Exploring the spiral of inquiry
The spiral of inquiry is an approach to professional learning that begins with a problem or situation in the classroom. It requires support and uses a collaborative approach (i.e. teachers, learners, school leaders etc.) to contribute. It focuses on two key questions:
What’s going on for our learners?
How do we know?
Scanning: In this phase we observe our learners and watch them carefully. As you teach, spend some time during the lesson to stop and look: What do you notice about your learners? Are they all engaged? How do you know?
Focussing: In this phase we decide what area to concentrate on so that it will make a difference to our learners. It is important to bring in other colleagues and approach this collaboratively. For example, do you need to ask more open-ended questions to develop their critical thinking skills?
Developing a hunch: In this phase we ask the question: How am I contributing to this situation? Is there something I need to learn? Remember that a “hunch” may not be 100% correct and once again, needs feedback from colleagues and peers. We may also need to “test” out a couple of hunches in (for example) peer observations to see what the real issues are.
New learning: In this phase we build on the previous one and answer the questions: What do I need to learn and where can I find the information I need? This is where continuing professional development activities like joining a community of practice or attending a course will help.
Taking action: In this phase we answer the question: What can I do differently to make enough of a difference? It is also trying out the new approach in the classroom and evaluating whether or not it worked. Remember: genuine inquiry needs space to take risks, make mistakes and try again – and again.
Checking: In this phase we answer the question: Have we made enough of a difference? At this point, we could also explore new points of action…and so the spiral continues, going back to the scanning phase.
Text adapted from: Timperley, H, Halbert, J and Kaser, J. (2014) A framework for transforming learning in schools: Innovation and the spiral of inquiry, Centre for Strategic Education, Victoria