Here are some highlights from my experience in implementing Spirals of Inquiry with leaders and teachers at a secondary school this year. Some are quotes from their Story Hui evaluations and others are points made by me.
Scanning design and integrity is important to ensure we discover things we never knew before.
“I was shocked by what learner voice showed us in Scanning...shocked at what some students said. I thought I knew them and that they knew me.
"I was a little shocked with what they said, it made me take a second take about how I am working with the students, presenting myself. It made me step back and check my assumptions.”
“Their responses floored me. I was surprised at how they saw themselves and how they saw learning”
Building Collaboration and Trust
In my facilitation and mentoring I put a strong emphasis on building good relationships across the teams and on fostering collaborative inquiries. Trust is a key factor in this. I emphasise the importance of building strong teams with effective professional relationships. At Fraser people came together from different faculties to engage in collaborative inquiries.
"I see it as true collaboration which is not what I have experienced in the past".
"Across-school team building and networking has been enabled. I wouldn’t have worked with some people if this wasn’t happening. It has been powerful to come at the same problem from different directions. This gives you a sense of different peoples realities in a school (we have different learning environments and different things to offer)".
In my facilitation and mentoring I ensure that teams are building deliberate spaces to consider their practices and to ask “what is leading to this situation?”. I find that the Hunch phase is the most powerful if it is done well. This is often where focused inquiries emerge.
Part of looking at our own practices requires that the process enables teachers to safely challenge their assumptions and confront themselves and each other about their practices. This means supporting leaders to foster ongoing development of inquiry mindsets in staff.
"Challenging the assumptions that I had was confronting but not scary, being in the little group helped to not make it scary - the fact that I wasn’t just one person doing it, there were people around me who were also delving deep. It was good to change the way I looked at what I was doing."
"The '5 whys' and the hunch phase was a real turning point for me."
Engaging with research and examples of practices to find out what we don’t know before deciding on what to do is key as we venture into the Learning phase. I often refer to initial "scattergun learning" followed by in depth learning once we are more certain about the direction we are heading in.
It is hard to set goals for change in practice without first exploring the area in which we plan to change. Research and extensive reading is a key driver of change. This might include looking around at what other schools are doing.
"A couple of students commented that they thought I didn’t care about them or listen to them - so I tried to make those things more explicit. The other thing that came out, that I was teaching my subject but not making links to the real world - when i asked them what links they saw, several of them said none. So for the rest of the year I tried to link things to how they connect to the real world."
“So, now I want to start next year on the ground running, the first 2-3 lessons we will look at growth mindset, getting the kids set up, getting to know the students better and setting goals. I want to inspire the students rather than making them think they have to do this. Getting growth mindset resources, and then work with the students for the first initial time, so it will be really interesting when I do my first lot of scanning to see what the difference is in their responses.”