Tony Gurr

Posts Tagged ‘Transformation’

FIXing Hazırlık… (Pt 03 of 03)

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


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


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

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



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

Purpose 1 (Mourkogiannis quote)

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


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

YES (red exlam tilted)

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




What do you mean…


…you want ‘what’…WHAT?


Practical advice?

Tips n’ hintsyou can use on Monday morning?

Best practices?


Al buna!

OK…that was a bit rude of me!

…guess I’ll be dining with Hannibal tonight!


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

Dummies (fixing hazırlık))

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


OK – first off:

Improvement advice 01

Got that? Easy…yes?



Improvement advice 02

All good…out there?


Oh, yes…don’t forget:

Improvement advice 03

What? You want more…?


OK – you asked for it:

Improvement advice 06

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


Next…and read this one carefully:

Improvement advice 05

I said…’carefully’!


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

Improvement advice 04



Improvement advice 09

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


What about…these three?

Improvement advice 10

This little lot should keep us busy…till Thursday!


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

Improvement advice 07


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


Improvement advice 08


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

ID Card



Me thunks…I need a post-script!


FIXing Hazırlık… (Pt 02 of 03)

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

Change (Arthur Ashe quote)

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

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

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


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

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

 the PROBLEM (obs)


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


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

Blame Game (TG ver)


I know…I know!

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

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


We all get that…

Most people can only SEE

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


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

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


expletive bubble

I…$#*%…you not, Sherlock!


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

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

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


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

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



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


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

Change (Deming quote)


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

Sorry, guys…just:

Truth (mini ver 02)


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

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

CEFR Vs Raymond Murphy


It’s really OK…not to KNOW something.

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

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


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

You are HERE

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


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

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

Ass Backwards (badge)


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


Do you see where I am going with this?


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

YES (red exlam tilted)


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


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


The questions Peter proposed:


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

Tony Wagner QUOTATION (isolation)

Dream much, Tony?


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


We all know that a…

Band aid

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


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

Purpose 2 (Mourkogiannis quote)

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


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


For starters, they all agree that…

Questions (Marilee Adams quote - NEW)

…and accept that:

Lunacy (Einstein quote - NEW)


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

3 FQs (purpose)


but they are ‘important’:




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


What are we here to DO (2 FQs)


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


Broken Quality (TG definition)


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


Block (fingerprint quote)


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


FIXing Hazırlık… (Pt 01 of 03)

In Adult Learners, ELT and ELL, Our Universities, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness on 21/05/2013 at 2:38 pm

Fixing FQ 01


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

It’s a bit ‘rude’, innit?


BUT…that’s exactly the question (OK…I used the term ‘smarty-pants’ to convey the stress and intonation used…as well as some of the facial expressions I saw) that I have been asked in a number of conversations since I started:

Truth (mini ver 01)

…in the last few posts I have being doing:

(BTW – ‘hazırlık’ is the Turkish term for the English Language Preparatory Programmes run by many universities here…just so you know)!


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

Hannibal (dinner)


I know, I know…I shouldn’t get upset by these types of questions. I know I have put myself in the firing line by popping my head out of the box. 

…just wait till I do the series on what actually happens in faculty departments!



The thing is that…this type of question started to be dropped into my in-box and the comments section of the posts before I’d even got to the second blog post. Some of them were not as rude…they were genuine questions, from genuine people…facing many of the genuine ‘problems’ that I was trying to draw attention to.

Questions like:

Fixing FQ 02

…fair enough!


The thing is…these questions reminded me of the wonderful work of Peter Block (esp. his perspective-shaking book – THE ANSWER TO HOW IS ‘YES’).

For Peter, these types of questions are (usually) a defense against getting an ‘improvement effort’ started, a defense against change.

No change (cartoon)

…so sad! …so true! …so common!


Now, I’m not so sure that everyone who asks a HOW-question is running from the truth (or is trying to postpone actually doing something about a problem). However, Peter’s questions are used a heck of a lot by people in our hazırlık schools (and the guys that ‘control’ these schools with their ‘decision-making’) – especially those with those heady job titles we discussed.

