Professional Enquiry Groups (PEG) (Issue 8, January 2011)

A first peek into what we might explore over the coming months

Thinking for learning

Thinking for learning is a broad church of educational possibilities. Potential suitors of this professional enquiry group could choose from a whole host of practice based themes. This could include the development of SOLO taxonomy through your subject area, the development of thinking strategies and thinking language, the development of meta-cognitive strategies that impact on subject knowledge or learner behaviours. All of these have an influence upon the development of independent learners during enquiry. How well students access feedback, and their ability to self-assess also affect the academic success of students. This professional enquiry group can help you explore the impact of all these in your own classroom through action research.

A more academic route through this melange is possible too; looking at, for example, the work of Hattie, Marzano, Lipman or Feuerstein. Implications for a whole school approach may also flavour some enquiries.

How do we make enquiry work?

When planning effective enquiries there are two main foci:

1. Taking creative leaps to approach a topic

This involved abandoning the logical steps to planning the delivery of a topic and jumping to a more engaging and relevant start point and working backwards.

2. Ensuring that enquiries are robust

We decided to focus and four key drivers for effective enquiry; differentiation, engagement, progress and structure.

Colleagues were asked to identify evidence of these four drivers from examples of enquiries in a number of subjects. This was designed to provide ideas for how these four drivers could be incorporated into their own enquiries.

In this PEG we will explore lines of enquiry that are important to you and your practice. Possible questions and areas of content may include:

• How do we balance scaffolding enquiry and maintaining student engagement and choice?

• How can we ensure academic rigour?

• What are the key stages?

• How can we use ICT and web 2.0 tools?

• What forms of assessment best suit enquiry?

• How can enquiry work at KS4 and beyond?

These are some suggestions from our initial conversation, and it is likely we will uncover some more key issues as the PEG proceeds.

What works in learning?

There was a snigger of sorts when my PEG was assigned to me – what’s he going to do with this? Though I have some ideas about how to teach children, I suddenly felt ill-equipped to tackle this question. In this enquiry group we have decided to identify issues that perhaps frustrate us, or areas we would like to develop in our own practice. We will group together with others who have similar issues then delve a little in to some research around our areas of interest. Some research seems to conflict with other research, and some of it appears to markedly conflict, indeed, with what we hold dearest. There has been much made of the meta study by John Hattie recently for example, but what do the numbers behind the headlines really mean?

We will attempt to find what works in our own context by combining the wealth of educational research with our own experiences, and trialling mini action research projects to explore our interest areas. This will be a challenging but hopefully fruitful experience as some of our everyday practice may be held up for scrutiny. We will not be alone though as the likes of Geoff Petty, John Hattie, the late Graham Nuthall, and a host of other educational grandees will be accompanying us on our quest for enlightenment.

Watch out for exciting developments from these other professional enquiry groups running this year:

• How do we personalise learning for all abilities

• How can AfL transform learning & our practice in classrooms?:

• How do we develop cooperative classrooms?

• How do we (really) develop independent learners?

• How do we make the most of our VLE?

• How do we use ICT to engage / support / enhance learning?

• How do we maximise achievement in the 6th Form?

• How do we engage students in school and schooling?

Darren Mead, Fergus Hegarty, Julia Shanks & Martin Said


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