Changing cultures to make teacher inquiry a centrepiece of practice in your school

Have you - as a leader - ever felt frustrated when trying to bring about change in your school? Or had to lead a project that others didn’t seem to have any interest in or see the value of? What we don’t always think about when we are in the midst of leading a project or a school-wide initiative, is the journey of change as a whole.

Where is everyone on the journey of change continuum? Or perhaps others may have a different pathway to the same endpoint of the  journey

In a number of schools I have visited, there is a level of teacher inquiry practice occurring, but there is always the tail-enders who “drag the chain”. They don’t want to engage in the process. They participate and complete the inquiry - only because they have to, not because they want to. These staff, don’t see the value in doing inquiry - they are excuse driven and lack any motivation.

Have you - as a leader - ever stopped to ask why these teachers are the way they are?

What it is you are evidencing is a misalignment between their values and purpose for inquiry, and the school's values and purpose for inquiry. There needs to be a shift in the culture of inquiry.

The school that Leon teaches at has teaching as inquiry embedded in their teacher's practice and it forms part of their appraisal process. However, they are wanting to shift the culture of inquiry - from one of a mandated process - to a teacher owned process. Leon's school recognises that when Teacher inquiry is done well - it has the power to shift teacher practice. This school is wanting to make inquiry a centrepiece of practice in the school. To achieve this, they are focussing on a number of elements involving the culture of their school. Here is how they are doing it.

When teachers and leaders in a school value the process of inquiry, leaders can shift school cultures towards a growth mindset for all through rich and meaningful dialogue that is centred around teacher practice, student learning and strategic direction. This meaningful dialogue is all generated and informed by the findings of deep and well-structured teacher and leader inquiry practice.

The elements of a culture of inquiry as a centrepiece of practice in a school

The elements of a culture of inquiry as a centerpiece of practice in a school

 
 

A culture of inquiry as a centrepiece of practice in a school  = dispositions, commitment and attitudes toward professional inquiry and teacher collaboration. When school leaders foster a culture of inquiry as a centrepiece of the school, members of the school community become more dedicated to continuous improvement of teaching and learning.

The culture shift required for this to happen involves an alignment of values and purpose that results in an increase in efficiency and motivation to engage and succeed. Underpinning this alignment is Trust. The success and failure of this alignment of values and purpose are completely dependent on the school's trust state. Therefore, it's levels of relational trust.

Trust

A schools trust state is a measure of how safe, supported and valued staff and students feel to contribute to the school-wide community. Building relational trust will increase the organization's trust state. Building relational trust through the development of communication, capability and integrity, will result in the growth of the organisation's trust state. Trust is energising and will improve motivation and engagement. When trust is present, people become more energised and motivated to engage in group dialogue and collaboration. Energy resulting in engagement and efficiency grows when the trust state in an organisation is high.

In a trust rich environment - there is high levels of engagement and efficiency. Such environments result in increased positive energy that cycles back in to build levels of engagement and efficiency.

People want to be trusted. They respond to trust and they thrive on trust. Therefore people are motivated to - act and do - in ways that build trust.  When there are high levels of relational trust in a school that builds a culture of inquiry as a centrepiece of practice in a school.

Value(s), Purpose and Motivation

The alignment of the staff values and purpose - that sit behind building a culture of inquiry as a centrepiece of practice in a school - also leads to the development of the organisation's trust state. An organisation or school environment that has high functioning trust models and high trust state will experience an increase in staff and student motivation, engagement and efficiency.  Trust grows out of feeling that contributions and opinions are valued.  When people listen to each other and are able to relate, they feel valued. Strong relationships are built out of the ability to listen to each other which results in people feeling valued. When feeling valued, the ability of a group to engage in collaborative dialogue develops to a point where learning occurs. Therefore, when a school builds its trust state - and cultures around inquiry as a centrepiece of practice - changes in the culture of a school begin to emerge, and strategic direction is realised. When there is a lack of clarity or when the value of inquiry is misaligned with staff values and purpose, the lack of alignment of values and purpose leads to lack of motivation and impacts engagement and efficiency - eventually degrading the relational trust of the group.

Trust and Partnership

Motivation grows when the organization's trust state and partnership state are high.  In an environment where there are high levels of trust - which facilitates the development of partnership interactions - the levels of motivation increase exponentially. Deep partnerships are built through high levels of relational trust. Relational trust brings out the best in people and literally changes the dynamics of interaction.  Partnerships are developed out of feeling valued and able to trust. Partnerships develop when people feel valued which occurs when they are listened to and able to relate to each other.

Dialogue

Trust underpins the needs for the growth of a culture of inquiry as a centrepiece of practice in a school. A culture of inquiry as a centrepiece of practice in a school requires the ability to have inquiring dialogue. Inquiring dialogue can only be successful in environments of high trust. In trust absence, dialogue becomes just a transfer of information. Building the capacity of teachers to engage in inquiring dialogue, results in the growth of a culture of inquiry as a centrepiece of practice in a school. Professional growth occurs through collaboration and teamwork. When an organisation focuses on building the capacity of its teachers to engage in inquiring dialogue, a culture of inquiry as a centrepiece of practice in a school grows.

 

 
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If you would like help shifting your schools’ culture of inquiry and make it a centrepiece of practice in your school - Please contact me

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Tabitha Leonard