As a national facilitator for the ICTPD programme, I am in a privaledged position, seeing the best of what is happening in schools around NZ. In most schools, teaching as inquiry is used to guide practice, in varying degrees, from the casual “our teachers are constantly inquiring into what they do” to the formalised approach and expectations that the inquiry is documented, mentored and reflected upon.
I favour the formal approach, prioritising teaching as inquiry and embedding it within a schools PLD programme. We know that the NZC outlines teaching as inquiry as being integral to effective pedagogy, well supported by research and it shouldn’t be left to chance.
As teachers inquiry into their practice they focus on 3 questions:
- What is important (and therefore worth spending time on), given where my students are at?
- What strategies (evidence-based) are most likely to help my students learn this?
- What happened as a result of the teaching, and what are the implications for future teaching?
Often this is interpreted as a deficit model, looking at under achieving students or a weak curriculum area within a class or school. Without question these students are priorities for any school and the responsibility to progress these students is non-negotiable.
However, an alternative approach to this is appreciative inquiry, which when embedded in classroom practice has the same intent of raising achievement and outcomes, but takes a different approach:
AI is based on the assumption that organizations change in the way they inquire — an organization that inquires into problems or difficult situations will keep finding more of the same, but an organization that tries to appreciate what is best in itself will find more and more of what works well. Source
AI is framed around a four step process…
- DISCOVER: The identification of organizational processes that work well, focusing on strengths, best practices, and values.
- DREAM: The envisioning of future states and processes that could work well in the future, given the nature and capabilities of the organization.
- DESIGN: The planning, design, and prioritizing of processes and aspects of the organization that could realize the dream.
- DESTINY: Implementation planning of the proposed design and action planning to strengthen the capability of the system to sustain ongoing positive change. Source
This table compares a problem solving approach/deficit model to a AI approach, adapted here from a Wikipedia entry. The difference is in the way questions are asked about a situation, envisioning the future and building on what works rather than fixing what doesn’t.
|Problem Solving||Appreciative Inquiry|
|Felt Need: Identification of problem/s||Appreciating: Valuing the best of what is|
|Analysis of causes||Envisioning what might be|
|Analysis of possible solutions||Dialoguing what should be|
|Action planning (treatment)||Innovating what will be|
|Basic assumption: A problem to be solved||Basic assumption: A miracle to be embraced|
What could this mean for you as a teacher or school leader?
- Both approaches of inquiring into practice have the same intent of improving achievement for both student and teachers.
- Elements of AI can be embedded into a traditional inquiry into practice where teachers identify their course of action i.e. What strategies (evidence-based = the best of what is… successful…) are most likely to help my students learn this?
- AI is known primarily as a process for managing institutional change, so look at the potential of using it beyond classroom practice to the greater goals of the school i.e. appreciative inquiry could work brilliantly when visioning and looking at long term strategic direction for a school, complimented by classroom based teacher inquiries.
- If you are a high functioning school and consistently have great achievement data try AI to really focus in on why this is happening and how you can build in it
- Consider trying an alternating scenario where you have a more common deficit inquiry approach one year followed by an appreciative approach the next, or any similar schedule
- Are your teachers lacking motivation or engagement in unpacking what they are not doing well…? Celebrate success through an AI approach to professional knowledge building
One ICTPD cluster has shared its approach to appreciative inquiry and drafted templates to mould the NZC teaching as inquiry into an AI framework. Have a look on the Te Apiti cluster site to find out more.
This post has only skimmed the surface of what is a really interesting and relevant context for approaching teaching as inquiry with direct links to effectively pedagogy. I would encourage you to explore it further.