you “know” the rest.

Curriculum needs to be viewed as the interactive process of designing, experiencing, evaluating and improving what LEARNers can do with what they knowthis cannot be done by TEACHers alone. It is (or should be) a true process of “classroom co-creation” – not a process that is done in a dark, smoke-filled back-rooms inhabited by “curriculum planners” and their love of “pacing guides”!

Effective curricular need to be more than about what we are TEACHing today (or Monday morning…and, God forbid, at 3 pm on Friday afternoon). Curriculum needs to move beyond “now” into the “future” LEARNing of students and “graduates”and is only as good as the way it prepares LEARNers to keep on LEARNing after the experience of “formal education” is over and done with.

When institutions and TEACHers only conceive of curriculum as a “document”, we might as well pack up and go home. A real, living, breathing curriculum is one that TEACHers (and LEARNers) see as an “on-going process of questioning” of what ought to happen and an “on-going process of problem-solving” with regards how to make that happen “in practice” in the classroom.

This takes “time” – and more questions than you can shake a stick at…

However, and even before this, a curriculum should answer the question “what are we here to do for our students” – it needs to be the fundamental expression of our purposes, aims and convictions (as TEACHers and institutions). That purpose needs to be centred on the type of LEARNer we want to “create” – and describe the abilities we want to see in each and every single one of those LEARNers…

Just as a curriculum needs to be seen as an expression of an educational philosophy, it also needs to be viewed as a roadmap or framework of educational values that informs problem-solving on a day-to-day basis.


In a word (or several), a curriculum needs to “scream” this is who we are and this is how we do business – not simply list a series of dry “topics” to be “presented” by an equally dry (and frequently “burned-out”) TEACHer.


If a “poor” curriculum (or “pacing guide”) is one that looks more like a “tick-box checklist” of things to be poured into the heads of students, a “great” curriculum is one that has (at its heart) a meaningful sequence and structure that uses iterative revisiting and expansion over time – and one that makes room for co-creation by TEACHers and LEARNers.

Once we have a “graduate profile” the mental image of the type of LEARNer we are in the “business” of “building” – then we can worry about the type of “content” we can “choose” to make this happen. Concepts, themes and topic areas need to be revisited with greater sophistication, LEARNers need to be given opportunities to demonstrate earlier understandings and also be presented with newer challenges and projects imagineered to lead them to higher ability levels. Challenges and projects that also explore their evolving view of both LEARNing and the world they are building through that LEARNing – as well as their “place” in all of this!

Now, around about NOWif you ain’t “nodded off” (or gone back to Twitter to look for another Top 10 List)…you might be asking:


Institutions …HAVE TO:

  • Inspire their staff and TEACHers – “dare them to dream” about doing something different in education.
  • Support staff and TEACHers to access their own thunking, values and underlying assumptions about education, LEARNing and TEACHing.
  • Establish forums that allow TEACHers (and other staff) to explore their beliefs of what constitutes LEARNing, a “successful” education, curriculum, assessment, and what it means to “produce” 21st Century LEARNers (and “graduates”). 
  • Develop explicit statements about the whole educational process they are seeking to create for their LEARNers (not just mission statements for “wall decoration”).
  • Create a “graduate profile” for the ideal student at their institution – a generic abilities framework that describes what graduates can DO with they KNOW.
  • Dedicate resources and support for the creation of a curriculum framework focussed on student achievement of the desired abilities and LEARNing outcomes (not simply outputs or knowledge) in a principled, developmental and iterative, spiralling manner. 
  • Expose staff and TEACHers to the concepts behind the “LEARNing revolution” and “LEARNing paradigm” and offer wider professional development opportunities that help staff look at education from the point of view of the LEARNer.
  • Create mechanisms that relate an “evolving” study of curriculum and assessment practices to an on-going search for more effective ways to teach, create significant and engaging LEARNing opportunities for students and support that LEARNing through processes of assessment-for-learning, self-assessment and collection of longitudinal performance data across the whole career of LEARNers.
  • Build professional development systems and communities that assist individual TEACHers and teams to plan, teach, assess and evaluate their own practice (and move away from a generic, one-off, “expert” workshop model). 
  • Put someone “in charge” of LEARNing, curriculum & assessment, and institutional effectiveness.
  • Establish a “participative mechanism” for all TEACHers to take ownership of the curriculum and evolving the abilities framework that forms the basis of the “graduate profile”.
  • Support all disciplinary teams to explore wider opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration and the creation of “shared” projects and LEARNing opportunities for students – in addition to establishing mechanisms for different teams to share knowledge, best practices and innovations with others.

