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Working with Tony Ryan at Tahunanui School


Since beginning the ICT Contract with the Whakatu Cluster Tahunanui School has been developing our school curriculum through integrating key competencies and experimenting with inquiry learning.  Last week 6 teachers from Tahunanui School‘s Inquiry Team spent a morning working with Tony Ryan to continue to develop our school inquiry process and curriculum.  With Tony’s support we approached the session with an inquiring mind:

Q. What’s our purpose for doing this inquiry? 

To identify what inquiry means to our school community.  

Q. What do we already know about this issue?

The core understanding/big idea is key to inquiry learning.  Start with the key competencies & our school values then content.  Teachers’ paradigms need to shift.  Content is important but value systems are the foundations. 

Q. What are our questions?

Where does the NZC fitted in to inquiry learning? How can we deliver the curriculum? How can our school values and the key competencies be delivered through inquiry learning?  What makes the most effective learning?

Q. What learning steps will we take?

       Develop a framework of implementation

       Staff meetings

       Develop a circular visual inquiry model - linked to our school logo

       Develop a planning format that makes explicit links to our inquiry model

       Inquiry team to use our inquiry model within their classroom to act as exemplars 

       Teachers to use inquiry for their professional portfolio & embed into their own lives

       Developing support partners for inquiry learning

Q. How will we do useful research? 

Investigate other schools’ inquiry models and how their embed in inquiry learning into their classroom programs.   Professional readings/reflections on pedagogy.

Q. How will we share our findings? 

       Staff and team meetings

       Coaching partners

       Professional dialogue & reflection in professional portfolios


The Coaching Process

We then worked through the coaching process to guide our next steps in developing inquiry across our school.

1.     What do you need to achieve?

Commonality of language/visuals/inquiry process across the Tahunanui School.  Identify the benefits of developing and inquiring mind.  Create templates to scaffold planning and understanding of the inquiry process.

2.     What’s happening right now?

Teachers experimenting with different models of inquiry learning and thinking tools.

3.     What could you do?

* Embed inquiry into all learning

* School wide focus on inquiry learning

* Inquiry learning afternoons or days

  * Develop student leaders in inquiry

* Talk to other schools and teachers

* Develop icon/pictorial images for the school inquiry process

* Bring the community into school to take part in inquiry learning

* Embed inquiry learning that takes place into school wikis and blogs

* Research into inquiry learning

4.     What will you do?

* Develop a framework to implement our inquiry process

* Introduce inquiry in staff meetings

* Set our process into our own curriculum design

* Display the inquiry process in every teaching space e.g. classrooms, e-space, library, Muritai      Centre

5.     How & when will this be done?

* 3 members of the inquiry team to develop the implementation framework

* Share with framework with inquiry team and finalize

* Share implementation framework with staff

6.     How will you keep it going?

* Use the coaching process as part of our meetings

* Celebrate successes - share, through on going dialogue in face-to-face meetings, blogging,      wikis etc. 

* Use of strong visual representations through the school

* Talking with parents and sharing our vision and implementation of inquiry learning

* Developing inquiry as an area of responsibility - developing leaders across the school


After the meeting we feel that we are on the right track with developing our school curriculum and felt inspired by the ideas that we worked upon.  We came away with a clear framework to continue to build our school curriculum through integrating key competencies and experimenting with inquiry learning.  Thank you Tony for your challenges and zestful approach!


  • BecPower

    Wow Emma this looks like it was a really worthwhile session! I commend the way you have dug deeply & broken down your 'learning steps' and then again broken down your steps using the 'coaching process'.  You've made this very clear - this process would be a very good model for others who are working through the same thinking, well done for making it public and sharing it!



  • Kelliem

    Hi Em,

    Had you already begun this process before 'Tony time'? You had some very clear guiding questions to investigate and it shows in the process you have developed.

    Like Bec, I really like the way you have developed 'coaching' as a way to gain momentum/traction with the staff. The process and support is really clear and transparent, a great model.

  • Janice Gulbransen

    Hi Kellie and Bec (and Emma)

    The Coaching Model that Tony shared is certainly a good one to use for a coaching model for staff in all aspects of leading within - and outside - our schools.

    Kellie and Bec - remember at the end of our Leadership Forum today I sad I had two other things to talk through/share and they would have to wait as time was running out - well, one was the Coaching Model - same as what Emma has used at Tahunanui - I have a copy of it to give you next week but pop in tomorrow and it's yours and you could share Tahunanui's use of the model with our Leadership Forum on Tueday next....... interesting/exciting times indeed!



