Inquiry circle…

It’s the summer break in Australia (although I’ve spent most of it in the  northern hemisphere winter) and it’s been a month since I posted here, the longest break since I started blogging. I confess that when I pause, I sometimes wonder if I will have anything more to say… but here I am again!

It’s intriguing to hear 5th graders express their views on fracking (hydraulic fracturing), about which I know very little. Their interest grew from one student’s question and developed into a full blown class inquiry, captured in the video proudly shared today by their teacher Zack.

Sarah is exploring how technology can enhance her teaching. She tells us about her venture into blogging and an exciting collaboration she is setting up with a school in Japan.

Another teacher, Laura, has begun to settle into her first year of teaching,  and is experimenting with ways of catering to the individual needs of her students.

These are some of the teachers in a voluntary after school ‘Inquiry Circle’ at a public elementary school in Upper West Side, Manhattan. Each has chosen their own area of action research and the session begins with a quiet written reflection on their work to date, before they are asked to ‘download’ to the group…

Josephine, a veteran teacher, prefaces her reflection by saying ‘It’s easier to be a teacher and harder to be a student.’ The others nod their agreement, although they are clearly stimulated by the challenges. She tells me later how much she enjoys the professional learning taking place in this group. She has made connections with teachers of different grades, who she used to just pass in the hallway. Now she’s learning from and with them and she’s loving it. Josephine and Sarah regularly observe each other’s classes and learn from each other’s practice. Considering that one teaches 5th grade and the other kindergarten, that’s impressive!

I was invited to participate in this session by Dale, a consultant currently working with the school, who I meet today for the first time, though we have been communicating for months. He’s the editor of  a book about schools’ journeys to communities of practice, for which I have written a chapter, so it’s interesting to see him collaborating with the principal and staff to help build such a community here.

I notice:

  • the degree of trust between the participants
  • their pride in their own achievements and those of their colleagues
  • the openness and honesty with which they express their doubts
  • the respectful way in which they ask questions and clarify their understanding of other team members’ work
  • their shared interest in inquiry, exploring technology and advancing their own practice


  • Dale’s unintrusive style of facilitating, from which I can undoubtedly learn.

I check before posting this and receive the following response from Dale: ‘By all means post this. It captures the values that I stand for!’

Mine too.

4 thoughts on “Inquiry circle…

  1. I have been struggling for a while with my school to get more democratic forms of professional development going (I am a teacher). We do have quite a bit of PD (2 hours every Tuesday, in fact!), but it is entirely administration driven – what they think we need. We are a PYP school, but I often feel our PD goes against everything we are talking about in terms of helping students find their own inquiries. “Do as I say, not as I do” feels like the motto of our PD sessions. I have even suggested that we start small – maybe one or two Tuesdays per semester could be turned over to teachers for teacher-led, teacher-driven inquiry. Now I am starting to wonder how much of this resistance is due to the fact that it is a private school. All of this is to ask if you have seen differences in approaches to PD in private and public schools. I am in Brazil, btw.


    1. Hi Kris

      I would have expected it to be the other way around. I work in a private school and we have shifted the focus of our PD to a much more teacher driven approach. Take a look at some examples here
      I guess it depends on how open your administrators are to change. Perhaps you could bring them some examples so that they can see what’s possible and how it’s working in other places. Starting small sounds perfect. Good luck!


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