Seeking help is a critical skill

“Toxic ideas such as  “asking for help will alter others’ perception of me” or “asking for help will make me feel less competent than my colleagues” prevent them from seeking help from informal (e.g., friends) or formal (e.g., colleagues, project manager, etc) sources.  Since competence and independence are among the most cherished values in today’s organizations (DePaulo & Fisher, 1980), many believe that help seeking may undermine these values (Lee, 1997).”

 

The mantra in my class, particularly with math, is: attempt the question, check your answer against the key. If it’s right… carry on. If not, try to fix it. If you can’t fix it in a few minutes, get some help. Don’t perseverate on that one question because your brain eventually shifts from trying to solve the problem to self-defeating talk about how stupid you are that you don’t get it. The message is that we are learning, this is the process, we give it a go recognizing that it will be challenging, it will be hard, we aren’t born knowing this stuff.

How to we move from a culture of product to a culture of progress where we celebrate the change in understanding, the evolution of a learning artifact? How do we make it so that asking for help is seen as strength of character, as a commitment to personal growth, as the epitome of a learner?

The more we share our messy drafts and raw work while looking for change over time, the more, I think, we will appreciate the work and artistry that goes into it. Think about those people that have practiced, reflected, improved, and rehearsed so diligently that their performances seem effortless. What if we could watch a Cirque du Soleil performer from the first day in gymnastics to their current state. Would we appreciate their flawless performance even more? Would we understand the processes and skills that go into a performance? What about a painter, or writer, or physicist?

 

DePaulo, B., & Fisher, J.  (1980).  The cost of asking for help.  Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 7, 23-35.

Lee, F.  (1997).  When the going gets tough, do the tough ask for help? Help seeking and power motivation in organizations.  Organizational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes, 72, 336-363.

"History of Education" what's it good for?

History of Education

History of Education

Herbst, J. (1999). The history of education: State of the art at the turn of the century in Europe and North America. Paedagogica Historica, 35(3).

“… historians of education meant to be academic historians before they would consider their role in educational scholarship and professional training.”

This statement was a revealing insight into historical scholarship. It never really occurred to me that “History of Education” would be practiced by those who identified as historians, and by those who identified as educators. While I’m usually very aware of the voice behind a piece of writing, it wasn’t something I was really focused on in my (very limited) reading of education history. It is clearer to me now that an historian’s work will be grounded in some philosophy or overt goal that is reflected in the product of their labours, particularly in light of the Cuban (2001) article explained below. Who writes the history of education? Historians? Educators? Does it matter? Who writes it is probably less important than what we can do with it.

 

“We have many studies of educational policy, they write, but very few, if any, of educational reality in the classroom.”

This is a powerful observation. More is written about the structures, processes, and policies of education than what happens in the classroom where education happens. Is there a new opportunity for scholarly study with Web 2.0 technology where educators are actively sharing their experiences? Could a sense of what happens in classrooms be culled from teacher and learner social media and blogs? Of course, that content is filtered and highly selective but offers more of an insight than has ever been available in the past.

 

“… yanked the history of education out of its traditional home in the teacher training departments of colleges and universities and sought to place it in the history departments of liberal arts colleges and Graduate Schools of Arts and Sciences. It was designed to rid the history of education of its reputation as a functional handmaiden of professional education and to reclaim it as a liberal arts discipline.

 Interesting - the perceived function of the field impacted how it was received. Fair enough, I suppose... it just never occurred to me that the "history of education" that we all take in teacher training was a study of history and not a solely a study of education. Maybe it is more appropriate to phrase it like, "I never put history together with education even though I took a course in the history of education.” I enjoyed flipping through the archives of the Historical Studies in Education journal and appreciated more the lessons one can learn from a study of the past. Of particular interest was an article titled: "How to teach English to immigrant children: Canadian pedagogical theory and practice, 1910 - 1960". As a classroom teacher anticipating receiving Syrian refugees in the near future, it was interesting to see how the challenge of second language learners had been addressed in the past. I could also see how this would be useful to policy makers in determining how to support these new Canadians.

