Tuesday, 16 April 2013

What does it mean to dig deeper?

A few months ago, we had a district review.  This is a staandard procedure for all schools in Ontario and I have to say it was a very interesting experience.  In preparation for the review, the staff worked hard to display what essentially goes on in our school.

One major area of concern and interest for us is how we do professional development with our teachers.  We work in a triad system.  This means that teachers at the same grade level get together on a regular basis to plan out inquiries that need to be tried out and tested.  The teachers are free to choose what their inquiry will be on, but over the past two years, we have asked the teams to keep better records of their key learnings.

Here is a sample of an eveidence of learning document that needs to be completed by the end of the inquiry:

Group Members:                                                           Grade:

Working Session Details:
When:                                                Where:
Inquiry Intentions:   (If . . . then . . . )

How does your inquiry relate to the SEF?

Plan / Envision    Needs Assessment
Where are we now? Where do we want/need to go?

Act / Sow     Evidence-based strategies/actions
How are we going to get there?  What are we going to do?  

Observe / Nurture   Monitor/Gather Evidence
What are students demonstrating? Triangulation of Evidence    

Reflect / Discern  Analysis / Assess
What have we learned and discovered? Where to next?  Now what?   

At this point, on our third inquiry, all our teaching teams are at the Act/Sow phase.  The expectation is that they will be at the Observe stage when we meet again at the end of April.

After the review, it was clear that the challenge was to 'dig deeper'.  Although this was a review of our school, the conclusions and the challenges apply to our partner schools as well.

So, what does it mean to dig deeper?  We are getting very good at teacher collaboration which to my mind (and is back up in the literature), is the best way for teachers to learn.

Where do we go from here?  How do we know that the collaborative process is working, but how do we measure that this is actually having an impact on teacher practice?

There were a few suggestions that we need to consider.  While triad groups will have the freedom to choose their own inquiries again next year, do we need to overlay this with an overall theme?

Two suggestions so far are to focus on the assessment loop or focus on developing rich tasks.

Both strategies should make the teacher inquiry richer -  while teachers decide on what to work on based on the needs of their students they can overlay their inquiry by focusing on assessment or on the development of rich tasks.

Here is our challenge.  This is what we need to present to the teachers in our three schools.  To my mind, it is imperative that the teachers remain in control of the process, but can we add value to this work by having an overall theme?

Any ideas are most welcome!

1 comment:

  1. Your reflections are insightful. Teachers do need to own their own inquiry! No question! You have constructed a system of inquires across schools that allows educators - especially from small schools - to consider instructional actions and how these impact on student learning.

    In responding to your question 'What does it mean to go deeper?" you ponder adding a theme. I wonder if it is a 'theme' or a powerful unifying concept - known to have impact- that brings the smaller inquiries together? Building common understanding deepens the understanding of all three school communities - a true definition of 'networked learning' (Katz). The richness of differentiated inquiries feeds and strengthens each community and presents a 360 degree perspective to the professional dialogue.

    Allow the teacher voices to decide. Whether the assessment loop or rich tasks are chosen as a focus, likely the educators will need to explore the other in order to truly 'go deeper'.

    Your friend in learning, Helene