Very few of these hazırlık stakeholders, for example, ask one of the ‘alternative questions’ suggested by Peter:


Fixing FQ 07


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


Instead, many hazırlık stakeholders (including LEARNers…and their parents) ask questions like this:

Fixing FQ 03

This question tells us a lot.

  • Firstly, that these stakeholders are more interested in an ‘answer-orientated’ approach to ‘quality education’ – you know, ‘quick fixes’ or ‘magic bullets’.
  • Secondly, that they have more ‘faith’ in others (esp. foreigners…and, even better, foreign consultants) than they do in themselves and their own abilities.
  • Thirdly, that all it takes to ‘fix’ a problem is to do a bit more “alıntı, çalıntı and mış-gibi yapmak” (the Turkish translation for “borrowing, ripping off, and faking-it-till-you-make-it”).


Silly…misguided…(and) just plain dumb!


These people often jump to other questions (when they stumble onto a ‘solution’ they can ‘import’) – questions like these:

Fixing FQ 04 and 05

Mmmm…we were asking why so many Mütivelli Heyeti Başkanlar (Chairmen…and they are often ‘men’…of the Board) wanted to increase contact hours and class size!

Now, you know…

You see, many hazırlık stakeholders want the ‘cheapest’ version of the ‘quick fix’ possible – without really lifting a finger (for hazırlık that is…the Engineering Faculty can, as a rule, get whatever the bloody hell it wants). The question about length of time required kinda gives this away, too!



…my favourite question is this one:

Fixing FQ 06

What were we saying about the blame game?


…after all, it’s so easy to point the finger…when you do not really want to ‘fix’ stuff. Of course, we all want to give the impression that we…us…ourselves…have no trouble going the extra mile (to put LEARNing at the heart of our decision-making).

Blame Game 01

…it’s just THEM…THEY…those (bloody) OTHERS – that ‘stop’ us!


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

Change (50 reasons)

…up our sleeves!


The combination of a culture of blame (along with its sister culture – ‘CYA) and our unquestioning worship of “how-to” pragmatism (constantly asking “how” – rarely “why) basically means that most of our hazırlık schools are doing more and more about things that mean less and lessfor both LEARNers and EDUcators!

Insane (TG version)


The first of Peter’s alternative questions (the one I promised to come back to) has much to do with my current theme:

TELLing the truth


The question:

Fixing FQ 07

…is one for all stakeholdersteachers, administrators (including Rectors and the Mütevelli Heyeti), testing and curriculum specialists and LEARNers (no…they are not angels either). Rather than pointing the finger or passing-the-buck, this question asks us all to take personal responsibility for whatever might be ‘broken’ across our hazırlık schools.

Yes, ‘being’ truthful – before ‘telling the truth’!

Peter tells us that other questions can help us get to this question:

Fixing FQ 08 09 and 10


questions that recognise we need to ‘question’ our ‘purpose’ – and how well we might be meeting that purpose…and how far we believe (in our heart of hearts) that it is possible to create new kinds of LEARNing institutions (and workplaces) grounded on more positive values, such as respect, trust and listening

Fixing FQ 11 12 and 13

questions that require us to look at the reasons we have been putting off the ‘fixes’ all of us know are in the best interests of the individuals and communities that live, LEARN and work in our institutions:

…and commit to ‘do’ whatever it takes to make these things happen!


Yes…even LEARNers…especially with LEARNers!


This is where you scroll back to the top…while I draft Pt 02 of 03!

Can a teacher “create” LEARNing THAT LASTS?

In Classroom Teaching, The Paradigm Debate on 26/07/2012 at 10:41 pm

Some of you (that drop into the blog from time to time) will have noticed that my “bouts of bloggery” have been a bit few and far between over the past few weeks (with the exception of the mega mini-soap I have been doing on the Rocks n’ Hard Places in “curriculum pacing guides” – BTW, I’ve taken a bit of “time off” before I do Part 05)…

The reason? Well, I’ve been working on a book with an old pal of mine here in Ankara (trust me – “books” are far more hard work than throwing out a few hundred words of “blog-o-rrea” every week or so). I won’t get into the details of the book (but Part 04 of Rocks n’ Hard Places will give you an idea of how we are trying to make it a bit “different”) – suffice to say – the idea of “LEARNing that lasts” is a big part of it.


