Creating An Inquiry Culture – Find Your Inquiry Genius

Jenny teaches year 4. She has focused her wondering about her students around their literacy skills. In particular – sentence structure and punctuation because she has noticed that these skills were not at the level they should be. Jenny had attended literacy Professional Development earlier in the year where she had learnt about strategies and tasks she could use that could be used to build sentence structures and punctuation skills for students. Jenny decided to design her inquiry around these strategies.

She designed and planned her teaching action and planned – in detail – how she would measure the impact of the strategy on her student’s sentence structures and punctuation.

She decided to get the students to do pieces of writing before she did any teaching that involved the new strategy.  She had a well-structured rubric with which she marked this piece of writing. This piece of writing became her baseline data for her inquiry.

Jenny taught her students for a week; focusing on her chosen strategy during writing lessons.  At the end of the week, she got her students to write another piece – which she marked with the same writing rubric.  This piece of writing and the marks generated became her impact data.

Jenny was able to calculate the effect size for the change in the quality of the students writing for the class and individual students.  What she found profoundly changed her teaching practice. Her reflections of experiencing this inquiry cycle included statements such as  “Because of having this data – and having found the impact of this strategy has had on my students learning – I will never teach sentence structure the same way again”

Now Jenny is an experienced teacher – 20+ years in the classroom – She has attended Professional Development before and has taken on board new ideas and strategies. But she has never formalised her learning into an intentioned teaching action that she has formally measured the impact of.

How did she design her inquiry to facilitate her wondering and make impact measures that allowed her to calculate effect size?

She used Action Research Learning Project inquiry structures.

Action Research Learning Project inquiry structures.

Well, structured inquiry models make for better student outcomes through encouraging deeper practitioner reflection. Better student outcomes come about when teachers are more reflective about the learning of students in their lessons. The depth of reflection is facilitated through the process of inquiry using Action Research Learning Projects structures. Well, structured inquiry models make the new teaching strategies accessible to all teachers. Accessibility is gained through Action research learning projects inquiry processes that provide teachers with a platform in which to research and further understand the learning process in their subjects context. Furthermore, Action research learning projects inquiry processes make measuring the impact of teaching actions on student learning measurably through a collection of data – qualitative and quantitative.

Action Research Learning Projects facilitate links to the professional teaching standards. When teachers are engaged in the process of an Action Research Learning Project, evidence of practice against the professional teaching standards is curated naturally during the process and allows teachers to curate evidence from everyday practice that demonstrates how they were continuing to meet the Professional Teaching Standards.

“It is important that teachers adopt inquiry methods as a constructive process in which their continuous deep thinking about students learning, and their responsive actions, pave the way for all students to succeed”.  – Sinnema (2012)

The purpose of an inquiry into teacher practice is to develop deeply reflective teachers. Deeply reflective teachers who are actively reflecting on the learning needs of their students and exploring new ways of doing things that might have better outcomes for students. In the process, they are also making measures into the impact of these changes on student learning. In essence, they will know their impact. – Hattie (2012). It is about the exploration of the relationship between what the teacher is doing, what is happening for the students, and the evaluation of the effect of teacher actions on student learning.   Action Research Learning Projects facilitate professional growth. Through the engagement of inquiry, teachers actively reflect on the learning requirements of their students and what teaching actions will best facilitate student learning. When teachers find that they have had a positive impact on student learning  – obtained as part of the Action Research Learning Projects process, there is an intrinsic shift leading to change in teacher practice – therefore professional growth occurs.

The professional growth that comes out of inquiry is facilitated by Action Research Learning Projects which makes links to the Professional Teaching Standards, creating conditions in which these skills and attributes can be fully expressed and developed within everyday practice. By adding Action Research Learning Projects to teachers’ toolkits, and bringing more reflections and less reactivity into practice, the inquiring teacher incubates an inquiry culture and they find their inquiry genius.

Action Research Learning Projects (Inquiry) 

Action Research Learning Projects engage teachers in a step-by-step process of inquiry design and impact. Such models make inquiry into the impact of teaching actions on student learning accessible to everyone. Action Research Learning Project inquiry processes provide teachers with the platform in which to research and further understand the learning process in their subjects’ context. When engaged in the process, teachers are able to measure the impact of the teaching action on student learning. This measurability is an integral part of the Action Research Inquiry Project process and occurs through the collection of data – qualitative and quantitative. Action Research Learning Projects also provide a platform in which to measure the impact of teaching actions on student learning. When teachers – who have a similar inquiry focus – collaborate during the process of their inquiry, cultures of collaboration between teachers and teachers and students develop resulting in professional growth.  An added outcome of the inquiry process is the curation of evidence from everyday practice in order to demonstrate how they were continuing to meet Professional Teaching Standards.

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Student

The student and their learning are central to an inquiry. Students learning needs are varied and diverse. Part of the Action Research Learning Project requires teachers to reflect on their students learning needs. The process of this reflection can be done in the context of child, content or learning context. Out of this process of reflection and wondering comes the focus for the teachers’ inquiry. Consequently, when reflecting in this way, multiple Professional Teaching Standards are being met.

Teacher

Once teachers have a focus for their inquiry they will explore research and literature to identify teaching strategies that will improve student learning. These strategies are designed and developed to be used for the teaching period of the inquiry. Further to the design of strategies, is the design of impact measures – be it data collection or other forms of evidence.  In the process of carrying out the teaching action and the measuring of the impact, teachers gaining insights into their impacts and are meeting numerous Professional Teaching Standards and are curating evidence in doing so.

Moving from previous experience to creation of new strategies

Teachers will begin to be more confident and competent in their teaching and will engage in inquiry as an everyday action. Teachers will develop an inquiry habit of mind. “An inquiry habit of mind is the habit of using inquiry and reflection to think about where you are, where you are going, how you will get there, and then turn around and rethink the whole process to make adjustments”.- Earl et al (2008)

Moving from no evidence to reflective professional standards links.

As a result of engaging in an inquiry, teachers will be meeting and evidencing their practice against the Professional Teaching Standards purely as a result of the nature of the inquiry process. There will be no need to search out evidence for particular standards. Teachers will find that simply by actively inquiring about their students learning, they are meeting most – if not all – of the Professional Teaching Standards. The beauty of this model is that concern for student learning becomes the driver for intentioned teaching actions and evidence is curated out of this mindset. In comparison to the curation of evidence driving the teaching actions in order to curate evidence for teacher certification.

Tabitha Leonard