Our Inquiry Process
Inquiry consists of six phases, which are not linear in nature. We often work in different domains, simultaneously. And, multiple inquiry questions are explored, in real time, over the course of the same time frame. We use the Spiral of Inquiry model to guide school improvement inquiries.
Ecole Glenrosa Middle School: 2020-2021 Inquiry: Supporting Social Emotional Learning
At Ecole Glenrosa Middle School we strive to ground our pedagogy in research specific to meeting the unique needs of adolescent learners. We place learners at the centre of our practice by aiming to engage them in rich learning experiences. With our school-based inquiry work, as a community of educators, we continually engage with each other, our learners, and our families around key questions. Leaning on the work of Halbert and Kaser, like every school in Central Okanagan Public Schools, the Spirals of Inquiry is our guide to continuous improvement at Ecole Glenrosa MIddle School.
In the spring of 2021 we started to explore what mattered most for our students given the context of our place int he world in this particular time in history. As educators, improving learning and the experience of our learners in our school is our goal. Michael Fullan's quote about coherence is very telling: "Coherence consists of the shared depth of understanding about the purpose and nature of the work in the minds and actions individually and especially collectively." This process is critical, and we know that this process involves more than just the professionals in a school. The COVID-19 crisis is contectually important to the our inquiry work and ultimately, the direction set as a staff for the 2021-2022 school year. As staff, we sought to gather evidence that would inform our direction and set our goals. Our guiding questions included:
- What is going on for our learners?
- How do we know?
- Why does it matter?
In keeping with First Peoples Principles of Learning and the OECD Principles of Learning, our learning community came together to place students at the centre with an understanding that emotions are integral to learning (OECD). Amid a world wide pandemic, and through a community inquiry scan, an emphasis was placed on the social-emotional well being of all learners. Motivated by the knowledge that learning ultimately supports the well-being ofthe self, the family, and the community (First Peoples Principals) we set out to meet these needs within our community of learners. To do so we enhanced our efforts around AMLE's three pillars by leaning on supplimental resources, including:
1. Ensouling Our Schools: A Universally Designed Framework for Mental Health and Well-Being (Katz)
2. The Challenge to Care in Schools (Noddings)
3. The OECD Handbook for Innovative Learning Environments (OECD)
Through inquiry, we discovered that our learners would benefit from an increased sense of belonging, connections to more adults at school, and opportunities to contribute and lead. We coninuted to gather evidence. In addition to Ministry Learning Surveys and the Middle Development Years Index, we collected evidence by gathering 'street data' (Safir), conducting empathy interviews (staff, students, and families), and carrying out school based surveys. With mounting evidence and renewed clarity around collective values, we set direction by naming our theme, "Stronger Together," and accompanying goal:
2021-2022 Goal: To be a learning community where every students connects, belongs, and contributes.
This goal inspired further inquiry and the following questions emerged:
Inquiry Question 1: What does in mean to care and how do we establish a caring learning community culture?
Inquiry Questions 2: At GMS, how do we grow a culture of belonging where every student is connected to several caring adults who believe they can be successful?
Inquiry Question 3: How do we design engaging, learner-centered experiences?
Inquiry Question 4: How do we leverage the core competencies and self assessment of the core competencies to promote personal and social growth?
(Updated, January, 2022)
In this section consider answering these questions:
- What is going for our learners?
- How do we know?
- Why does it matter?
At GMS, we have just completed our second year of using the Spirals of Inquiry as a vehicle for school improvement. Our process, supported by the District's Instructional Learning Team and our Curricular Leaders, was a collaborative and inquiry-based approach that included both teachers and students in the scanning process. It is important to point out that this is a process that often spiral or "loops back" on itself. For example, an initial scan of our school and school culture led to us generating questions that were then questioned and refined. It led to data collected that was closely examined and pointed us to re-scanning the initial questions to remove the bias that we felt we were seeing in the answers collected. In total, our initial scanning process took months as we scanned, tried to find some focus and developed a hunch, only to re-scan and refine both our process and produce data that was more valid. As we continue to move forward, always keeping the quality of learners for everyone in our school community as a priority, we will constantly ask questions, collect evidence, reflect upon what we see (and what we think we see), adjust what we are doing, and then re-adjust on the way always making our thinking, and our doing, as visible and transparent as possible. Our ultimate goal is to continue to be a community of learners who are all learning, growing and improving while working collectively with all of our community voices to transform the learning for all learners at Glenrosa Middle School.
- Scanning involves:
- A wide perspective on learning, informed by learning principles (OECD)
- Finding out what learners think and feel about their learning and what their families and communities perceive about their learning
- Focusing involves:
- Using information from the scan to identify an area for concentrated team learning
- Gathering more information if you need it to understand the situation
- Building on strengths or positives, as well as clarifying challenges
- Identifying a common area that the team can work on together
Developing a Hunch
- Developing a hunch involves:
- Getting deeply held beliefs and assumptions out on the table about your own practice
- Focusing on things your team can do something about
- Checking your assumptions for accuracy before moving ahead
- New Learning is:
- Tailored to the situation
- Directly linked to the focus identified earlier in the spiral
- Exploratory testing how new approaches could be better than previous practices
- Sustained and supported over time
- Taking action involves:
- Learning more deeply about new ways of doing things and then trying them out
- Evaluating the impact on learners and seeking their feedback
- Building trust and cultivating a growth mindset
- Checking involves:
- Knowing what you want to accomplish for your learners and having specific ways to determine how you are doing early in the inquiry process
- Setting high expectations that your actions will make a substantial difference for ALL learners
- Setting the stage for what comes next