The Educator’s Journey Part 1: The Reality of Professional Development in Adult Education

This is my first version of this. I’ve stolen it from Nancy Duarte in her excellent book Resonate. She in turn stole it from The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler who in turn got it from Joseph Campbell who wrote it down in The Hero’s Journey. Campbell pinched from Carl Jung who stole it from our combined collective unconscious.

The idea is that when educators, tutors, trainers start a professional development pathway they embark on a journey that takes them through a series of specific steps and stages. It’s not always fun. And sometimes it’s damn hard. The good thing is that these stages follow a distinct pattern and it can be helpful for us to identify where we are up to and what’s around the corner.


  1. Ordinary world: Most of us start with limited awareness of the issues around embedding literacy and numeracy (LN), or even the high LN demands of our courses. This is the ordinary world of teaching. Enjoy your happy place while it lasts.
  2. The call: You start your training with us doing the National Certificate in Adult Literacy and Numeracy – the NCALNE (Voc) – you start to realise the  extent of the problem we have with low adult LN. That combined with what happens when you see the high LN demands of your own training brings your world into an imbalance. This is the start of your adventure.
  3. Refusal: Initially, you might be skeptical and resistant to adopting this new teaching approach because it will require change. And change is hard. You may try to refuse the call to embed literacy and numeracy.
  4. Overcoming: Your NCALNE (Voc) and skilled facilitators provide you with magical tools (i.e. this approach to embedding LN) that will help you on your journey.
  5. Committing to change: So you decide to jump in and commit to explicit embedded LN. You have taken the red pill and crossed the threshold. There is no turning back now.
  6. Experimenting with first change: Now the real work begins, but its hard. People and things oppose your efforts to change your teaching practice. Expect tests & enemies, but also allies as you start embedding literacy and numeracy into your teaching.
  7. Preparing for a big change: You are determined to push forward and implement these ideas. You begin to develop the skills you need to succeed at embedding.
  8. Attempting a big change: You take a major step toward implementing embedded LN with your learners, and it doesn’t quite work out as you thought. Your commitment is tested. You may have doubts about whether this is the best use of your time.
  9. Setbacks and rewards: You get discouraged and consider giving up, but you persist and begin to see some benefits from your efforts.
  10. Rededication to change: You decide to continue on with a renewed excitement, even though the resistance around may be chronic.
  11. Big change: Using your new teaching tools you implement a big change to your teaching and are victorious.
  12. Mastery: Embedded LN is widely adopted and the galaxy is a better place.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments…

Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

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