1. Hello from Shenzhen,
    You asked that people who have used inquiry in professional learning to leave a message…
    I am an elementary teacher who learned about inquiry through immersion. I taught third grade for 5 years in a PYP IB school. During this time, I found out just how powerful inquiry and using coceptual lenses are when designing and activating the process of learning.
    This school year, a colleague and I helped lead the professional learning in our elementary school. Although, we are not at a PYP school, we did use an inquiry approach and backwards design planning to create a unit to take place all year long for our teaching faculty. We followed three essential questions as our lines of inquiry/focus. This professional learning approach was different for our faculty and has had positive feedback. If you would like more information I am willing to share our overview keynote and other details.
    I just starting following your blog this week! My family is from Saskatchewan (Moose Jaw and Regina) and I attended the U of R. ( as did my husband) We are migrant international educators.

  2. Hi George,
    we’ve been engaged in using inquiry as a mode of professional development for teachers for a few years now in Ontario. The Ministry of Education has some great resources that help us. In the DPCDSB we’ve use it as the second phase to our science literacy networks. Once we’ve explored the foundations of integrating science and literacy and developing a student-based inquiry program, teachers join us in a second year of professional learning and explore a challenge of practice they are having building their program. This link to a page on our science wiki will give you a sense of our process and the support we offer. http://dpcdsb-ssc.wikispaces.com/Collaborative+Inquiry+-+Science+%26+Literacy
    It’s been a great consolidation for teachers as they are building their integrated, inquiry-based science literacy programs.
    Sandra (@scilitsandra)

  3. Joel Schleicher

    Great thoughtful post! Professional development (something done TO teachers) continues to be directed from the top (i.e. I know what you need based on current district initiatives) with little teacher input instead of professional learning that includes teacher input and autonomy. While attending sessions at our district professional development this past Thursday, I heard several comments from teachers wanting input, choice, time, and trust as the best way to address current initiatives. Your blog on “Inquiry Based Professional Learning” gets to the heart of those comments. This sentence perfectly summarizes the potential of high quality professional learning: “Change is more likely to happen when we are active contributors to the change process; it is not something that can be done to us.”
    Similarly and awhile back, after reading your blog titled “8 Things to Look For In Today’s Classroom” (https://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/3586), I sent out the following tweet “Great graphic (@gcouros) Try replacing “Classroom” with “Teacher PD.” I think all 8 should be in T PD. Thoughts?” I would argue that all 8 should be included in professional learning opportunities for both teachers and administrators. I appreciate your work and thoughts in this area and hope we can find better ways to empower teachers in THEIR learning.

  4. Hi George

    I agree with all your points. This is the way we should be going when it comes to teacher PD. We developed strong teacher teams at one school I worked at. We linked to two other schools so that every team had teachers from two other schools. The work they produced was of a high quality and the teachers really appreciated being in charge of their own learning. Teacher inquiry is also supported by Fullan and at least two monographs from the Capacity Building Series here in Ontario. Unfortunately, these networks are not encouraged and the inquiry teams fell apart when the principals moved on to new schools.

    We could also move beyond this to consider inquiry for administrators. There is another monograph that supports inquiry at the admin level, but it is very rare to hear of professional networks where principals and vice-principals are involved in inquiry. I have written two posts here – http://principalmusingsoneducation.blogspot.ca/2015/03/developing-principal-learning-network.html with the assistance of Christine Waler from the Niagara District where they do have effective principal learning networks. This might be something you want to examine for a future post.

  5. Liane

    Hi, I am based in the UK and have been involved in Practitioner Inquiry for a little while. I am just beginning to create a PLC in my school that is entirely focused on teacher inquiry. I have found Nancy Dana’s books on the subject really invaluable and use her Protocols both in my inquiry and, slightly modified, with my own Students in class. I think the 2 things I am learning are: 1) The process really cuts to the heart of your identity, as an educator; 2) The process is incredibly empowering for all involved.

  6. Hi George,
    I am a former teacher with 35 years experience in a middle school science classroom. I am presently Executive Director of The Center for Developing Excellence (CDE).
    As part of the CDE, my staff runs PD for educators as well as a annual STEM Academy for middle level students. I have designed numerous inquiry based interdisciplinary unit on a variety of subjects. I recently completed a unit entitled, “Stem-ming the Global Drinking Water Crises” that my staff will be doing a PD on in the fall. If you are interested, let me know.

  7. The modification of the inquiry definition from Alberta Education for school teams/leaders is brilliant! I am so passionate about inquiry-based instruction (like Gayleen, I also cut my teeth on inquiry while working with International Baccalaureate PYP program as a principal), I decided to dedicate the “second chapter” of my career to promoting inquiry (wherever it occurs) and helping others implement it (in classrooms and at the school/district level). Schools should nurture curiosity, not compliance. Today’s schools lean towards the latter, I feel. The name of our org is Inquiry Partners and we design opportunities for teachers and teacher leaders to develop PD on their own (Joel’s response is spot on: “input, choice, time, and trust”). We provide materials/ & resources to help teachers drive their own learning within their school communities (and are in the planning stages of offering Global Inquiry PLCs where teachers from same grade levels/subjects can connect across the world around the topic of inquiry). This post makes me think of the “hack-a-thon” movements. Why can’t we have teachers regularly “hack the school”? I’m also a big fan of consultancy protocols from the National School Reform Faculty/Coalition of Essential Schools (pretty structured inquiry – but deep inquiry nonetheless). Thank you for this post and let’s keep up the momentum for inquiry!

