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ICT2LRN Reflective Summary 5, May 2012

Teacher Inquiry – developing ICT integration through school, teacher and student based teacher inquiry process.

Who are we?


We are a cluster of 10 schools in the southland region, based in from Invercargill to Winton and in between.  Our cluster goals focussed on the development of ICT integration through the inquiry process.  Last year our cluster decided to incorporate the Teacher inquiry model into our process to give the teachers a focus and purpose for their personal PD programme. 


The reflection was made from our first year that many teachers found it difficult to integrate ICT strategies with their students when there was so much they could do and learn.  The Teacher Inquiry gave them a goal to achieve, based on their student’s needs, and a focus for discovering and innovating the ICT strategies that would help them work towards their goal.


Where to this year?

This year, our cluster’s final year, each cluster school was given the choice to continue with the teacher inquiry process or to try another approach to enhance the ICT integration of their school programmes.  7 of the 10 schools chose to continue to build on this in 2012.


Their reasons for doing so were varied.  Some wanted to continue building a staff culture of inquiry and they commented that it was enhancing the ‘teacher as a learner’ philosophy within their school.  Others felt that they had just barely scratched the surface of the potential for teacher inquiry to improve student outcomes and most agreed that it would take three years or more for the process to become embedded in their school systems and to develop enough teacher expertise to assist new staff. 


All schools that continued with their teacher inquiries felt that having a focus and a goal for teachers helped them structure their own PD programme and gave it authenticity and purpose.  Teachers were able to attend courses, workshops and online tutorials that gave them strategies and resources to help them reach their goals.  It targeted, they felt, their PD to what they wanted to achieve, rather than being up-skilled in an area and trying to work out how they could use that skill in their class.


One of the most important aspects of a school’s success with their teacher inquiries was formalising the process within their teacher appraisal systems.  This meant that teachers saw T.I. as a part of their appraisal and not an ‘extra.’  This was crucial with the ever-increasing workload that teachers face.  Some schools are managing this through having written reflections recorded on their appraisal documents, discussion about their inquiries during appraisal interviews and also regular time to talk about their progress during staff meetings.  Some schools are having teacher’s present their inquiry journeys to other staff and BOT members at the conclusion of their inquiries and encouraging staff to reflect on their inquiries online through blogs and websites (Tim Lovelock, Jan Forde, Jasmine Rolton.)



There is a range of ways that schools have guided teachers through their teacher inquiries.  Some have allowed teachers to set targets across the curriculum that meet the needs of their particular students.  This has given staff the freedom and motivation to pursue their own passions and interests.  It has also made for incredibly colourful staff discussions at team and staff meetings.  The range of initiatives and expertise that is built up within the school has benefited everyone.  Other schools have chosen to have set targets within a curriculum area for each syndicate or even school.  The advantage of this approach is that they can share resources and innovations, organise PD opportunities that could benefit most teachers and drive discussions in a similar direction.  This targeted approach also enables some teachers to ride on the momentum of others and helped schools to meet their own charter goals in those areas.


Those that have continued with the teacher inquiry process have reflected on the improved teacher collaboration that is being built across their schools.  Teachers are working alongside each other to share ideas, help with hands on ICT expertise and distribute skills and resources when asked or offered. 


This term every school is completing a staff survey that gauges how much progress has been made with ICT integration and the skill and confidence levels of their teachers.  The results of this survey, due to be distributed in June will help schools set some direction for the final 2 terms of our cluster contract.  Principals are looking forward to seeing the progress reflected in their staff reflections and are expecting them to be very positive.



Where to next?


Most schools would like to continue the success of having teachers working alongside each other, both within their schools and across schools.  The barriers of the cost for release and time are to be worked through but many are reporting these visits to be a crucial part of the teacher inquiry journey.  The visits and time with another teacher gives them the opportunity to verbally reflect, have some ‘outside eyes’ to give advice and ideas and also provides the incentive to continue on the journey; “If I know someone is visiting me in 3 weeks to see how I’m doing with my inquiry it helps me stay focussed and try new things.”


Schools would like to resource and equip some teachers within their school to build an expertise of teacher inquiry that can benefit others.  Having T.I. (Teacher Inquiry) ‘coaches’ within their ranks would help guide those new to their school or less confident in the process.  It might also create T.I. ‘cheerleaders’ who help teachers to stay motivated and trumpet the successes as they emerge.


We would also like to create a bank of resources that can help guide and equip teacher before, during and at the end of the teacher inquiry process.  This could be a website, wiki, ebook or dropbox type storage system that contains everything a teacher and school would need to successful implement, run and sustain a teacher inquiry programme in their schools.


In summary – most of our clusters schools are continuing to develop a teacher inquiry programme within their schools and have reported success with providing teachers a purpose, structure and motivation for the development of ICT integration within their classrooms.  This is a success that they hope will continue and be sustainable going into the last semester of the cluster and beyond.