I try to practice what I preach. That's why this year, when I was asked to take on a small team leader role for the Future Focused Inquiries team, I asked the team what they thought about us developing a collaborative team inquiry into our own facilitation practices. They were keen as mustard (because they are so fabulous) and we began a journey to explore our practices using Spirals of Inquiry.
We set up a private GoogleSite for the team and we nutted out the process together. We then spent all of the first term and a lot of the second term this year observing each other in action, and asking any other colleagues to observe us too. We kept observations loose with no specific criteria to begin with - that was a risk but it has paid off. As we were observed and given general feedback we gathered our reflections on our own pages within our team site.
This was our initial WHY:
Team Inquiry: Building our capability to facilitate FFI clients to utilise the spirals of inquiry as a tool for equity and innovation
Our Team Inquiry emerged from our scanning phase and is underpinned by the Vision, Principles, Key Competencies, and Values of the New Zealand Curriculum. Our work also aligns to the 7 Principles for Innovative teaching and learner success (The “Seven Principles of Learning” are taken from the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI), a subsidiary of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).)
We realise the power of professional learning and its impact on learning communities (leaders, teachers and learners, whānau/aiga etc)
Half way through the year I worked with the team to look over all of our reflections and observations and other notes and thoughts in order to try to focus our inquiries. We spent time together looking across our own data and each other's data about our practices to look for themes. We found HEAPS to work on so we needed to think about how to prioritise.
We found common themes across all of our data about our facilitation and narrowed down to several areas where we could work together. We summarised them into these two key areas:
- developing our facilitation skills to help FFI clients to use cultural frameworks (such as the Talanoa model) in a range of practical contexts, adapting and extending the Spirals of Inquiry framework to include Pasifika or Māori frames and contexts
- build our capability to translate theory into practice and vice versa and to help our FFI clients to do this
Since this focusing of our team inquiry, we have continued to work with our schools and services. We've used Story Hui to evaluate using narrative inquiry and we've continued to have others observe us but this time with a narrower focus on our two team inquiry areas.
I've seen enough evidence from these continued processes of observation to feel ready to consider the Spiral phase called "Developing a Hunch". This phase is about getting deeply held beliefs and assumptions out on the table about our practice. So today I used a practice analysis process to reflect on what I have been seeing in my schools, services and clusters. This is where, as a team, we can all start to really sharply focus our inquiry because strong evidence is now bubbling up from the people we facilitate (our learners, if you like). In my case, as you read the "Hunchwork" below, you will see that what has bubbled up from my "learners" seems to be confirming the need for me to focus on building my capability to translate theory into practice and vice versa. This is so exciting for me! I am now hoping that my team mates are ready to do something similar as we deliberately move through the Spirals phases towards taking some specific actions within the Learning and Taking Action phases.
Of course, a lot of Learning and Taking Action is already taking place, but the whole point of engaging in deliberate Spirals of Inquiry is to do this in a far more disciplined and highly reflective way.
I am blogging this out to show that I practice what I preach but also to seek input from my "learners" themselves. This is the truly exciting part. I want the leaders that I work with to know that this has emerged and that I want to do something about my own practice to help to address it. I'll be sharing this blog with them at my upcoming sessions to get their input. I'll name them in this post if they give me permission but for now they will stay anonymous.
As always, I welcome your thoughts if you are reading this post!