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.

 

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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.

 

 

 

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
Condescendingly
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………..