 

Cuban, L. (2001). Can Historians Help School Reformers? Curriculum Inquiry, 31(4), 453–467.

While Cuban's article explores some fascinating historical content in education history, the real lesson is his description of three different approaches (on a continuum) to history that sees the historian's point of view or preferences manifest in their work to different degrees and for different purposes

In one, the “non-policy” historian strives to remain separate and apart seeking only to present information in a comprehensive and understandable way sensitive to the context of the time. It is the reader's task to make meaning from history’s narrative.

In another, the “policy-sensitive” historian applies historical understanding to current situations to inform decision making without attempting to sway the decisions in any way. History is analysed to address a current need and reported to those who will take it under advisement for policy making.
In the third approach, “presentist” historians are fully invested in the historical interpretation and the policy application. Here, history is interpreted through the lens of the present time and serve an immediate policy motive. History is used to serve an agenda and the historian tells the reader what it is and how to think about it.

Is one approach better than the others? Or does the continuum reflect the range of legitimate applications for historical scholarship? The danger, clearly, is when history is intentionally misinterpreted or skewed to serve a present agenda. Cuban criticizes the presentist approach for being simplistic and glossing over information essential for a full understanding of the issue in favour of painting a one-dimensional image that serves a particular agenda.

Self Regulating my own Study of Self-Regulation

Who has time not to self-regulate

I have taken on a lot of obligations this term: three graduate courses for my Master's degree, organizing two Edcamps, teaching full-time, volunteering for our local community club fundraisers, and a research project. Add to that the expectations of contributing to the household, maintaining relationships and there is a lot to juggle.

If you have read my previous posts on multitasking, you know I've invested a fair bit of time and effort in exploring and understanding the issue. What follows is a description of how I am personally using that learning to manage my own time. This post also couches the descriptions in the language of self-regulation, a topic I am currently studying as part of my MEd in Professional Inquiry from Queen's.

Think about your own experiences - what happens when the workload piles up? We respond to the stress in lots of different ways: we procrastinate until we have time to do it right, we retreat and let things go unaddressed, or maybe we go into superhero mode activating our superpowers to take it all on. Unlike movie superhero powers, powers of self-regulation can be learned by anyone.

Superpower: Metacognition... ACTIVATE!!

Knowing facts and processes is knowledge - you can know a lot things about a lot of stuff and you can probably do plenty of things with that stuff. That is Cognition. Metacognition is knowing about HOW you know stuff, WHY you can learn things, and WHAT conditions or processes are most effective for your learning. This comes from thinking about your thinking, reflecting on your progress and determining what factors are contributing to your success or your difficulties.

Time Management

So here is how I approached this situation. First, is the time factor. I know if I am going to accomplish everything I will need to make good use of my time. I've done two courses while teaching full-time before so I'm already familiar with the demands. When the opportunity arose to take on a third course I knew the available time would be insufficient to balance all the demands on my life. I made a successful application for some release time from work - 12 days educational leave, supported from our school division's professional development fund, to pursue my studies. I also scaled back on some other commitments. It is hard for me at the moment to commit to ongoing involvement with committees, however, I can, if the timing works out, volunteer for a specific project with a defined start and end time. This strategy keeps me involved with my community but gives me the freedom to regulate my time. When I am asked to participate in something, I can look at my schedule and assess my ability to participate.

On the wall in my office is a four-month calendar to give me the big picture of assignment deadlines and the flow of the classes. One challenge is blending that and our day-to-day life calendar which our family maintains on our shared iCalendar. I don't need to clutter the family calendar with the minutiae of my assignments and readings but I do put in specific time obligations like synchronous meetings with a project team.

Space Management

One's workspace is important to productivity. I have a small office in the basement away from everything else where I can retreat to attend to my work. There is no television, no radio, no bookshelves... just a desk and office chair and a futon. By minimizing the clutter in the room I minimize the distractions.

