CEQ All – Tom March speaks on taking school out of learning

At the Brisbane Catholic Education Teacher Librarian ‘Big Day Out’, we hosted key note speaker Tom March, who challenged us to truly transform learning, by overturning the ‘assembly-line’ model that has been with us since the late 1800’s, and embracing a passion driven approach, where students are encouraged to ‘seek all’. Using his clever ‘CEQ All’ model, Tom spoke about how a learning centred approach may well be the only successful model of education in these times of ubiquitous technology and 24/7 information access.

CEQ All stands for Choice > Effort > Quality • Attitude > Labor of Love / Lifelong Learning / Love of Learning, and reflects the movement towards personal and personalised learning. Tom admits that this change will not be easy; with a history of education being delivered via the factory model style, the desire to sit passively and await the content as it is fed to our students could arguably be said to be ‘bred’ into them…however, as Joel Rose suggests,

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cliff1066™

The Information Age has facilitated a reinvention of nearly every industry except for education. It’s time to unhinge ourselves from many of the assumptions that undergird how we deliver instruction and begin to design new models that are better able to leverage talent, time, and technology to best meet the unique needs of each student. (http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/05/how-to-break-free-of-our-19th-century-factory-model-education-system/256881/)


Tom March has found that both research and common sense shows that allowing students to Choose what to learn, and encouraging them to invest Effort and pursue Quality will inevitably develop a positive and enthusiastic Attitude that can lead to a life imbued with a Labor of Love.

As I listened to Tom’s keynote, the similarities between this and Ewan McIntosh’s work with schools on Design Thinking was very obvious. In addition, the idea of letting students drive their own learning, enabled by technology and coupled with their natural sense of curiosity reminded me of both the work of Gever Tulley  and, as Tom mentioned in his keynote, Dr Sugata Mitra, who pioneered the famous ‘Hole in the Wall’. 


However, does all this talk of ‘student driven learning’ and ‘personalised learning’ mean that there is no need for teachers? Indeed no! The role of the teacher is more vital than ever!

The most recent OECD report  clearly outlines the changing needs of students in the 21st century:

a generation ago, teachers could expect that what they taught would last for a lifetime of their students. today, where individuals can access content on google, where routine cognitive skills are being digitized or outsourced, and where jobs are changing rapidly, education systems need to place much greater emphasis on enabling individuals to become lifelong learners, to manage complex ways of thinking and complex ways of working that computers cannot take over easily. students need to be capable not only of constantly adapting but also of constantly learning and growing, of positioning themselves and repositioning themselves in a fast changing world. (OECD, 2012 p.11)

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by kevin dooley

Previously, students needed their teachers in order to access information. Today, students need their teachers to guide their explorations and learning; they have the building materials at their fingertips; what they need is the scaffolding;

  • they need skills in digital citizenship;
  • they need critical and creative thinking skills;
  • they need someone to guide and direct their learning when they come to a stop;
  • they need a guide to challenge and question their thoughts and conceptions;
  • they need teachers to cleverly tilt the students’ learning towards the curriculum, so that while driven by passion, students still learn the skills they will need to function successfully in modern society.

Like all of us, students don’t know what they don’t know, and sometimes need a ‘meddler in the middle’ (to borrow from Erica McWilliam’s work) to stimulate their learning.

So…where to from here?

The central message of all of these wonderful educators shares a key feature. It is not the technology, but the learning that happens that is important.

The technology allows us to put students in touch with myriad opportunities, experts from all over the world, resources, modes of communication and expression…but it is not central. Central is allowing a passion for learning, a drive to explore and a purpose and reason to self direct. When these are present, then the technology becomes merely the tool that allows these desires to be met.

View Gever Tulley and Sugata Mitra’s Ted Talks below


McWilliam, E. (2009). Teaching for creativity: from sage to guide to meddler. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 29(3), 281–293.

OECD (2012), Preparing teachers and developing school leaders for the 21st century: Lessons from Around the World,
OECD Publishing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264xxxxxx-en

Rose, J. (2012, May 9). How to Break Free of Our 19th-Century Factory-Model Education System. The Atlantic. Retrieved July 24, 2012, from http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/05/how-to-break-free-of-our-19th-century-factory-model-education-system/256881/


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