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.
These Heads of Faculty used Timperly, Halbert, and Kaser’s (2014) Spirals of Inquiry as a framework for their inquiry in 2015.
Lizzy and Suzanne began by scanning, or determining what impacted most on their target students’ learning. They supported their target students to reflect on their learning with questions.
The students' reflections were used as a starting point to develop a set of questions that allowed the teachers to think more holistically about their students' current situation.
“I found through the scanning process I was much more focused on a range of different things that were impacting or influencing students learning.”
Lizzy and Suzanne analysed the students' reflections on what it meant to be a successful learner. They found that students typically believed that being successful was "focused on getting work done”, and, “finishing work”. Students reflected that being successful conflicted with their drive to be sociable, resulting in chatting or using their mobile phones during independent work.
“In the past we’ve looked at data and numbers and have forgotten about who the kids are – we will look at ways to scan more effectively.”
Using the 7 Principles of Learning to inform their reflections, Lizzy and Suzanne understood their students were experiencing:
Following the analysis, more questions were asked, taking the teachers back to the scanning phase.
With new insights into their students’ learning experience, Lizzy and Susanne questioned their own practice through the lens of their students’ inquiry.
“It brought to the fore some beliefs about how I viewed myself as a teacher such as the need to make more explicit the focus on developing capabilities in the learning.”
1. Learner agency
“Throughout the process I was developing a deeper understanding of concepts such as agency and collaboration; really considering what they meant and how I was implementing them into my practice.”
“The inquiry challenged me to think further about what I was doing and why.”
Build a growth mindset
Suzanne implemented shifts in practice in order to build self-regulation in her students. Initially she trialled approaches that shifted her away from being the “sage on the stage”, towards being a “guide on the side”. She noticed a change in learners as she trialled this change, but also recognised that specific approaches were needed to support her students in understanding how to manage their own learning. Building a growth-mindset among her learners was key to supporting them in managing their own learning.
“It was surprising that the students who are good, self-regulated learners need my guidance far less than I imagined. When they have a structure of learning in place, they are able to go for it.”
Improved engagement in some learners has been observed, while others have received Achieved or Achieved with Merit. In some cases, the learners exceeded expectations and made accelerated progress, while in others, the learners met expectations and made normal progress in their learning.
As the end of 2015 approached, both leaders were entering into a more deliberate focus on Taking Action and Checking (Spirals of inquiry ).
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