TEACHers should not have to try and do these things on their own…or feel they have to “break the rules” to do the “right thing”. Institutions have to have a purpose and systems that “feed” and “nurture” all staff and TEACHers – after all, we all know that:

…as much as we know “sages on stages” break more “things” than their own legs!

…you know what the really “sad” thing is?

I have spent all this time banging away at me keyboardrunning up a couple of half-decent “blogging soaps” – but YOU (yes, the person reading this) probably “know” all this.

YOU care about this stuff

YOU care about your LEARNers

YOU care about your own growth, development and LEARNing…

…or, you wouldn’t be taking time from your family and friends to read another 2,000 words from some silly blogger that you ain’t even met!

The question is:

How do we reach those that don’t read things like this? …and, really “need” to!

Take care – keep up the “good fight”…

The “STORY” so far…

In Classroom Teaching, The Paradigm Debate on 11/08/2012 at 1:21 pm


Now, I know some of you have been saying that the so-called “rock” is my Twitter account – and the “hard place” is the Blog! But, come on – I was on holiday and am trying to make up for my lack of bloggery all this (and last) month

It’s true – I have been over-doing it a bit these last few days…but that is the “blogging bug”!



A few weeks ago, inspired by a number of LEARNing Conversations I’d been having with some lads and lasses here, I decided to tackle the “challenge” of “pacing guides”. Although I had done a fair few posts on allthingscurriculum – it seemed that many of the people I was chatting with were getting a bit, shall we say, “miffed” at the “pressure” their institutions (they claimed) were putting on them (as TEACHers)…

However, as I explored the challenge more I more – I started to see that it was not as “simple” as it looked (remember what Dexter told us). It was not just a single “rock” that was weighing us down – but a whole series of (very) “hard places”. “Hard places” and “rocks” that we did not even agree on…

I started a couple of poststhe posts became a “series”the first series got “interrupted”I started a couple more “side-posts”these became another “series”! Twas not only my co-bloggers that faced “DEATH-by-BLOGGING”…

BUTI had to finish…yes, I am a little “anal”, too …have a “mild case of OCD”aren’t/don’t most of us in the EDUcation game?

So, I have decided to finish what I started and do the Pt 05 I have been putting off for so long…but Pt 05 of what? Here’s a quick summary of all the posts – in case, like me, you have spent the summer playing (ultimate) Jenga – and you’ve “missed” a few of them (afterall, tis Sunday tomorrow):


Between a ROCK and a very HARD PLACE…(Pt 01)

Although this post was originally conceived as a “rant” about “pacing guides” (and our overuse of them in curriculum planning these days), it actually ended up more as a search for the answer to a question – “What are we here to do for our LEARNers”? The post also considered why it is that even “great TEACHers” are sometimes tempted to “settle” for “factory model TEACHing” – and classroom practices that do little more than create “assembly line LEARNing”


Between a ROCK and a very HARD PLACE…(Pt 02)

This time I finally got to me “rant”! Here I seriously “stuck” it to all those pacing guidelines that make our lives “hell-on-earth” – but ended up asking the question “So, who really gets stuck between this rock and hard place”?


Between a ROCK and a very HARD PLACE…(Pt 03)

In this post, I tried to answer the question I had finished up Pt 02 with – and looked at both TEACHer and LEARNer perspectives on the matter. Here I used a highly-scientific research model (I asked a few “mates” what they thunked) – and it uncovered a few surprises (and a little more understanding of how the “blame game” is still being played in our schools, colleges and universities)!


Between a ROCK and a very HARD PLACE…(Pt 04)

This was perhaps the most “fun” post I did in this series – and, it involved an interview between Superman and The Flash on the very nature of “pacing” in sports (and how we had “screwed up” royally when we dragged it – kicking n’ screaming – into education). Flash showed himself to be a surprisingly “smart EDUthunker”!



THEN, I got side-tracked…by these:


Can a teacher “create” LEARNing THAT LASTS?

This was the “monster” that actually stopped me finally getting to Pt 05 of the “ROCKS n’ HARD PLACES” mini-series! This was essentially because I wanted to talk about the “design flaw” so many of our institutions are “built” on. In this post I explored some definitions of LEARNing, trashed them and (then) suggested some questions that might help us get to a better definition and LEARNing THAT LASTS (with a little help from my friends at Alverno).


LEARNing THAT LASTS – the “Pinterest” VERSION!

