Ripples & Reflections

"Learning is about living, and as such is lifelong." Elkjaer.


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Tankyuu (探 究): A Quest for Teacher Professional Inquiry

One of our big projects over the last few years has been to shift the focus of professional learning and goal setting from competence in the programmes and practices into genuine teacher inquiry. As a lot of foundational work had been done in curriculum, assessment and differentiation practices; it was time build on this and create opportunities for teachers to focus their own professional growth through inquiry. We’re now in our third year of the process, and this post is a summary so far. A lot has gone into this process, and there is bound to be something forgotten in the post. 

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Context

We’re an international school in Kobe, Japan. With 600+ kids from ages 3-18 and around 80 faculty. We have IB PYP, MYP & DP, as well as our own Pathways programme in high school. Although the school had been running IBDP for many years, PYP and MYP were much younger, and so a lot of teacher effort had gone into getting the programmes up and running (including shifts in curriculum, assessment and differentiation).

We’re pretty well funded for professional learning with consultants visiting each year for workshops, teachers heading out on workshops and conferences and a personal PD application fund for continued study. We are also very fortunate to have two-hour PD sessions every Wednesday (early dismissal), so that a lot of development and PD work can be accomplished in protected time.

There’s a pretty robust teacher evaluation system, though it can always be improved (and is an operational action item for this year). While the school was in the implementation phase, teacher goals were very structured, focusing on curriculum, differentiation, etc. As the programmes and practices became more embedded, it became clear that we could do better by tapping into teachers’ own interests, expertise and passions in professional learning. One year we gifted teachers Hattie’s Visible Learning for Teachers, and encouraged groups to form around issues it rose, or topics worthy of investigation (not as a handbook, but a signpost). The next we encouraged Teacher Learning Communities (TLC’s) to form around other books or ideas. This started to generate more questions, more inspiring projects.

In 2014-15 we had the Strategic Planning process for the school, setting the Vision and goals for the school until 2020. We needed a professional learning strategy to complement our mission of inquiry, reflection and compassionate action and that would meet the vision of becoming a vibrant international learning community that fosters creativity, personal fulfilment and local and global collaboration in a compassionate, adaptive environment.

Education Victoria’s (Australia) Seven Principals for Effective Professional Learning (pdf here) were critical in developing the projects further: a teacher-empowering, research-based, student-centred, practical (useful), collaborative and supported expedition into teacher inquiry.

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