  • Emma Watts

    Hi Bec & Kellie,

    Thanks for your positive comments on our work with Tony.  As a staff we have been developing our curriculum since the beginning of the ICT contract (check out our progress at http://tahunanuischool.wikispaces.com/Reflection).  We have discussed our concept of inquiry learning and have been using aspects of inquiry learning and various thinking tools in our classrooms.  

    Tony's session provided us with a concrete way to analyse what we have done so far and supported us in identifying our next steps.  We used the inquiry questions provided by Tony to create a framework to identify our next steps as a school and the coaching model to consolidate how to achieve them. 

    We are also aiming to use the coaching model & inquiry questions within our professional development and teacher appraisal system.  

    Our previous work around inquiry and the curriculum paved the way for our work with Tony.  He challenged our thinking and encouraged us to think outside the ‘dodecahedron' to help us implement our ideas!  Our session was a great success and empowered us to continue to develop our pedagogy and use it in our classroom practice.

  • Tony Ryan and the inquiry process

    We asked Tony to take a look at our integrated curriculum plan and wanted to know where he would apply elearning.

    Our focus shifted toward the restructuring of our plan with a particular focus on the inquiry process.  Tony suggested a 6 question inquiry model.  Tony 'work-shopped' this with us by applying this model to something significant we had learned recently:

    1. What is/was our purpose for doing this?

    2. What did you already know?

    3. What questions did you need to answer?

    4. What were the learning steps?

    5. How did you research?

    6. How did you share your learning?

    We also looked at the links between professional learning, a curriculum framework and an 'e-curriculum'/resources.

    Together with Tony's revised K.I.S.S acronym, keep it short and simple, we are looking at revising how we build our integrated planning in the future.


  • Isaac Day

    This was clearly time well spent for you guys Emma?  Did you walk around classes with Tony?  When we did, he (rightly) pointed out that our classroom learning was more a curriculum paradigm than an inquiry one... this really got us thinking and we spoke about the importance of learning to read and write and be numerate.  Tony spoke to us about the BOTH/AND approach (as opposed to the either/or dichotomy that we tend to fall into) and challenged us to consider how we could do both effectively.  It promoted some great discussion and got us thinking about developing inquiry to support reading, writing and maths!  Sealed

  • DaveP

    Hmmmmm...hard to add onto your detailed summary Emma but I liked the way we brought all our ideas to the table and could talk about the bits and pieces that made up our understanding of inquiry learning so far.  I liked talking about the big six as you already nmentioned, and the super 3 which contain the same basic elements as the big 6 but in simpler language that younger students can get their head around - the key parts being PLAN  DO   REVIEW.  It is something i have begun with my kids and have enjoyed.  I also found it useful when Tony explained that the review part of the process can happen throughout the process.  E.G I gave the example of times where we have come up with worthwhile questions about what we want to investigate but then gone off on tangents and then forgotten to review at the end if we actually answered what we set out to.  Tony suggested reviewing after different steps of the big 6 to see if our ideas have changed, or if we have new valid questions to answer, and to check our changing understandings as we progress....so more of a circular pattern of inquiry rather than a linear flow that follows set steps (that makes sense in my mind as I picture Tony's diagram but probably not to anyone else who is bothering to read this).  I also liked how we talked about having a WORTHY question to look at that is open-ended and involves higher order thinking.  The teacher provides scaffolding and gradually removes this as you progress.  Lots to think about ay.  Dave.

  • Emma Watts

    Hi Dave

    Good response.  I though the super three was a great way to focus students on where their inquiry was good too (i.e. Q. What have you done so far?, Q. What's your favourite part? Q. What will you do next?) 

    Asking worthy questions is key, and teacher scaffolding is the start.  You may be interested in Trevor Bond's work on developing children's questioning skills (http://ictnz.com/Questioning.htm.)  I attended his break out on students asking questions - his question matrix would be a great way to develop skills in questioning.  Check out his questioning wiki for further information. 

    Definitely lots to think about!  EmSmile

  • Paul Drummond

    Thanks Emma for the comprehensive summary. Tony's input enabled us to synthesise our previous work on cuurriculum design. We have now a clearer and stronger rationale for the structure of our curriculum. Key competencies are the starting point of our planning and there is now an understanding of the place of 'enquiry'. Tony scaffolded our learning with an energy and pace. The questioning was challenging and  led to common understandings and next steps. 

    We talked about reading,maths and writing too and whether it could taught through enquiry. No consensus! However I believe the over emphasis on the 'core' and any high stakes around their assesssment have the real potential to compromise the best outcomes of a wide and creative curriculum.