5 Questions That Will Make You Uncomfortable If You Work In Education

It’s an uncomfortable business


Working in education is a tricky and often uncomfortable business. Especially if you want to get paid… And if you work in education sometimes even just using words like money and customers make you feel uncomfortable. You’d better click away now if you’re offended already.

The “Customer” is not a straightforward matter


Still, it gets worse, one part of the problem is trying to figure out who your actual customers are. And this might sound kind of strange, but it’s not a straightforward matter. And your main customer might not be who you think it is.

If you’re like me, you have different kinds of customers. All at the same time. These different kinds of customers often have different (and possibly contradictory) needs and expectations.

Paying versus value creation


So how do you figure out who these customers are? Well, you can start by asking these two questions:

1. Who’s paying?

2. Who are you creating the most value for?

You might not need to, but sometimes you may need to decide if your main customer is EITHER the person or organisation that you are creating the most value for, OR the one who is paying you the most. This can be important depending on what key deliverables are for your work.

The tension


There is not always a tension between who’s paying versus who you’re creating the most value for. But sometimes there is. People have different needs and wants. So, how will you deal with this? There’s only one answer:

  • Embrace the tension

The Money


One way to start thinking about this tension is to follow the money. Ask yourself the question again: Who’s paying?

If your education programme or training is mostly (or completed) funded or subsidised by a government department or similar agency then you better start thinking of them and treating them like a valued customer. Their investment is paying for or subsiding your delivery, outcomes, and probably ensuring that you can pay the rent.

There’s nothing like the promise of continued employment to incentivise your work…



However, there’s still the issue of value creation. One way of defining a customer is to determine who you are creating the most value for. Which of these groups are you creating the most value for?

  • The funding agency or other investors?
  • Your learners, i.e. the ones in front of you in the training environment?
  • Your learners’ employers?
  • Your learners’ learners, staff, or clients (if you’re working with tutors and trainers like we do)?

It’s complex


So… are your learners the ones allowing you to pay your bills and meet payroll? For us, it’s more like our learners (and their learners) are the combined end-users of the training that we deliver. They don’t pay, but we do create value for them.

Our customers then are actually a combination of our learners’ employers and a government funding agency (these two groups pay for the training together) as well as the learners themselves (who are non paying customers).

So… understanding who your customers are and getting paid in the education business is a bit more complex than just shipping widgets.

It’s seldom a simple business transaction. The main thing to realise is that organisations and government departments that fund education and training are like venture capital investors. And learners can be customers too, even if they are non-paying customers.



Finally, after you’ve figured out whatever complicated and often contradictory mixture of customers you’re attempting to create value for, you also need to ask these questions for each customer group:

3. What do they really want?

4. Are you really delivering the right results?

5. What’s the return on investment for each?

6. Who’s getting the best return on investment?

So, tar and feather me with the brush of economic reductionism… These last questions make me uncomfortable. But they’re great questions to keep asking.

12 Things You Can Do Right Now To Read Better, Improve Learning, and Understand More

You might think that becoming a better reader is a big secret, but it’s totally not. Here are 12 things you can do right now to read better and improve what you remember and understand:

1. Look for connections: Ask yourself what you already know about the topic that you have to read. Draw a mind map or make a list of your answer.connect

2. Predict the content: Try and make an intelligent guess about what you have to read. Use anything you can to help make your prediction.


3. Identify the main ideas: If you can, get a pen and underline or highlight what you think are the main ideas. Then rank these for importance.


4. Work out the structure: Think about what kind of thing you are reading? Is it a letter? A persuasive argument? An editorial? Facts from a workbook? Cause and effect? Problem and solution?


5. Look at the first sentence: The first sentence in any paragraph is called the topic sentence. If it’s well written, it will tell you what the entire paragraph is about. Just read these.

Topic Sentence

6. Use typography: Typography just means things like bold, underline, and italics. Use these as clues and try and figure out what they are there for. Extend this to headings and subheadings as well.


