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Teaching as inquiry...continuing to learn

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Christina Ward facilitated a webinar a while back (access recording here), which explored the topic of teaching as inquiry. Christina, since 2004, has been linked up with the curriculum development team within the Ministry of Education (MoE), and since then she has been working on the NZ curriculum online.

During the session Christina gave a quick look at teaching as inquiry and its place in the NZC, as well as characteristics of schools and classrooms where teaching as inquiry is evident along with some examples.

The session started with Christina sharing a quotation by Stoll, Fink & Earl (2003): "Teachers are at the heart of school improvement, and with all the change in the world and new understandings about learning it is essential that they too keep learning". She also stressed that it is important to have teachers at the heart - and thinking about learning. 

The teaching as inquiry cycle and approach have been developed to encourage teachers to inquire into their own teaching methods, assess their effectiveness, and learn or alter practices where necessary.

Participants responded to a short survey that asked them to rate their experience with teaching as inquiry. The results were really interesting with 20% of participants just beginning to learn about teaching as inquiry, 40% who have made a start and are noticing shifts, 30% who are confidently using teaching as inquiry, and 1-% who have a deep understanding and notice significant shifts in student achievement and teaching practice.

Christina provided a really useful link to the Instep site that provides some great ideas of different ways that inquiry can happen, and it also explains some of the key terminology.

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Participants were asked to watch this video where Helen Timperley, Professor of Education at The University of Auckland talks about ways teachers can gain knowledge through cycles of inquiry into their practice. There was also a link to a report written by Helen Timperley that covers the subject of PD in depth and what is proving effective.

The characteristics of schools who are showing that they have a pretty strong handle on teaching as inquiry include support for teachers with:

  • systems and processes for introducing teaching as inquiry
  • promote a culture of trust and open mindedness
  • allow for fallibility
  • encourage persistence
  • meeting in groups to understand processes and put them into practice
  • investigate data

SuitcaseImage by Mamboman1 via FlickrIn schools where inquiry teaching is encouraged the dialogues around teaching and learning have been seen to have changed, and this has proven healthy in whole schools shifts. A couple of participants mentioned aspects of teaching as inquiry in their institutions including: "We had teaching as inquiry projects as part of our appraisal process", although others mentioned "Some teachers use avoidance tactics such as this is an add on rather then it is something that we do every day in our teaching ", and "Often senior managers see it as an add on and a tick box exercise to keep ERO happy".

On the example front, Christina shared some awesome resources including the following videos:

And an article in .pdf format entitled Teaching as Inquiry: One School's Approach.

TrustImage by gorbould via Flickr


Participants were able to pick and choose a resource that was relevant to them, go away to access / watch it, and then return to the Webinar...with comments. Some of the comments included:

  • "I love the idea of ‘de-privatizing’ learning. The importance of collaborative discussion of one anothers practice- It requires a very positive, encouraging environment for teachers to share so openly."
  • "Carol jarrett's comment about reframing the learngin conversation between teachers to look at problems of practice in a positive way so they can feel safe to try new things very very important"
  • "principals/leaders to model the inquiry is indeed powerful"
  • "Good to see the work being done in pastoral component with secondary school. It would be interesting to see the research"
  • "As DP I'm inquiring into eportfolios"
  • "Carol Jarrett's video says interesting things about taking those risks"

These comments blossomed into a really lively chat session, with lots of ideas and sharing of practices. It is well worth visiting the recording of the session to review what Christina covers, and also to have a good look at some of the conversation.

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Comment by Hazel Owen on October 23, 2014 at 11:49

Thanks for the feedback, Leigh :) Great question too. It's something I'm trying to get my head around at the moment. A couple of days ago I attended a session around the PLD review (live blogged here), and one of the key foci is spirals of inquiry, which definitely captures the notion of learning as ongoing...and lifelong. However, (and you'll see from Merryn and Eddie's discussion in the comments under the post), the notion of teaching as inquiry, while having the potential to be broad, appears to limit the scope of what is inquired into (i.e. it has to be teaching related).

The report indicates that leadership and the participation of leaders in inquiry spirals is an essential aspect of schools that are responsive, that offer a great learning experience for all students, and that welcome community participation. So - to return to your question...yes, I really do feel Teaching as inquiry needs to be re-named, although, at this point in time, I am not sure what to!

Comment by Leigh Hynes on October 19, 2014 at 10:07

Thanks for this comprehensive relook at the subject of teaching as inquiry, Hazel, really appreciate all the resources you have included.  Do you think that "Teaching as Inquiry" needs to be renamed?

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