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What is collaborative inquiry?

Started by Tessa Gray 01 Jun 2016 10:45am () Replies (15)

By now, teachers in Aotearoa have become familiar with or are engaging in Teaching as Inquiry (NZC) - a process of reflection and action to improve outcomes for students. Some of us might also be more familiar with The six parts of the spiral of inquiry (Timperly, Kaser and Halbert , 2014). One of the important differences in this new approach is involving learners, their families, and communities in inquiries.

The shift in thinking here is; teacher reflection is not an isolated activity

Nick Rate has recently completed his professional inquiry paper, focused on Professional Collaborative Inquiry and Technology. In his blog post on, Collaborative Inquiry he writes,

The driving force for the inquiry was to support my belief that professional inquiry (aka teacher as inquiry in NZ), is significantly enhanced through a collaborative model where teachers and school leaders work alongside each other to share, discuss and analyse problems of practice and together, using their collective expertise, plan, implement and review a range of approaches to improve outcomes for their learners. Especially relevant too in schools adopting a team teaching/innovative learning environment approach.

And the kicker…

Problems of practice should be owned by the whole school, not by one teacher!

Makes sense. We’re not in this alone and as Hattie writes in, What works best in Education: The Politics of Collaborative Expertise

Task 7: There is a tremendous amount of consistency across education - each year, students face challenges similar to the students before them, and we have a wealth of knowledge about how to best address those challenges. Teachers should therefore be encouraged to use existing approaches and ideas that have already been proven to be successful with students. 

John Hattie talks about the collective role of collaborative action in schools (including parents/students)

Collaborative inquiry to raise student achievement will require:


  • An understanding of what collaboration looks like – beyond connecting, co-operating 
  • Knowing who we're collaborating with – teachers, students, parents/whānau
  • Having a clear purpose for collaboration – Is it One year input = one year progress?
  • Engaging in ongoing inquiry processes to:
    • collect and analyse data 
    • problem solve
    • develop theories of improvement
    • plan and set goals
    • make observations and give feedback
    • team teach
    • reflect and review
    • development and sharing of replicable approaches.

Adapted from Collaborative Inquiry, Nick Rate April 8, 2016

Have you or your colleagues realised the benefits of engaging in collaborative inquiry? We'd love to hear more! smiley

Examples of collaborative practice in Enabling e-Learning:


  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 09 Jun 2016 4:49pm ()

    Andrea thanks for sharing your model for inquiry. This sounds like a positive way to learn from each other while keep the momentum going - and still keeping it manageable as you say. I see this is very valuable when working in teams. 

    Are there any protocols or coaching methods/models you and your colleagues use as well? smiley

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 15 Aug 2016 3:38pm ()

    This sounds like some invaluable PLD, where teachers can develop some sound listening/coaching/reflective skills Andrea.

    If you want to share some of your own thoughts around collaborative Inquiry, please feel free to join us this Wednesday for the following live event with guest presenter Rebbecca Sweeney. As well as hearing from Rebbecca, we try to build in time for participants to share their own experiences as well.

    cool LIVE WEBINAR: Understanding collaborative inquiry, 15:45 - 16:45, 17 Aug 2016. As more schools start to cluster as communities of learning, we ask, what is collaborative inquiry, what does it look like and how can it impact on teaching and learning outcomes? Come join us as we talk with guest presenter Rebbecca Sweeney (CORE Education) about this more in-depth. Support threads will take place in the Professional Learning group. REGISTER NOW!

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 12 Oct 2016 4:30pm ()

    Nice to see ERO paper on School Evaluation Indicators has diagram/framework that looks like Collaborative Inquiry on page 16. 

    Framework for considering Māori Educational Advancement

    Outcome and process indicators are very clear. As a leader, how are you using this document in your school?

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 28 Oct 2016 1:09pm ()

    Thanks for sharing this post Gretchen. smiley Your comments have helped me to imagine the collaborative conversations that are going on amongst your teachers about your students' strengths and learning needs. 

    One question when you say, "....the depth of discussion around the children, the intensive finding out about the learners and looking at them as 'the whole child', identifying a shared and common 'problem'" - how are you identifying the students? Is this individually or are there groups with similar strengths and learning needs targeted? Love to find out more about this part/phase of the inquiry process...

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 09 Nov 2016 9:07am ()

    Thank you so much for taking the time to reply Gretchen, this makes a lot of sense. The reason why I asked, is... because like you've mentioned, we might naturally go for the target students achieving below standards etc and miss the other clues - meaningful parts of the jigsaw picture that tell us more about our students from their perspective and their parents' perspectives.

    I'm now thinking the scanning stage is really important when we dive into conversations in the focusing and developing hunches stages of inquiry to try and understand how these have become issues for our students. I can now see how having collaborative conversations with peers and fellow colleagues can help find some clarity here. Having understandings about the science of learning (7 Principles of Learning from the Nature of Learning) must be a really helpful guide at this stage too. Finding commonalities for target learners (groups) and a team inquiry focus no doubt makes this process more manageable and achievable.

    Thanks again for sharing Gretchen. I'm really starting down this track myself, so having guidance from someone who's already engaging in collaborative inquiry, is really helpful for the rest of us who are currently  imagining how to embark on this journey too - if we don't have someone like Rebbecca Sweeney sitting next to us. Your sharing has been magic! smiley Any more tips greatly appreciated.

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 03 Mar 2017 11:27am ()

    I'm loving this page in the educational leaders website, Spiral of inquiry: leaders leading learning, particularly the video where Linda Kaser (below) talks about the phases of spirals of inquiry. So easy to follow and makes a lot of sense.

    Linda Kaser screenshot

    Note: Image hyperlinks to educational leaders website

    As well as her clear interpretation of each phase, I found the following set of a questions in every phase very useful too (find these in the transcript):

    • What’s going on for our learners, broadly and specifically?
    • How do we know what’s going on with them? 
    • Why does it matter in each case?


    ...and the idea that we're in this together and we can do so much more for student learning as a collective:

    "We have found that this spiral, this way of thinking about inquiry, collaborative inquiry in every case – cause that’s the only way you can get equity and quality – is lifting more learners than what we used to do before, which was individual inquiry." Linda Kaser.

    I'm also finding it interesting that we're not alone - professional inquiry is happening around the rest of the world as well. Is this happening at your place too?


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