Grad School Battle StationMy computer workspace also reflects my need to manage many sources of information and facilitate the transition between tasks. On a single monitor, flipping between applications and documents was frustrating and inefficient so I scrounged a couple of additional monitors for my computer.  I found myself getting distracted shifting from one screen to another when working on a project. This lets me access my course management system, the assignment criteria, the readings, and my writing space at a glance. The research into multitasking suggests benefits to minimizing time transition from one task to another. Here's an excerpt from a paper I wrote on the topic:

Cognitive processing time is another element of multitasking. Insufficient time between tasks interferes with transference of information to memory; too much time between tasks may tempt learners to seek other stimuli (Y. Zhang et al., 2005). The benefits of multitasking decrease as the rapidity of task switching increases. Where task switching is a matter of choice, an individual aware of the need for transitional processing time may better appreciate the need to reduce task-switching to maintain focus (Salvucci, 2010; Trafton et al., 2003) and the faster one can process information, the better able one is to multitask (Dux et al., 2009).

http://milestomes.com/?p=2709

Project Management (big scale)

Course timelines and project charts help visualize work flow over longer periods.

Course timelines and project charts help visualize workflow over longer periods.

I have a pad of large newsprint chart paper on which I charted out the academic term, one sheet for each course. At the beginning of the course I review the syllabus, plot out the assignment dates, reading lists, and module deliverables. This time spent at the start gives me a broad sense of the workflow to come over the term. I anticipate which modules will demand greater attention and use that to guide my efforts. The large charts give me a nice workspace for keeping track of

The first week of class focuses primarily on orienting to the content and meeting the other students in the class. Because the workload is low, it is the perfect time to get things organized for the term to come.

Often there are substantial projects with a due date near the end of the course. For these, I establish a digital workspace, usually on GoogleDocs, and copy/paste the project criteria and any related information into the first page. Next, I'll break down the big project into a sequence of smaller projects and attach some timelines to each goal. The GoogleDoc also serves as a thinking space to add ideas while thinking and researching.

On the research end, I've made a habit of downloading all my research files into a single folder. Jumbles of random files with odd names makes it tremendously difficult to refer back to readings and wastes a lot of time. For efficiency, I name each file with the AUTHOR (YEAR) ARTICLE TITLE. This makes it easy to skim through the folder listing to find what I'm looking for.

Mendeley organizes readings and research interfacing with Word for easy citations and bibliographies.

Mendeley organizes readings and research interfacing with Word for easy citations and bibliographies.

The folder I have set up to receive all my shared files is a "watched folder" in the Mendeley citation manager program. When I save a file, Mendeley automatically scans the document for citation information. As I import files, I ensure the entries are formatted properly and I tag them in the application with the related course number, the project title, and any other relevant keywords. Mendeley is a great time saver because I can search my entire database of articles, both titles and content. It keeps track of which articles I have read through, I can annotate and take notes within the application and those notes are also searchable. Further, because it interfaces with Word, I can insert a citation and update the bibliography with a couple of clicks.

Task Management (small scale)

Long term planning and goals on chart paper. Daily tasks on sticky notes.

Long term planning and goals on chart paper. Daily tasks on sticky notes.

I'm going to head down to my office and work on my courses. (which course? what part of the course? what do you need to do? what is coming up? what is outstanding? how long do you have? what do you want to finish in that time? how long would that really take? what do you need to get that done? what will you learn along the way?

I use sticky notes to set specific goals for a work session. This helps focus my attention and sets parameters on where my efforts should be directed. Without them it is easy to get side-tracked down a research branch that, while interesting, is irrelevant to the task at hand. If it is really something I want to pursue, I pop the topic on another sticky note and follow up later, if I'm still interested.

