Inquiry and Collaboration

“As teacher-inquirers begin formulating their initial wonderings, they often ponder in a similar fashion.”  The Reflective Educator’s Guide to Classroom Research


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Teacher inquiry always involves collaboration.  Why is collaboration key?  

  • Research is hard work
  • Teacher talk is important
  • There’s safety in numbers
  • There’s strength in numbers

The question is how?

Options for collaboration

  1. Shared Inquiry:  when two or more practicing teachers or prospective teachers pair or group to define and conduct a single teacher research project together
  2. Parallel Inquiry:  Teacher pairs conduct two parallel but individual teacher-research projcest, working collectively to support each other’s individual endeavors.
  3. Intersecting Inquiry:  Two or more teachers are engaging in inquiry on completely different topics with similar wonderings or the same topic with different wonderings.  Collaboration occurs at the juncture.
  4. Inquiry Support:  Prospective or practicing teacher-inquirers can take full ownership of their inquiry project but invite one or more professionals who are not currently engaging in inquiry to support their work.

A growth mindset matters………………..for students and teachers.  Let’s make it happen in a way that supports relationships, collaboration, and practice change.

 

Dana, Nancy F. & Yendol-Hoppey, D. The Reflective Educator’s Guide to Classroom Research.         California:  Corwin, 2014.

 

Inquiry in the Age of Evaluation

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Teacher inquiry is a viable way for educators to improve their practice.  It can lead individuals toward collaborative, supportive relationships with peers and meaningful change in practice.  It is professional learning with an internal locus of control that is focused on an individual and their context.    It begins with a question.  The question, or wondering, becomes the focus and goal.

 

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Ties to the evaluation process  To make professional learning both meaningful and relevant for educators, it seems wise to connect goals and growth to the evaluative process that exists for everyone.  With the educator creating their own goals, energy and effort can be focused with intent; progress is almost guaranteed.

Teacher “Evaluation”

Indeed, the new teacher evaluations have caused much grief to more than a few educators.  The word “evaluation”, alone, infers many uncomfortable things.  The deficiencies of the traditional view of teacher evaluation includes:

  • Outmoded evaluative criteria, usually in the form of checklists.
  • Simplistic evaluative comments, such as “needs improvement,” “satisfactory,” and “outstanding” without any consistency as to what those words mean. Many teachers end up being rated at the highest level on every item, with no guidance as to where they might focus their improvement efforts.
  • The same procedures for both novice teachers and career professionals— no differentiation that reflects veteran teachers’ experience and expertise.
  • Lack of consistency among evaluators; a teacher might be rated at the highest level by one administrator and much lower by another. This makes it much easier to attain tenure in some schools than in others, a violation of a fundamental principle of equity.
  • One-way, top-down communication. Evaluation is a process that’s “done to” teachers, and it often feels punitive, like a “gotcha.”

The purpose of evaluation often gets lost in the series of observations and checklists, causing much fear and general harm to the teaching profession.  The real purpose needs to be made visible:  Evaluations should be about helping teachers learn.  “Evaluations” should be inextricably tied to the educator’s personal professional learning plan.

According to Learning Forward’sStandards for Professional Learning ,

Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students occurs within learning communities committed to continuous improvement, collective responsibility, and goal alignment and aligns its outcomes with educator performance and student curriculum standards.

 

The State of Michigan and the Michigan Council for Teacher Effectiveness has approved several tools to assist administrators in supporting the growth of the teachers.  The Danielson Framework is frequently used.  It is characterized by Four Domains:

  1. Planning and preparation
  2. Classroom Environment
  3. Instruction
  4. Professional Responsibilities

 

Connecting passion and growth to the evaluative process

 

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A continuum of professional learning that provides surface learning in the eight passions along with opportunities to engage in deep, collaborative inquiry with other educators would seem to be the most meaningful way to help educators learn and grow.

 

In this evaluative age, collaborative inquiry is an empowering way for educator’s to own their own learning.  Focusing on one of the eight areas of passion, their growth can easily be tied to the evaluative process.  The benefit, though, is the sense of empowerment that comes from inquiry.  Teachers lead their learning; direct their “evaluation”.  No fear.

 

Teacher Inquiry: It Begins With A Question

 “Where teacher inquiry occurs, there is a radical, but quiet kind of educational reform in process.”

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I am fortunate to have the opportunity to join inquisitive educators engaging in classroom inquiry.  The Job Embedded Professional Learning Network (2014-2015) at Oakland Schools is several years in, facilitated by Lauren Childs.  Our textbook is a guide.

