Anna Harrison, facilitator with the learning with digital technologies professional learning and development (LWDT PLD) team, talks about the value of the teaching and inquiry model as a basis for PLD for e-learning.
I’ve been working across a range of schools and I’ve found that the teaching and inquiry model is a great basis for PLD for e-learning. The reason for this is that it keeps the focus on the learning of the students, not on developing ICT skills, and it also keeps them focussed on valued student outcomes with e-learning, which we talk about around achievement, engagement, and general wellbeing.
It also caters for teachers who have different levels of e-capability. They’re not having to learn one particular programme or learn how to use one particular device, but they’re starting with the area of expertise, which is learning, and looking at the different types of digital technologies that can support those learning needs for their students.
A key aspect of the teaching as inquiry model, is gathering evidence of impact. And I found a great way into this, for the teachers, is to start to look at the evidence of the impact on engagement of students in their learning. So there we are looking at gathering evidence using student voice.
So interviewing the students and asking them how their learning has changed with the devices. Looking at observations of particular students who are traditionally disengaged from learning, and looking at how the devices and the tools are helping them to engage more. Sometimes gathering evidence from the parents and talking about how they’ve seen a change in their students, and also just general classroom observation of how has the learning of the students in the classroom changed as a result of this inquiry.
So what this model looked like in a school, depended largely on the context of the school itself. It usually started with a staff meeting, where we discussed and unpacked the teaching as inquiry model, so that we had a shared understanding of what the essential components were, and then teachers went and gathered some assessment data, and bought that to a meeting, where we looked at identifying target students and what their specific learning needs were.
We then started researching and looking at different e-learning tools that would meet those learning needs. There’s usually different review points along the way, but what was really interesting was the leaders of the school reporting how often the teachers were discussing their inquiry just in the staffroom. So the review points became just incidental, because there was a real community of learning being developed, because everyone had a similar focus and felt safe in the inquiry that they, themselves had designed.
Teachers gathered evidence along the way and then at the end of the cycle, usually at the end of the term, came back together and shared their learning, and a lot of teachers said that this was some of the best PLD they’d been involved in. Their colleagues were the experts, they understood the context of the school and the context of the students, and because the e-learning tool was tied to a learning need, it wasn’t just a gimicky device driven session. It was really focussed on how this particular tool had an impact on the learning of the students.
Some key factors that support this success was certainly around using a common curriculum focus. So the teachers might be trialling different e-learning tools for different learning needs, but having a common focus of literacy for one whole term just meant that everyone was focussed in a similar area and could support each other with the different tools they were using. Having the senior management of the school intimately involved with the process was really important.
So keeping them informed of what was going on, and supporting them to use the language of inquiry with their teachers. Just to have those staff room discussions, around how their inquiry was going, really helped the teachers to keep it as a focus.
The senior staff members being aware of what was expected of the teachers, so they weren’t bombarding them with other types of PLD all the time.
Because critical analysis is embedded in the inquiry cycle, it means that it’s naturally a process they can use independently in the future.
Because of the impact of what I’ve seen on the learning of the teachers and the learning of the students, it has reaffirmed to me that the teaching as inquiry model is a very powerful model for PLD for e-learning.
The impact that I’ve seen on the e-capability of the teachers, the e-capability of the students, and the impact on student learning, just shows me how important it really is, and that this model will definitely be an integral part of future PLD that I’m involved with.