Developing ‘Disciplined Inquiry’

30 June 2017

Back in 2014, at the national resesearchEd conference, in London, Dylan Wiliam talked about ‘Why teaching will never be a research-based profession (and why that’s a Good Thing)‘. Now, at a packed conference including many people looking to develop evidence-based practice and engage with research, that was a rather provocative message! But, as ever, he had a point! Rather than pursue compromised research (let researchers be researchers and teachers teach!), he advocated that teachers undertake a process of ‘disciplined inquiry’.

At Huntington School, we have developed our own model of ‘disciplined inquiry’ (our own interpretation of the notion) that we think has helped us sharpen our practice and consider assessment and evaluation much more thoroughly. We have asked better questions about learning and teaching, considering the subtleties and nuances of our school decisions in a way that we may not have done before, by focusing on more specific improvements to practice, such as my inquiry on teaching the vocabulary of poetry using the ‘Frayer model’, for example.

During the 2016-2017 Performance Development cycle every member of staff at Huntington School has been engaged in an aspect of practitioner inquiry with the aim of doing just that – making an improvement…and making it stick. There is lots of support and knowledge underpinning the DI process, but we have simplified the steps to the following:

We supported teachers and TAs with each step of inquiry, from selecting useful assessments to design a good questionnaire:

Crucially, time and training was given over to focus on improving practice, with external evidence and staff expertise shared at each step. Our end of year evaluation has included posters summarising our ‘disciplined inquiry’ (think how at University you may use a poster to distil your Masters research) – again – importantly, with time and support allocated to do this:

Our ‘disciplined inquiry’ summer celebration:

 

We have had the privilege of over 100 eyes on learning at Huntington School and the picture that has emerged has been complex but insightful. There are still many assessments to finish – summer exams are integral to our broader evaluation – but we have a plan to mobilise and sustain our ‘disciplined inquiry’ for the year ahead.

We don’t have teachers undertaking research that is being shared across schools as the ‘answer’, but we do have a process that supports really hard thinking about our practice, in a process that is supportive, intellectually challenging and formative. We can remove the fear from performance management and instead concentrate on teachers getting better. As Dylan Wiliam has stated:

“Every teacher need to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better.”

‘Discipline inquiry’ can be one strategy, amidst a supportive school culture that celebrates learning over compliance, that truly helps teachers to get better.

 

If you want to hear more about ‘disciplined inquiry’ John Tomsett is talking about ‘Ending 25 Years of Hurt…how Disciplined Inquiry has improved T&L and saved money!’ You can grab a ticket HERE.

 

Alex Quigley, Director of Research School

Posted on 30 June 2017
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