Teacher inquiry is about growth.  It is a systemic, intentional study of one’s own professional practice. The following also holds true:

  • Purpose:  to improve classroom practice
  • Focus:  to provide insight into teaching in effort to change
  • Owner:  an insider
  • Impact:  local

It differs from mere reflection in that it is intentional, problem posing, visible and collaborative.

The inquiry process begins with a question or “wondering”:

Eight Passions

  1. Help a student
  2. Improve the curriculum
  3. Develop content knowledge
  4. Strategies/techniques
  5. Beliefs/practices
  6. Personal/professional identities
  7. Social Justice
  8. Teaching/Learning Context

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‘As a teacher-inquirer in charge of your own learning, you become a part of a larger struggle in education  – the struggle to better understand, inform, shape reshape and reform standard school practice.’

 

It all begins with a question.

 

 

 

Losing a Pet in an Autistic Household

Such an intimate post. Reflecting on how a child with autism understands the emotions involved in the loss of a beloved cat.

A Quiet Week In The House

When our beloved seventeen-year-old cat was dying, Tyoma, our autistic son, reacted thus:

“Oh. So, then we’ll get a new kitty.”

No emotional depth. No concern. No sadness.

This did not fool us.

Kitty Pearl filled our son’s daily imaginings. Wobbly scratching posts and sinister-looking grooming contraptions were built in her honor. He wrote her sentimental “I-love-you-kitty” letters and taped kitty-centric schedules near her water bowl. Homemade Kitty Forts stretched across rooms and cluttered staircases.

Kitty Portal

Then there were lists. Page after page of numbered instructions pertaining to the cat:

  1. Pet kitty gently.
  2. Add ice cubes to fresh water.
  3. Brush with the fur.
  4. No pestering.

Tyoma needed to organize his interactions with Pearl, not just to remind him of his duties but also to cope with the delicious and abhorrent impulse to pull her tail.

Pearl’s declining state preoccupied Tyoma later that evening. He spread inky equationed papers on the bed…

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The Problem Of Innovation

It all starts with WHY!

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The thing about innovation, more often than not, it finds you…before you find it.

The best innovations are usually not something we go out of our way to search out and find.  Rather, most often, innovation finds and reveals itself to us.

Not because we are smart, not because we are clever, or imaginative, or creative, or interesting, or even knowledgable…but, because we are willing to ask the question.  Why?  We are willing to ask why something is the way it is.  And it is that question, that why, that we just can’t seem to get past.  It nags and pesters at us.  It clings to us and won’t seem to leave us or our consciousness alone.  Continuing to pull at us until we finally find ourselves willing to do something about it.

Innovation often begins its journey as a question…

Many people ask why everyday.  And it never leads…

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The Cure for Shenanigans

The only thing I dislike more than cats on the counter?  Barking dogs.  There is one cure and one tool.  First the tool:  

 

Trigger-controlled-Water-Spray-Bottle

 

The cure?  Are you ready?  One word:  

Consistency.  

You need to be BORINGLY predictable.  Have the bottle ready at every moment.  Use it.  Soon, you don’t have to use it.  You just have to show it.  Before you know it, the cat stays on the floor; the dog shows a little self control.  Simple.  

 

Ben barks because his "brother" barks.  Not anymore!

Ben barks because his “brother” barks.

If it doesn’t work, one mustn’t blame the bottle.  Clearly, the bottle works, even though it is just water.

It is like that with kids too.  All kids.  Even the “spirited” ones.  Especially the spirited ones.  You don’t need to come down more harshly.  Sending them to the administrator is also less than effective.   If you feel the need to reach for the hammer, consider

  1. your relationship with the child
  2. your culture of engagement
  3. your ability to consistently respond in gentle ways

It isn’t about WHAT we use as much as it is THAT WE RESPOND.  Every time.  Calmly,

quickly returning to building that culture of learning.  

A classroom engaged rarely has problems.  

 

 

 

UDL and The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture

User Generated Education

In response to all of the attention given to the flipped classroom, I proposed The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture and The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture for Higher Education in which the viewing of videos (often discussed on the primary focus of the flipped classroom) becomes a part of a larger cycle of learning based on an experiential cycle of learning.

Universal Design for Learning has also been in the news lately as a new report Universal Design for Learning (UDL): Initiatives on the Move was released by the National Center on UDL, May, 2012. This post describes the principles of Universal Design for Learning and how they naturally occur when a full cycle of learning, including ideas related to the flipped classroom, are used within the instructional process.

Universal Design for Learning

The UDL framework:

  • includes three principles calling for educators to provide multiple means of engagement…

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