The Power Of Collegial Dialogue In Support Of Teaching As Inquiry
Leon designs his inquiries when he is planning his units. When planning his units of work, he reflects on the students in his class and will identify an area of concern in which he will plan specifically for and incorporate it into his teaching and his inquiry. Leon often searches the research for ideas to help inform his inquiries. However, he often gets stumped when trying to take ideas from this research and turn them into teaching strategies. Leon is actively engaged in formal forms of inquiry in a cyclic manner. Because his strategies are intentioned and specific, he is able to measure the impacts of his teaching strategies on student learning.
What is missing from Leon's professional journey is the collaborative - collegial - dialogue about his inquiry. This collegial dialogue can and will facilitate transformational change in practice for Leon, where his current inquiry practice will not.
The Power of Collegial Dialogue.
Collegial dialogue - when implemented well - is scheduled, provisioned and guided. Collegial dialogue, - when facilitated by capable leaders - will result in professional growth and the focus will be on the learning that is occurring for the teachers whose inquiries are being looked at. Inquiry gains it superpowers when there is a culture of inquiry collaboration. These superpowers are supported through collegial dialogue. - Collegial dialogue is inquiries superpower - a little like spinach was to Popeye the sailor man.
Collegial dialogue should be actively inquiring not just the sharing of information. Collegial dialogue involves teachers taking a conversational shift from purely sharing information to actively inquiring, critiquing and engaging in each other’s learning and work.
Meaningful dialogue about inquiry - by design - is active and engaging. Meaningful dialogue about inquiry is achieved when dialogue, teamwork and collaboration are encouraged. Meaningful dialogue involves the transference of information through a learning lens and is more than just sharing ideas. Meaningful collegial dialogue is about critiquing, questioning, understanding and exploring new ideas.
There is a strong body of literature (Timperley et al, 2007; Tillema et al, 2006; Copeland, 1993) indicating the benefits of dialogue in which teachers unpack their inquiry findings and beliefs about teaching and learning, reflect on the merits of their practices and explore alternative ways of operating.
When teachers and leaders engage in collegial dialogue, there is a strong need for the participants to feel safe. The need to feel safe indicates there is a strong element of trust present between participants. Critiquing each other's inquiry requires participants to openly engage in dialogue that is informative. Teachers and leaders who are engaging in collegial dialogue give feedback that is focused on exploring each other's understandings of inquiry findings, and challenging each other's ideas in order for learning to occur. Through well managed collegial dialogue, teachers and leaders can engage in each others inquiry with curiosity. Engaging in collegial dialogue with curiosity will lead to deeper and more meaningful dialogue about the inquiry and its findings which will facilitate learning. Through this process, they are engaging in a learning journey that will lead to a transformational and sustainable change in practice.
"This means creating opportunities for dialogue, on numerous occasions without fear of judgment or fear of failure." - Timperley et al (2014)
Meaningful and rich collegial dialogue is like the traffic at a busy intersection - where information - like traffic - comes and goes from all directions.
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Timperley, H., Wilson, A., Halbert, J. (2014). A framework for transforming learning in schools: Innovation and the spiral of inquiry. Centre for Strategic Education Seminar Series Paper, 234
Timperley, H., Kaser, L., Barr, H., & Fung, I. (2007). Teacher Professional Learning and Development: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration [BES]. Wellington: Ministry of Education.
Tillema, E., & van der Westhuizen, G. (2006) Knowledge construction in collaborative enquiry among teachers, Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 12 (1), 51-67.
Copeland, W., Birmingham, C., De La Cruz, E. & Lewin, B. (1993) The Reflective Practitioner in Teaching: Towards a Research Agenda. Teaching and Teacher Education, Vol. 9, No. 4, p.347-359.