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Teacher toolbox for inquiring into practice

Information about what students need to know and do is used to identify what teachers need to know and do.

Teacher Professional Learning and Development: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration [BES]

There is sometimes a mismatch between what we know we need to do and how we can go about it. This part of the resource will help you identify what you can change and some suggestions of how best to implement that change. 

Identify possibilities for change:

  • From other teachers - what stories of success are already in your school? Whose classroom teaching could you observe, to see their practice in action? How can you use what has worked successfully with their students in your context?
  • From research - What does recent literature, local or international, tell us about successful practice with the issues you have identified with your students? When looking at international studies, try to imagine them in a New Zealand cultural context.
  • From the NZC - what does the curriculum document tell us about effective pedagogy? Which of these ideas could you implement in your classroom to enact change?
  • From hunches - what does experience and instinct tell you might work? What have you implemented successfully in another classroom that could be adapted for this one?
  • From community expectations and needs - how well do you know the community that your students are part of? How could you connect with whānau to get information and support for your initiative? What changes could you make that reflect your students' cultural norms and perspectives?

Breaking down walls to develop a collaborative modern learning and teaching space
At South New Brighton School, teacher Kurt Soares developed a collaborative modern learning and teaching space with his year 3-4 students, using the spiral of inquiry framework. This story outlines his journey, including a description of the places and people he looked to for inspiration for the change.

Collaboration and support

Carrying out a teaching inquiry can be exciting and challenging in equal measures.  In many New Zealand schools, systems of support and collaborative practices have made teacher inquiries more successful.

The following are suggestions to enhance inquiry success.

Using an inquiry framework. In before you start, two widely used teaching as inquiry frameworks are described. Both of these are well supported by research and have been used widely in school here and internationally. Using a framework guides your thinking and provides scaffolding for your own learning. 

Teaching as inquiry – practical tools for teachers
Templates and examples for teachers, using the NZC teaching as inquiry cycle.

Coaching and mentoring. Receiving guidance from another colleague who has or is going through a similar process of inquiry can be invaluable. This person is a useful sounding board, can observe your teaching, and will encourage in-depth reflection.

Coaching and mentoring at Pomaria School
Coaching and mentoring at Pomaria School helps teachers reflect on their practice and grow as educators. In this clip, teachers discuss the benefits of this type of collaboration.

Supporting teachers to change practice at St Hilda's Collegiate
Anna Cox, Head of mathematics, explains some strategies she has used to support professional learning in her department.

Professional learning groups (PLGs). A professional learning group is a group of colleagues who meet regularly to discuss the inquiry process. This group will be able to challenge your beliefs about teaching and learning (sometimes even ones you didn't know you had), share experiences of the inquiry journey, work collaboratively and help sustain the inquiry process. Although PLGs are often used for a school wide inquiry, where all staff are looking into the same aspect of practice, they can be just as valuable when staff are all working on individual projects.

Teaching as Inquiry – St Patrick's, Silverstream
These videos, from St Patrick's School in Silverstream, illustrate how PLGs can be used as a means of introducing the Teaching as Inquiry model in schools.

Professional learning groups to support school wide e-learning at Epsom Girls Grammar
Claire Amos, Director of e-learning at Epsom Girls Grammar School, discusses how learning area professional learning groups support teachers with e-learning.

Leading pedagogical change
Louise Anaru provides an account of how she and her teachers developed professional learning groups as a way to build shared understandings of effective teaching and learning across the school.

Future-focused Learning Examples
These school examples are provided to show you how schools are effectively integrating digital technology with teaching and learning. Each example is referenced to the dimensions of the e-Learning Planning Framework; and thefuture-focused learning themes identified by New Zealand Council of Educational Research. 

Digital communities

Online professional learning groups to make connections and learn more about teaching as inquiry.

Pond
Pond is a place where educators can discover content and services, share knowledge and engage with their peers.

Teacher-led Innovation Fund
This is a place to share ideas, resources, questions and answers, and discuss the Teacher-led Innovation Fund (TLIF).

Teaching as Inquiry
This space is for teachers, leaders and facilitators to share resources, links, ideas and ask questions about teaching as inquiry.

Sharing with students. Teacher inquiry can be carried out in collaboration with your students. Gathering data from them at the beginning of your journey will give you a perspective on how your classroom is for them, as will their views on what should change and how can could occur. Their reflections on your change will give you a fresh view on where to next.

Anne Coster: enhancing learning and teaching
Exploration of the curriculum values, principles, and key competencies was followed up by a crosscurricular focus on pedagogy. Teachers worked across learning areas to observe different contexts and teaching styles. This willingness to collaborate led to a culture of trust among the staff and a paradigm shift in the relationship between teachers and students. The staff realized their inquiry into practice would not be complete without the student voice.

Creating an inquiry action plan

Creating an inquiry action plan helps to focus you on the important parts of your change. The action plan is all about your needs - you may plan by weeks in the term, you might look at goals you want to achieve, or milestones that need to be observed before the next stage can be started. The most important aspect of an action plan however, as with all parts of teacher inquiry, is that it is flexible and fluid. Inquiry is not a structured or linear process, so make sure that you are developing a plan flexible enough to withstand the unexpected.

Some schools may already have a teaching as inquiry action plan for you to adapt, especially those schools that are looking at teaching as inquiry as part of their appraisal process.

Accelerating Māori and Pasifika students
Wendy Kofoed, principal of Newmarket Primary School, Auckland describes how she introduced teachers to the teaching inquiry process and set up systems of inquiry for her school, with a focus on raising the achievement levels of Māori and Pasifika students in her school.

Teaching as inquiry action plan
This action plan may be useful for teachers to follow when inquiring into their practice.

Where to next?

Now that you have carried out your inquiry, ask your self the question: Was my change effective?

Begin to find answers by evaluating change.

Published on: 06 Nov 2015


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