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Teacher inquiry

The purpose of teacher inquiry

Inquiring into teaching practice enables the identification of successful approaches to improving learning outcomes for all students. It provides an opportunity to focus on identifying successful approaches for improving learning outcomes for all learners, in particular those that may be target students.

"Since any teaching strategy works differently in different contexts for different students, effective pedagogy requires that teachers inquire into the impact of their teaching on their students."

Ministry of Education, 2007 p 35

Teacher inquiry should be based on your students' learning needs, your own learning needs, and the impact of your practice on student learning and achievement.

Teacher professional learning and development: Best evidence synthesis iteration (BES)

The purpose of the Teaching as Inquiry cycle is to achieve improved outcomes for all students. The cycle is an organising framework that teachers can use to help them learn from their practice and build greater knowledge. 

Improving learning outcomes for our Māori and Pasifika students, and those with special learning needs requires recognising the rich diversity that exists within the student population. In recognising that each student is an individual, with their own understanding of what it means to be Māori or Pasifika and of what it means to be a New Zealander, knowing your students and designing learning experiences using effective pedagogy is key. Using technologies offers new ways of learning, teaching, and engaging with students and whānau that can be used to make a difference to student learning outcomes.

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Deputy Principal, Vicki Trainor explains why teacher inquiry was used as a method of professional development at Holy Cross School following the development of their e-learning strategic plan. Through the teacher inquiry process they developed a better understanding learning pedagogy. iPads are a device used to enhance teacher practice and student learning. Teachers select apps specifically for their students' needs.

Spiral of inquiry: Leaders leading learning

This resource promotes the leadership of collaborative, evidence-informed inquiry in ways that keep learners’ progress at the centre. It provides field-tested tools and ideas to support leaders and teachers to apply spirals of inquiry, learning and action with their learners.

Teacher inquiry as an approach to professional learning

In this series of videos e-learning consultant Karen Melhuish Spencer describes an inquiry approach to developing effective professional learning. Used in conjunction with the e-Learning Planning Framework  teachers and school leaders can develop a successful programme of professional learning and development. Inclusion and cultural responsiveness are important foundations ensuring the focus is improving student learning outcomes.

What do we mean when we talk about professional learning in e-learning?

Quality teaching impacts on student achievement. Professional learning must be grounded in what works best for all of our akonga/learners. e-Learning professional learning is focused on using an appropriate blend of curriculum, pedagogy, and technologies. The development of digital technologies and their affordances offers opportunities for us to review what is possible in terms of content and pedagogical knowledge.

What might effective professional learning in e-learning look like?

Using technologies appropriately requires deep engagement because it is part of effective teaching and learning practice. The key components for effective professional e-learning must:

  • be seen as part of a teacher's whole practice, not an add-on
  • be grounded in inquiry, superficial/informal learning should complement deeper reflection
  • have inclusion and cultural responsiveness as foundations.

Karen comments, "Knowing how to use an app on an iPad is very different to knowing how and why to select and integrate it into effective learning in Social Sciences."

Designing effective e-learning professional learning: Starting points for schools

The professional learning dimension in the e-Learning Planning Framework offers a way for schools to review their current provision of professional learning. The design of professional learning arises from identified needs in a school, and is part of the school’s strategy for developing e-learning as part of curriculum provision. Teacher inquiry includes: 

  • Identifying students' e-learning needs then asking, "What e-learning professional development do I need to help you support my students' learning?"
  • Deciding how you will gather information to provide evidence of how your professional learning is impacting on your classroom practice.
  • Deciding how you will evaluate the impact of e-learning on your students’ learning.
  • Regularly reviewing and discussing your practice.

What is effective e-learning?

A key component to effective e-learning is identifying students' strengths and needs in terms of the curriculum. Learning experiences are designed using effective pedagogy then selecting technology that will support student learning rather than choosing the technology first.

Frameworks to support teacher inquiry

When teachers participate effectively in a cycle of reflection and review, learning is linked to evidence of impact. The New Zealand Curriculum (pages 34–35) and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa (pages 13–16) describe some of the teaching approaches that research shows to have a consistently positive impact on student learning.

Graphic credit: Judy Halberg and Linda Kaser (2013)

Teaching as inquiry
The Teaching as Inquiry cycle is an organising framework to help teachers learn from their practice and build greater knowledge.

Spiral of inquiry
Timperly, Kaser and Halbert (2014) focus on a rethink of the cycle of inquiry (2007) to the spiral of inquiry. An important difference in this new approach is involving learners, their families, and communities in inquiries.

SAMR Model
A framework through which teachers can assess and evaluate the technology used in the classroom.

