More about Teachers as Inquirers

Inspired by Simone Reilly’s recent post on this blog about teachers as inquirers and Edna Sackson’s encouragement, I decided to share a bit about how teachers at the elementary division of Lincoln Community School, Accra, are being inquirers this year.

At the beginning of the school year, our newly formed Learning Council conducted a survey to find out in which top three areas teachers were interested regarding professional growth goals for the current academic year. While teachers mentioned a wide variety of areas of interest (e.g. technology, concepts, differentiated math instruction), a strong interest to learn more about inquiry-based teaching and learning stuck out. Our Learning Council came up with the fantastic idea, to combine the learning about inquiry with individual growth goals in other areas.

Every elementary teacher will go through an inquiry process (following the stages of Kath Murdoch’s Inquiry Cycle), while pursuing his/her professional goal for the year.  For this purpose, we have been divided into inquiry groups, depending on our interests, i.e. technology inquiry group, concepts inquiry group, and language arts inquiry group. Each group is facilitated by one of our colleagues from the Learning Council. While we each pursue a specific topic, we come together as a leaning community regularly to share and support each other in our inquiries.

This is how our inquiry is set up:

Central idea:

“Inquiry is a pedagogical approach used across the curriculum.”

Concepts:

Form – What is inquiry in this context (i.e. the selected area of interest such as technology, concepts, language arts)?

Function – How does inquiry work in this context?

Summative Task:

“As you go through this inquiry process stop to reflect on each stage. Document in the evidence column what you did at each stage and your understandings. You may also like to attach any other form of evidence for the different stages, e.g. photos, action plans, research etc.”

For the Tuning In stage, we were provided with the following guiding questions:

What do I know?

How does this connect to me in my teaching practice?

What do I want to know?

We first met as a faculty and brainstormed and discussed our definitions of and beliefs about inquiry. Then we reflected on the teacher’s/student’s role during this stage. Next, our facilitators provided provocations for each area of interest. For example, Sarah Pickles, the facilitator for the group conducting an inquiry into the use of technology, set up various stations in our IT lab for teachers to explore some tech tools (e.g. iPad, flip cam, Web 2.0 tools such as Voicethread and Wikispaces). Then we met as a group and shared what specific topic we were planning to inquire about. I have joined the technology inquiry group since I want to learn more about the use of iPads in education, and in particular regarding their potential in supporting and motivating struggling and reluctant readers.

Setting up professional development in this way, is in my opinion a fantastic idea. What better way to learn more about inquiry-based learning than actually doing it! If there is interest, I would be happy to share more about this experience as we continue our inquiry throughout the year.

About tgaletti

Primary School Teacher Librarian in the PYP in Hong Kong. I am passionate about reading, inquiry and technology.
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15 Responses to More about Teachers as Inquirers

  1. Cristina says:

    One question: can I come work at your school? 🙂
    I tweeted this post – it is so simple and effective PD tool that everyone should use it.
    Thank you for sharing!

    Like

  2. whatedsaid says:

    Welcome to Inquire Within, Tanja. I love this process of inquiry for teachers. Not only will everyone learn more about their chosen area, but their understanding of inquiry will be deepened along the way. I’m very keen to implement something like this at my school and really looking forward to your posts sharing how the learning unfolds. One question (so far!): Who is on the Learning Council? (admin? teachers?)

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  3. What a terrific way to pursue inquiry! If we are not part of the process ourselves we cannot really facilitate the process with our students. Thanks for inviting us in to follow along as this progresses.

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  4. tgaletti says:

    Thanks Cristina, Edna and JoAnn, for your comments.
    Our Learning Council was just formed this school year and consists of the Elementary School Principal, PYP Coordinator, Director of Educational Programs and five classroom teachers from different grade-levels. The Learning Council replaced the positions of subject coordinators we had in the past.