7. Read between the lines: Try and work out what the writer is not saying. Form an opinion or make a guess.


9. Look at the pictures. This one is pretty obvious, but use the pictures to help you think of questions (see next).


8. Visualise: Make a picture in your mind about what you are reading. If you can, draw it.


10. Ask questions and look for answers: ask yourself questions about everything as you read, e.g. the meanings of words, the structure, what’s coming next, how it’s relevant to you.

ask more questions

11. Get help when you stop understanding: This means talking to someone else or doing some research. You might talk to a friend, a teacher, or pose a question on an online discussion forum.

get help

12. Be aware of which of these strategies you are using when you’re using them: The best readers know they are doing these things when they are doing them.


How do you improve maths and numeracy learning? Ask these four questions


Ace maths and numeracy blogger Damon Whitten has written a couple of great posts here and here recently on how things you can do to improve maths learning for kids.

I think his suggestions apply to adults as well. It’s super simple and boils down to this – ask the following four questions:

  1. “What did you do yesterday?” Expect details.
  2. “How did you work that out?” Don’t help and don’t give away the answer.
  3. “Can you show me using this… Can you draw it?” Make them use physical objects or draw pictures to explain.
  4. “If someone was going to make a mistake with this, where would they make the mistake” Make them talk through the problem.

There are good reasons for all of these… and they’re backed up by research as well. But you’ll need to read Damon’s articles to get the rest of the explanation.

How to win $15 million dollars for developing a literacy and numeracy training solution: Global Learning XPRIZE

If you could develop a scalable, tablet based, individualised learning solution for teaching basic literacy and numeracy to kids in developing countries, you could win $15 million dollars. It’s a competition and it’s happening right now.

You can read about it here on the xPrize website, and I’ve pasted in the details below as well. Got any ideas? Here you go:

The challenge

Develop new learning solutions to empower children and communities around the world

The $15 million Global Learning XPRIZE is a competition that challenges teams from around the world to develop open source scalable software solution that will enable children in developing countries to teach themselves basic reading, writing and arithmetic.

The $15 million dollar prize will be awarded as follows

Five finalist:  $1 million each will be awarded by the Judging Panel to teams with the best proposed solutions.

Grand prize winner:   $10 million will be awarded to the top performing team solution based on the field testing of the teams.

Need for the Competition

Grand Challenge

An estimated 250 million children around the world cannot read, write, or demonstrate basic arithmetic skills. Many of these children are in developing countries without regular access to quality schools or teachers.

In fact, UNESCO estimates that the world will need 1.6 million more teachers globally by 2015.  And that number is set to double by 2030.

The Market Failure

While programs exist to build schools and train teachers, traditional models of education are not able to scale fast enough to meet demand. We simply cannot build enough schools or train enough teachers to meet the need.

We are at a pivotal moment where an alternative, radical approach is necessary.  We need an approach that will eliminate the existing barriers to a quality learning experience, where the seeds of innovation can be imparted to every child, regardless of location or economic status.


The learning solutions developed by this prize will enable a child to learn autonomously. And, those created by the finalists will be open-sourced for all to access, iterate and share. This technology could be deployed around the world, bringing learning experiences to children otherwise thought unreachable, who do not have access to quality education, and supplementing the learning experiences of children who do.


The impact will be exponential. Children with basic literacy skills have the potential to lift themselves out of poverty. And that’s not all.  By enabling a child to learn how to learn, that child has opportunity – to live a healthy and productive life, to provide for their family and their community, as well as to contribute toward a peaceful, prosperous and abundant world.

XPRIZE believes that innovation can come from anywhere and that many of the greatest minds remain untapped.

What might the future look like with hundreds of millions of additional young minds unleashed to tackle the world’s Grand Challenges?

How to deliver a presentation… for your NCALNE (Voc) professional development


Delivering a short presentation is part of the coursework requirements if you are completing the NCALNE (Voc) training and you’ve been part of one of our groups around the country.

From 2015 it will also be something that all our distance and online students will need to do and upload to Pathways Awarua.

Read this overview of how to prepare and deliver your presentation.

What do I need to know?

You need to know how to:

  1. Gather the material that you need and prepare to present
  2. Structure your presentation
  3. Deliver your presentation

Prepare to present

Let’s assume that you’ve got your actual material… or at least the raw material ready because you’ve actually done the work before hand. From here you need to think about your audience, your purpose, and what visuals would be helpful.

