Professional Learning and Appraisal at ASHS

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The Process

ASHS-PI-step-by-step3 ver2.png


We started with a strong belief that given the right learning environment, and with rigorous professional inquiry, we could ensure academic success for all our students. The data we were seeing to begin with however, did not appear to match this belief. As a learning community we decided to use research to inform a system for teacher learning that would continue to challenge any of our problematic beliefs about students and provide effective teaching and learning solutions that might be different from what we'd done in the past. The professional inquiry is a process that continues to be developed as we learn more about the relationship between teacher and student learning. It demands a high degree of challenging collaboration, data literacy and research to inform our decisions. Inquiry is at the centre of high quality professional learning. Inquiry enables us to learn about students and learn from students about the effectiveness of our teaching. It also enables us to go deep with our learning as teachers as we challenge each other's thinking, inadequate mental models and view of teacher learning and how this best works.

What is Professional Inquiry?

Inquiry is:

  • Agentic (you are in charge of your learning. It fits with the needs of your students.)
  • Collaborative (your colleagues challenge and critique your theories and you share your knowledge with cross-curricular teams, departmental teams and students)
  • Embedded (an integral part of your teaching practice)
  • Timely (so that it makes a difference to the learning of the students in front of you now)
  • Iterative (informs your future planning and your your learning journey)

Focussing Inquiry

  • Always use data from classes as your starting point. Where is the underachievement? Who are the actual students. Name them. Export data from Kamar. What current information do you have on these students? How did these students perform in this subject or similar subjects last year? What other kinds of data are your 'critical friends' encouraging you to explore? What theories are you developing to explain why the under performance has happened?
  • Our first attempt to explain any under-performance we are seeing will often be inadequate in describing the complexity of the situation. How are you developing multiple theories to explain what you are seeing? Collaboration is an essential step here - using your colleagues to question and challenge and to provide alternative theories. Refer Timperly and Robinson's paper on schema.
  • Who are the students you are focusing on? What are others suggesting about what has caused the underachievement? Triangulate between conversation, observation and products. Talk to students. Use these feedback tools to get their comments on what worked and didn't work for them.
  • Identify the real cause of the problem. Are you using single loop or double-loop learning?
    Double loop learning.png
    Inquiry is underpinned by the process of 'double-loop' learning. This requires us to question underlying assumptions and beliefs as part of our decision-making process. Single loop learning has often been compared to a thermostat in that it makes a "decision" to either turn off or on. Double loop learning is like a thermostat that asks "why" - is this a good time to switch settings? Double loop learning looks at context (which may include our problematic mental models) and questions its own underlying assumptions in order to make the wisest decision. For instance if your inquiry is about homework, single loop learning would look at strategies to increase homework completion, but double loop learning would look at whether students are engaged with, or understand the material being covered in the homework.
  • Given the theory you eventually settle on, identify the particular learning needs of the students. This ensures that the interventions will be useful for them.

Teaching Inquiry

It is vital to ensure that the strategies we are employing have a sound, peer-reviewed research base. There are a wealth of different databases you can use to research strategies. For instance:

Teaching and Learning

  • You will have one appraiser each year although each professional inquiry should have multiple collaborators and sources of feedback, data and guidance. These may be colleagues, SSLs, TLs, students the SCT and members of SLT.
  • Observations. If you need time to observe other teachers using strategies you would like to learn more about, talk to SLT about getting cover for your classes. What feedback did you get from your observation? 

Learning Inquiry

What happened for the students as a result of your inquiry? Did the chosen intervention(s) raise outcomes? How do you know? Have you used triangulated evidence to assess outcomes? (Conversation, observation and products.)
The implications
Your reflections on your inquiries and what you have learned from them should be recorded in your (e) portfolio.

  1. What are the sustained changes you will take into your future practice?
  2. How might this impact on your next inquiry?

How can you share your learnings with internal and external colleagues? Think of Tuesday morning presentations, Ignite, subject conferences, online learning communities and youtube.

How we support each other in our inquiries

We operate on a three week cycle to maximise opportunities for effective peer collaboration. One week is for working individually, the next for collaborating with cross-curricular teams, and the last for collaborating with departments. We share our learning from inquiries weekly on Tuesday mornings and present at the end of term to each other on our own learning, the learning for students and the relationship between our actions and student outcomes.

External PLD components of professional learning

SLT and Team Leaders

BOT funded post graduate educational studies.

Useful learning:

  • data analysis
  • educational change
  • whole school professional learning
  • educational leadership

A school culture of professional learning

Developing a whole school approach to professional learning has included the development of structures and processes (such as personalised learning programmes and close monitoring of students through tutorials) shared understandings and commitment on the part of all staff to moving outside our comfort zones when collaborating and processing data and ideas. We have developed and continued to refine a responsive system and culture around professional learning that will continue to adapt as we learn. It has also provided us with chances to practice our learning in a way that challenges us but also improves outcomes for our students.

Staff-developed resources

Professional Inquiry practice gems from 2016.