Teaching as Inquiry

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Below is an explanation of how teaching as Inquiry could be used to create an 'E-learning Action Plan' so as to support teachers as their practice evolves to include more e-learning strategies.

(This is based on the work completed by Claire Amos at Epsom Girls Grammar School during the ICTPD contract period 2011-2012)

During 2011 and 2012 I have been responsible for leading school wide ICT professional development for over 120 teaching staff. My approach for leading this has been underpinned throughout by the NZC and more specifically Teaching as Inquiry so as to ensure that all ICT professional development is focused on teaching and learning and the specific needs of students rather than being about the ICT tool and strategy. I also believe Teaching as Inquiry enables teachers to contextualize their personal professional development and supports a ‘learning to learn’ approach and provides a means of differentiating professional development to meet the needs of the teacher and enable greater ownership of the process.

ICT PD 2011 – Using Teaching as Inquiry to support an e-learning action plan

The intention of using a Teaching as Inquiry cycle to inform an 'E-Learning Action Plan' was to provide staff across the curriculum areas with a tool and a process to guide their integration of e-learning tools and strategies in way that was directly related to student outcomes. It was hoped that this process would both support the teacher in their planning, provide a plan that would signal the areas that they needed ICT PD support in, and also provide a level of accountability as 'E-learning Action Plans' were published and shared. The main aim and purpose of this process was to keep the focus primarily on the student and their learning and not the ICT tool and/or strategy.

Method, Interventions and Actions

Learning Areas were expected to undertake a year-long Teaching as Inquiry project to support ICTPD professional learning communities/groups. This would allow Learning Areas to contextualise the ICT PD to meet the needs of their specific learning area. All ICTPD would still be guided by the national ICTPD and school goals and LADS and e-mentors worked closely with the Director of e-learning to assure a focus on how we can improve student engagement through the integration of ICT strategies to enhance:

a) Student centred learning

b) Strong learning relationships between teachers, students and caregivers

Since any teaching strategy works differently in different contexts for different students, effective pedagogy requires that teachers inquire into the impact of their teaching on their students.

Inquiry into the teaching–learning relationship can be visualised as a cyclical process that goes on moment by moment (as teaching takes place), day by day, and over the longer term. (NZCp.35)

Summary of key results

Impact on students/teachers/whanau:

The impact on students is hard to measure within a one or two year cycle. Several professional learning communities gathered feedback from students through evaluation forms and discussion. Students were particularly positive in regards to having access to resources and activities online and anecdotal evidence would suggest that there is an increased expectation that teachers will "put that on Moodle" or provide online means of students completing tasks. Student responses have been recorded in some of the Learning Area E-learning Action plans/PLG reports that can be accessed through the links below.

The impact on teachers has been noticeable and feedback gathered at different points of the year would suggest that teachers have increased their understanding and appreciation of the possible advantages of integrating e-learning into their teaching practice.

Drawn Conclusions and next steps

Much of what we achieved in 2011 was viewed as successful, therefore we continued with the process of using a 'Teaching as Inquiry to inform an e-learning action plan', and continued with the support structure of a dedicated e-mentor in each Learning Area.

However, after feedback was gathered from staff and curriculum leaders within the school, we decided we would like the ICT PD in 2012 to focus more directly on the relationship between the Key Competencies (Thinking), Effective Pedagogy (Differentiation and Collaboration) and e-learning.

Three key areas of focus for 2012:

Establishing online classroom environments on Moodle for all courses.
Encouraging students to bring and use ‘student owned devices’.
Completing another cycle of a Teaching as Inquiry e-learning action plan with a greater focus on Key competencies (to ensure we continue to reflect and question the effect of integrating e-learning and ICTs).

The overarching ICTPD structure remained the same:

PLGs will be in Learning Areas
PLGs will be formed to meet the needs of each Learning Area
Each PLG will complete an E-learning Action Plan based on the topic focus of their choice
Each learning Area will have an allocated e-mentor
All staff will be offered a number of ICT PD workshops based on their needs
All staff will have access to a range of online ICTPD that can be accessed at any time

The focus changed:

2011 – Student Outcomes informed the ‘e-learning action plan’

2012 – Key Competencies (thinking) and Effective Pedagogy (collaboration, differentiation) will inform the ‘e-learning action plan’

Changes to PD delivery:

Most “tools and software” workshops will be available online rather than face-to-face workshops.
Most “ICT PD workshops” slots will be Learning Area/PLG based and led by e-mentors to allow for focus on the teaching and learning rather than the tool.
More time will be dedicated to teachers having time to develop their own resources

ICT PD 2012 – Using Teaching as Inquiry to support an e-learning action plan

2012 is about consolidating the work we have done in 2011. We continued to use the teaching as inquiry cycle to inform an e-learning action plan. There now a more explicit focus on key competencies, with a particular focus on how thinking skills can be developed, collaborative practices and differentiation, and how this can be supported through the integration of ICT in and beyond the classroom.

(Greater focus on specific aspects of Key Competencies)

Focussing Inquiry

What aspect of ‘thinking’ do I want to focus on?

Which class/group of students do I want focus on?

Thinking might include:

  • divergent thinking
  • creative thinking
  • critical literacy
  • digital literacy
  • information literacy skills
  • questioning skills

Teaching and Learning Inquiry

What strategies (evidence-based) are most likely to help my students learn this?
In this teaching inquiry, the teacher uses evidence from research and from their own past practice and that of colleagues to plan teaching and learning opportunities aimed at achieving the outcomes prioritised in the focusing inquiry.

What are the collaborative and differentiation strategies that will best support thinking?

  • differentiation e.g. RAFT activities, tiered activities, student choice etc
  • collaboration - co-construction of text, bus stop activities etc

What are the specific ICT tools (or combination of ICT tools) and/or strategies that will best support the aspect of effective pedagogy I am focusing on:

  • Moodle - which specific resources and/or activities
  • Google Apps
  • MyPortfolio
  • Other tools and software

Teaching and learning

Teaching and Learning takes place - ICT Strategies are implemented into the classroom

i.e. Moodle course pages are used in and beyond the classroom to support differentiation and/or collaboration and learning activities that support specific aspects of thinking and developing key competencies.

Learning Inquiry

What happened as a result of the teaching, and what are the implications for future teaching?
In this learning inquiry, the teacher investigates the success of the teaching in terms of the
prioritised outcomes, using a range of assessment approaches. They do this both while learning activities are in progress and also as longer-term sequences or units of work come to an end. They then analyse and interpret the information to consider what they should do next.

i.e. Have you increased/improved your pedagogy and developed strategies that support collaboration and differentiation through the use of specific ICT tools and strategies? Have you raised levels of thinking? How? Why? Why not?