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Teaching as inquiry

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Teachers from Kelburn Normal School share reflections on the action research within their classrooms for themselves and their students.

Professional learning conversations

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

Teaching as Inquiry

Quality Teaching for Diverse Students in Schooling: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration [BES] emphasises the importance of focusing on student outcomes and using both research evidence and assessment information to improve teaching and learning. It stresses the importance of making links between the cultural contexts children experience at home and those they experience at school. It also highlights the need to ensure that teaching is responsive to students’ learning processes.

  • In what ways do the teachers in your school examine, discuss, and change their practice?
  • How are you leading your students towards learning about themselves as a learner, knowing their own strengths and areas to develop, and setting goals? 
  • Teaching as inquiry uses both research evidence and assessment information to improve teaching and learning. Examine your own teaching practice and school context. What could you change, and how?

Have you seen?

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


Principal, Justine McDonald

One of the things that we really had to work hard at this year was to make our triangle work. And all the things we were trying to do within that, with the learning conversations and split-screen thinking, was to really de-privatise and open up the classroom so teachers are willing to freely discuss their practices with other teachers. We achieved this through action research – looking at the teacher as an enquirer and learning themselves. The action research we started off as a school-wide action research, and we collected data. The idea of school-wide first meant there was a really good model, that teachers could then go back into their teams and use as a guide. But what inevitably happens with good teachers is that they do tweak that model and change it to suit their age group and their purpose. So we really didn’t want to confine them to one particular model, we wanted them to be able to branch out.

Teacher 1: Michelle Hunt, yr 5-6

The action research process opened up several things for me. The main thing that I noticed were those kids who weren’t strong writers were very strong critical and creative thinkers when it came to oral language, drama, or something they were designing etc. I could see they were thinking deeply about things but just couldn’t get them down on paper.

Teacher 2: Rachel Laming, yr 7-8

The benefits from action research I found was really the level of getting to know my students. And my main thrust was getting the children to get to know themselves as learners, so the big motto behind it was ‘Take your place in the world’ – learning about yourself as a learner, knowing your own strengths and areas to develop and accepting those, and setting goals (linked from start of the year to those). We did the multiple intelligences graphing and found out about what areas we were comfortable within, and what areas maybe needed to develop. In some of our learning we have used those ones that we aren’t so confident in to develop them more. So that was a huge benefit for me – knowing my learners, and the learners actually knowing about themselves, discovering things they had in common with other students in the class and not necessarily within their own friendship groups but across the whole class. So that was a real benefit!

Teacher 1: Michelle Hunt, yr 5-6

People have become so passionate about it because it’s just so exciting going into class and doing these lessons with the kids, and then the conversations in the staffroom were about those lessons and the amazing things the kids were saying. It really helped ‘make’ the learning conversations and you’d feed off each other’s ideas – ‘I really want to try that now’. 

Teacher 2: Rachel Laming, yr 7-8

That was a real shift from the start of the year when people were a bit more insular in their class – thinking ‘I’m doing my thing and they are doing theirs.’ For example, I didn’t know what Michelle was really doing in her class and now I know there is some common ground to speak to Michelle about. For example, I know all the upper-middle levels have done ‘dog exercise machine’. Immediately there are conversations created from that.

Principal, Justine McDonald

The main benefit for us as a school, having the staff go through the action research process, is really de-privatising the classroom and the discussions that have taken place during our curriculum meetings. Comparing the beginning of the year to the end of the year, the discussions are so much deeper and less threatening for people because they were able to discuss, give ideas for different areas of the school and people weren’t confined to one team and only that team when discussing certain things for their students.

Updated on: 23 Feb 2010