Deepen Teacher Inquiry Series - Part 27

No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team.
— Reid Hoffman

Be collaborative | See Trends | Do Analysis

Analysing - Be Collaborative

Last week I shared with you a story of Jane and Shelley collaborating on their inquiry outcomes. If you recall, Jane and Shelley did similar strategies for their inquiry. They looked at using a strategy to help a group of students who have high levels of reading, but low spelling capabilities in their writing to close the gap. 

The process of collaboration, in this case, enabled these two teachers to look deeper into what was happening and ideate about the outcomes in a way that is not possible when you complete the evidencing phase of your inquiry alone.

Now it needs to be said, that the two inquiries were not the same, but the similarities broadened the inquiry process for both teachers.


After sharing this blog post, I had a great question come through on the NZ School Leaders FaceBook page that I think is worth expanding on this week.

The comment was:  

Just wondering, at this evaluation stage, when after dialogue, comes to no new ideas or hunches, what the next step would be.

Jane and Shelley had found - through analysis of their data - that they have a group of students whose reading level does not line up with their spelling levels - in particular in their writing. 

Now it is important to remember that teacher inquiry should be a place where new things are tried. Some strategies will work and others won't. That's OK.

To elaborate on the story further, the findings of these teachers inquiries sparked a whole lot of new wondering and reflection. New inquiry foci spiralled off of the findings.

Because these two teachers collaborated during the evaluate phase they were able to stretch and challenge each others thinking. To come at the "learning gap" from different directions as they explored why this was happening. By looking at the learning gap from multiple directions they were able to reframe the "problem".
Therefore, these teachers were in a position to try a new strategy - that was completely different from their original teacher inquiry strategy.

When you allow curiosity to broaden your thinking, it is essential to swing back into the Explore phase and let your wondering be broad. It is in a teachers nature to want to fix the problem. After all, that is what we do all day every day. However, the "fix" you are looking for may require a completely different approach. 

When we fixate on a single perceived learning gap, we shut down our creative and critical thinking centres. This fixation prevents our ability to explore - to think laterally.
Often a re-lensing of the "problem" and the coming at it from a new direction will enable teacher inquiry to facilitate a new strategy to "solve the problem."

When we fixate on a single perceived learning gap, we shut down our creative and critical thinking centres. This fixation prevents our ability to explore - to think laterally.

To answer the wondering on the FaceBook page - where there are no new ideas or hunches - I would suggest that the learning needs addressed in the inquiry are a secondary outcome to a more central learning need. 

Sometimes learning needs are expressed in student work and assessment data as being one thing; however, the reason for the learning gap is something else altogether.
For example, in this case, the data and evidence used in the explore phase of the inquiry indicated a gap between reading ability and spelling ability in writing. The inquiry strategy designed to address this gap didn't close the gap as expected, and so further exploration and thought were put into the WHY.
The teachers decided to take another look at how they measured impact. Upon reflection, they found that students had much less spelling errors during free writing than during assessed writing tasks.
With this information at hand, it can be postulated that perhaps it was assessment conditions - or more accurately time constraints and anxiety - that was causing the learning gap that was showing up in the data.
As you can see, the two wonderings and therefore inquiry strategies are entirely different due to the root of the "problem" being very different to what is manifesting in the data.

In my experience, there is always more to the story. It is only by going back and exploring the learning process that the root of the challenge will begin to emerge.

There will be another factor that is preventing learning. The learning gap or challenge you have identified is a secondary expression of the true root cause.
It may take further digging and exploring - asking of lots of questions about the learning process  - to capture the root cause of the learning challenge. To capture the true WHY.

Where there is ambiguity and a lack of new ideas or hunches, always go back to the learning process and/or the way that impact is being measured. The answer will be there somewhere.


Teacher Inquiry 101 - Auckland Based Teachers

Friday 28th September
Register Here

Auckland Event
Friday 28th September 9 am - 3 pm

The Auckland Botanical Gardens - Friends Room


Teacher Inquiry 101 - Waikato Based Teachers

Monday 1st October
Register Here

Hamilton Event
Monday 1st October 9 am - 3 pm

The Link - Cnr River Rd And Te Aroha St Hamilton

T3 - Teacher Think Tank - Waikato Based Teachers

Monday 12th November
Register Here

The Link - Cnr River Rd And Te Aroha St Hamilton

Tabitha Leonard