Now, some of you might say – “Duh! Of course, LEARNing should last…if not, what’s the point?”

…and, you’d be right!

…even though we know (in our heart-of-hearts) LEARNing needs to be at heart of our decision-making in education, it is NOT…well, not “LEARNing of the LASTing variety”!

Oh, God! He’s off again…

Hear me out! Hear me out!

I promise this is not a “rant” – well, not too much of a “rant”!


You see, in the institutional coin toss between LEARNing and TEACHingand, despite what we might think we know about “probability on the heads or tails frontTEACHing still comes up trumps with more frequency than it should!

You see… 

Most people have a perspective on TEACHing (especially, it would seem, politicians and so-called edu-reformers) – they have a viewpoint, an “opinion” on TEACHing. Usually, this viewpoint is all about that a crap job educators and teachers are doing these days – and how we could all do a far better job if we just used more technology or did more standardised tests).

Yeah, right!


Teachers, however, especially “thunking teachers” tend to take a TEACHing PERSPECTIVE” (they take a “stance”, they take a position) – and this position informs their “practice”).

Think about the “difference” between the “have” and the “take” for a minute – very different, yes?

Taking a TEACHing Perspective is usually more “principled”, more “conscious”, more “informed– in classroom TEACHing it means what is said and done in the classroom is more likely to be based on more principled approaches or methods, and guide what teachers do in the classroom. Nothing wrong with that – if only more politicians and “self-anointed reformers” did the same (or just knew what the hell they were banging on about)!

However, we also have to realise that TEACHers “grow up” in educational institutions – some of them do teacher education programmes, some of them take the more academic track (but end up doing more TEACHing than research – what they are trained to do). Both of these groups, so the research tells us, do more LEARNing on-the-job or keep on with the ways they were LEARNed (by others on-the-job) – in institutions. These institutions “socialise” TEACHers into certain ways of thinking, certain ways of doing – or acting.


The problem is – wait for it – most of these institutions are (still) grounded on a fundamental “design flaw”. In fact, we could say – or rather, I would say:

Barr and Tagg said it better than I ever could (over 15 years ago)…


They elaborated (over 15 years ago)…


A lot of  teachers “heard” them…a few institutions “read” the article…but…not much has changed since then – 17 years ago!

Which is why, lads n’ lasses… so many teachers still focus on “taking a TEACHing PERSPECTIVE” rather than “taking a LEARNing PERSPECTIVE”.

Even though we know (don’t we?) that…


Perhaps, this is why we see so such “poverty” in the way we define LEARNing. For example, look at how this world-famous dictionary “explains” what LEARNing is:

Shiriously? Is that the best we do???


What about this one? I stumbled on this yesterday…in a (very) popular blog for teachersby teachers:

Me thinks I might have to stop defending me teacher-blogger pals, if this the best we can do!

Sorry, guys – this just does not cut it…


This one? This time a favourite of psychologists and therapists:

OK – I’m seeing “something” here. But, did Hannibal’s behaviour really “change” in a LASTing mannerClarice?



As much as the “novelty” of this one (from a world famous “self-help guru” – also a “teacher”) almost got me, again it just lacked the “stuff”!


Actually, and it pains me to say this, but Wikipedia managed to come up with a half-decent definition:

Shock, horror! Credit where credit’s due, boys and girls! Pity they won’t be around much longer!

Tony, stay focussed – we’re talking about “LEARNing that LASTS”!


OK – in an earlier post, I told you about a little place I visited a fair few years ago – Alverno College, in Milwaukee. A place that had quite a profound effect on how I (now) “do business” in education.

In that post, I think I said something like – the “guys” at Alverno made me see…


You see, they “invented” the phrase “LEARNing That Lasts” (you have to check out “The” BOOK, if you haven’t already – it became one of my LEARNing “Bibles” – and still is)!

For example, take a look at their “definition” of LEARNingcompare it with the ones we have just looked at… 

Much better, yes? 


