We particularly enjoyed seeing the enthusiasm of the school teams in explaining the focus of their inquiries with parents and colleagues from all the district schools in an evening session at North island Secondary School. Last fall was the first time such an event took place and the teams were understandably a bit nervous about how the evening would go. What a difference a year of focused effort and support can make. The conversations were rich, the questions were probing and new learning was evident. There is still a long way to go before North Island meets its own goals of every learner crossing the stage with dignity, purpose and options, but the momentum is certainly growing.
We asked Scott Benwell to tell us what he thought it took for a district to create a real culture of inquiry,
Here's some of what he said:
A culture of inquiry in a district needs to be intentionally and intelligently designed. Necessary elements of the design are:
a. High quality learning experiences for all (Parents, community, students, staff, leadership).
b. Public performances and celebrations of learning together.
c. Clear and repetitive expectations at all levels including Board of Education.
2. As the narrative in a district begins to change toward a culture of inquiry, leadership needs to point to examples, nurture the emerging practices, and engage with early adopters. Where leaders spend time counts.
3. The ambitions for what will be accomplished through an inquiry mindset must find their articulations through the important artifacts and documents in the organization. In SD85 the required School Plan is based on the inquiry project. Trustee visits to schools are focussed on the inquiry project and the school plan.
4. Peer review of Inquiry Projects. In order to share and broaden leadership within the district, a peer review process for inquiry grants is essential.
5. It is essential to provide robust support for professional growth within the frame of inquiry to really ensure that inquiry becomes a 'way of life.'
One of the especially interesting aspects of the North Island evening was that schools were asked to share their work as emergent. This meant that on their display board were the first phases of the spiral - scanning, focusing, hunching, and new learning - with space left to add for the spring showcase the final phases- taking action, checking, and then scanning again. This reinforced the understanding that inquiry is an on-going process with one area of focus leading to the next - a real spiral of inquiry!
Images from North Island inquiry evening