Thursday, August 15, 2013

BC and Innovative Learning Environments Internationally

This summer Linda and I were invited to attend an OECD meeting as part of our continuing involvement with the Innovative Learning Environment research study. For the past three years we have been submitting case studies from BC, participating in reviewing the case studies from the other 40 participating nations, and having our grad students in the VIU  - CIEL (Certificate in Innovative Educational Leadership) leadership program work directly with some of the schools involved internationally.

The upcoming phase of the OECD study is the development of learning labs in five countries. Each of these countries is committed to designing and spreading innovative practices with a system-wide focus. We were very pleased that BC has been invited to be one of these 'countries' along with New Zealand, Peru, South Africa and French Belgium. And, we were delighted that Rod Allen, Assistant Deputy Minister is supportive of BC becoming one of these five learning labs. We look forward to sharing more about this study as it unfolds over the next few months.

Connected to this, we were also invited to submit a chapter to an OECD publication being edited by Professor John MacBeath at Cambridge about Leadership for Innovation. This book will be available in December and we think that it will be an invaluable resource. Our particular chapter focused specifically on the design and inquiry focus of the CIEL program.

Yesterday we started our third cohort of CIEL and are very pleased to welcome 27 learners from Quebec to Korea to Kyuquot and Vancouver to the program. We look forward to seeing the impact they will have in their varied settings through their new learning at VIU.

Right now the BCSSA is meeting in Kelowna and much of the focus is on innovation and innovative practices. It is exciting to see the ways in which various provincial initiatives are becoming connected, deepened and sustained.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Spiral of Inquiry in Action

Thank you to Network Leader Debbie Koehn for contributing this blog post.  It’s exciting  to see how Spirals of Inquiry is being brought to life in BC schools.  If you have a story to share about how your school or school district is engaging with the spiral of inquiry, please contact us

Over a dozen educators sit in a training center in Nechako Lakes School District (SD# 91), chairs clustered in groups of three or four, engaged in a lively discussion. Michelle, the facilitator, has just reviewed the Spiral of Inquiry and now participants are reflecting on their own practice, constructing meaning around their own learning.

One interesting discussion surfaces around a student who was chosen for participation in the provincial initiative Changing Results for Young Readers. The student’s classroom teacher and the learning assistant teacher have gathered data, observed the student and developed knowledge around how that student learns. As they discuss this process, they specifically describe ways in which the student is applying reading skills and strategies, including how the student is developing both meta-cognitive and decoding abilities. You could say that these educators are in the 'scanning' stage of the Spiral. Their next step will be to use that knowledge to focus on challenges and strengths. The resource teacher and the classroom teacher use the students' learning strengths to help develop a learning 'focus.’ They implement a plan that will focus on teacher actions in the classroom.

Michelle listens intently to the discussion, asks a question, clarifies their response, and then refers them to another teacher in a different group who may be able to support their exploration of new ideas.

At another table, teachers are sharing ideas around the adaptations in learning they have made to meet their students' specific needs. There has been an "aha" moment during the discussion, with one teacher admitting, "I keep on doing the same thing, in the same way... I have to make a change...I am teaching for me, not my student.” There is a thoughtful pause while the other participants consider this comment, and then several voices chime, asking questions and offering personal experiences and ideas for moving forward.

For the next half hour, conversations bounce around the Spiral as the educators persevere and construct knowledge around their learning. These teachers are ‘developing a hunch,’ analyzing both their own and their students’ learning behaviors. They are also moving towards 'new professional learning’ as they share ideas. The conversations are respectful yet informal; teachers leave the table, rummage in bags and pull out resource books. Michelle has ensured that new resource materials with supportive research and theory are available to influence thinking. 

By taking the time to come together and engage in this discussion, these educators are becoming more aware of where they are as they move through the visual depiction of the inquiry cycle.  They realize that different points of the spiral equate to different actions as they set directions for their inquiry. They are engaged in 'new professional learning' and based on that learning will be able to move around the spiral freely and start 'taking action.’

The level of noise increases in the room, as teachers freely share differing perspectives about the positive changes they hope to implement. They know that by focusing specifically on students’ needs they are more likely to be successful. And because they are focused on success, they discuss how they will know when they are making a difference, and this 'checking' will drive the discussion for the next meeting. The Spirals of Inquiry has become a framework that educators can use both to track their own learning and to improve learning for their students.  It’s inspiring to see such a diverse group of educators coming together around the common goal of providing the best possible learning and teaching environment for BC students.