Tony Gurr

Posts Tagged ‘walking-the-talk’

Reflections from a few “new hands”…

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

By Esin Uysal and Tony Gurr

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

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

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

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


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

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


She did – so, read on!


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

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

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

It started to make sense…well, a bit!

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

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

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

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

We were so proud of ourselves!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


What did I LEARN from all of this?

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


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



In Educational Leadership, Our Schools, Our Universities on 25/09/2011 at 10:54 am

I guess I really have to get round to writing some of these “Dummies-Guides” I have been talking about – but somehow I think that Wiley & Sons might not think I am their “type” of author…

Till then…another DVD Box-Set!

I’m actually doing these as a way to summarise a lot of the posts we have been putting up over the months (mostly for new “bloggers” – guys, just hit the “red links” below to take you too the posts)…

This time its allthingsleadership!


Sadly, many of our understandings of allthingsleadership are rooted in images of war, sufferring and conflict…and of the military “heroes” that step up and save the day. This is common in nearly culture on the planet!


The business community are especially “fond” of this conceptualisation:


Hey, if the business community can do it – so can we:


Mmmmmm…doesn’t quite “fit”, does it?


It’s probably a good idea to ask ourselves a few questions about where we are with Educational Leadership right now. In this post we draw on the ideas of Tom Peters (the “man” – in the business community) – and tweak them a “little” to better suit the way we “do business” in education:

One our very earliest post was very well received – seems it touched a nerve for many of you. It raises the issue of what type of educational leadership we need for the 21st Century – and the type of organisational culture we need to be co-creating for the future:

We also did this one in Turkish, too:


Building on this…we thought we’d take a quick look at some of the principles that should perhaps be guiding how we think and act as educational leaders – and what perhaps our foundation capstones need to look like:

Again, in Turkish…for those of you that would prefer:

These posts also touch on the importance of “habits” – so how could we not do more on “Mr. 7 Habits” himself:


We also have a lot of educational-wannabesthose “using” education for purposes that are far removed from allthingslearning – we need to ask if we need these “leaders” at all;

And, what we can do when we confront people like this:


My love of TV shows also got the better of me and I looked at whether Tony Soprano could add anything to our knowledge base (turns out he can):


We’ve also tried to show the types of leadership Turkish educators are showing in our “Çay ve Simit Interview” series:


As well as examples of the leadership shown by their learners:

We’ll have more of these – coming to a DVD store near you soon!

Culture, Climate and REAL Quality…

In Uncategorized on 18/06/2011 at 7:58 am

Since we started discussing accreditation and ran the second of our “Çay ve Simit interview” series (with Engin from YU), this post on REAL QUALITY has become very popularso I have decided to re-blog it for those of you that might have missed it.

It raises the issue of whether we can really have a “culture of quality” before we have a “culture of learning”… and I thought it would be a nice reminder of some of the issues we will look at in our final (for now) post on accreditation.


Culture, Climate and REAL Quality… A few weeks ago, I talked about educational institutions getting to grips with the new vision of “next practice” in organisational culture that has been emerging over the past few years. In fact, this post has become the most popular we have put up on allthingslearning – I wonder why? The point with such models is that they are radically different to the type of “culture” many of us “grew up” in – and perhaps radically different to the “climate”Read More

via allthingslearning

Culture, Climate and REAL Quality…

In Educational Leadership, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness on 20/04/2011 at 2:02 pm

A few weeks ago, I talked about educational institutions getting to grips with the new vision of “next practice” in organisational culture that has been emerging over the past few years. In fact, this post has become the most popular we have put up on allthingslearningI wonder why?

The point with such models is that they are radically different to the type of “culture” many of us “grew up” in – and perhaps radically different to the “climate” of organisations that we still work in.

If we ask teachers and educators to review elements of the model, how many of them will seriously “disagree” with the idea that we should have more “trust”, more “transparency” and more “inclusiveness” in our organisation? How many educational managers or supervisors will say that their organisations do NOT want to be values-driven, do NOT want to use a systems perspective, do NOT desire to promote ethical practices?

I would bet none of them!

The challenge is that many teachers and staff within organisations frequently complain that their organisations do not “walk-their-talk” – indeed that many managers and supervisors are reluctant to “take a real look in the mirror”, face reality as it is and then do something about it.

Many schools, colleges and universities have opted to avoid gathering data on their “current climate” (see, the earlier post on GALLUP’s “Magic 12 Questions”).

Others, including some of the best and most prestigious universities in the world, have refused to use surveys that tap into student feedback on the quality of learning and levels of engagement (see, the post that discusses NSSE’s innovative student surveys).

These “centres of excellence” (as they often like to refer to themselves) just fail to recognise that the most important element of more innovative approaches to organisational culture is – LEARNing.