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  5. mirandarose14 says:

    Tanja, I’m so glad you’re so excited to be a part of this process! It is exciting!!! I work with Tanja and am leading the inquiry group exploring how concepts support/drive inquiry in our classrooms. We are using a combination of Kath Murdoch and John Barrell’s KWHLAQ (as discussed in an earlier post here on this blog- p72 in “Why are School Buses Always Yellow”. Here is the outline for the process regardless of whether you’re looking at Language Arts, Concepts or Technology.

    Week 1
    Goal Setting
    Goals

    Week 2
    Inquiry tuning-in
    Contexts tuning-in
    Goals
    What do we know?
    How does this connect to my professional practice?
    What do we want to know?
    Week 3
    Tuning in to context
    Finding out
    What do we know?
    What do we want to know?
    Does my question connect to the central idea? Does my question connect to the concepts? Does my question connect to my goals?
    What is my plan, how will I find out?

    Week 4
    Finding out
    What is my plan? How will I find out?
    What am I learning?
    New wonderings/tensions…

    Week 5
    Finding out
    Sorting out
    What am I learning?
    Revising plan…
    How do I know?
    How am I making sense of what I am learning?
    New wonderings tensions…

    Week 6
    Sorting out
    Taking action
    Going further
    What am I learning?
    How am I synthesizing information?
    How am I testing my hypothesis?
    How am I applying my new learning in my own practice?
    Is my plan working?
    New wonderings/tensions

    Week 7
    Sorting out
    Taking action
    Going further
    What am I learning?
    What would inquiry look like in this context in my classroom/discipline?
    How am I constructing meaning?
    What am I testing out? Does my plan need revision?
    What am I learning?
    Does this connect with what I know about inquiry based learning, what its like and how it works?
    What am I doing about it?
    How will I share what I’ve learned?
    New wonderings/tensions…

    Week 8
    Going further
    Taking action
    Reflection
    What am I applying to my practice?
    Self-reflection on experience
    What am I going to do with this learning?
    How will I implement or improve my practice as a result of my learning?

    It has been a really interesting process to see teachers welcome or feel discomfort at this sense of responsibility for their own professional development towards their own goals. For the Learning Council to also admit and present to our peers that we are not the experts but rather the facilitators has been a “wild ride” too. We used “what teachers do and what learners do” in inquiry from Harvey and Daniels “Comprehension and Collaboration- Inquiry Circles in Action” (p.144) to carefully define a teachers role vs students role in our classrooms and subsequently define our roles as facilitators. Lots of great discussions around the Learning Council table as this is a new initiative for most of us. One of the keys in my opinion is engagement in the process is related to teachers professional goals which are also connected to Supervision and Evaluation, so teachers are held accountable to pursuing their own goals in this meaningful way. We will see how it all turns out.

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  6. tgaletti says:

    Thanks. Miranda, for the detailed outline on how we will proceed during the rest of the year. I am very much looking forward to the next session when we will come together and share. Your comment also showed me how much work the members of the Learning Council put into the preparation of this inquiry and will continue to do so that we, the learners, can have a successful journey. Thank you!
    I love thinking of inquiry as a journey of learning. Journeys are always exciting but no matter how well you plan your journey, at some point challenges and unexpected situations will be encountered. Solutions have to be found and often we have to leave our comfort zone to try out something new. But that’s exactly what makes the learning such a special experience.
    I have an idea: why don’t we write about the next phase in our inquiry together. You would write from the perspective of the facilitator and I would write from the perspective of the learner.

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  7. whatedsaid says:

    Hi Miranda.
    Thanks for sharing the process so clearly. I am inspired and would love to try this idea at my school.next year (our school year ends in December). I hope you’ll join Inquire Within and share the journey from your perspective, while Tanja shares hers. Watch this space and I’ll let you know if people at my school are interested in this process. I’ll be picking your brains soon, I’m sure!

    Like

  8. Martin says:

    Great article and obviously a great PD activity for staff. Congratulations!
    Obviously something for us as a developing PYP school to aspire to in the future. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  9. Mark says:

    Hi Miranda what a great way to take shared responsibility for our own learning. So looking forward to developing a similar process at our school, thank you 🙂 Mark

    Like

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