What I saw in the work the faculty at Alverno had been doing (since 197322 years before Barr and Tagg talked about their “design flaw”) was that to get to “LEARNing that LASTS” we have to move on further than what students “know” – we have to move onto what they can “do” with what they know. Even more than that – we also have to move onto how they can “keep improving” what they can do with what they know (and LEARN – with us)!

It’s a mouthful…I know!

It’s also about how students think, feel and actand how these things impact their decision-making, choices and interactions with otherswell beyond “graduation” and their “formal” education…

That is “LEARNing that LASTS”LEARNing that makes a significant and sustainable (and “real”) difference to the lives of LEARNers…


Now, I’m guessing that around about “now” – the question on your lips is:

…sure it is!

That was the exact same question I had all those years back!


Did they have bags of money? Did they have more resources than God? Did they have hundreds of teachers just sitting around twiddling their thumbs?


They just realised “something” was not “quite right” – they realised that they could be doing better…and that “something” was all about…


Bet you your next pay-check that you thought I was going to say “LEARNing”yes?


Remember a bit earlier – we were going on about having a perspective on TEACHing and taking a TEACHing PERSPECTIVE. The same “distinction” is true of curriculum. Most educators “have a perspective on curriculum” (we hate it – especially when it comes in the form of a “pacing guide”) – but very few of us:

Sorry about that…could not resist…this is a looooooooong post!


This is what Alverno set out to do.

However, what I think (IMHO) they were “really” doing was starting out on a journey that ultimately would lead them to “take a LEARNing PERSPECTIVE” – and create a “real” (educational) “LEARNing Organisation”.

This was very significant – a very radical (institutional) change!

They realised that “rethunking education” and LEARNing was not just about changing course content (or course codes) – it requires new thunking about curriculum, assessment, and teacher development.

What did Dexter say?


They just “got” that reinvention of their approach to curriculum and assessment first required that they make explicit their assumptions (and values) about LEARNing itself.

Now, you see why I have been asking so many questions…and inviting people to do the same on the blog (with a little help from Peter Blockfor those of you that want to go back to Türkçe).

The result – Alverno established its core purpose as being to develop those abilities students need to be successful as LEARNers, employees and citizens. In doing so they redefined curriculum around an explicit set of eight abilities:

…and developed a collaborativeinterdisciplinary pedagogy and LEARNing process capable of continuous improvement, and…(wait for this ONE)…required students to demonstrate competence in the eight abilities as a condition for graduation.

They actually…and this will make you crap your pants (if you work in a “testing unit”)…they “did away with”grades – and opted for a system that focussed on “results”!

And…you wonder why I fell in love with the place…and all the lovely faculty there!


Now, if you are a “HOW-Guy” (rather than a “WHY-Guy” or “Gal”) – you have probably realised that I have not fully answered the question:

…and, you’d be right!


I am actually thinking (yes, right now – as I type away) whether to split this post into two (Mmmmm, split it up I might) – but hey, what the hell – you survived this far!

Welcome to Tony’s OPUS-MAXIMUS…for the month!

They focussed on TEACHer LEARNing! Well, actually, it was a bit more like a process of Q-CBL and CPD for Educators (I’m still working on that acronym – not quite there, yet)

…and “yes”…I do own the “rights” to that one!


Like all sensible institutions, the Alverno guys, knew that:

So, they started a series of LEARNing Conversations in their faculty teams (within and across all their teams). They also knew that there was a huge difference between questions like:

Just about “heads or tails” it is not…


The core question they started with was, of course (canlarım benim):

Now, if you want (and you need a “rest”) – take 5 minutes and write your own version. Tweet it to 10 other teachersand see what you get back (seriously)!

The point here is that teachers can answer these questions on their “own” – but with collaboration, the benefits really start to kick in.

Institutions you have no choice! If you want to do “right” by your TEACHers and LEARNers!


The Alverno faculty did not stop there (though I hear it took around 6 months to get something half-decent on that first question). They then tackled these two:

They look pretty self-explanatory – do not be fooled! It’s the “LEARNing conversations” around these questions which is the focus. The “process” is what gets “results” – the “product” is sharing, clarification and “adaptation”!