Use these discussion starters in conjunction with the e-Learning Planning Framework  to develop teacher inquiry into how effective teaching and learning can be enhanced with and through technologies.

Principals

"How do teachers inquire into their use of e-learning?"

  • Can you describe what professional learning and evidence-based practice looks like in your school? 
  • How, and to what extent, do teachers inquire into their use of e-learning?
  • How does your school support teachers to engage in new ways of thinking and new ways of working to improve identified student outcomes? 

Teachers

"What is the impact of e-learning on your students?"

  • What are your students' e-learning needs? What e-learning professional development do you need to help you support your students' learning?
  • What activities will be important for your e-learning professional development?
  • How will you deliberately gather information so you have evidence of how your professional learning is impacting on your classroom practice?
  • How will you evaluate the impact of e-learning on your students’ learning - in particular Māori, Pasifika, and students with special learning needs?

Principals

  • As a staff and community, discuss, develop, and share your values and beliefs. Explore ways to encourage openness, inclusive networks, and partnerships as you engage in professional inquiry into e-learning.
  • Select/develop resources and activities to help staff make connections between current research and their own practice.
  • Create and support opportunities to build knowledge, skills, understandings, and share effective practice.
  • Schedule regular opportunities for review and evaluation of e-learning interventions where data shows increased teacher effectiveness and improved student outcomes.

Teachers

  • Use a teaching as inquiry process to review students' needs, and set your own professional learning goals.
  • Find out about current e-learning thinking, in terms of practices that make a difference to students' learning, and make links to your own practice and context.
  • Undertake professional learning, both formal and informal, to enhance your understanding and skills.
  • Evaluate the impact of your professional learning on all your students, particularly Māori, Pasifika, and students with special needs.

Using technologies offers new ways of learning, teaching, and engaging with students and whānau that can be used to improve learning outcomes for all students.

Your inquiry should intentionally pair technology with an inclusive pedagogy and a collaborative way of working to yield a rich field of data/observations for reflection. 
Identify your:

  • focusing inquiry
  • inquiry strategies
  • inquiry tools (digital technologies)

An example of an inquiry using digital technologies

Focusing inquiry Inquiry strategies Inquiry tools (digital technologies)
My learners are reluctant writers who tell me they have nothing to write about (ideas/words).
  • Picture prompts / visual clues
  • Recording ideas and then writing
  • Providing sentence starters
  • Vocabulary development
  • Brainstorming
  • Story Bird, Piclits, Puppet pals 
  • Sock puppets, Vocaroo, Educreations
  • Telescopic text, Google docs, Sock puppets
  • Literacy shed, Sunshine online, Wordle 
  • Popplet, Padlet

Teaching as inquiry starters

Once you have decided on your inquiry question, identify which digital tool you are investigating to support student learning.

If I use [insert relevant digital tool] with [insert class level, subject, topic/focus], to what extent does it help students learn?

Creating inquiry questions  

Anna Swann, from Holy Cross School, explains her teacher inquiry into using Google docs to enhance achievement and engagement in writing with boys. She found the barriers to the writing were removed and the boys' attitudes changed.

Key resources

Spiral of inquiry: Leaders leading learning

This resource promotes the leadership of collaborative, evidence-informed inquiry in ways that keep learners’ progress at the centre. It provides field-tested tools and ideas to support leaders and teachers to apply spirals of inquiry, learning and action with their learners.

Teacher inquiry diagram

Teaching as Inquiry: VLN

This online discussion group provides extensive information, templates, resources, and examples to help you develop your inquiry, gather evidence, and reflect on your inquiry.

Practising Teacher Criteria and e-learning  

Guiding questions, examples, and resources to support your e-learning inquiry under each criteria.

Professional learning on Enabling e-Learning

The SAMR model

Information and practical examples of how to use the SAMR model to evaluate and plan for the use of digital technologies in the classroom.

Classroom based examples describing how educators intentionally pair digital technologies with inclusive pedagogy to improve learning outcomes for students.

Filter by: Primary Secondary

Hapara Teacher Dashboard and Google Apps

With a vision for improving literacy learning outcomes, Houghton Valley School trialed Hapara Teacher Dashboard and Google Apps with their senior classes over 12 months.

Tags: Diverse learners, Effective pedagogy, English, Student inquiry, Teacher inquiry, GAFE, Learning management systems (LMS), Primary, Upper primary

Raising literacy levels

Fendalton Open Air School teachers collected and analysed a range of data to enhance their writing programme and engage learners. 