I did considerable research into multitasking and it turns out that the best way to multitask is to not to. For all practical purposes, there are no circumstances where multitasking adds to productivity or efficiency. I had a bad habit of launching my web browser, loading up the course management site, then starting my email, social media, and a couple other sites while it was loading, you know, to get a couple of things done while I was waiting for my real task to load. As I was seeing things of interest I'd load them into a new tab so I could get to them later. Before you know it, 40 minutes had passed, I'd have 27 tabs open and I still wouldn't have accomplished anything I came down to do!

This brief minute video titled, "Single-tasking is the new multitasking" is a fun exploration of the multitasking and distraction problem and offers a simple sounding solution that demands some serious self-awareness and self-control.

While I thought I was being efficient with my time, it turns out that multitasking increased the time needed to complete a task (Bowman et al., 2010). Not only that, but the research overwhelmingly finds that the quality of work diminishes when attention is divided (Burak, 2012; Gaudreau, Miranda, & Gareau, 2014; Jacobsen & Forste, 2011; Ragan, Jennings, Massey, & Doolittle, 2014; Sana, Weston, & Cepeda, 2013; W. Zhang, 2015). Sticky notes are my friend. If something comes up - a phone call, meal time, unexpected visitor, etc. and I can't see the current task through to completion, I'll briefly write what I was working on and what my next step is. That note assists with "interruption recovery" and "task-reorientation", the cognitive demands made when we have to switch away from and return to an activity. It helps with the, "ok, where was I... what was I doing?" questions.

 

Bibliography (small scale)

Bowman, L. L., Levine, L. E., Waite, B. M., & Gendron, M. (2010). Can students really multitask? An experimental study of instant messaging while reading. Computers and Education, 54(4), 927–931. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2009.09.024

Burak, L. (2012). Multitasking in the university classroom. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 6(2), 1–13.

Dux, P. E., Tombu, M. N., Harrison, S., Rogers, B. P., Tong, F., & Marois, R. (2009). Training improves multitasking performance by increasing the speed of information processing in human prefrontal cortex. Neuron, 63(1), 127–138. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2009.06.005

Gaudreau, P., Miranda, D., & Gareau, A. (2014). Canadian university students in wireless classrooms: What do they do on their laptops and does it really matter ? Computers & Education, 70, 245–255. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2013.08.019

Jacobsen, W. C., & Forste, R. (2011). The wired generation: Academic and social outcomes of electronic media use among university students. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 14(5), 275–280. doi:10.1089/cyber.2010.0135

Ragan, E. D., Jennings, S. R., Massey, J. D., & Doolittle, P. E. (2014). Unregulated use of laptops over time in large lecture classes.Computers and Education, 78, 78–86. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2014.05.002

Salvucci, D. D. (2010). On reconstruction of task context after interruption. Proceedings of the 28th International Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - CHI ’10, 89. doi:10.1145/1753326.1753341

Sana, F., Weston, T., & Cepeda, N. J. (2013). Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers. Computers and Education, 62, 24–31. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2012.10.003

Trafton, J. G., Altmann, E. M., Brock, D. P., & Mintz, F. E. (2003). Preparing to resume an interrupted task: Effects of prospective goal encoding and retrospective rehearsal. International Journal of Human Computer Studies, 58(5), 583–603. doi:10.1016/S1071-5819(03)00023-5

Zhang, Y., Goonetilleke, R. S., Plocher, T., & Liang, S. F. M. (2005). Time-related behaviour in multitasking situations. International Journal of Human Computer Studies, 62(4), 425–455. doi:10.1016/j.ijhcs.2005.01.002

Creativity and Innovation: Are they the Same Thing?

Creativity and Innovation

These terms are often used interchangeably when describing new ideas, processes, and products but there is a key difference that is worth considering. Creativity exists only in our minds until we use it to do or create something. Innovation is when we ACT on our creative thoughts. How do we know if someone is creative? Well, we're all creative in a way, but there are those people who frequently contribute interesting or unique ideas to a conversation. How do we know if that same person innovative? There will be products of their creativity to point to for evidence.

Innovative people are creative, but not all creative people are innovative.

