It seems that this year the professional development at Lincoln Community School Accra has been a yearlong journey of inquiry. I have already written two posts about my experiences last semester: More About Teachers as Inquirers and Teachers as Inquirers: Reflections from a Learner. As this semester comes to an end, I want to share the latest in my professional inquiry journey.
The goal for our second semester inquiry was to read a professional book from a selection of choices and discuss it with a group of colleagues, once again going through an inquiry cycle. There were about 10 different titles to choose from, among them, a book I had wanted to read for a long time: Why are School Buses Always Yellow? (the author John Barell also wrote a guest post on Inquire Within: Students Asking Good Questions). As a result, the decision was quickly made for me. There were about seven of us in my group. The plan was to read and discuss the book over three meetings. The process was guided by questions based on the stages of inquiry put together by Miranda Rose , based on elements of Kath Murdoch’s “Inquiry Cycle”, Kathy Short’s “Authoring Cycle” and “Stages of Inquiry” by Harvey and Daniels. Just as in the first semester’s professional inquiry tool, there was space provided at each stage for our personal comments and reflections. This tool will eventually form our summative assessment and will be used as a discussion point for our final professional evaluation this year (just as the summative assessment from our first inquiry was part of the midyear evaluation).
Here are the guiding questions:
Tuning into prior knowledge: Browsing the book. What do I already know about the topic? Why did I choose this book?
Invitation: What drew you to this book? What do you think you’ll get out of this?
Wondering and wandering: What did I find interesting? What caused me to think? What am I confused about?
Draw questions and make connections to own practice: How might this connect to what I do? How might this impact my practice?
Discuss interesting ideas with your group.
Gaining new perspectives: Listen, talk and read to gain information.
Develop questions and read, listen and discuss to answer them.
Work productively with book group to support and share ideas.
Experiment with ideas in practice.
Attending to difference.
Synthesize information to build knowledge.
Reflect on goal.
Make a personal action plan of how you will use this new found skill, knowledge or understanding.
Engage in deeper reading and researching.
Check supplementary sources for their usefulness.
Sharing learning: Choose an appropriate way to demonstrate learning and understanding (professional blog, sharing with teaching partner or group of teachers, wiki).
Explore new questions.
Reflecting and Acting:
Action: So what? What will you do with all this new understanding?
Group/individual reflection on book club process.
Planning new inquiries.
Having a structure for our professional book club based on the inquiry process has been another exciting experience. Once again, this process of being an inquirer has helped me to further grow in my understanding of inquiry.
Especially our first book discussion was very engaging as each of us brought in his/her experiences and perspectives. I found the guiding questions extremely helpful, realizing that at this point as a learner, I feel most comfortable with guided inquiry. Having a framework that guides me and helps me to stay on track while still allowing me to explore my own wonderings is what I need. It is also helping me understand how to create structures to help students inquire.
The bottom line is: the more I use inquiry for my own learning, the better I understand how it works and how I can support it when working with students.
My thoughts on the book Why Are School Buses Always Yellow …
The book is an inspiring read, providing many practical ideas and suggestions. I have bookmarked many places and know that this is a book I will often consult for ideas and re-read regularly. I loved, for example, the section The Nature of Good Questions and the overview over the different approaches to inquiry (i.e. teacher-directed = structure inquiry, teacher-student negotiated = guided inquiry, independent student investigations = independent study). I also appreciated the engaging “Reflective Pauses” and “Practical Opportunities” listed.
But the most powerful finding for me personally was the realization that we, the adults – teachers, librarians, parents – need to model being inquirers ourselves. It makes total sense and yet I needed to read this book to fully realize it. I recently led a workshop on reading motivation and kept on telling participants that one of the most important things was modeling being a reader. To do this, I keep for example a reader’s notebook. So the logical step from reading Why Are School Buses Always Yellow is to start my own inquiry journal, just as suggested by John Barrel. What a great idea! I don’t have much in there yet but look forward to it taking shape. I envision something of a shared inquiry journal in which student comments and contributions are invited. But I am not sure yet whether this is how it will turn out – I will keep my options open.