  8. i can echo some of the comments from Ontario educators. Here in Hamilton Wentworth we are embedding teacher collaborative inquiry in our continuous school improvement processes. It’s just beginning but showing promise for teacher self identified learning.

    Also, we work with Steven Katz, as do many districts in Ontario, on principal leaning networks or teams. Those are fantastic and I am deeply involved in them as well as in my own professional inquiry, using the plan act assess reflect model.

    Happy to share more if you like.

  9. Vania Tiatto

    I have worked with models of teacher inquiries for many years and this one has been the most successful in terms of improving student and adult learning….. an evidence inquiry spiral with 7 key questions:
    1. What is essential for my learners to know?
    2. Where are my learners now? (What tells me this?)
    3. What do my learners need to learn next?
    4. Therefore, what do I need to learn more about?
    5. How will I apply what I’m learning? Which new practices will I try?
    6. What forms of evidence will I gather and analyse to determine if my new practices are progressing my learners?
    7. What have I learned from this? Now what? (Courtesy of EdPartenerships).

    Hope this is helpful. Happy to share more.

  10. The National Writing Project has followed the inquiry model for forty years with outstanding results including a long history of contributing innovative knowledge to the teaching profession.

  11. Sounds like Canada and UK are all over this. I jumped on the EdCamp bandwagon a year ago and I am trying to bring this style PD into my school now. Thank you all for sharing.

    • Vania Tiatto

      Aussies and Kiwis are too. Helen Timperley has a lot of research around this with lots of examples if you want read another perspective.

  12. It’s interesting to me the number of teachers that successfully integrate inquiry into their classrooms as a method to engage and inspire their students, and yet don’t see it as option to further their own professional growth. Why wouldn’t we want that same engaging and individualized experience when it comes to our own learning?

    As department leader of Learning Partners a program that in addition to supporting peer-mentoring and collaboration, also facilitates teacher inquiry, it has been my experience that time constraints (the perception that it’s “one more thing” on top of already demanding schedules) and some anxiety connected to the research based approach, are the main obstacles that we face.

    Sometimes it’s a process of “re-framing”. In fact, many teachers are already engaged in “inquiry” as they explore effective teaching and assessment practices, they’re just not necessarily using that language. Often once they become more familiar with the inquiry model, it becomes apparent that it in can provide a helpful structure for much of what they are already doing. As well, Learning Partners is able to provide teachers with release time during the school day that allows them to connect with colleagues, to explore collaborative inquiry questions.

  13. Andy Kai Fong

    I worked with Vania and we adopted the same questions as she alluded to above. From a teachers perspective , their professional learning is guided by what their students need next. This is a stark difference to teachers basing their learning In something they “think” would work to raise student achievement – a piece of software, a questioning technique for example. Grounded in evidence collection and understanding what our learners need next make so much sense. It is a work in progress for our staff (incl senior leadership).

  14. The Voices Not Heard I am seeking teacher reflections on the current issues we face in education. As a retired principal and educational consultant in low performing schools, I have been repeatedly asked to explain the logic behind the ever changing initiatives, the inability to hire and keep great teachers, the inequity in funding, the fragmentation in curriculum across this country, the overwhelming amount of standardized testing, the lack of sustained professional development for teachers, etc. I have my PhD in Education and lead a high poverty, low performing elementary school to academic recognition. Currently, I am consulting and adjunct teaching for University of Va. and Sothern Regional Education Board. I have authored a successful book, “Poverty is NOT a Learning Disability” and now I am beginning to write a book that will recognize and HEAR the voices of those who have the answers, the educators in the classrooms.
    If you have ever asked, “ WHY do we do this when doing it this way makes so much more sense”, I would like to hear from you. I am not talking about huge expenditure projects; I AM talking about common sense, and perhaps out of the box, approaches.
    We can all agree that teachers should be paid commensurate with the value of what we do, educate the next generations. This is not the a platform for salaries.
    If you want YOUR voice heard please email me , tish1047@comcast.net I will give mention to any ideas I use.
    Categories I am exploring include but are not limited to:
    1. Hiring/firing/evaluation/ professional development of teachers
    2. Continually changing reading/math initiatives or the “initiative of the year approach”
    3. Promotion by grade vs promotion by growth
    4. Why Johnny can’t read
    5. Why special education is not effective
    6. How do we build foundations for school?
    7. How do we lead parents to participate?
    8. What is the real role of assessment in school?
    9. What should colleges be focusing on as they prepare new teachers?
    10. How do we ensure a safe and character building environment for children?
    11. What do YOU need to be effective in the classroom?

  15. We are lucky enough to have teaching as inquiry in our New Zealand national curriculum. You can check it out here:
    I’m also the postgrad programme director at The Mind Lab by Unitec in Wellington. We offer a certificate in Digital and Collaborative Learning. The assessments for the first 16 weeks deliberate align with the inquiry cycle.

  16. Great post George. I wrote a similar such reflection wondering whether there is a place for 20 percent time for teachers in order to tinker (http://readwriterespond.com/?p=116). In the process, I came upon this example from Chris Wejr (http://chriswejr.com/2013/10/05/creating-time-for-teachers-to-tinker-with-ideas-rscon4/). I was lucky enough to be a part of a program run by the education department around Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century, however most examples of teachers tinkering and engaging with inquiry seem to be personally driven and often go unrecognised.

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