Tags: English, Teacher inquiry, Collaborative tools, Communication, Multimedia – video, Presentation, Primary

Developing learner empathy

Year one students at Lyttleton School share their learning through digital stories, which provide students, teachers, parents, and whānau with a common language to discuss relating to others and managing self.   

Tags: Teacher inquiry, Communication, Lower primary, Primary

Learner agency

Year 8 teachers at Breens Intermediate, carried out a collaborative inquiry focused on increasing student agency to raise student achievement in literacy, supported by the use of digital technologies.

Tags: English, Teacher inquiry, Blogging, GAFE, Primary, Upper primary

Breaking down walls

South New Brighton School teacher, Kurt Soares developed a collaborative modern learning and teaching space with his year 3-4 students.

Tags: Innovative learning environment, Teacher inquiry, BYOD, Middle primary, Primary

Spirals of inquiry – Learner agency

Suzanne Baldwin and Lizzy Harrison, Burnside High School, addressed the needs of 13 target learners by making learner agency a core focus for their inquiry

Tags: Teacher inquiry, Collaborative tools, e-Portfolios, Secondary

Collaborative inquiry using Talanoa

Porirua East schools: Cannons Creek, Windley, and Holy Family conducted an inquiry to understand and enhance impacts on learning among target students in 2015 and 2016.

Tags: Teacher inquiry, Collaborative tools, Primary

Spirals of inquiry – Maths assessment

Roydvale and Wairakei primary schools inquired into ways of helping students gain ownership over their learning. They used Timperly, Halbert and Kaser’s (2014) Spirals of Inquiry as a framework for their inquiry.

Tags: Teacher inquiry, Collaborative tools, Primary

Rethinking teaching and learning through a makerspace

The year 7 and 8 teaching team at Marshland School establish a makerspace to increase engagement and enable successful learning for priority learners.

Tags: Innovative learning environment, Teacher inquiry, Collaborative tools, Primary

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Videos demonstrating how teachers plan and inquire into their practice, intentionally pair digital technologies with inclusive pedagogy to improve learning outcomes for students.

Professional learning using teacher inquiry

Professional learning using teacher inquiry

Chris Allen and Mike Wilson Sacred Heart Girls' College share why they chose to use a teacher inquiry model as a focus for professional learning and why that approach has been so successful.

Teacher inquiries into using Google docs

Teacher inquiries into using Google docs

Mike Wilson at Sacred Heart Girls’ College, describes the benefits teachers found in using Google docs and Google forms to provide quick feedback to students as they prepare for NCEA assessments.

Teacher inquiry into improving NCEA learning outcomes

Teacher inquiry into improving NCEA learning outcomes

Teresa Cargo, Deputy Principal Sacred Heart Girls College, shares her teacher inquiry into using video with her year 13 students.

Improving boys' writing using Google docs

Improving boys' writing using Google docs

Anna Swann, from Holy Cross School, explains her teacher inquiry into using Google docs to improve boys writing.

Developing the e-learning teacher inquiry process

Developing the e-learning teacher inquiry process

Deputy Principal, Vicki Trainor explains why teacher inquiry was used as a method of professional development at Holy Cross School following the development of their e-learning strategic plan. 

Improving fluency and phrasing using iPad apps

Improving fluency and phrasing using iPad apps

Junior school teacher, Denise Stanisich talks about her teacher inquiry focusing on raising student achievement in fluency and phrasing

Raising student writing levels using Google docs

Raising student writing levels using Google docs

Vimi Chandra explains her teacher inquiry aimed at raising the writing levels of targeted students.

Teaching as inquiry through an e-learning lens

Teaching as inquiry through an e-learning lens

LwDT facilitator, Anna Harrison discusses the value of the teaching and inquiry model as a basis for PLD for e-learning. 

Teaching as enquiry through a blended e-learning lens

Teaching as inquiry through a blended e-learning lens

Facilitators and teachers discuss teaching as inquiry through a blended e-learning lens.

Tailoring professional learning to enhance literacy e-learning needs: A blended model

Tailoring professional learning to enhance literacy e-learning needs: A blended model

Teachers discuss tailored professional learning to enhance literacy e-learning needs using a blended model. 

A teaching approach to enable Māori achieving success as Māori

A teaching approach to enable Māori achieving success as Māori

Yvonne Nikora, Deputy principal at Waerenga o Kuri School, talks about impact the Māori achieving success as Māori (MASAM) framework has had on her teaching.

Renewed enthusiasm for reading

Renewed enthusiasm for reading

Teacher Julie Hinman, talks about how the introduction of iPads into her classroom renewed enthusiasm for one of her students in reading. 

