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Teaching as inquiry at Epsom Girls Grammar

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Claire Amos from Epsom Girls Grammar in Auckland explains the development of teaching as inquiry at her school. Claire outlines the process they went through to use teaching as inquiry to develop an e-Learning action plan. She then explains how they reflected on the outcomes of this first cycle of inquiry and refined their process to develop a teaching as inquiry plan to target key competencies. 

Professional learning conversations

These questions and suggested actions encourage you to reflect on your own school context.

Teaching as inquiry

Inquiring into teaching practice enables identification of successful approaches to improving learning outcomes for all students. Teacher inquiry should be based on their students' learning needs, their own learning needs, and the impact of their practice on student learning and achievement.  

Teacher Professional Learning and Development: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration (BES).

  • How could you set up an inquiry into teaching practice at your school?
  • How can you accurately assess the impact of your practice on student learning and achievement?
  • In what ways does your school use ICT tools or strategies to support student learning and improve outcomes?

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e-Learning as inquiry
Teachers can use the e-Learning as Inquiry framework to explore ways of integrating e-learning contexts into their practice and evaluate the outcomes for students. Using technologies offers new ways of learning, teaching, and engaging with students and whānau that can be used to improve learning outcomes for all students.  

Transcript

Last year we undertook a project which involved our staff using a teaching as inquiry cycle, or the stages of the teaching as inquiry cycle, to create an elearning action plan. What that involved is teachers working, they were working in their learning areas. So within our school, we’re a secondary school, each of the departments or learning areas developed what we refer to as professional learning groups. So they were curriculum based because we were really keen for it to be focused on the curriculum and to be embedded in that learning. In those professional learning groups they formed smaller professional learning groups that undertook a project based around the teaching as inquiry cycle.  

The first step was to actually think about a student outcome that they wanted to focus on. It was really important to us that they focused on the learning and not on the ICT and the tools in the first place. So they began with working out what were their priorities for their students, what was a skill or a topic they wanted to focus on. Then their next step was to think about what was going to be the ICT tool or strategy that was going to support that student’s learning and then improving their outcomes.

Then their next step was to research the tools, the strategies and make a plan and make a real commitment to trialling that in the classroom. How it worked in terms of timeline - in term one we did a lot of planning. By the end of term one teachers actually produced a physical e-learning action plan and that spelt out what teachers were going to do, what the students were going to do, timeline, their physical plans, what were the ICT tools and strategies they going to use. Then through term two and term three, there was combination of trialling it in the classroom and also teachers receiving professional development and support around the tools they were planning to use.

Then nearer the end of the year they did their reflection and their teaching and learning inquiry where they reflected on what a difference it actually made. The teachers found it was a really successful project. Not all of the outcomes were positive. Some questioned why they used those tools. What it did is it meant that people had a really clear journey that they went on. They made plans at the beginning of the year, they spelt out those plans, put it into action and then they actually reflected on what differences occurred in the students’ learning or engagement as a result of what they did. 

One piece of feedback we got from teachers is the sense that possibly we were losing the language from the NZC. Particularly the front end of The New Zealand Curriculum document. There was a sense that whilst we were using the teaching as inquiry cycle and we were focusing on ICT tools and strategies, we weren't necessarily focusing on things like Key Competencies and explicitly talking about effective pedagogy in the broader sense. So what we decided at the end of last year was to choose three areas to focus on. We were really aware that if we tried to cover all of the competencies and all of the aspects of effective pedagogy that we were actually going to be doing too much. That we'd probably end up just skimming across the surface. 

So what we decided to do is each of the learning areas had time to think about three areas. From that we sort of looked at commonalities and cross overs and we decided to focus on three areas. Our key, main focus is on thinking and explicitly developing thinking skills. Then beneath that is the desire to support that thinking with both differentiation, making sure that we're looking at the needs of the individual learner, and also collaboration. That might mean teachers working collaboratively but also looking at ways that students can work collaboratively with one another. How do we encourage that practice?

So the challenge then was to say OK we liked the teaching as inquiry project and using that to form an e-learning action plan. How do we recreate a similar project that actually then ties in those competencies and pedagogies that we hold dear and we've decided that we really value. This year it's actually thinking about thinking. What is the thinking skill or type of thinking? Is it creative thinking or critical thinking?  Is it developing a certain kind of questioning skill? So the decision around what you’re going to focus on in your learning area in the context of your subject, is thinking. What is it that we want to develop in terms of our student thinking? 

Then when they do their teaching and learning inquiry they're not just going to be thinking about the ICT tools and strategies - that comes a bit later. What they're also going to be thinking about:

  • What are the ways that we can differentiate for our students?
  • What are the ways that we can provide for their readiness, for their learning styles, for their interest?
  • What are the ways that we can encourage student and teacher collaboration?

I think it's really important that whilst you don't necessarily need this exact framework that you do, in a sense, as an educator have some sort of framework or process that you go through that means we don't stop questioning. That we're always thinking very consciously about how can we do this? What's our learning inquiry? What's important to us? Then do our teaching and learning inquiry, where we really think about how we can best do it. Then we give it a go in the classroom and we trial it - and that we always come back at the end of it and reflect on the outcomes.


Published on: 22 Nov 2012


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