Professional learning: Inquiry & action research

Dan Pink in his book Drive pointed out that, “for artists, inventors, school children, and the rest of us, intrinsic motivation–the drive to do something because it is interesting, challenging, and absorbing–is essential for high level creativity.” Which is why it seemed like a good idea to prioritize time for teachers to collaborate in action research teams to explore areas of interest as part of their professional learning this year. 

In addition to being an attribute of the IB learner profile for students, inquiry is a skill and disposition we value and want to practice as adult learners too. We know that getting good at something takes time and effort. So, during our PD days at the beginning of the year we generated ideas to pursue through inquiry. Topics ranged from targeted feedback and wellness to integrating the Sustainable Development Goals and living the UNIS Hanoi vision, mission and values.

In the following weeks, self organized teams used the Question Formulation Technique to launch their inquiry. The process of inquiry is as important as the topic of focus. So to support our ongoing practice of inquiry, all teams are following some sort of inquiry or action research model–and will offer some feedback on the model’s pros and cons at the end of the inquiry. Model 1: Action research template, model 2: design thinking, model 3: Action research/inquiry cycle, model 4: Action research for PE & sports. (Of course, if teams found another model they wanted to follow that was fine too.)

In the same way that we introduce students to different strategies to support their inquiry, teams are using different models to both learn and reflect on what approaches help inquirers find agency and come up with actionable outcomes. 

Related resources:

The Right Questions. October 2014 | Volume 72 | Number 2

Teaching Students to Ask Their Own Questions: One small change can yield big result by DAN ROTHSTEIN AND LUZ SANTANA. Volume 27, Number 5. September/October 2011.

The Right Question Institute

Why invest time in action research?

One of my professional learning goals this school year has been to deepen my understanding of action research by engaging in it with interested colleagues. action researchAction research is an active learning approach undertaken by an individual or a group to improve some aspect of teaching and learning in their context.  Citing Gladwell (2000), Michael Fullan (2006) argued that the role of community in school improvement initiatives is to provide a safe and structured process to challenge old beliefs and to create new ones through “purposeful interactions between and among individuals” (p. 116). We know that we learn more when we reflect on our experiences rather than going through the motions and simply moving on. Which makes action research job-embedded PD. I like the point Peter Cole (2004) makes about this kind of professional learning:

“Schools and one’s colleagues within the school provide the conditions for a more authentic learning experience and one that is more likely to result in change in classroom practice than does an experience designed for and delivered to a generic audience drawn from a wide range of school settings and contexts” (Cole. 2004, p. 7).

In other words, school-based learning that addresses contextual teaching and learning challenges can have a bigger impact than off-site PD or using outside consultants who do not address unique contextual issues.

So far we have teachers looking deeper into assessment, personalized learning, science misconceptions and student directed learning. One of our MS science teachers who is leading her own project asked if we could come up with a template to signpost the process and provide a structure to document the work with. Here’s what we came up with. Another helpful resource I have been using is Richard Sagor’s book, Guiding School Improvement with Action Research. The book offers strategies and examples that have helped with developing conceptual maps of focus areas and pointed to some different kinds of data can be collected.

So what’s next?
The plan is to share a collection of case studies and research stories for our colleagues at ASIJ, and perhaps beyond.

Google Opps

You have no doubt heard of Special Ops. Well, this week we kicked off our own version titled Google Opps. What’s it all about? Creating and supporting opportunities for staff, faculty and students to dig deeper into all things Google. Why? Because ASIJ is very excited about hosting the Google Apps for Education Tokyo Summit on February 9-10 and we want to build momentum and anticipation for that great event.

How are we doing that? For starters we are sharing information about some of the upcoming opportunities for Google related PD.  Google Apps Training online material,  Google Teacher Academy in December at Mountain View, CA, and Power Searching with Google. (Thanks for your help with this effort @edueyeview!)

And what a great start! This week twenty plus enthusiastic ASIJ faculty and staff have signed up to form study groups to learn more about the suite of tools we have as part of being a Google Apps for Education school.

More Google Opps to come!