Know your audience

You may be presenting to a group of your colleagues, in which case, you may already know quite a lot about them. However, there may also be other industry representatives present. In any case, you should make sure that your presentation is targeted to your audience. You’re also pitching your presentation to your trainer or assessor.

Have you considered any of these for your audience:

  • Subject knowledge
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Interest
  • Cultural heritage
  • Context
  • Expectations
  • Experience

As a rule of thumb, unless they’re in the same trade as you, you can probably assume that they don’t know what you know about your field, but that they are at least interested in what you’ve got to say and any wider application.

If you’re just recording your presentation, some of this won’t be relevant. But again, don’t assume detailed technical knowledge of your trade. But do assume an interested, nontechnical assessor as your audience.

Be clear on your purpose

The overall aim of this presentation is for you to showcase the work you have done around your Embedded LN Project. Your specific objectives in the talk should include:

  • An outline of your embedded LN project.
  • Connections between initial or diagnostic assessments you carried out, learning outcomes you designed, learning plans you created including specific learner needs and next steps, as well as the strategies, activities, and other assessment tasks you delivered.
  • A brief evaluation and reflection on what you did, especially in terms of what was effective and what you’d change in the future.

Have Some visuals

Either put together some slides in Keynote or Powerpoint. Or have a short handout or out some images to pass around to the group.

Develop any visual aids (e.g. handouts, power point slides) to help with comprehension of your presentation by the audience. Don’t overdo it, or read off your slides, but having some clear visuals will improve your delivery here.

Structure your presentation

Some guidelines:

  1. Your introduction should outline the purpose, context and direction of your talk.
  2. The body of your presentation should deliver the main information about your embedded project LN in a logical and coherent way. Cover the highlights from each of these:
    • What were your learners’ needs? E.g. outline your diagnostic assessment data.
    • What were your embedded LN interventions? E.g. Discuss the embedded LN teaching that you did including activities and resources.
    • What progress did you see? E.g. Discuss your post assessment data in relation to the diagnostic assessment.
    • What worked? Reflect on what worked and what didn’t and what you’d do to improve things.
  3. Your conclusion should encapsulate the key points from your talk.
  4. Your content should be structured to help make it easy for others to understand what you did within the time you have allocated.
  5. You should aim for smooth transitions between the main points of your talk.

Deliver your presentation

When you get up to give your presentation, make sure that…

  1. You stick to the timeframe that you’ve been allocated. Usually, 7 to 8 minutes is fine unless you’ve been told otherwise.
  2. You use language that is appropriate to the audience.
  3. You use your voice to establish rapport with the audience and maintain the audience’s interest. Pay attention to volume (how loud or soft you speak), pace (how fast you speak), pitch (Whether your voice is high or low), pauses (How you stop and start), and tone (what emotion your voice conveys, e.g. nervous, enthusiastic, conversational, formal)
  4. You use non-verbal communication to establish rapport, maintain interest, and help with comprehension of your talk by the audience. This means your posture, gestures, eye contact, facial expressions, and movement in general.
  5. Any visual aids are integrated with your delivery and your presentation conforms to specified time-frame.
  6. Your delivery demonstrates smooth transitions between main points.
  7. If you use notes that this does not distract the audience’s attention from your presentation.

How to learn anything part 2: What you need is an operating system for learning…


I started my riff on How to Learn Anything in another post which you can read here.

Basically, what I’m suggesting is that you don’t need to be smart to learn new stuff. What you need is a combination of grit plus a toolbox of tools to help you learn.

A reliable system, in other words, is all you need to learn anything. And this system is not any kind of secret knowledge. It’s in plain view and the tools are accessible to anyone.

But what you might need is someone to help you put all the pieces together. To show you what the tools are that you need in your tool box.

