Inquiry Projects - 2000 - 2001

This page contains notes from a meeting held on May 24th, during which inquiry participants met with Cassie Drennon to discuss their projects. These notes are followed by a brief reflection on the sharing session held on June 28th

Inquiry meeting, May 24, 2001

During the morning, inquiry participants discussed the status of their projects. Themes that emerged included:

1. a sense of failure when questions change or the initial plan for implementation is changed

2. an underability to appreciate one's own sense of accomplishment, to value what has been learned rather than only see what hasnıt happened yet, or hasn't felt 'successful'

3. permission to change the question

Cassie clarified and help make transparent the process of inquiry that would free us up to remain more open to discoveries, changes in our plans and ways of viewing the process and progress of our projects:

Her agenda for the afternoon:

  • Revisit the ideas behind practitioner inquiry that originally inspired us
  • Learn ways we can begin to create knowledge about our practice
  • Consider alternative models of inquiry and the conditions/ support that should be in place for inquiry to thrive in Rhode Island.
  • She walked us through a process whereby she shared her list of key events in the inquiry process and then asked us each to identify those events for ourselves.

    Working in small groups, people then used cards that Cassie had provided that delineated the events sheıd identified, and also added their own steps:

    Group 1

    1. Reflect on practice through writing or in conversation with others
    2. Establish a network among colleauges
    3. Identify a problem, issue, question or general concern to investigate
    4. Gather information
    5. Keep a journal; continue to reflect and document
    6. Study info; analyze, interpret, critique it
    7. Feel free to change/modify question
    8. Meet on a regular basis
    9. Take some action, make a chance, implement an innovation
    10. Monitor and evaluate what happens as a result of your action
    11. Share what you have recently learned with others

    Group 2

    1. Establish a network among colleagues based on people having a concern or interest about their practice
    2. Set clear expectations that itıs a messy non-linear process and the question may change
    3. Identify a problem, issue, question or general concern to investigate
    4. Form inquiry "interest sections" (sub groups)
    5. Share and support meetings 6. Gather information
    7. Reflect on practice through writing or in conversation with others
    8. Re-evaluated quetsions and methods, share and support
    9. Study info, analyse, interpret, critique it
    10. Take some action,; make a change, implement an innovation
    11. Share and support meetings
    12. Monitor and evaluate what happens as a result of your action
    13. Share what you have recently learned with others

    Group 3

    1. Take some action,; make a change, implement an innovation
    2. Reflect on practice through writing or in conversation with others
    3. Establish a meeting of the minds among colleagues
    4. Stimulate/experiential ­ Share what you have recently learned with others
    5. Montior and evaluate what happens as a result of your action
    6. Gather information
    7. Study info, analyze, interpret, critique it

    [no number assigned:] Identify a problem, issue question or general concern to investigate

    After processing each group's feedback, it seems that there are broadly three possibilities for models for pursuing practitioner inquiry in Rhode Island.

    Teacher learning communities

    Many people identified the importance of establishing networks, sharing concerns and 'itches' prior to identifying a question. For some, the proposal process itself could be daunting. Having opportunities to meet with others, to discuss classroom practice (possibly with a broadly pre-determined focus) could enable people to refine a question that each person in the group might then take on within her/his classroom, and;/or identify separate questions related to the overall focus that the group had chosen.

    Study circles

    This would begin as a text-based or issue based session wherein people would come together explicitly to examine a particular concern, from which classroom-based questions could emerge. (Click here for one resource on study circles

    Develop question; pursue

    This would essentially continue the process / model already in place for those for whom a question is already clear.

    Other variables include questions around whether or not inquiry projects could be program based, statewide, based on common interests/themes, or some of all of the above.

    It seems clear that we need to deepen and broaden our commitment to inquiry in concrete ways.

    How to promote it, what to name it

    Shift emphasis from the writing the question to asking why people want to do it

    Demonstrate reasonable curiousity

    Something youıre curious about

    Has puzzled you

    Youıd like to know the answer to around teaching and learning

    Reflecting on the experience

    Guided questions

    Final share ­ June 28th, 2001

    15 people were present at the final sharing session for this year's projects. Although there was some disappointment at the small turnout, many of the evaluations, and much of the discussion indicated that participants were pleased to have an opportunity to share their work more informally than they had done in previous years. The smaller number of projects and participants also enabled us to begin with a very informal discussion about this year's process, addressing these questions:

  • What motivated you to take on an inquiry project?
  • What challenges did you face? What did they look like?
  • What kind of support did you have? Did you wish you could have had?
  • What advice would you give to someone else thinking about inquiry?
  • Participants spoke about the challenges they'd faced with their projects and were enthusiastic about the meeting we'd had on May 24th with Cassie Drennon (described above).

    They mentioned Cassie as a source of support, and also spoke of learning that it is OK to change your question, to be flexible and open to the ways in which circumstances will shift during an inqiury process.

    A guest, from Rhode Island College urged us to reach out to program administrators to encourage their support in enabling their teachers to participate in future inquiry projects.

    Throughout project participants' presentation, we were able to interweave learning about the particular projects with questions and reflections about the process as well. We learned how work on learning disabilities -- some funded by the RI DOE, and some by the Bridges to Practice team, were part of Debra Blaine and Lynn Foley's larger research into assisting their own learners with or without diagnosed learning disabilities. Sandy Jacobi helped us understand visualization as an important part of learning to read. Lisa Beade showed us where taped materials could -- or might not -- be of use to some learners, and Jenifer Giroux and Dawne Pezucco gave us insight into their work with computer assisted learning at Rhode Island College.

    One of the participants remarked that keeping a journal had been helpful to her in keeping track of changes amongst learners that she might have otherwise missed. Others supported the idea of research mentors ­ practitioners who had previously done research projects who would be available to those who are newer to the work. Another person mentioned that it is important for teachers' work to be acknowledged, recognized and paid for. For some, the project wasn't "in the foreground" and got pushed aside as other daily responsibilities crowded in. We need to continue to find ways to incorporate the inquiry process into our own ongoing work ­ using journaling time, for example, as one means of also reflecting on lesson planning; through the process of reviewing and writing about a class/an interaction/an observation, it is possible to begin planning, to see what next steps need to be taken. As well, useful suggestions regarding LR/RI's website were put forward, as part of a larger process of engaging practitioners in utilizing both online resources as part of their own ongoing professional development work.

    We also hope to engage others in planning a new model for inquiry in the state. On September 6th, a meeting will be held to begin this collaborative re-visioning of a process that will likely include two preliminary meetings during which practitioners will begin to explore possible questions and will then submit applications for support in pursuing those questions. This process is necessarily open at this writing. Please contact LR/RI for details about the September meeting.

    save the date: September 6th ­ 9 to noon

    Please join us in beginning to plan for changes in the inquiry process and for a first organizational meeting; RIDE building (directions)

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