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.



What is Collaboration (part 1)



As I wrote earlier , I had the very fortunate luck of attending  a mini-session at the Project Zero Summer Institute 2013:   “Effective Professional Learning Communities:  Supporting Learning in Staff Rooms and Classrooms” by Daniel Wilson.  The session aimed at identifying the key features of learning communities while discussing the common roadblocks that impede progress.

Group work and collaboration can be chaotic, frustrating and laborious.  Done well, it produces better products that are more responsive to group needs than those created by a lone cowboy.

True collaboration is not simply

  • communicating your plans without care for others
  • coordinating parts in an additive fashion that is not fluent
  • cooperating in a passive fashion without discussion and agreement on the big ideas
Daniel Wilson:    Effective Professional Learning Communities:  Supporting Learning in and Staff Rooms and Classrooms  Project Zero Summer Institute 2013,   Harvard Graduate School of Education

Daniel Wilson:
Effective Professional Learning Communities:
Supporting Learning in and Staff Rooms and Classrooms
Project Zero Summer Institute 2013, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Ideally, collaboration is the highly developed and dynamic process whereby more than one person comes together to create something truly unique and creative.  This process is democratic; with everyone’s voice heard.  The parts are reciprocally interdependent and the outcome a melodic blend that fits together well. Individuals design together, as equals, for the greater good.

This is true for all groups.

The REAL World

No Such Thing!

No Such Thing!

Thinking of comments made by a retired educator this week while she defended some practices that felt highly punitive and judgmental to me. “I need to prepare them for the REAL WORLD~!” (she said, condescendingly)….

Not a John Mayer fan (he’s a bit Abercrombie, for my tastes) BUT he’s got a few things to say about this.

What IS the REAL world? And do we KNOW what that means for today’s children? I think not………………….As Howard Gardner now says, I think we want GOOD people; GOOD workers; GOOD collaborators; GOOD citizens. We rarely get that by punishing in the absence of a relationship and teaching! 

My head immediately goes to the John Mayer song, No Such Thing.

“No Such Thing”
Welcome to the real world”, she said to me
Take a seat
Take your life
Plot it out in black and white
Well I never lived the dreams of the prom kings
And the drama queens
I’d like to think the best of me
Is still hiding
Up my sleeve
They love to tell you
Stay inside the lines
But something’s better
On the other side
I wanna run through the halls of my high school
I wanna scream at the
Top of my lungs
I just found out there’s no such thing as the real world
Just a lie you’ve got to rise above
So the good boys and girls take the so-called right track
Faded white hats
Grabbing credits
Maybe transfers
They read all the books but they can’t find the answers
And all of our parents
They’re getting older
I wonder if they’ve wished for anything better
While in their memories
Tiny tragedies
 We need the folks who are compelled to stay between the lines as much as we need those unafraid to venture out.  Diversity is about more than just religion, skin color and sexual preference.  
 We all belong………..

Reflecting on Failure and Success: Guest Blog

Part of our professional learning plan includes two book studies around the social/emotional and behavioral learning of students.  The following reflection was written by one of our county’s school psychologists, Janet Armil, after participating in one such event.

The Takeaway from Paul Tough’s

How Children Succeed:  Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character


guest blog entry by

Janet L. Armil, School Psychologist


I joined this Book Study because weeks before it was announced, I had volunteered to discuss persistence with a group of parents who bring their children to Saturday School, a positive, voluntary, pearl of a Tier 2 intervention offering drop-in one-to-one tutoring to any BPS student in any subject area or need for two hours most Saturdays during the school year.  I knew from my teaching days that drive and persistence contributed more to academic success than IQ, and had even presented that concept to a gym-full of elementary school parents in my nervy first year as a school psychologist, but I knew I needed to research this topic again, and find a good resource.  So, when I received the last call for this Book Study, I signed up, hoping it would help.  I got so much more than a resource:  I got a life-changing understanding of phenomena I had observed as a school psychologist for which I had formulated only the most rudimentary explanations.  This Book Study gave me a growth experience, not a reading selection.

Here is the takeaway:

The ACE study, brought to life:  Adverse childhood experiences form your life path, right down to your adult health.  Ever feel the pain of offering a troubled 15-year-old everything you’ve got while watching him/her slip away despite both of your best efforts to engage and make good?

High L-G parenting, or an ounce of prevention:  Teaching parents at risk how to develop attachment with their infants is step one in reducing ACEs, and there is no substitution for it.  How many times do we have to be shown that money up front will pay for itself many times over?  Through the findings of some unlikely rat studies, from which the term “high licking-and-grooming parenting” is taken, we see how the mechanisms of secure attachment equip babies to handle adversity for a lifetime.

New respect for the humble marshmallow:  I will never, ever look at a marshmallow the same way again.  How children resisted the temptation of a nice, fluffy, sweet and inviting marshmallow tells us more about what it takes to work hard, delay gratification, and persevere than a raft of Ed. School textbooks and articles.

Our own Chris Peterson:  The work of the late Dr. Peterson, founder of the Center for Positive Psychology at the University of Michigan, will get you over whatever your quibbles may be with the term “character”, and bring you to a list of traits you will recognize if you have ever been through graduate school.  (Dr. Peterson and his colleague, Dr. Nansook Park, presented a workshop last August through the OS-MISD Psychology Series.  If you were there, you know it was purely lovely.)

Failure is required:  Really.  More specifically, learning to manage failure is how we grow.  The importance of failure recurs throughout this book, but one discussion in particular will help you truly understand the rescue reflex, of which we so deeply despair in high SES parents.

Have you ever done an autopsy?  Some of us have conducted autopsies with students of their socio-behavioral mishaps, but a teacher of chess uses grinding game autopsies to reinforce how to think in kids never before challenged with this particular life-changing charge.  This is the first description of teaching executive functions I have ever found credible.

It’s so easy:  Not!  We are all happiest when we are learning.  If we aren’t challenged, we do not develop.  It really is as simple as that.  See “Failure is required”, above.

Politics:  Somewhere in the last quarter of the 20th century, poverty was politically hitched to education.  This was a revelation to me!  Haven’t you wondered how in the heck we came to be blamed for all of our country’s ills?  You will learn why poverty and education are, as they say, two different things, despite their obvious connections.

The cost of violence:  No matter your politics, never let it be said that witnessing and living with violence carries little personal or societal cost.  Indeed, it is very expensive.  Tough’s stories of Fenger High on Chicago’s south side are echoed to an almost uncanny degree in an unrelated, recently broadcast, two-part radio series on Harper High you can find online in the archives of This American Life.  If you read this book first, then listen to these two episodes, you will get on the other side, and you will be different.  

And when there is the promise of a storm,

if you want change in your life,

walk in to it.

If you get on the other side,

you will be different.

And if you want change in your life,

and you’re avoiding the trouble,

you can forget it.

So wade on in the water,

it’s gonna be really troubled water.

Prelude to Wade in the Water

Sweet Honey in the Rock