Empower reflective conversations - Connect | Learn | Grow :- to create an evidence enabled school

Where are you and the teachers in your school in relation to the collection of impact evidence and its interpretation? As a leader - do you feel enabled to support your teachers to collect rigorous and relevant evidence to inform future strategic directions for your school?

In a report put out by ERO (2012) it  is was found that only 1 in 4 teachers are using teacher inquiry well. It was postulated that leaders could help improve inquiry practice by ensuring that the information gathered through the evaluation process of a rigorous and relevant inquiry is used as the basis of decision-making and strategic direction - thereby conveying to teachers the usefullness of evaluation and inquiry.

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John is a school principal. He knows his teachers are “doing” teacher inquiry, but he doesn't know what the quality of these inquiries is like. He is unsure what constitutes a deep and relevant inquiry and what doesn't. He has an idea, but nothing concrete. John also worries that the school doesn't  have a way in which to collate all of the findings of teacher inquiry or to share these findings across the staff. As a result of this, he feels that there is possibly a loss of opportunity for use of a wider variety of evidence when setting strategic goals.

The Power of Teacher Inquiry

National priorities - rightfully or wrongfully - inform your school's PLD focus. When teacher inquiry is well structured and supported the evidence it generates empowers school leaders to set highly relevant strategic goals and grow evidence that shows how well students are tracking towards achieving them.

Interestingly - when teacher inquiry is well structured and supported the evidence it generates maps onto the national priority - "Supporting teachers and leaders capability to analyse, interpret and respond to a wide range of data" and "build capability of senior and
middle leaders to observe and provide feedback".

Leading Teacher Inquiry

When schools build the capacity of its leaders to coach teachers through their inquiry they develop inquiry coaches who are able to grow great inquiry cultures that are evidence empowered and have greater impacts on student outcomes and leaders in these schools will feel enabled  to build a culture of inquiry in their school that will grow great teachers and improve student outcomes through the empowerment of teacher evidence supported  through inquiry coaching.

Inquiry leadership requires leaders who are competent inquirers student outcomes with the chosen inquiry process and leaders who are competent with data. Leaders who are competent with the analysis of data and are able to use inquiry evidence to explore links with teaching.

Possibly, more importantly, Inquiry leadership requires leaders who are competent communicators. Competent communicators have the capacity to relate to staff and build relational trust and have competency around collegial dialogue/coaching conversations that facilitate collaborative dialogue.  For this to be able to occur, these leaders need to be leaders who are trusted. Their actions - communication, capability and integrity - must be such that it builds relational trust enabling them to work more effectively with their teachers. As a result of good relational trust and collaborative dialogue, there is a shift in the relationship between leader and teacher from a supervisory focused relationship to a coaching focused relationship. This relationship shift can then result in a growth of the quality of inquiry generated evidence and a shift in the impact of this evidence from think - know - grow. Enabling school leaders to set strategic goals that are informed by evidence from all teachers in the school about all students in the school.

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Tabitha Leonard