Student ownership of reading goals supported by QR codes

Reading goals supported by QR codes

Konini School teacher, Vicki Pimenta shares her approach to using the literacy progressions and raising student achievement in reading.

Developing e-learning capability using the eLPF and teacher inquiry

Developing e-learning capability using the eLPF and teacher inquiry

e-Learning facilitator, Ross Alexander explains the importance of having a clear vision for introducing new technologies.

Teacher inquiry: Using Google docs to improve learning outcomes

Teacher inquiry: Using Google docs to improve learning outcomes

Houghton Valley School, teacher and e-learning leader, Peter Holmstead inquired into using Google apps to improve learning outcomes.

What is pakirehua?

He aha tēnei mea te pakirehua?

Tammy Gardiner and Marama Reweti-Martin explain pakirehua (teaching as inquiry) from a Māori perspective.

Introducing pakirehua

Pakirehua i rō akomanga

Tammy Gardiner and Marama Reweti-Martin connect the wider concept of inquiry within Māori culture with teaching as inquiry (pakirehua). 

Connecting pakirehua to your whakapapa

Pakirehua me te whakapapa

Tammy Gardiner shares an example of how she connects inquiry with her tīpuna.

Story Hui in action

Story Hui in action

Titahi Bay School teacher, Parani Temoana demonstrates Story Hui in action as she reflects on her inquiry into selecting and using Apps to support learning in maths. 

Story Hui

Story Hui

Liz Stevenson, from CORE Education, explains the Story Hui process. Teachers, Parani Temoana and Tania Chapman, from Titahi Bay School reflect on the benefits of this process. 

Professional learning – Teacher inquiry

Professional learning – Teacher inquiry

Pakuranga College principal, Michael Williams describes their intensive PLD programme.

SMS – Facilitating teacher inquiry

SMS – Facilitating teacher inquiry

Principal, Michael Malins shares how they use their SMS to document teacher inquiries. 

Professional development at Hampden Street School

Professional development at Hampden Street School

e-Learning lead teacher, John O'Regan explains their professional development focus on using e-learning tools to support learning.

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Video resources

Using teaching as inquiry to guide an e-learning action plan

Claire Amos is director of eLearning at Epsom Girls' Grammar. In this EDtalk, Claire talks about how the school is using a "teaching as inquiry" cycle to inform the e-learning action plans that will be implemented by professional learning groups in each of the school's curriculum areas. Claire describes the process the teachers are going through in this initiative.

Professional learning that makes a difference to students

In this EDtalks video, Helen Timperley, Professor of Education at The University of Auckland, talks about professional development that makes a difference to student learning.

Teaching as inquiry – Goal setting and strategies

Malvern ICT-PD Cluster’s reflective summary shares a video of their teachers articulating clear goals, defined strategies, and action to trial e-learning technologies and processes through the use of a reflective framework (SOLO) with considerations for future steps.

Effectiveness of e-learning PD

In this EDtalks video, Vince Ham discusses the complex factors that make professional development in e-learning effective.

Web links

Spiral of inquiry: Leaders leading learning

This resource promotes the leadership of collaborative, evidence-informed inquiry in ways that keep learners’ progress at the centre. It provides field-tested tools and ideas to support leaders and teachers to apply spirals of inquiry, learning and action with their learners.

The Spiral Playbook

The spiral playbook: Leading with an inquiring mindset in school systems and schools

Researchers, Judy Halbert, and Linda Kaser provide a concise, practical introduction to using the Spirals of Inquiry, an evidence-based model of collaborative inquiry.

e-LFA inquiry’s reflection

The inquiry cycle at Hamilton’s Fraser High School (HFHS) and Sacred Heart Girls’ College is outlined along with their present findings in this document vln reflection.pdf  (332KB).

Teaching as inquiry

The teaching as inquiry cycle is explained on NZ Curriculum Online.

Teaching as inquiry group

This online space in the Virtual Learning Network (VLN) is for teachers, leaders, and facilitators to share resources, links, ideas, and ask questions. 

Teachers as learners: Improving outcomes for Māori and Pasifika students through inquiry

These learning materials illustrate how teachers have used an inquiry approach to teaching to become more culturally responsive and to improve outcomes for their Māori and Pasifika students.

Action Research Ohaupo

This reflective summary from the Connected Cluster outlines the action research process a school is going through to investigate comparisons between student and teacher perception of standards in student writing.

Practising teacher criteria and e-learning (Criterion 4)  – Consider how technologies can support your professional learning.

Practising teacher criteria and e-learning (Criterion 12)  – Consider how technologies can help you solve problems through critical inquiry.

e-Learning community discussions

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