Shifting the Inquiry Practice of teachers from teachers 'do inquiry' to teachers' own inquiry'

The New Zealand education council feel it's important, the latest research identifies that it is important for educational change to occur and leads to improved student outcomes (Sinnema & Atkin, 2016), so, why is it that schools and teachers don't give it the time it deserves?


Kath was using extension tasks for her extension students in her English class. After offering these tasks for a time, she noticed that other students were wanting to also complete these tasks, She wanted to know how student engagement in extension tasks by choice impact on student outcomes.

Kath designed an inquiry that facilitated her through the process of an inquiry and helped her identify how she was going to measure this. She decided to collect and analyse students writing tasks from units that were taught without the extension tasks and compare them to student writing that she analysed in the same way for units of work where some students chose to engage in the extension tasks.

Kath also decided to collect student voice about the learning for topics that had the extension tasks in comparison to topics where there were not extension tasks offered.

Kath found that the grades of the students who participated in the extension tasks improved more than those students who did not complete these tasks. The student's voice is perhaps the most interesting - many of the students who chose to complete the extension tasks expressed the value of it being their choice to engage. They felt that because it was their choice, they were more focused on the work and therefore got more out of the task.

Kath found that students she didn't expect to complete the extension task, began to do the tasks as well as the very able students for whom she had initially designed the tasks. Without the intention to inquire about the impact of her teaching actions, Kath would have thought that she possibly was having an impact. However, through being inquiring, she now knows her teaching actions are having an impact on students learning. As a consequence of her inquiry findings, and the inquiry journey she has been on, Kath will now be more responsive to her student's needs and has become more reflective on the impacts her teaching actions are having on the learning of her students.

Kath - as a result of the process - has experienced professional growth and has been energised by the process of her inquiry to the extent that she has already started her next inquiry.


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So why should schools allocate time and energy for teachers inquiry?

Rigorous and well-planned inquiry informs teachers of their impact on students learning. The Information gathered during a rigorous inquiry process collates measured data from which teachers can draw valid conclusions as to their impact on students learning which energises teachers to keep making changes that may lead to improved student learning.  Planning for action. An inquiry plan will encourage teachers to respond to students learning needs and enable them to measure the impact of their teaching actions on students learning to a degree that their knowledge will shift from a gut feeling to a known fact. Inquiry leads to a greater commitment to making a difference to students learning. When teachers responsiveness to the learning needs of their students is heightened by planned inquiry, and the impacts measured, teachers demonstrate a deeper commitment to their teaching practices and students outcomes. This deeper commitment comes out of teachers knowing the impact they are having on students learning.

Inquiry grows the professional practice of teachers by facilitating deep and personal reflection. Deep and personal reflection of the Information gathered during a rigorous inquiry process allows teachers to draw valid conclusions as to their impact on students learning which energises teachers to keep making changes that may lead to improved student learning. Inquiry contributes to the process of heightened responsiveness to students needs and deeper reflections by teachers. When teachers responsiveness to the learning needs of their students is heightened, inquiry practice and the measured impacts that result contribute to deeper teacher reflection about the impact of their teaching actions on students learning.

Inquiry makes new teaching strategies accessible to everyone, making teachers more responsive to the needs of their students. Deep and personal reflection of the Information gathered during a rigorous inquiry process allows teachers to draw valid conclusions as to their impact on students learning which energises teachers to be more responsive to student needs that may lead to improved student learning. 

Effective student learning + energised teachers → professional growth. When combined with effective student learning and energised teachers, inquiry results in professional growth by changing practice and informing as to the impact teachers are having on students learning. Inquiry makes the connection between actions - impacts and resulting reflections. Inquiry practice facilitates the connection between the measurement of the impacts of teachers actions on students learning and deep reflection of these impacts. Inquiry WILL change your practice. Through planning a change when undertaking an inquiry, teachers inevitably change their practice. This is because inquiry facilitates the gathering of data and analysis of data to measure impacts on students learning. The formula for success. Deep reflections, responsiveness to student learning needs and the gathering of data and analysis of data with an inquiry lens will energise teachers to change their practice and KNOW they have helped students learn.

Good teacher owned inquiry is  like adding manure to the garden. When the right combination of components are present there will be teacher professional  growth that will have huge impacts on students learning outcomes.

In many schools, the inquiry is a tick the box process - the true value of inquiry is not completely understood. In some schools - where systems and process are in place - teachers ‘do inquiry’ but don't ‘own the inquiry’. Is it time for your school to make that shift for teachers?

I can help you make that shift in inquiry culture - It all starts with a conversation, so please email or call me... and we can find a time that suits you to connect.