Here I responded to “blogger feedback” on my murderous act of “bloggery” – and, this post was a mini-version of “LEARNing THAT LASTS Pt 01” – for the visually-talented and textually-challenged. Mostly a summary of the first post – with all the best “pictures” and very little text.


Questions Students Ask (aka “LEARNing THAT LASTS” – Pt 03)

Here I introduced the “story” of one of my dear TEACHer friends – going through a bit of an end-of-year crisis prompted by some of the questions his students had been asking (with “something else” happening in the “background”).


Questions Students Ask (aka “LEARNing THAT LASTS” – Pt 04)

In this post, I summarised the “LEARNing Conversation” my TEACHer friend and I had – we looked at some of the other questions that perhaps we could be LEARNing students (to get away from the “question horribalis” that had been bugging him so much). We also touched on the question of whether “good STUDENTS” are, in fact, “good LEARNers”. Mmmm…


Questions Students SHOULD Ask (aka “LEARNing THAT LASTS” – Pt 05)

This post was essentially a “confession” – a confession that, despite often presenting myself as “Mr. LEARNing”, I also dabble in the “dark arts” of TRAINing and TEACHing. Shock! Horror! I tried to show (I thunk) how my “student LEARNing questions” had actually evolved from Alverno, my experiences with coaching / mentoring and, wait for it, a very specific version of the “TEACHing Paradigm” – a model developed by those wonderful “Sith Lords” at 4MAT. I finished this mini-series by also suggesting a few more (really) tough questions that we might want to consider LEARNing all our students


If I have been LEARNed anything from all this bloggery – it is that:

…and, that the desire to blog even more survives the very act of blogging itself!


Mmmmm…if you managed to get through that lot, perhaps you are ready for Pt 05:


The “question” is – “Am I up for it”?

Questions Students SHOULD Ask (aka “LEARNing THAT LASTS” – Pt 05)

In Classroom Teaching, The Paradigm Debate on 10/08/2012 at 8:39 pm

The “secret” (and, it ain’t Victoria’s) is OUT!

Yes, it’s all true…I too “flirt” with the “Dark Side” – the “Sith” who practice the dark arts of TEACHing and TRAINing. However, and as I pointed out, this is a “version” of the TEACHing/TRAINing Paradigm that does put LEARNing at the heart of its approach.

This is the end of this “dizi” – promise!


I am, of course, talking about 4MAT – developed by renowned educational theorist Bernice McCarthy.

This is my attempt to get 4MAT on a single “image”:

…Yep, as I thoughtfailed miserably!


But (if you haven’t already gone back to Twitter)…just take a closer look at it (if you are also not already familiar with the model)!

  • What do you think the numbers 1-4 represent?
  • Why do you think each number has a “question” attached to it?
  • What (the heck) does “feeling” and “thinking” have to do with the questions?
  • How do you thunk “doing” and “reflecting” are linked to the terms MEANING, CONCEPTS, SKILLS and ADAPTATION?


The thing is – you were probably asking a few of these questions yourself (or some that were very similar).

That’s how we is – that’s how we are “wired”! When students, however, ask questions like the ones noted by my (now infamous) TEACHer friend:

…we realise that they must have been “re-wired” in some way by school, by their experience with our curricular (and assessment methods), by TEACHers!

As the man sez:

If we want LEARNing THAT LASTS (with students who have been “traumatised” by all these things), we have to help them “re-discover” that natural talent we all have for asking questions – as it our questions that “drive” our LEARNing!


4MAT, in a nutshell, is basically a method of helping anyone LEARN – and has been used in thousands of TRAINıng and TEACHing contexts all over the world for the past 30+ years.

Yes, it’s a “model” (and I know many of “us” hate models as much as we do “pacing guides”) – but hear me out!

Bernice and all those lovely chaps at 4MAT (it has grown a wee bit since the early days – see, for example, 4MAT4BUSINESS or 4MAT4BIOLOGY or 4MAT4COLLEGE (to name but a few), have grounded the model on a surprisingly simple “cycle of LEARNing” – an “instructional approach” that begins with LEARNer engagement – and moves to knowledge acquisition to skills and fluency development to creative adaptation.

It is also backed-up by more research than you can shake a stick at! Now, you see why I can be forgiven for dipping my toe into the “ways of the Sith”!

Maybe, it’s a bit unfair of me to talk of them being “Sith Lords” in this way. I mean nearly of us, when asked what we “do”, will say “I’m a TEACHer”. Some of us might also say “Oh, I’m in the TEACHing game”even though, we are really in the “business of LEARNing”!


