Wednesday, 25 January 2017

A collaborative needs based coherent approach to innovative, professional learning

How do we ensure professional learning is connected to the identified needs of our young learners and that everyone - leaders, teachers and support staff, are motivated and engaged in the learning ?

How do we create the conditions for all teachers to collaboratively learn in deep and systematic ways about improving outcomes for young learners ?

How do we shift from student voice to learner agency and genuinely involve families and communities in the process ?

There is a well researched framework for transforming learning in schools, leading to innovation, known as the spiral of inquiry. You can read a succinct account of the paper entitled A Framework for transforming learning in schools: Innovation and the spiral of inquiry by Timperley, Kaser & Halbert (2014) on the Educational Leaders site at this link. The paper was published by The Centre for Strategic Education, Melbourne.

Spiral of inquiry framework image. Acknowledge source: Timperley et al, 2014

For those of you not familiar with the 'teaching as inquiry' model. It is important not to confuse a purposeful inquiry by teachers into the impact of their teaching such as the spiral of inquiry with the 'Inquiry Based Learning' approach. The latter is used by teachers to motivate young learners through questions, problems and scenarios to develop their thinking skills.

In 2016, I wrote a post reflecting on the spiral of inquiry process.  The process compliments research around the seven principles of learning summarised in the OECD (Dumont et al, 2010) publication The Nature of Learning. You can read the post at this link.

Box 2 on p8 of the framework has key questions related to each of the seven principles of learning.Acknowledge source: Timperley et al, 2014
In the different phases of the spiral; trust, and engaging learners and their families, are a recurring theme. Here is a brief summary about each phase of the spiral:

Scanning (p7- 9): This is about digging deeper, going underneath the data to get an understanding of the experiences of learners to drive change. Teacher observations and surveys of social, intellectual and emotional engagement are valuable. Using the questions in Box 2 (p8) helps to get a bigger picture for the learners.
Focusing (p10-11): We determine which area to concentrate on to start to make a difference. It's about asking the question - what's going on and how do we know ? It's about talking with the learners and identifying a common area many people can buy into.
Developing a hunch (p12-14): Intuition and hunches, together with evidence, inform and guide the scanning and focusing phases. We take responsibility for the areas we have influence and control in. We have the confidence to share ideas where it is safe to question our own behaviours and beliefs. Checking assumptions for accuracy is important before moving ahead.
New learning (p14-16):  This phase motivates us to explore new ways to change the learning experiences for learners. We explore deeper forms of powerful, professional learning connected to the inquiry focus and become motivated to act on these new experiences.
Taking action (p17-19): Informed actions are taken to make a difference. We learn more deeply about new ways of doing things, informed by a deep understanding of why new practices are more effective than others. We evaluate the impact on learners.
Checking (p19-21): Have we made enough of a difference as a team? We provide information on the impact of actions and set the stage for what will come next.

This process is based on a rich understanding of what is going on for learners. Success with small change leads to more radical changes and transformation takes place. Evidence informed, systematic inquiry becomes a professional way of life as one inquiry leads to another within the spiral.

Further resources to support this authentic process for developing collective professional agency within a school or across a cluster of schools are listed below:

Guide to the six phases of the Spiral of Inquiry framework at this link
This resource poses 50 questions for staff to consider during the inquiry process. Acknowledgement - Halbert & Kaser, 2013.

Another resource is a planning template to guide the process : Teaching as Inquiry planning template Acknowledgement - Janelle Riki and Ray Burkhill. Source: Virtual Learning Network

Acknowledgement to the Association of Independent Schools (AIS) of New South Wales for an excellent publication supporting this framework: Inquiry Learning Networks and Spiral of Inquiry.

A shared, collaborative inquiry approach provides coherence for needs - based, personalised professional learning within schools and across schools and transforms learning through innovative and curiosity - driven practices. 
Our community will begin the spiral of inquiry journey with small steps in 2017.

Please share any further resources you may have used or success stories from your schools using the Spiral of Inquiry framework.

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