Teachers as Inquirers – The Journey Continues…

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 In:

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?

Goal setting

Finding Out:

Recognize tension.

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.

Sorting Out:

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.

Investigate!

Drawing Conclusions:

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.

Representation-creation.

Going Further:

Evaluation.

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.

About tgaletti

Primary School Teacher Librarian in the PYP in Hong Kong. I am passionate about reading, inquiry and technology.
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9 Responses to Teachers as Inquirers – The Journey Continues…

  1. Great post and very inspiring! I have this book at home – with many others which are on my ‘to read next list’. But i feel inspired to start with this one! Can you share a bit more how this book club works? It sounds like a great idea for PD as it allows teachers to choose their path for learning. I would ilke to try it in my school. Maybe with some texts first before diving into books. What made it work in your school?

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  2. tgaletti says:

    Thanks for your comment Vanessa. You won’t need anything in addition to the book club inquiry guide. Just find a couple of professional books that might be of interest to your teachers and get started. You will see, your colleagues will love it! (Send me a DM with your email on Twitter and I would be happy to send you our inquiry guide.) Thanks, Tanja

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  3. kathmurdoch says:

    I am a huge believer of the power of teacher inquiry in developing more powerful inquiry teachers! Great post and lovely to read about your adaptation of the cycle to your personal inquiry learning. Many people fail to see “tuning in” as the element of the process focussed on current thinking and prior knowledge – this is the “what do I bring to this learning ” moment – where we tune into ourselves as well as tune into the text/concept etc….tuning into our OWN thinking is essential for high quality, reflective professional learning. Thanks for sharing. Kath

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  4. tgaletti says:

    Thank you for your kind comment Kath. I feel very fortunate that I have been given the opportunity to do my professional development through inquiry this year, supported by carefully designed tools and amazing facilitators. It has had a huge impact on me and I am glad that I was able to share some of my experiences through this blog, hoping that it will encourage others to try the same approach. Tanja

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  5. tashacowdy says:

    I love this post! It makes we wonder if we could try something liek this at our school. I have loved following your school’s year long, inquiry based PD through your and Miranda’a posts. Inspirational. Thanks for documenting so clearly and for sharing. Plus, I am now quite inspired to read Why Are School Buses Always Yellow : )

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    • tgaletti says:

      So happy to hear that. And yes, you should definitely try it out at your school. With time, even those reluctant, will see the value of it. I am sure of that.

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  6. Pingback: Teachers as Inquirers – The Journey Continues… | Profesorbaker's Blog: A Bit of Everything

  7. Pingback: Inquiry and the Library – Discovering New Opportunities | Inquire Within

  8. Pingback: Why School? A book club for teachers and parents. « Book Clubs for Schools

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