Bluestone School - Embedding teaching as inquiry

This school was able to show a range of successful school internal evaluations and improvements including mathematics achievement, reducing bullying through restorative justice, and improving the quality of social science programmes.

This evaluation took a long-term approach to creating the enabling conditions that support both school-level internal evaluation and teaching as inquiry. The review and subsequent changes deliberately built teachers' evaluative capacity and developed a more collaborative professional culture. Achievement data has shown the positive impact of these changes.

 

In 2012, the principal was concerned that internal evaluation was driven by 'policy, procedures and surveys' with a focus on operations within the school, rather than on lifting student achievement.

The teachers gather copious amounts of information, feedback, and data on many areas of school life. Perhaps we were collecting too much data. - Principal.

Noticing

What is happening here?

What is the problem or issue here?

During a sabbatical that year, the principal read widely and visited a number of schools with sound internal evaluation practices.

He decided that Teaching as Inquiry was a powerful way of embedding high quality internal evaluation into teaching practice, and to increase the focus on student outcomes.

Investigating and collaborative sense making

What does good practice look like?

The principal proposed this focus to the board and staff, and brought in leaders from schools that had successfully implemented teaching as inquiry to support his case. Teachers, leaders and the board agreed to implement Teaching as Inquiry over a three-year timeframe.

Prioritising to take action

What do we need to do and why?

The principal, with an external adviser, developed a guideline resource for staff that provided templates, prompts and probes to support teachers to inquire deeply into the impact of their teaching. These guidelines outlined processes to support teachers to:

  • monitor the impact of teaching strategies and approaches on the student target groups
  • reflect on next teaching action to share at team discussions about student targets and progress
  • reflect on professional readings or observations
  • discuss with the principal how Teaching as Inquiry has impacted their teaching and on the progress of their students.

In 2013 an external expert supported teachers to understand the Teaching as Inquiry process. Professional journals were introduced along with strategies for gathering and analysing multiple sources of data, and for using data for improvement.

In 2014 the focus was on working collaboratively to embed processes through:

  • building team leaders' capability
  • understanding and unpacking data
  • deepening the talk about teacher effectiveness
  • de-privatising classroom practice
  • extending teacher engagement in professional reading through analysis and discussion.

Team leaders were supported to develop leadership skills, including asking the right questions. They also trialled new strategies and approaches with their own classes and discussed the success of these with their team.

In 2015 the external facilitator continues to coach leaders.

What could we do that would help us to improve outcomes for all learners?

What support do we need to do this?

What resources do we need?

How big is the change we are planning? How do we approach

it in a way that is manageable for leaders and teachers?

What are our next steps?

What strengths do we have to draw on?

Teacher reflection records are used to facilitate discussions between the principal and teachers in learning conversations for appraisal.

The principal meets with each teacher twice a year, and uses a set of agreed questions to prompt the teachers to explain their reflections and actions outlined in their professional journal.

Teacher conversations indicate that Teaching as Inquiry has become a key part of school evaluation. By streamlining the activities and providing templates and prompts, internal evaluation processes and thinking have been embedded into different layers of the school and are integral to thinking about practice.

Monitoring and evaluating impact

How are we doing?

The school's professional culture changed. Teachers talk about a greater sense of collegiality and trust. They are used to asking questions about their practice. Teachers use research about effective practice and are able to engage in deeper reflection, critical conversations and more robust use of data. Conversations between the principal and teachers are frank, which is an indication of relational trust.

At each board meeting time is dedicated to looking at student achievement data, prepared by the associate principal. Achievement reports show the analysis of longitudinal data (trends) and cohort tracking. Laminated prompt cards are used to assist trustees to ask challenging questions about the achievement reports. Board reports from the principal share a record of ongoing actions undertaken for each charter goal throughout the year.

Students' concerns and ideas are sought through the junior and senior school councils' classroom circle discussion, surveys (such as a bullying survey) and comments made to and shared by parents. Although improved student achievement and progress can't be attributed to one aspect alone, improvements are evident.

The number of children achieving at or above the National Standards in mathematics and reading have increased.

What evidence do we have of improvement?

What are we learning here?

Can we use this learning in other places?

 

Standard

At or above 2012

At or above 2014

Reading

74%

78.8%

Writing

70%

75.5%