In the realm of Innovation

We might better understand innovation in contrast to other terms having to do with creating or shaping systems. Of course, these are overly simplistic statements, but they create an idea space to understand how innovation is different from other forms of change.

  • Rehabilitation returns a damaged system to a previous state.
  • Renovation improves existing systems.
  • Reformation modifies existing systems based on a familiar model.
  • Transformation shifts from one known system to another known system.
  • Innovation is creating completely new systems.

Acting on Creativity

How many of us have awesome ideas but never get around to doing anything with them? Translating ideas into actions is hard, takes energy and commitment. Whether the restraints are logistical, motivational, or legal, there are plenty of creative ideas that never have a chance to live in the world (and plenty that probably shouldn't!).

My own personal challenge is to do more translating, to act more on creative thoughts, to have some product that could be used elsewhere. This blog has been part of that effort - sharing and deconstructing innovative efforts and identifying their utility. "But what have I done..." is the reflective question I ask that leads to the goal oriented statement, "What will I do..."

Always enjoy hearing others' thoughts (creative or otherwise).

Speed Read: "Social Physics" by Alex Pentland

Social Physics by Alex Pentland

Social Physics by Alex Pentland

Pentland's Social Physics

If you work with people, or know people, or are a people, then you should read this book.

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18079689-social-physics

Pentland, A. (2014). Social physics: How good ideas spread - The lessons from a new science. New York, NY: Penguin Press.

For a good overview of what social physics is about, read Pentland's article in the Harvard Business Review.

Pentland, A. (2010). The new science of building great teams. Harvard Business Review, 90(4), 60–70. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2012/04/the-new-science-of-building-great-teams

Chapter 1: From Ideas to Actions

Pentland's work with sensors and big data is revealing quantifiable patterns to human relationships and interactions. He uses enormous data sets gathered from wearable and mobile technology to determine highly predictive correlative, sometimes causal relationships between our social interactions and the efficacy of our work. Further, such data is tremendously useful in guiding the design of organizational structures and processes on the scale of entire cities and nations, that create efficiencies, innovation, and highly effective systems. This chapter also includes a useful list of terms with operational definitions.

Chapter 2 Exploration

Pentland draws the distinction between engagement and exploration. Chapter 2 focuses on exploration which he defines as the seeking out and discovery of different ideas from outside one's normal circle of experience. He suggests that social interactions are a critical component of this kind of discovery. It is through such interactions that ideas move from one circle to another. Individuals with wide social networks are likely to be those who introduce new ideas to an organization. Individuals who have many contacts within their own circles, on the other hand, are likely to encounter information feedback loops in which ideas are repeated. It is possible, Pentland suggests that an individual's social network can be shaped intentionally to facilitate idea flow by offering incentives or creating structures that necessitate wider interactions.

Chapter 3: Idea Flow

Chapter 3 describes the flow of ideas and how it can be analyzed to make predictions of an individual's behaviors. By examining one's social networks and behaviors and ideas within the network, it is possible to predict the behaviors and notions of an individual. Connecting with the previous chapter, it is possible for an individual to select the kinds of information and the type of people with whom he engages. The danger again is entering a feedback loop where no new ideas are encountered. The flow of ideas, Pentland suggests, is a critical piece to behavioral and cultural change. Exposure to new ideas is very influential in this regard. He describes how certain kinds of ideas can be propagated through single or repeated exposures; how well the idea is received depends on the source and the environment in which it was received.

Chapter 4: Engagement

Chapter 4 is about engagement which Pentland describes as interactions and idea exchange within one's own circle. Engagement is critical for developing trust amongst individuals in an organization, and for facilitating cooperation. He seems to suggest that while diversity and conflict is an essential component of exploration and encountering new ideas, engagement works best when there is unity of purpose and vision. He describes social networks within an organization and the links an individual has with other individuals. Those who have many connections serve as hubs for idea exchange. There may be those in an organization with weak or peripheral connections who are less influential and out of the loop when it comes to idea exchange. He describes how bursts of activity surrounding and innovation are more effective than slow-release or gradual introduction of an idea. He says that engagement builds culture. Exploration on the other hand builds innovation.