Organisations and institutions that stay with older “our-way-or-the-highway” notions simply miss the fact that LEARNing is the secret to success in this new paradigm of cultural capital and organisational climate. The LEARNing of people and the LEARNing of institutions themselves – and the starting point for this is open, honest reflection:

  • What “business” are we in and how do we want to “do” that business?
  • Where are we right now?
  • What do we want that we don’t have?
  • What do we want that we already have?
  • What don’t we have that we don’t want?
  • What do we have now that we don’t want?
  • What has to change to allow us to “be” what we want to be?
  • How do we know all this?

There are many other questions institutions and their senior leadership teams can ask (see, this post for some other critical questions) – BUT…you’d be surprised how few organisations ask themselves these questions (and still have a well-worded mission statement hanging on the wall or a detailed strategic plan gathering dust on a shelf somewhere).

Another tool (that I love – for its “simplicity”) was developed by Connor and Clawson (2004) and encourages institutions to reflect on whether they have a “Pro-Learning” or “Anti-Learning” Culture.

One way to use this tool is to ask both the senior leadership team of an institution and the teaching/staff body to rate the organisation (using a scale: 5 – Very True, 4 – True, 3 – Somewhat True, 2 – Not True, 1 – Not True At All) and then compare the two data sets.

The items they suggest can be very quickly adapted to an educational context:

Pro-learning culture
Anti-learning culture
People at all levels ask questions and share stories about successes, failures, and what they have learned. Managers share information on a need-to-know basis. People keep secrets and don’t describe how events really happened.
Everyone creates, keeps, and propagates stories of individuals who have improved their own processes. Everyone believes they know what to do, and they proceed on this assumption.
People take at least some time to reflect on what has happened and what may happen. Little time or attention is given to understanding lessons learned from projects.
People are treated as complex individuals. People are treated like objects or resources without attention to their individuality.
Managers encourage continuous experimentation. Employees proceed with work only when they feel certain of the outcome.
People are hired and promoted on the basis of their capacity for learning and adapting to new situations. People are hired and promoted on the basis of their technical expertise as demonstrated by credentials.
Performance reviews include and pay attention to what people have learned. Performance reviews focus almost exclusively on what people have done.
Senior managers participate in training programs designed for new or high-potential employees. Senior managers appear only to “kick off” management training programs.
Senior managers are willing to explore their underlying values, assumptions, beliefs, and expectations. Senior managers are defensive and unwilling to explore their underlying values, assumptions, beliefs, and expectations.
Conversations in management meetings constantly explore the values, assumptions, beliefs, and expectations underlying proposals and problems. Conversations tend to move quickly to blaming and scapegoating with little attention to the process that led to a problem or how to avoid it in the future.
Customer feedback is solicited, actively examined, and included in the next operational or planning cycle. Customer feedback is not solicited and is often ignored when it comes in over the transom.
Managers presume that energy comes in large part from learning and growing. Managers presume that energy comes from “corporate success,” meaning profits and senior management bonuses.
Managers think about their learning quotient, that is, their interest in and capacity for learning new things, and the learning quotient of their employees. Managers think that they know all they need to know and that their employees do not have the capacity to learn much.
Total for pro-learning culture   Total for anti-learning culture  

To be honest, it is not the data sets themselves that are important – but rather the nature of the discussion on “what the results mean”, “why they might differ” and “what can be done” between different people in the organisation.

Of course, there are very few “our-way-or-the-highway” institutions that would be “brave enough” to carry out such an exercise – and it is this, perhaps, that shows the true nature of the learning culture that exists in an organisation.

Perhaps, the main issue here is not about the quality of an organisation’s culture or climate – but rather how that organisation conceptualises “what exactly quality is.

As we have seen in earlier posts –

Quality is not just about simply having a “QA system” and stacks of documentation

Quality is a means, not an end:

  • Quality is about improvement
  • Quality is about a transformational mindset or culture
  • Quality is an on-going process of building and sustaining relationships

This is not just Tony having another “rant” – cutting-edge research (Harvey and Newton, 2007 and 2009) has deconstructed the dominant approaches to QA and reconstructed an alternative, research-informed approach that is based on a shift from “externally imposed procedures” to “internally generated creativity”.

Conventional wisdom in educational quality issues (finally) is now calling for approaches to quality evaluation grounded on “self-regulation”, an improvement-led approach and “transformation” (and this has accreditation bodies and their consultants very worried).

What is perhaps more important, however, is that this approach to “REAL Quality” is based on (1) institutions “getting real” with their own quality initiatives, and (2) increased attention to issues of culture and the convergence of 3 overlapping “cultures”:

  • The Organisational Culture we need for the 21st Century
  • The Culture of Learning organisations need to survive in the 21st Century
  • The Culture of Quality that needs to accompany all our initiatives in the 21st Century

But, more on these later…