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Leading teaching as inquiry

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In this excerpt from a presentation at ULearn 15, Miranda Makin discusses teaching as inquiry at Albany Senior High School, with specific focus on how she guides the inquiry process.

Professional learning conversations

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

In this presentation, Miranda Makin states that:

"There are the 20% (of students) that don’t find success, and actually we need to turn that around for them, and figure out where their success lies. Basically, this (teaching as inquiry) is the mechanism that we used, to try and do that."

Consider this statement in your own school context. As a school, where are you at now? How could you get to a place where your school environment was effectively supporting that 20% of learners to succeed? 

Have you seen?

Teaching as inquiry
This section provides ideas, resources, and tools to support your inquiry journey, as well as school stories to help provide inspiration and promote discussion.


We actually asked the teachers to name the student. If you name the student, that’s a learning relationship. A learning contract, that you have with that student, it makes it harder to wiggle out to say it doesn’t matter – you know who that student is that you’re intending to make a difference for.

We asked people to identify a crisis in the classroom, and the crisis – and I know it sounds like deficit theorising, but the intent of that was not to be deficit at all, it was to identify the students who were present for the teaching, but didn’t get it. Their learning needs were not met, so they were in crisis. Their opportunities are in crisis.

So, we wanted people to use data to help them justify the students that they were going to make a difference for, who had not found achievement yet.

At a senior school, our students choose the subjects they want to be in.  They all expect that they will have some level of success in these subjects – they’ve chosen to be there. So it’s our job to actually find that success for them.

The other thing that you’ll see here is about theories.  Putting your theories of what created that learning need on the table. It actually helped to distance people’s deep beliefs. You’re not putting your belief on the table, something that you own and then could feel like a personal attack – it’s just a theory of what might be. It may be wrong, it may be right, but it offers up that opportunity for scrutiny around your beliefs – and looking for confirming and disconfirming data.

We also asked –we know for learning that different views, different theories are really important.  Understanding the problem that you’re trying to solve with your practice solutions, understanding that in different ways. So you’ll see as well, we’ve asked for alternative theories from different people within the school.  Including the students. And I know this isn’t rocket science at all, but I was amazed how many people bypass students, who probably know their learning needs pretty well, and what they didn’t get. And to include them in the conversation has been very powerful for our teachers this year, because we’ve really made that a driving focus.

The other thing that I think that this does –and Barb was talking about that collateral damage, the 80% that come through and walk off with their opportunities open, they’re probably going to do that no matter where they go. But there are the 20% that don’t find success, and actually we need to turn that around for them, and figure out where their success lies. Basically, this is the mechanism that we used, to try and do that.

Published on: 15 Jan 2016