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Teacher Inquiry

I find it interesting when speaking with colleagues about teacher inquiry that many remark that this is something that they have always done but now it has been given a new name and has been turned into eduspeak.  I wonder if this is really true?

Have teachers really been inquiring into their practice in a meaningful way in the past or have they been reflecting on their practice? What’s the difference?

I know that in the past, teachers have reflected at the end of units and have given a great amount of thought to what they would do differently if they taught that topic/curriculum area again. For me, here in lies the problem, they have been focused on one curriculum area or topic of work – not how they could better encourage better learning across all curriculums areas.

This is what I love about teacher inquiry, if one gives the area they are wanting to inquire into enough thought they can research into learning. The skills that teacher’s develop as they inquire into their own practice should be able to transferred across all curriculum areas and actually for the wider world!

Let me give you an example, so far this year I have been considering how I can give the students in my class greater agency in mathematics. While I have used the context of mathematics, this was only to stop my inquiry becoming all encompassing. However, once I have found successful ways to promote agency in the context of mathematics it is then relatively straightforward to help students apply these ideas/approaches/philosophies to other areas.

I don’t believe that this would have happened in the past. I feel that education, from a teachers perspective when reflecting on what worked or otherwise, was seen as quite compartmentalised.

Who are the winners as a result of a greater focus on teacher inquiry? The answer is simple, everyone!

PD on steroids

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If any educators have heard of Ewan McIntosh or notosh publishing undoubtably they will automatically think of this book. I have heard great things about this book and am keen to get into this copy that I have recently been gifted! The main idea of the book considers the following question “Can the education world innovate, share and build on new ideas, taking them out of individual classrooms?

Ewan say the following about his book, “This book will help you achieve ambitious visions for learning through swift innovation. We will borrow from the people who invent what we all end up using tomorrow, create much from very little, and refine their ideas with a swiftness few of those in larger corporations, Government or schools have seen.”

As I make my way through the book I aim to add ideas, activities and thinking below.

Principled principals

Today I was thinking about the various principals I have worked with over the years and the diverse range of principles or philosophies that they hold about school leadership. A couple of questions  struck me. Hopefully all the principals I have worked with want their students to achieve and be as successful as possible, but how can the approaches to leadership vary so greatly? Which leadership style is most conducive to student progress?

I guess the principals I have worked with in the past fall roughly in to one of two categories: Transformational Leaders and Instructional Leaders. As I pondered on the different approaches to leadership I received an email from Educational Leadership. See here if you would like to subscribe to the magazine (it is really worthwhile!). The article entitled Impact Leadership makes for very interesting reading. If you are too busy to read the whole article I will give you a brief synopsis of the article which I hope will entice you to read the entire article.

Impact Leadership is written by John Hattie and discusses the findings of a study carried out by Robinson, Lloyd, Rowe (2008). In the research Robinson et al. (2008) define the two types of leadership, Transformational and Instructional. They found transformational leaders set a vision, create common goals for a school, inspire and set direction, buffer staff from external demands, ensure fair and equitable staffing and give teachers a high degree of autonomy.  Basically, these leaders focus more on teachers.

In contrast, instructional leaders focus more on students. They are concerned with the teachers’ and school’s impact on student learning and instructional issues, conducting classroom observations, ensuring professional development that enhances student learning, communicating high academic standards and ensuring that all school environments are conducive to learning.

Interestingly enough, more than 80% of leaders claim to be transformational leaders (Marks, 2013). Here’s the crunch, Robinson et al. (2008) discovered that the overall effect from transformational leaders was .11 compared with the overall effect from instructional leaders being .42. That is a huge difference! The key to the huge difference is leaders who see their key role as evaluating their impact and getting everyone in the school working together to know and evaluate their impact. There are a great deal of other approaches that have been proven to be highly effective. If you want to find out what these approaches are you should check out this page. 

The take away point: “Effective instructional leaders don’t just focus on student learning. They relentlessly search out and interrogate evidence of that learning” John Hattie.