What Berniceknew” was that LEARNing is not really about TEACHing or TRAINing (à la the “LEARNing by LISTENing” models of knowledge transmission that were around in the mid-80s – and, by that, I mean the 1880s as well as the 1980s). She decided she wanted create an instructional model that was based on, in her opinion, the FOUR essential ingredients of LEARNing:

Any TEACHer, worth her salt, will recognise that almost all “great lessons”, great programmes even, will have all of these elements.


However, and perhaps more important than these ingredients (joking – will come back to these later, promise), the 4MAT model is grounded on the “interplay” in how people perceive (“feel” and “think”) and process (“reflect” and “do”) – and thus, LEARN.

As you see, we start to see the terms MEANING, CONCEPTS, SKILLS and ADAPTATION – kicking in here (I knew it was a mistake to start off with that all-you-eat-buffet image). Actually, when I think about it – I have not done justice to this bit of the model. Why not pop over to YouTube and listen to Bernice tell you about it herself? She does a far better “job” than I ever could…

BTW – thank you Symbolcoach for making these so easy to find


Now, if you “read” or “listened” well enough, you’ll have picked up that 4MAT does, in fact, stand on the shoulders of such “giants” as John Dewey, Carl Jung, and David Kolb – and also has its own FOUR 4MAT LEARNing Styles:



Simple (and “intuitive”) enough, yes?

The fact that each different “type of LEARNer” has a “favourite question” hints at a core “assumption” of the 4MAT model – WE all LEARN by seeking answers to our OWN questions.

You can check out all the other main assumptions HEREa quick “check” of these should help you see if your own beliefs are aligned with those of 4MAT.

Again, if you do this – you should see why I enjoy flirting with these “Sith Lords” so much!


…Come on! Not used a comic character all bloody weekThe Thing is kinda “cool”! 


while different LEARNers might have a preferred “LEARNing style” (and “question”), effective TEACHing (or TRAINing) requires that all LEARNers be encouraged to “focus” on all FOUR question types.

Fair (and “intuitive”) enough, yes?


This is where the power of “instruction” comes into play with allthingslearning – and, the 4MAT model encourages teachers and trainers to look at the types of questions they typically focus on before taking steps to ensure that the LEARNing opportunities they design do (in fact) “balance” attention to all four question types – and LEARNers.

And, NO

  • What is this?
  • This is a pencil!

…are NOT on the list!


What I really like is when we elaborate on these basic question words – and see the core  questions that students can be “LEARNed” to ask themselves:


Now, obviously – these questions (and others like them) work really well in day-to-day lessons, weekly assignments and bigger picture or longer-term projects. They can also be used to inform reflection or feedback sessions, guide team meetings and set the agenda for counselling sessions. But, they are much more effective when placed in a “questioning culture” – a classroom (and “online”) culture in which the “rules of the game” have been established by the types of LEARNing conversations we looked in Part 04 (…of this never-ending saga)!

I won’t try pulling the wool over your eyes – I am not totally convinced that all the terms and concepts used in the 4MAT model are totally aligned to my own views on “effective classroom practice”. As I said, we TEACHers do tend to put on our “doubting Thomas caps” when we hear the world “model” – as with any “tool”, the way the “handyman” uses it (or adapts it) is often more important.

But as “models” go, it does contain many of the things that I thunk “matter” (and matter a “lot”) – especially for those of us that might be new to the “game” or want to “play” the game a little differently (or better…).


One of these has to be the fact that the 4MAT model is based on a cycle of LEARNing  (not a single “lecture” or page from a “textbook”) that focusses attention on:

  • LEARNerEngagement”
  • TEACHer and LEARNer “Sharing”
  • LEARNerPractice
  • LEARNerPerformance” (and hopefully “feedback”)

…all fuelled by a “question-driven approach”.


This type of approach can, and should, also be used to encourage students to reflect on and evaluate their own LEARNing and the LEARNing opportunities they are provided (whether you “go-4MAT-or-not”) – via additional questions, such as:


Questions like these give us “answers” that can start to create even more “win-win” student LEARNing – and, teacher LEARNing to boot!

Now, I’m not sure if my “dear TEACHer friend” (I’m still waiting to see what he says when he reads these last few posts) would also consider these questions a “bit much” – but, you know what – what he didn’t say (after we wrapped up our little “chat”) was that he was still fed up with me banging on about TEACHers asking questions of themselves.

In fact, he offered me another of his favourite quotes – as soon as he got home:

Especially, if that “talking” is all about getting through the “pacing guide” or the “test”…


Me thunks…I’m now ready…for Part 05 of that “other dizi”!