Chapter 5: Collective Intelligence

In chapter 5 the author offers a way of analyzing interactions that is highly predictive of a group's effectiveness. He says that high-performing groups explore a large number of ideas, have many deep and lasting interactions, and explore a variety of ideas within the group. On page 89 he offers diagrams showing the connections between a group with high efficiency and effectiveness and another with low productivity. The highly effective group is characterized by each individual having connections with each of the others as well as regular sustained interactions. The unproductive group is characterized by irregular and uneven interactions between people with some more connected than others. He describes how groups have a collective intelligence that is best leveraged when the individuals are highly connected. He says that face-to-face engagement is critical to productivity and that even social interactions should be encouraged. Informal interactions he says are "often the largest single factor in company productivity."

Chapter 6: Shaping Organization

In chapter 6, Pentland offers some suggestions on how to shape organizations. He says that the pattern of idea flow is one factor that is malleable and can be directed when brought to mind. When individuals and organizations are aware of their patterns of interactions, as well as patterns of interaction that lead to highly productive groups, they can make behavioral changes for their own benefit and that of the organization. Leadership should foster close connections amongst all individuals within the organization as well as facilitating explorations for ideas from beyond the organization. Amongst those within the organization, there are patterns of behavior that are more or less beneficial to group productivity. When an individual monopolizes a conversation it can stifle the flow of ideas from others. He developed sensing tools to help reveal and correct such patterns during a meeting. The development of social intelligence, the ability to engage with others, is teachable and desirable within an organization. Such charismatic people engage in many conversations with many people throughout the day and give energy that sustains idea flow.

Chapter 7: Organizational Change

Chapter 7 explores some strategies for motivating organizational change. He describes a system that leverages the influence of one's social circle to motivate certain behaviors. He describes how some reward structures serve to stifle creativity and hinder cooperation. Pentland has measured the efficacy of social reward structures that build on relationships and cooperation across a wide network to great effect. Peer pressure, he suggests, is a tremendous motivator and, in trust relationships, highly effective in promoting cooperation.

Chapters 8 through 11 explore applications of social physics for the design of data-driven systems and structures on much larger scales that can inform decision making for cities, nations, and the world. Some interesting thoughts and strategies about how to manage privacy while sharing information that could benefit all of humanity.

 

Collaborative Learning: An illustrated introduction - cartoon style

Espoused and/or Practiced Values

Espoused and/or Practiced Values

Argyris (1995) describes two theories of actions:

  • the theories we espouse, and
  • the theories we practice.

Ideally, of course, they are one in the same; our behaviours align with the philosophies we hold close. However, there is, more often than not, a mismatch between what we say we believe, and what we do and few are aware of the difference.

How can it be that we don't know that we're behaving in a way that is inconsistent with our espoused beliefs? Argyris goes on to describe two response models, one positive, and one negative.

Argyris describes how that individuals around the world value goal achievement, maximising winning outcomes, behave rationally, and minimise negative feelings. They often adopt defensive positions regarding conflict and tend to seek out only points of view that reinforce their beliefs. This leads to a overly heightened sense of worth and confidence in their choices and actions where it may not necessarily be warranted.

Other individuals, the more successful ones, value information, choice, reflection, and intervention to correct errors. These individuals seek out challenges in order to improve processes and product.

He offers some strategies for breaking out of the feedback loop and getting over pre-conceived notions to get to the roots of problems. Identifying and understanding your assumptions and how they influence your perceptions and choices is a good first step.

Argyris, C. (1995). Action science and organizational learning. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 10(6), 20–26. http://doi.org/10.1108/02683949510093849

How to realize the value of inquiry: Collaborative Inquiry 3 of 3

Collaborative Inquiry

When done right, collaborative inquiry(CI) engages participants in deep reflection on, and discussion about evidence and artifacts relating to the organization's goals and the individual's practice. CI participants challenge each others' practice and points of view in pursuit of positive change.

