Back in October 2011, Tanja Galetti shared a post titled More About Teachers as Inquirers, introducing our eight week long in-school elementary school professional development process here at the Lincoln Community School, Accra. We were embarking on a professional journey through a staff Unit of Inquiry with the Central Idea “Inquiry is the pedagogical approach used across the curriculum”. In her post, Tanja shared her thoughts on the upcoming experience through the eyes of “a learner” in the process and I added my reflections and our guiding framework from the perspective of a member of the Learning Council facilitating the process. We recently wrapped up the process by sharing our learning with each other (Teachers Are Inquirers). This week, teachers are meeting with our principal and sharing their Inquiry Group Summative Reflection which consist of evidence of their learning throughout the process. Hopefully they are also back in their classrooms implementing some of what they learned throughout the process. To complement Tanja’s most recent post Reflections from a Learner I would now like to offer my reflections on the process as a facilitator.
I was a facilitator by means of my membership on the elementary Learning Council; a group of teachers and administrators responsible for instructional leadership in the PYP at LCS. We were all responsible for helping facilitate one of the lines of inquiry or contexts: Language Arts, Technology, PYP Induction and Concepts (as chosen by learners). To start off, we set up provocations to tune teachers into the contexts and ultimately refine their questions and goals for the process.
The following is my reflection during and after the tuning in phase as shared in an email to our elementary principal:
I’ve been thinking about last week and the “launch” of inquiry groups in the ES. Personally, I think it went as well as can be expected- we are asking teachers to get out of their comfort zones and be active agents of learning in their own PD -learning is uncomfortable!!!
I think understanding of this approach to PD will develop -I have faith in the inquiry process. Teachers will understand that they can use this time to inquire in their own or in a small group’s way into something relevant to them within one of the contexts build on their own goals.
As a Learning Council we need to continue to support the “immersion” and tuning in to the contexts as we work to formulate questions based on goals. Throughout the process we sponsor learning, directing to resources, trying to keep the inquiry process on track, asking guiding questions, supporting development of inquiry plan, attending to differences/challenges…
Our summative reflection or evidence log will help teachers understand the inquiry process explicitly and hold us all accountable for our learning at the different stages of the inquiry. This will also help us measure the success of this inquiry based approach to PD.
The Learning Council met weekly to discuss the successes of the current phase of the inquiry and to support each other in planning for the next phase. There was often some hesitation and confusion on the part of some of the learners and even for ourselves as facilitators –we were all charting new ground. There was some trepidation about the direction we should go next and how we should get there. Another challenge for the Learning Council members was that we all had our own questions we too wanted to investigate. Figuring out how to manage our own learning and facilitating for others was stressful. I tried my best to keep us focused on the Central Idea, the concepts and the guiding questions so we were all on the same page and understood where we were going.
In my own group, teachers were off and running in different directions and at different speeds. It was becoming more exciting as we delved deeper into our context by reading on the subject, trying different things out in our classes and working to plan with the concepts in mind. From one of our sessions and specifically related to one group member’s inquiry looking at explicitly organizing engagements according to the focus concepts, together, we came up with a planning tool/table (Conceptual Engagement Organizer (Celebrations KG). We all agreed to try out the tool. The buy in and enthusiasm was picking up. We flew through the sorting out and attempted to go further by really affecting our practice. All whilst documenting the types of things we were doing and learning at each phase of the inquiry for our summative reflection. We planned to share our learning in my group through a poster presentation including our questions, the evolution of our new planning tool and how we used it, my survey results from my own inquiry into how experienced PYP teachers at LCS understand and are using the PYP key and related concepts and our reflections on the process. We felt quite proud of our group’s accomplishments and excited about our learning.
I think, the sentiment was shared, as we set about sharing our learning last week. We were walked through personal reflections from the Language Arts context, the PYP induction group gave us a great refresher of the 5 essential elements of the PYP, the tech group organized a gallery exploration of the tools they’d discovered and experimented with and of course my group had a cruise by poster board set up for perusal. I was moved to tears at how engaged all staff were as different groups presented their learning but also by the appreciation colleagues had of one another’s learning. It was meaningful, it was collaborative and it will no doubt have an impact on teaching practice and our collective understanding of inquiry at LCS.
Of course there were a few teachers who put less effort into the process and resultantly got less out of it. You can’t please everyone…My next dream though is to align this process with a Learner Profile reflection and have it tie even more closely into supervision and evaluation and maybe that will help inspire those who are on the fence about being inquirers themselves to take more responsibility for their own PD. That said, having been an initiator of this approach to PD at the school and having worked hard to coral colleagues as learners and facilitators to follow our set framework, I am very satisfied with the overall results.
You can check out the PYP Planner charting the whole process in the attached word document: Inquiry_Groups.