There were others:


And, they just kept getting better and better;

Now, here we have a couple of seriously heavy-weight questions – as soon as we put the focus on LEARNing (and LEARNers), all that “content” just seems a waste of time.

OK, that’s a bit harsh – but, compare the question “What CONTENT do I want to TEACH?” and the question “What TYPE of HUMAN BEING do I want to help BUILD?”

…no contest really!


This is where Alverno really began to evaluate what they were TEACHing – and started to reinvent their curriculum around the set of eight abilities we noted above (do take some time to wander around their website – just been updated and very cool)!

These two questions alone should give teachers days-and-days of fun – especially, when part of a “curriculum renewal” project.


Obviously, I am cutting a few corners here (that’s what we bloggers do, yes?) – they had many more questions that they worked to get to grips with and what they were doing was starting a long (a very long) process of trying to work out how they, the faculty, could best “cultivate” integrative and expansive capabilities across the lifetime of their LEARNersknock this off in a long weekend, we cannot!

To do this, they also had to bring the two side of the coin together – with TWO of my personal favourites:


…followed by my all-time favourite – that “question-of-questions”:


“The” BOOK I mentioned earlier, tracks the first 20 years of the Alverno “project” – a longitudinal study of how the faculty at the college created “LEARNing That LASTS” for their students with their highly acclaimed curriculum/assessment (and LEARNing-TEACHing) model.

Their “project” continues today…as it should…as it will always!

…I hear someone scream!


“You got me to read over 2,000 words – not including all the text in the images – and you ain’t even answered the question you posed in the post title”!



Always wondered what it would be like to say something like “that”!

I am not that “mean” – for me, what the Alverno project shows is that it is very possiblevery possibleThe secret – creating “LEARNing That LASTS” is essentially a question of:

…and ongoing “adaptation”:

After all, “adaptation” is LEARNing – for both LEARNers and TEACHers!

In this post (though it was not really my “plan” – blogging is kinda like that), we’ve explored the nature of LEARNing. I offered my own definition (birthed with the help of many hands), as well as other (not always so great) definitions.

When we think about TEACHing in this context – it is really all about helping or supporting this process and includes all of the things that we do to make it happen – whatever that definition might be (and this will “vary” according to context – in addition to teacher or institution).

These things we must be “aligned” – to what we believe, what we say we believe, what we “do” and, most importantly – what we do to “improve” in everything we do to make LEARNing happen (and LAST).


The starting point is to make these things “explicit” – for ourselves, initially – working with “others” (or on twitter) takes care of the rest…

The Alverno model has become a next practice model for “doing business” very differently in education and a way of “adding real value” to students – value that is praised by the business and community organisations around Wisconsin and the U.S.

Alverno got it so RIGHT…so many years ago!


And, the set of Q-CBL questions developed and used by Alverno faculty are the nuts n’ bolts of the three questions every teacher (and institution) needs to ask on a regular and on-going basis:


The other question:



In the end, and this will not be in “the book”:

I am such a “geek”!


“Herding Cats” and Change 3.0 (Part 2)

In Educational Leadership, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness, The Paradigm Debate on 07/11/2011 at 9:17 pm

I sat down this morning and began to think about how I would begin Part Two of the little mini-series I began yesterday. It was tough…and three cups of coffee later, I still had no idea of how to start.

True – I had mapped out a diatribe (of sorts) yesterday morning (but realised I’d have to use over 5k of lexis to get it all “on screen” – so decided to split it up). The problem was that last night I got a couple of “notes” that made me thunkone was quite funny. It accused me of a form of “digital penis-envy” and suggested that I had invented the phrase “Change 3.0” just to play catch up with all the techies and their Web 3.0’sfunny, because it was kinda true!

A couple of people got me some quotes – one I had never seen before was from the comic strip “Over the hedge” (penned by Michael Fry and Tom Lewis):

The more things change, the more they remain… insane.

Could there be more than a grain of truth in such tongue-in-cheek one-liners?