Calling a collection of people a, "collaborative inquiry group" however does not mean that they will really be engaging in collaborative inquiry. So how do you know if your groups are off track, and what can you do to make the groups more effective?

In this three-part blog series, we look at three common reasons CI groups are dysfunctional and what the research suggests for improving group function. This is part three of three.

Realizing the Value of Inquiry

If participants see neither the need for, nor the purpose of collaborative inquiry they are likely to be disengaged, even angry about having to do something for which they see no value. Participants do not see how the process will help them or their students, and feel their time is better spent in other ways.

Ground inquiry in teacher experience (Bruce, 2013).

  • Allow participants choice in group and inquiry focus.
  • Understand the purpose of each stage of inquiry, and how to determine the next best step in the process.
  • Pursue needs arising from the examination of student learning (Nelson & Landel, 2009). This creates authenticity and relevancy as it relates to participants’ daily teaching and student learning.
  • Take time needed to examine the data carefully and to create a problem that all participants agree upon.
  • Embed inquiry into classroom experience taking ideas from the meeting room into the classroom and back again:
    • define the problem,
    • explore solutions / strategies / actions, and
    • continuously reflect on evidence with the inquiry group to determine if the strategy is working.

Encourage questioning of both content and process (Nelson, Deuel, Slavit, & Kennedy, 2010).

  • Research the purpose of collaborative inquiry together before beginning.
  • Invite others who have participated in collaborative inquiry share their successes with others beginning the process.
  • Ask probing questions for clarification relating to the discussion, and relating to the inquiry process. The more participants understand, the more likely they are to find value in collaboration.
  • Value conflict when it arises because it challenges participants to view situations from another point of view.
  • Keep dialogue focused so there is sustained attention to the inquiry question.
  • Identify inquiry question that are:
    • open ended, and
    • relevant to classroom practice.
  • Engage with inquiry questions that are reasonable and achievable given time, resources and effort (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2010)

This paper was created as part of my participation in the graduate course Collaborative Inquiry at Queen's University as part of the Graduate Diploma in Professional Inquiry leading to a Master of Education degree. This work, shared with permission, was a collaborative effort with this group of passionate fellow learners and leaders. 

  • Scott Dowling, Student Achievement Officer with the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat in Barrie Ontario
  • Erin Elmhurst, Principal, Forest View Public School in Oshawa, Ontario
  • Chris Elliott, Intelligence Officer, Canadian Armed Forces in Windsor, Ontario
  • Kristin Harding, Teacher at Maani Ulujuk Ilinniarvik in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut
  • Brendan Lea, Vice Principal, Curriculum at The Bishop Strachan School in Toronto, Ontario.
  • Miles MacFarlane, Teacher, Leila North Community School in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

How to fine tune the focus of inquiry groups: Collaborative Inquiry 2 of 3

Collaborative Inquiry

When done right, collaborative inquiry(CI) engages participants in deep reflection on, and discussion about evidence and artifacts relating to the organization's goals and the individual's practice. CI participants challenge each others' practice and points of view in pursuit of positive change.

Calling a collection of people a, "collaborative inquiry group" however does not mean that they will really be engaging in collaborative inquiry. So how do you know if your groups are off track, and what can you do to make the groups more effective?

In this three-part blog series, we look at three common reasons CI groups are dysfunctional and what the research suggests for improving group function. This is part two of three.

Fine Tune the Focus

 

Spend ample time exploring the perceived problem and its context (Langer & Colton, 2005).

  • Explore the roots of the problem, contributing factors, outside influences, etc.
  • Recognize when discussion is turning to solutions and redirect to exploring the problem space.

 

Resist the temptation to focus on familiar problems and revert to known solutions (Scribner, Sawyer, Watcon, & Myers, 2007).

