Collaborative inquiry and working that challenges thinking and practice

In a Community of Learning | Kāhui Ako, the focus of collaboration is on improving outcomes for students through changes in instructional practice. Collaboration involves working together on shared challenges that have been identified through the use of evidence.

Effective collaboration engages participants in ongoing cycles of inquiry:

>   identifying what is going on for students in relation to valued  outcomes

> using credible evidence, identifying a problem of practice that will stretch existing knowledge and capacity but also be manageable

> designing, trying out and testing changes in practice that are aimed at solving the identified problem

> accumulating evidence of impact, refining or discarding ideas based on evidence of their effectiveness, embedding changes that prove to be effective into daily practice

>   identifying the next student-related challenge.19


Effective collaboration is characterised by dense, frequent sharing of knowledge among participants, with the aim of addressing the identified challenges. Members of highly effective groups interact frequently among themselves, focusing on refining and consolidating professional practice. They also connect outwards, to gain new knowledge that will complement what they already know and to maintain connections with, and actively participate in, larger  networks.20

Educators experience increased efficacy and agency when leaders provide opportunities and support for engaging in collaborative inquiry and when they ensure that participants at all levels have a voice in how inquiry processes are set up and work.21


Examples of effective practice

> Community members have a clear, shared vision and purpose and a compelling agenda for change.

> Leaders and teachers are data literate: asking focused questions, using relevant data, clarifying purposes, recognising sound evidence, developing understanding of statistical concepts, engaging in thoughtful interpretation and evidence-informed conversations.22

>  Appropriate tools and methods are used to gather, store and retrieve a range of valid data.

> The community engages in cycles of collaborative inquiry for the purpose of improving instructional practice.

>   Researchers and practitioners work together to identify  problems

of practice and performance measures and to design, test and refine improvement actions.

> Participants engage in focused interaction and dense, frequent knowledge sharing that contributes to the consolidating and refining of practice.

> The community connects outwards to access new ideas and the expertise needed to support improvement and innovation.

> Timely access to appropriate expertise builds capability for ongoing improvement and innovation.

> Community collaboration enriches opportunities for students to become confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners.



19        Rincon-Gallardo, S., & Fullan, M. (2015). The social physics of educational change: Essential features of collaboration. Draft for comment prepared for the Ministry of  Education.

20        Chapman, C., & Muijs, D. (2014). Does school-to-school collaboration promote school improvement? A study of the impact of school federations on student outcomes. School Effectiveness and Improvement, 25 (3),  351–393.

21        Butler, D., Schnellert, L., & MacNeil, K. (2015). Collaborative inquiry and distributed agency in educational change: A case study of a multi-level community of inquiry. Journal of Educational Change 16, 1–26.

22       Earl, L., & Timperley, H. (2009). Understanding how evidence and learning conversations work. In L. Earl & H. Timperley (Eds), Professional learning conversations: Challenges in using evidence for improvement. Cambridge: Springer.