My perspective on “change” has always been a bit more “hopeful“, more “optimistic” – like that of Margaret Mead:

As I said yesterday, I like to believe that I “eat change for breakfast” and do not always “get” why so many people cringe when the “word” is mentioned  or why they run for the hills when its big brother – TRANSFORMATION – is placed on the table.

I tried running over these notes and comments (and my scribbles from yesterday) – desperate for inspiration – and up popped a tweet… @TeachersJourney to the rescue:

You can’t put students “first” if you put teachers “last”.

Those 54 characters (and how the hell most normal human beings are supposed to convey a decent idea in 140 characters is still beyond me) captured the paradox that is so often hard-wired into Change 1.0 and Change 2.0 initiatives…

And, taking my lead from @TeachersJourney – I started to think about a couple more questions:

Do we really put students “first” – really, really?

If we do, do we have to put teachers “last” – or can both come “first”?


The problem is I cannot really answer these questions with the self-imposed word limit I try to keep for each post – this one will have to go to a Part 3…but here goes!

I said yesterday that the main issues with Change 1.0 were:

  • the focus on change-as-an-event
  • the preference for command-and-control approaches to improvement
  • putting the organization before the people who “live” in it and those it is designed to “serve”

Change 2.0 did address these issues and sought to:

  • acknowledge that organisational change is, in fact, a “process” of “changing people”
  • recognise that these people need to be “motivated” to change
  • pay greater attention to best practices, planning and management

Surely, this type of conceptualisation is enough – process, people, planning! Loading the dice in this way has gotta work…


Sorry, but I think it’s time to burst that little “bubble”…

  • We cannot “change” peopleand anyone who has this as her “goal” is just plain “dumb”
  • We cannot “motivate” anyoneand the sooner we drop this “myth about carrots and bloody sticks” the better
  • The truth is…..and I need some images (and a few words) to convey this:


Number 1

I’ve talked a fair bit about “best practice” in earlier posts. Looking to best practices is not a bad thing in itself; we can learn a great deal from them and they can help along institutions wishing to reinvent themselves.

The problem is that many best practices are “old news – and “old news” developed to help solve someone else’s problems. If best practices are uncritically adopted and grafted (or should I say cut n’ pasted) onto another organisational culture – we can end up with an even bigger headache than we started with.

This is why perhaps so many, like Bill Monro, view imitation as the “sincerest form of collective stupidity” – and remind us that “looking back” is hardly the best way to create “next practice” that is both fit-for-purpose and useful


Number 2

OK – who can disagree with a maxim that tells us “Failing to plan is planning to fail” (and we do not even need our 140 characters to get that idea out there)?

Of course, we need to “plan” – but there’s other stuff we all know to be true; the best-laid plans of mice and men, life is what happens to us while we are busy making other plans and something about Zeus getting a bit of a kick out of pissing all over the plans of “mortal men” (and women, too).

This is actually where Change 1.0 (and Change 2.0) really falls flat on its face – sure we can draw up a “wish-list” of our 12-step action plan for change but “hit shappens”. Even if we stand on the shoulders of giants like John Kotter and follow his advice to the letter, not going with the flow of unanticipated outcomes or failing to fully exploit emerging practices or evolving capabilities can mean “failure”, too – and a bigger failure than just not being able to tick off items on the “change checklist”.

On-going improvisation” can sometimes be a change agent’s best friend – a kanka, even! More people need to recognise this…


Number 3

Now, this is the one that gets me in so much trouble – even though many educational “managers” do not have anywhere near enough “management training”, they do love the idea of “management processes”. It’s something about the way those words collocate so smoothly with words like order, efficiency, and mission.

I like my processes, too – but (and to quote Covey) “Management works in the system; Leadership works on the system”. “Management” works just fine when the “system” works just fine…


Change is about working on somethingto make it better – and that’s why we need more “leaders” (both formal and informal). However, not “leaders” that prize their “seats” (and systems) more than they do the people that keep them in these seats.

As Tom Peters reminds us “Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing”. This is the crux of the matter allthingschange in education.

Now, you see why I needed that 5k of lexis!


