Monday, January 14, 2019

Reflections on the Spiral of Inquiry from Hudiksvall Sweden

Linda with Bjorn Gundstrom
Comments at the end of the day

A couple of years ago Lillemor Renhberg from Uppsala University brought a group of researchers to BC and through their visits to schools they learned about the Spiral of Inquiry. This opened up a new network of connections and now the start of NOIIE Sweden.
Earlier this month, Linda and I had the chance over two days to introduce 500 Swedish educators to the Spiral of Inquiry in Hudiksvall, Sweden. We loved the group, the town (especially the white candle lights everywhere) and the connections. We also learned that some English acronyms don't translate perfectly into Swedish. To our great amusement we learned that in Sweden, B.C. is understood as Before Christ, not British Columbia! Nevertheless, the concept of the spiral seems to make sense wherever we go. 
One of the educators in Hudiksvall was Ingela Netz. Ingela is not only a passionate principal, she is also an active blogger and twitter user. After the session she wrote a post on her blog and with huge thanks to Mia Moutray from Nechako Lakes School District we share Ingela's observations here:

Swedish article published on January 9 2019 by Ingela Netz
Translated to English by Mia Moutray

The Adventure: The Spiral of Inquiry

This thing with conferences, workshops and professional development for school staff is not easy. What is actually needed in order for a one- or two-day conference will guarantee to return more than acknowledgement, inspiration or provocation in that particular moment? How many times have we all left these thinking that “I’ll do that” but then never get around to it.  
The whole point with professional development is that it should generate new, broader or deeper learning which, in turn, leads to positive effects of the core element: our learners’ learning. It, in turn, demands just not inspiration to want a change but also time to reflect about where one is situated in the knowing and understanding, what of one’s understanding needs to be revised as well as reflect on the insight of the importance to gather courage to not just talkdifferently but also dodifferently. One also needs time to think about how to prioritize differently as well as remove hinders that are obstacles of the new or different.
There is also an aspect of “copy and paste” which can make one of the most inspiring methods or ways of working (you know when you leave a conference or workshop feeling how you RIGHT NOW want to implement exactly the same thing in your own learning environment) completely bomb after some poor attempts to copy that strategy or technique in your own setting. 
“Inquiry is not an initiative. Inquiry is what great teams do.”
There is no quick fix for school development. There are no right or wrong, nor simple, answers to what educators should do in a particular situation. The simple reason is that every situation is unique. They may seem the same on the surface, but they all evolve in different contexts, with different teachers, with different students, in different learning environments, at different times of the day, with different frameworks, possibilities and solutions. Therefore, it is in that unique context where the answers should be explored and researched, by those who live that context right now. 
So why am I on fire from have been to yet another day long conference?
The reason is that Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser have been giving trust and energy to educators, principals, superintendents, and politicians in Hudiksvall (and area). A humble yet determined encouragement to take action to put roles and positions aside and instead all together dig in and explore their own practice with curiousity and honest exploration. Their own practice is the one that is focused on student learning. Where learning happens. It is therefore a hidden call to action to the players in the upper part of the hierarchy to let go of control  and to let educators, the ones that interact and work with students daily, gather information, choose focus, reflect on their impact, ask students, explore new ways of working together, try these new ways and then evaluate what happened. 
Not all at the same time and definitely not the same way.
Small, thoughtful whirls of research and inquiry spread like rings on the water, make new rings and eventually create movement that actually make changes on a deeper level. 
This is what Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser give as well: A steadfast academic base. Deep and wide research in close collaboration with Helen Timperley for several years. One cannot just ignore this kind of thing. Instead, we need to lean on this and feel a deep, warm affirmation that those seemingly small interactions where we speak to and about our learners, how we genuinely believe in their capabilities, and how we let them support our learning through their reflections and experiences of the learning environment, are neither small nor pointless. They in fact determine our direction and the decisions we make on all levels in our education system. 
So, a one day conference is a beginning. Little whirls of inquiry are next. A wave of learning environments and networking will follow. The adventure has just begun.  
Linda and Judy with Bitte Astrom and Lillemor Renhberg
Lillemor Renhberg introducing the session in  Hudiksvall.