So the next question is… what would this system look like? Here’s the answer:

In broad terms, it’s an operating system for learning. There are specific tools to use at each stage, but as an overview your operating system for learning looks something like this:

  1. Seek to understand context and connections: Try to work out, investigate, and understand the context for what you want to learn. And look for connections within this context between chunks of content as well as outside to other areas, particularly areas that seem – on the surface – to have no relationship to what you’re trying to learn. This is ongoing. It’s not just something you do once.
  2. Work out what you don’t know: This can be difficult. After all, how do you know what you don’t know, right? However, start with the big picture, your broad goals, or  desired skills and then break it down from there. Deconstruct where you want to be – the intended outcome or state – into smaller and smaller chunks. And you have to break this down into specific kinds of learning. e.g. practical skills, vocabulary, being able to read and understand the source material.
  3. Work out where you are now: In order to move forward you need to have a sense of where you are now in relation to where you want to be. You need a way of knowing how much you know about your new learning goal as well a how competent or proficient you are. This might be easier particularly if you’re starting something new from scratch.
  4. Work out what the next steps are: What you want is a sequence of highly focused next steps to take you to your goal. You want to be able to target each of these next steps in your development with the precision and focus of a crack shot military sniper. And in these next steps you need to know what to do. Here you are going to need strategies for learning skills, reading complicated materials, dealing with new language and more.
  5. Have ways of measuring your progress: This is critical. How will you know that you’ve made progress or arrived at your goal? You need clear ways of measuring your progress that are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound).
  6. Have ways of measuring your effectiveness: What we’re talking about here is you reflecting critically on what you’re doing and figuring out what has worked and what you need to do differently to keep moving forward.

Next we’ll need to know what some of the practical tools are that you can use at each stage.

Paulo Coelho

From the TEC: Update for foundation-level providers (Assessment Tool and Qualification Requirements)

tec logo (black base colour jpg)_as of 9june10

I’ve pasted in below in full the update from the TEC website today regarding Assessment Tool usage and Qualification Requirements for foundation-level providers.

10 November 2014

Updates on the Methodology for Assessment Tool Usage; requirements for assessing literacy and numeracy; and transitioning to the 2015 tutor qualification requirements.

Methodology for Assessment Tool usage published

The TEC has recently published the updated Methodology for Assessment Tool Usage on its website. The document defines the methodology for calculating tertiary education organisation (TEO) usage of the Assessment Tool, as usage of the Tool is a condition of funding. This methodology takes into account sector feedback about previous versions.

A template is available for TEOs that would like to have learners assessed through the Step Two Threshold Assessment or the Starting Points Assessment Guide excluded from usage indicator calculations.

Requirements for assessing literacy and numeracy

A change has been made to a number of funds in 2015.

Foundation-level learners need to be assessed in both literacy and numeracy through the Assessment Tool for:
• Youth Guarantee levels 1 – 3
• Student Achievement Component at levels 1 and 2 – Competitive
• Student Achievement Component at levels 1 and 2 – Non-competitive

The Intensive Literacy and Numeracy ESOL fund requires usage of an effective assessment process for identifying a learner’s literacy and numeracy gains agreed by the TEC, for example, the use of the Starting Points.

The Intensive Literacy and Numeracy Fund and the Workplace Literacy Fund have different requirements. Tertiary education organisations receiving these funds must have an effective assessment process, such as the Assessment Tool, to identify a learner’s literacy and/or numeracy.

See the relevant Ministerial Determination for more detail.

Transitioning to the 2015 qualification requirements and information on appropriate qualifications

From 2015, the TEC will be transitioning to requiring tutors who teach foundation-level courses to hold an appropriate qualification, such as the National Certificate in Adult Literacy and Numeracy Education (Vocational/Workplace) which is known as NCALNE (Voc).

More information is available in the Questions and Answers which were updated 7 November 2014.

The initial list of appropriate qualifications includes:

  • National Certificate in Adult Literacy and Numeracy Education (Vocational/Workplace) (Level 5)
  • National Certificate in Adult Literacy and Numeracy Education (Educator) (Level 5)
  • National Diploma in Adult Literacy and Numeracy Education (Level 6)
  • Graduate Diploma of Teaching (Adult Literacy and Numeracy) (Level 7)
    Master of Adult Literacy and Numeracy Education (Level 9).

If you represent a TEO that delivers a teaching qualification or an educator who holds a qualification that is not currently on the list and you would like it considered for inclusion, please complete the Request for qualification consideration form by 1 December 2014 and send to skills.highway@tec.govt.nz.

An updated list will be published in December 2014 based on input from providers and educators.