But, before I elaborate on this – I guess I have to jump back a space or two. As I noted yesterday, what often ruffles my feathers is the fact that many educational leaders (and, even moreso – politicians) still keep on talking about “herding” and asking the question:

  • How do we motivate our people to change?

And, by “people” – they frequently mean “them” or “those buggars“. Guess what – teachers “know” this and are not easily conned by a carrot or two


Let’s be very clear – this question is very much one created in the back rooms of a “managerial mindset”; an approach to change that focusses on “arranging”, “telling” and “herding”.

Management is not enough – especially if that management that fails to walk-its-talk or is based on tradition and folklore.

Tolstoy had it right when he said “…everyone wants to change the world, but no one thinks of changing himself”. His words prompt another question – could it be that many of the difficulties we still face with “change in education” are actually “caused” by those who see themselves as being “charged with managing change”?

Could it be that the core questions they ask – are just “wrong”?

But, I’ve just realised I have gone over my word limit – time to “plan” for Part 3… thinks.

Why we need more “Committed Sardines”…

In Educational Leadership, Our Schools on 04/10/2011 at 7:22 am

A couple of days ago I did a “lazy Sunday” post – but shared a poem from the guys at the 21st Century Fluency Project (Ian, Andrew and Lee). The poem clearly touched a nerve with many of you and showed me just how much we educators value allthingseducation – and “the need for change”.

If only our schools, colleges and universities were half as passionate!


Lee, Andrew and Ian have recently published their latest book – Literacy is Not Enough –and have kindly offered to share selected chapters of the book with you all. After I had posted the poem, I thought elements of Chapter 12 (the end of the book) would be the best to start their series of guest-posts for us.


We must immediately begin to rethink and reshape the current classroom learning experience. We must re-examine the way we teach, the way students learn, and the way we assess that learning. We acknowledge that this is a great challenge. What we are being asked to do is not like changing a small bad habit such as smoking or eating a bit too much chocolate or biting nails.

The challenge we’re facing in education at this time is that educators are being asked to reconsider our fundamental assumptions about how we teach, how students learn and how that learning should be assessed.

But when we’re challenged to rethink education, we’re not being asked just to change a few small behaviors or habits like how we spend our money, what we put into our bodies, or how we spend our time. What we are being asked to do here is reconsider some of the most fundamental, traditional, embedded parts of our life experiences and our habits of mind.

And that is the real challenge that educators face.

And yes, change is hard. Sometimes the challenge of change seems absolutely overwhelming. So where do we begin? How do we in education deal with a world of such fast-paced change? How do we deal with embedded traditional mindsets about teaching and learning and assessment? How do we deal with the digital generation?


Facing the Music

It may seem a bit selfish, but what we passionately believe is that this is not about us; it’s not about our issues; it’s not about our comfort zone. This is about our children and our hopes and our dreams and our prayers for their future. They may only be 20 percent of the population, but they are 100 percent of the future of our nation.

Put on a more visceral level, all of our pension plans depend on how well we prepare them. Three billion new people entered the world economy in the past ten years, and if even if only ten percent of them have skills and opportunity to compete with us, that’s still 300 million people—about twice the size of the entire U.S. workforce and twenty times the Canadian workforce.

In the work culture of the 21st Century, everything from the neck down is going to be minimum wage. Everything that can be automated, turned into hardware, turned into software, or outsourced or offshored will be. So we have a choice. Either our students and workers have high skills or they get low wages. And if they don’t get those 21st-century kills in our schools, where will they get them.

We hear complaints all the time that kids today are different, and that our schools aren’t what they used to be. Frankly, we believe the problem with our schools isn’t that they aren’t what they used to be. Culturally and socially they are different, but structurally, they are just like they were when students were released for 3 months in the summer so they could harvest the crops based on a European agricultural cycle from 150 years ago.

No, the problem is that our schools are what they used to be. So if we’re going to prepare our students for their future and not just our past, if we’re going to prepare them for their future and not just our comfort zone, we’re going to need new schools—and more than that, we need a new mindset. We need new schools for the new world that awaits them. We need schools that will prepare students for their future—for life ahead of them after they leave school—for the rest of their lives. We know this is hard, but as educators, we must understand that our job is not just to serve what is or has been. Our job is to shape what can, what might, what absolutely must be.

