Leading learning - teaching as self inquiry
Before changing course and going into an academic career, I was on a 'principal pathway' and as such, did a masters in Educational Leadership. One of the assignments I did at that time included development of an idea of the teacher as the lead learner - 'after all', teachers are often telling their students the importance of being a lifelong learner. Later, I took those ideas and published them in 2007 in what was one of my first academic papers (that paper can be found here).
In that 2007 paper, I proposed a 'theory of practice' of the teacher showing 'leadership for learning'.
I blogged about those ideas back in 2015 (see here), however, recently I was reminded of this 2007 conceptual paper while reading a colleagues book on Teaching as Inquiry (see here for the book), as teaching as inquiry is a good way of framing 'what I was on about' in the model I proposed.
Teaching as inquiry suggests that teachers as leaders of learning become agents for change in classrooms by focusing on quite specific teaching changes to improve the outcomes for learners. That is because, teachers with an inquiry mindset "are continuously searching for refinements to their practice and are comfortable with the fact that there will inevitably be a range of outcomes in response to their efforts. Rather than searching for solutions, inquiring teachers continuously seek improvements, knowing that there are always alternative ways of doing things" (Conner, 2015, p.1).
There are a couple of things to this mindset:
- teachers must monitor and reflect critically on the impact of their decisions on student learning;
- this requires data about what is actually happening (Obi Wan Kenobi was 'right on the money' when he said to Luke: "Your eyes can deceive you, don't trust them" - our perception of an event is influenced by our past experiences and expectations);
- this data helps identify student needs;
- pedagogy is then planned based on students needs (which leads to the need for differentiation strategies);
- teachers being clear with students about what they are trying to achieve as teachers;
- teachers need to be comfortable with the responsibility and accountability for student achievement and wellbeing (Conner, 2015)
The continuous search for refinements to practice that enhance student learning outcomes implies seeking targeted pedagogical and content knowledge professional development. Although the 'state conference' remains standard fare for teacher professional development, research on teacher continuous development is clear that 'one off events' are not effective professional development unless the sessions attended are directly connected with the individual teachers ongoing professional development plan for targeted pedagogical improvement. To this end, it has been great to see schools increasingly adopting the practice of teacher personal learning plans, on site communities of practice to support teacher's accountability to their personal learning plans, extended communities of practice through regional teacher meets and online forums, and the use of internal and external facilitators of teacher pedagogical learning.
Developing as more effective teachers means taking action and responsibility for pedagogical change that makes a difference to learners (Conner, 2015). I believe this means continually learning more about self as teacher, and this is why I placed learning about self as the centre of leadership for learning.