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Making change

A journey of “learning, relearning, and unlearning”

(Wink, 2000)

Te Mangaroa – ERO report on priority learners.

Changing your practice is about researching into what you do in the classroom: Asking a question about what needs to change and why, and then attempting to enact change through a well thought out plan of action. This is not about passive reflection however. It is a constant state of action, monitoring, reflection, and adjustment - and then more action. It can feel challenging at times; your knowledge and experience and ways of doing things are being tested. Your approaches may no longer be working for the students you now teach. Remind yourself that to be effective, you need to be responsive to the changing needs and strengths of your students (and yourself!)

This can be a good time to seek a mentor, or seek a professional support from other colleagues to guide and challenge you in your inquiry journey. Many schools belong to Communities of learning (CoL) and these can be valuable systems of support, especially for school wide inquiries, or to connect with experienced professional mentors. Gathering support, advice and guidance can be found through online communities such as Teaching as inquiry, and Teacher-led Innovation Fund.

The most successful school stories are stories of persistence. We found principals, teachers and boards persisting, challenging themselves to do better, changing their mind-sets and often acting outside their comfort zones so that their students succeed.

Educationally powerful connections the key to success ERO, 2015

Modifying your pedagogy can be as small or as big a challenge as you want it to be.  For your first inquiry, you may choose to try to enhance the learning of a small group of target students, who are all experiencing difficulty in the same thing.  Or you may change your approach when working with the whole class - this is fairly common when trying to change behaviours around classroom management, such as questioning or giving instructions. Concentrating on one area of your practice with a small group of students will not only focus you and make the inquiry more manageable, but it will also enable you to see the impact of your inquiry more clearly, to know exactly what aspect of your approach you changed with a particular group of students to address a specific problem.

Challenging questions

For this phase of the inquiry, ask yourself:

  • How can I make the biggest change?
  • Where will concentrating my energies make the most difference?
  • What am I doing to contribute to or create the students' lack of success?

Effective teachers inquire into the relationship between what they do (style) and what happens for students (outcomes). But effective teachers do more than simply inquire (or reflect) – they take action (in relation to what they are doing in the classroom) to improve the outcomes for students and continue to inquire into the value of these interventions.

The inquiring teacher: Clarifying the concept of teaching effectiveness 

Examples to inspire 

Teachers as learners
These seven learning stories illustrate parts of the learning journeys of seven teachers. Each teacher grappled with the concepts of collaborative inquiry, cultural responsiveness, and pedagogical content knowledge and with how they could better enable their Māori and Pasifika students to achieve success.

Educationally powerful connections with parents and whānau, 2015
The Education Review Office (ERO) evaluated how well schools worked with parents and whānau in their response to students at risk of underachievement. The report shares the stories of schools that developed effective relationships with families to accelerate and improve achievement for students who weren’t doing well., using teaching as inquiry across the whole school or with groups of students.

The extent of teachers’ inquiry in the classroom
This section of the national ERO report Directions for Learning: The New Zealand Curriculum Principles, and Teaching as Inquiry, 2011, describes examples of teachers approaching inquiry - what they looked for, how they gathered data, and how they set about making change.

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

Teaching as inquiry in a secondary context
In this excerpt from a presentation at ULearn 15, Miranda Makin describes teaching as inquiry at Albany Senior High School, including the role of teacher expectations and beliefs on student success.

An authentic setting for engaged learning
Dilworth School opened the Dilworth Rural Campus in 2012. With up to 100 boys there full time for the entirety of their year 9 experience, teachers needed to inquire into their teaching and find a new effective pedagogy to suit teaching in a new setting. This Education Gazette article describes that journey of inquiry.

e-learning framework
This section contains the e-Learning Planning Framework (eLPF) with supporting information and resources.

Where to next?

So you know where your students are at and you know that you need to make a change. 

Find ways to maximise your change in teacher practice with the teacher toolbox for inquiry.

Updated on: 19 Dec 2017