Daily Archives: August 16, 2008


What does traditional Professional Development look like? (workshops, conferences, staff meetings, seminars) The features of this approach (which many teachers still view as the only way to update their professional skills and knowledge) seem to be:

  • With an expert
  • A set time, place and duration
  • Handouts with step-by-step instructions
  • Responsibility for learning lies with the facilitator (as in if they are good,” I learnt a lot from that presenter today.”)
  • Everyone in the session experiences the same journey
  • Obtain a solution / formula / approach that can be used tomorrow, a pre-constructed toolbox
    “small picture” solutions or “big picture” gospel
  • Delivered by local “experts” or well known international “gurus”
  • Top down

So, what’s the alternative? What differentiates contemporary professional learning from the traditional? Which new (and not so new) approaches should educators be seeking out? So could this mindset look like this?

  • Anyone or anything is a source of learning
  • You build your own toolbox
  • Equal partnership with others in learning
  • Professional/ Personal Learning Network as a source of professional dialogue
  • Apply inquiry learning principles to oneself as a learner
  • Sharing from but beyond your own classroom
  • Learn by teaching others
  • Small bite-sized snippets “just in time” (video clips, screencasts, mini-tutorials)
  • Continual learning and re-learning (free ranging)
  • Zoom in and out between “small” and “big picture”
  • Learning through networked discovery (as in many ideas / concepts are discovered through connection, rather than strategically planned for)

How's that look for starters?

These are my raw notes from my two days working along with my colleagues with inquiry learning exponent, Kath Murdoch, whom I've blogged about last year. Any reflections are in italics - anything I write regarding the topic of inquiry tends to viewed through the lense of the challenging ideas and questions posed by Artichoke, from whom I have learnt to be critical about any approach rather than adopting the default gospel approach favoured by many educators. The other thing about these notes are that the Friday sessions were presented for the whole staff (and other schools) so logically would normally be taken in first followed by the Assessment day next - but because it was a smaller, more experienced group attending on the Thursday, the main focus was reversed.

Learner-centred assessment in the inquiring classroom

What can I do to maximise my learning today? Record my thinking so that I can use the main ideas effectively. I also want to seek out some resolutions to the tensions between what I am reading from others and our school’s identified direction.

Can’t do inquiry well without self assessment, can start by setting learning goals at the beginning of a lesson - possible short term goals are set out and the student reflects at the end whether or to what degree their goals have been achieved, kids need lots of practice to self assess.

Short discussion around our table.

Why do we assess students? To “measure” progress, to determine future needs and support, to gain prior knowledge, guide teaching & learning, find out level of understanding, judgement of growth, monitoring students “felt” practice. Ultimate goal of assessment to improve student learning (NZ Curriculum statement)

Looking at student-centred assessment. Summative assessment cannot be the ultimate evaluation, going to need to know what the students have achieved along the way and that summative assessment is just “the icing on the cake”.

Whole group activity ~ joining two halves of mixed up statements together. We then had to find a statement that posed a challenge for us.

Is inquiry learning something we do to students but fail to use for our own learning?

Negotiated curriculum is a two way street – I, as the teacher, hare a say in this as well. We can overdo the student voice angle and the students can see it as only their initiation.

Revisiting the features of an inquiry based classroom

Clear, explicit learning intentions (know, do and be), explicit and co-constructed success criteria, prior learning and subsequent planning,pedagogy that encourages continual ‘revelation’ of thinking and understanding (especially though strategic questioning), formative and summative assessment tasks embedded in units – assessment AS learning.

Self and peer assessment ~ as well as teacher led.

There is a tension between UbD and Inquiry learning. The final assessment task does not need to be “set in concrete” ~ although UbD defines this as an important destination point. Weave in relevant ICT goals into unit planning. What will reasonable evidence of understanding look like?

Many tools can be used along the way. Sorting out our thinking - using the Strongly Agree / Strongly Disagree continuum line. Other methods include diamond ranking (see Kath’s books for more summative tools)

Friday Notes

Teaching and Learning through Inquiry

Broaden and deepen our understanding of inquiry learning, how to teach and plan. Teachers’ responsibility is to create educational environments, “ Teach me how to do it myself.” Challenged us to think of ourselves as learners and set a goal for the day, then identify the strategies / steps to achieve those goals. We want our students to have the skills and strategies to solve a problem.

One tool is a set of cards that outline possible goals for learning for students ~ Students can pull one out of the pack to focus on during the lesson. All children bring experiences to the classroom, what do we do to remove the desire to ask questions? The big turnaround for an inquiry classroom is that the learners ask the questions, not the teacher.

(An example of bad questioning!!)

Examples of Student Questions - Why do dogs have faces? Why do popcorns turn into different shapes? How come your eyes don’t fall out when you bend over?

True inquiry develops around questions. Questions are borne of curiosity. What can I teach my kids about questions? Question out loud in front of your students. At the beginning of an inquiry, use a strategy to establish prior knowledge. Structure task so there has to be some justification of choice.

Knowledge is elastic and flexible - not fixed.

What do we mean by an “integrated approach”?  A sustained learning sequence in which students investigate a rich question/ topic / issue about the physical/social/ personal world, making authentic connections across the curriculum, long or short term, ongoing planning, embedded assessment. You need multiple examples for the students to examine, multiple sources of data to sort, and looking for connections, need to help some kids to “connect the dots” so that they do move from shallow to deep.

I was very interested and pleased to hear a shift in Kath's thinking from last year and an acknowledgement that the internet has more to offer than a vast unmoderated information mine.