Once again, change is difficult, and it’s very easy to feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the changes required. But this is normal. Little has ever been understood or achieved in one blinding flash of light. The process of change is messy and doesn’t happen overnight.

Honestly, in writing a book like Literacy is Not Enough, and in creating a project as large as the 21st Century Fluency Project, it’s easy to feel completely overwhelmed, and we certainly do feel that from time to time. But when we do feel overwhelmed, there’s a place we like to go to decompress. That place is the Monterey Aquarium in Monterey, California. Some say it’s the world’s greatest aquarium.


The Joy of Whalewatching

A few years ago, Ian took his wife Nicky there for the first time. After they paid their fee, they walked inside. Immediately on their right was a gift shop that was playing a DVD about the blue whale, the largest and, at 190 decibels, the loudest mammal on earth—much louder than a person can shout (70 decibels) and louder than a jet (140 decibels). The video was full of amazing facts. The blue whale weighs more than a fully loaded 737. It is the length of 2 1/2 Greyhound buses put end to end and has a heart the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. It has blood vessels that a human adult could swim down, and a tongue 8 feet long that weighs 6000 lbs. One particularly amazing fact was that in its first year of life, a baby blue whale was estimated to gain 15 pounds an hour.

One other amazing fact caught their attention—a blue whale is so mammoth that when it swims in one direction and it decides it needs to turn around, it takes three to five minutes to complete the turn. There are a lot of people in our world who draw a strong parallel between the blue whale and the school system. And there are also a lot of people who believe that all the calls for charter schools and vouchers are being made by people who are wishing and hoping that we just won’t be able to turn public education around in time.

But if you walk past the video on the blue whale, turn to the left and walk about 50 yards down the way, you come to what we consider to be the absolute centerpiece of the Monterey Aquarium. It’s a 10 story, all-glass tank inside of which have been placed many of the creatures that are native to the Monterey Bay. If you’ve read ever John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, you’ll know that a century ago, twice a year, in the inner Monterey Bay, there used to appear—out of nowhere—schools of sardines that were the length, the width, and the depth of city blocks. These immense crowds of the tiny fish had the mass not of one, two, or three blue whales, but of rather thousands of them.

But there is a fundamental difference between the way a blue whale turns around and a school of sardines changes its direction. How do they do it? How do they know? Is it ESP? Is it Twitter? Are they using cellphones?

Because we were quite curious, we pressed our noses against the tank and looked at the gigantic school of sardines swimming around inside.

At first glance, it looked like all the sardines were swimming in the same direction. But when our eyes adjusted to light, we began to realize, slowly at first, that at any one time there would be a small group of sardines swimming in another direction. And when they did this, they inevitably caused conflict, discomfort, collisions, and stress to each other.

But finally, when a critical mass of truly committed sardines was reached—not 50 or 60 percent who wanted to change, but 10 to 15 percent who truly believed in change, you know what happened? The rest of the school turned and followed. And that’s exactly what has happened over the past few years with things like out attitudes toward smoking, our unwillingness to tolerate drinking and driving, or politicians who lie. It’s exactly what happened with regime change in the Middle East. Each and every one of them was an overnight success that was years in the making. Every one of them started with a small group of people who were willing to make the change despite the obstacles and resistance.

You All Need To Be Committed!

On the 21st Century Fluency Project website ( is our blog, which we call “The Committed Sardine Blog.” When we first started posting we had a vision of building a following and providing world-class books and free resources that would help to transform education to be relevant to life in the 21st-century. We had a trickle of subscribers, which has turned into a flood. Today we have tens of thousands of Committed Sardines in dozens of countries. The blog and resources have been accessed millions of times. Shortly it will expand into a personal learning network where you can create and share unit plans like the ones in this book.

So the big question is:

who amongst you is willing to become a Committed Sardine?


Who amongst you is willing to swim against the flow, against conventional wisdom, against our long-standing and traditional assumptions and practices in education and begin to move schools from where they are to where they need to be?

American anthropologist Maragret Mead put it this way: