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Merivale School. Teaching as Inquiry Approach to Online Learning

The Rationale:

Teachers at Merivale School  (part of The Tauranga Moana ICTPD Cluster)  used a Teaching as Inquiry approach to their professional learning, in order to become more culturally responsive and to improve outcomes for their Maori Students. 

The school has a student role of between 95 – 98% Maori Students and have Rumaki and Mainstream classes working from both the NZC and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa curricula

Authorative Research:

During the focusing and teaching phases of the inquiry the teachers used the findings from the “Learning from the Quality Teaching Research and Development Programme Evaluation(QTR&D 2009) to inform their practice and guide them in their learning alongside the students. 

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This particular Teaching as Inquiry model was chosen due to the inclusion of "ako" in the process.

“ako describes a teaching and learning relationship where the educator is also learning from the student and where educators’ practices are informed by the latest research and are both deliberate and reflective. Ako is grounded in the principle of reciprocity and recognises that the learner and whānau cannot be separated.

Click here to download a summary of the research

The Context:

The context for this Teaching as Inquiry was identified through wider school Professional Development around the school’s vision and values, specifically the implementation of the school’s Learner Model and the continued development of Inquiry Teaching approach within the school. 

Click here to view Merivale School Vision and Values and Learner Model

Likewise the e-learning tool (uSpace), which was chosen to support the context for learning , evolved from existing technology in the school and existing classroom practice. 

Click here to reference the context for the first learning inquiry cycle.

VLN link to the context

What did we do?

The school is currently immersed in another learning inquiry phase where teachers are focused on monitoring progress towards the outcome and modifying and adapting both their own and student behaviour in line with the school’s vision and values.

A Virtual class (like a wiki) was set up in the school’s LMS (Ultranet) to provide a place where all students and all teachers could put their wonderings or ask questions about their learning online.  

Click here to view a pdf of the Wonderings Wiki online task. Please note this is still an "evolving" process.

An online task module, RSS fed to every student and teacher’s “Dashboard”  was then used to encourage students and teachers to participate alongside each other to build their understandings about online learning. (See files section for pictorial representation of task)

This wiki  is an attempt to encourage students to ask questions about their learning. Students and teachers are both able to reply to questions to help build knowledge around "digital citizenship"

Another initiative, which evolved from one of the peer coaching reflection cycles in the learning inquiry was the establishment of the school library in the uSpace environment.  (See files section for pictorial representation of this)

This arose out of a discussion about what were the next steps for the learning? The teachers wanted to provide a stronger, but still informal, literacy experience for the students, something that was motivational and fun, and more purposefully linked to the curriculum.  

The Merivale School Library now has a presence in uSpace, much in the same manner as you can follow a business or group in facebook. 

The Library blogs about new books, uploads youtube movies related to literacy and encourages students to link back to the school’s virtual library.

The school is currently building on the concept that the Virtual Library class can be used to promote literacy and engage students with books outside of the classroom and ultimtely in homes. Each new page is like a digital immersion task, encoraging students to explore characteristics and elements of books.

Click here to see the setup work so far of the Merivale School Virtual Library. Please note this is still an "evolving" process.


What have we learned?

Whilst this approach has been very resource intensive on teacher time and support personnel teachers can now see the importance of the teaching as inquiry approach to PD/PL. 

One of the biggest successes to come out of this Teaching as Inquiry approach to professional learning is how the learning has impacted on other teachers and other students outside of the initial inquiry. Involvement  and participation in uSpace has progressed from the initial two classes, two teachers, to participation by other teachers and students in the school. Other teachers have asked for their classes to be set up in uSpace so that younger brothers and sisters can join in conversations. 

The online learning community is slowly beginning to take shape and grow to support the development of the school’s values as the students continue to develop voice and ownership of the space through informal opportunities. 

The two teachers involved in the initial inquiry have reported that whilst they initially felt nervous about “letting the kids go”, with this learning as we go approach, they could now see the potential of this e-learning environment to actively engage students in literacy experiences that are motivating, fun, challenging and connected to their experiences, contexts and interests and at the same time assist students to maximise opportunities to learn.

What are our next steps?

The school is now looking forward to consolidating their learning using this Teaching as Inquiry approach going into 2011. Ongoing teacher reflections have identified the following 

  • the need for teachers to "up the ante" by setting aside time in their day to develop content for and participate in the online environment
  • the need to allocate time for the explicit teaching of the skills and process required for a student to participate in an online environment
  • the need to develop rubrics and criteria around "best practice" use of the online environment to guide student's in their next steps for learning.

Moving forward with uSpace this means developing this safe social networking environment to include an e-portfolio with more formal opportunities to develop the school’s vision and values, student voice and ownership of learning and for teachers to feedforward and feedback to students and whanau regarding student learning.