DEEPEN TEACHER INQUIRY SERIES - PART TWO

Over the next few weeks, I will be exploring ways leaders can deepen evaluative inquiry and teachers can deepen teacher inquiry and what would be the outcomes if they could. This week we will continue to take a look at the focusing inquiry part of the inquiry journey.

Last week I floated the idea of using a design thinking lens to unpack the underlying thoughts for teachers when they are reflecting on their students and completing their focusing inquiry - let's take a look at what a design thinking lens is exactly and how it can deepen inquiry. 

The design thinking framework is basically made up of 4 parts - empathise, ideate, prototype, test. The empathy mapping process is designed to connect with the identified issue at a deeper level. In the case of teacher inquiry - the issue is what is happening for students and their learning.

 Empathy mapping is a way to dig deeper into your inquiry wondering. When teachers begin to reflect on their students or the content they are going to teach, they could begin to work through a process of empathy mapping in order to unpack their underlying thoughts. Making the connection with think, feel, say and do - the elements of empathy - helps teachers connect with and identify their thoughts and deepens the reflective process. Empathy mapping is designed to dig deeper into what is happening. The “wonder” phase of an inquiry is about what we think, feel and see about the student data or about the students in general.

When a teacher reflects/empathizes about how they think or feel about the students in their class, they are tapping into the internal dialogue that is occurring for them every day about the classroom. Teachers are identifying how their gut feelings fit with the internal dialogue that is occurring and then beginning to put a name to these gut feelings. Interestingly, these gut feelings often fall into one of three categories - child, content or context focused

Our gut feelings and what we see happening causes us to have certain attitudes about our students and their learning. When a teacher is wondering about the students in their class,  the identification of the gut feelings and what they see causes the development of attitudes that will impact on the students and their learning. As a result, teachers are then able to begin to formulate or ideate a solution that they believe will impact on student learning. An empathy map will identify this internal dialogue and give it a name, thus allowing teachers to connect with it and reflect on the impact this internal dialogue is having on the way they connect and interact with the learning of the students in their class.

Interestingly, the  Pygmalion effect impacts at this point. - Rosenthal (1969) found that cognitive capacities are cued and shaped by the images projected through others expectations. These expectations are linked directly to the internal dialogue a teacher is having about students and their learning.  Deeper thinking at the focusing inquiry stage could potentially highlight these and shed light on its impacts on a students learning.

What we see and think in the classroom causes us to make assumptions. When teachers - through empathy mapping their wondering -  map their thoughts about their students learning and what they see is happening in terms of learning,  they begin to ideate hypotheses that they assume is the reason why this is happening and they are able to formulate/ideate a solution that will become central to their inquiry.

Empathy mapping is messy and that is ok. When a teacher begins the wondering process they are entering into a very messy space.  They journey through an unpacking of what they think, feel and see of their students. This needs to occur so they will be in a position to ideate down to a single - tidy- idea;  find a solution, and identify a key focus or question for their inquiry.

The ‘wonder’ reflective - focusing phase of an inquiry - when empathy mapping processes are used - is like digging a hole in the garden with a digger rather than a spade. The digger will go deeper than the spade ever could.

How deeply do you reflect when designing your teaching as inquiry - Could you - with the right support and tools, explore deeply the needs of your students and their learning?

I help leaders and teachers to unpack and reflect deeply on what is happening for the learning of their students. We then plot a journey through the identified constraints to elevate what is working and empower teachers to make a change to what is not.

How is your capability for deepening your inquiry?

 

References

http://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/Teaching-as-inquiry

Fichtman Dana, N. (2013). Digging Deeper into Action Research. California: Corwin

Hook, P., Leonard, T., and Venning D. (2016). An Action Research Project with SOLO Taxonomy: How to tell if it is making a difference. Essential Resources Educational Publishers Limited. New Zealand.

Rosenthal, R. (1969). Pygmalion in the classroom. New York: Holt, Reinhart and Winston

Timperley, Wilson & Barrar (2007) Teacher Professional Learning and Development: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration [BES]. Inside cover and p. xliii Wellington: Ministry of Education.

Tabitha Leonard