  • Ensure multiple data sources have been investigated and analyzed to inform the inquiry focus.
  • Create "If...then statements" that require true inquiry rather than attempting an already established evidence-based strategy.
  • Identify and challenge commonly held assumptions.
  • Review literature and highlight information and viewpoints both for and against your point of view (Argyris, 1976; Katz, 2012; Senge, 1990).

 

Ensure the chosen inquiry question is challenging and open enough for teachers to innovate and inquire into their practice together (Fullan & Hargreaves, 2012) but targeted enough to offer a clear focus.

  • Identify the ‘value added’ or ‘aspiration’ of the inquiry. How will things improve as a result of the inquiry?
  • Identify some key indicators of success.
    • What evidence might we see if we are successful?
    • What would we see if we are not successful?

 

Connect end goals with logical processes and the philosophies that underpin them. (Dorst, 2011)

  • Identify organizational values in order to apprehend problems and craft solutions to address them.
  • Identify what will change
  • Identify how it will be implemented
  • Identify the value of the new approach.

 

Gather evidence and data to determine needed interventions, next steps, and goal achievement.

  • Using ‘multiple measures’ of student learning to drive the focus of inquiry such as demographics, perceptions, student learning, school processes, school-based evidence, as well as aggregate data from larger jurisdictions (Bernhardt, 1988).
  • Avoid focusing solely on standardized data sets from the past. (Fullan & Hargreaves, 2012)
  • Use a NSRF Data Driven Dialogue Protocol to collaboratively examine data.

This paper was created as part of my participation in the graduate course Collaborative Inquiry at Queen's University as part of the Graduate Diploma in Professional Inquiry leading to a Master of Education degree. This work, shared with permission, was a collaborative effort with this group of passionate fellow learners and leaders. 

  • Scott Dowling, Student Achievement Officer with the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat in Barrie Ontario
  • Erin Elmhurst, Principal, Forest View Public School in Oshawa, Ontario
  • Chris Elliott, Intelligence Officer, Canadian Armed Forces in Windsor, Ontario
  • Kristin Harding, Teacher at Maani Ulujuk Ilinniarvik in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut
  • Brendan Lea, Vice Principal, Curriculum at The Bishop Strachan School in Toronto, Ontario.
  • Miles MacFarlane, Teacher, Leila North Community School in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

How to create a culture of collaboration: Collaborative Inquiry 1 of 3

Collaborative Inquiry

When done right, collaborative inquiry(CI) engages participants in deep reflection on, and discussion about evidence and artifacts relating to the organization's goals and the individual's practice. CI participants challenge each others' practice and points of view in pursuit of positive change.

Calling a collection of people a, "collaborative inquiry group" however does not mean that they will really be engaging in collaborative inquiry. So how do you know if your groups are off track, and what can you do to make the groups more effective?

In this three-part blog series, we look at three common reasons CI groups are dysfunctional and what the research suggests for improving group function. This is part one of three.

Culture of Collaboration

When participants lack a clear understanding of collaboration and processes of inquiry, they tend to merely engage in group work (Lipton & Wellman, 2012). Group work looks like sharing lessons, trading resources, planning field trips, and marking student work. Inquiry is a mindset of asking questions, of reflection, conversation, seeking feedback and constructive criticism.

Research, discuss and co-create a definition of collaboration (i.e. Frayer Model, Looks Like, Feels Like Charts etc.)

  • Arrange facilitated discussion to help participants find common ground and engage in dialogue about the strengths they bring to the table and the possibilities for the group. (Senge, 1990, p. 240)
  • Work through and embrace discomfort. There is value in diversity and creative tension and exploring differences for creative possibilities (Argyris, 1976; Gassmann & Zeschky, 2008).
  • Co-create groups norms to build a common understanding of the way the groups will work together (Langer & Colton, 2005).
  • Teachers must look at an individual learner's progress over time. Collaborative inquiry is not something that is finished in a couple of meetings.
  • Articulate the theoretical framework guiding the inquiry process so participants appreciate how each step adds value and contributes to the group’s effectiveness.
  • Teachers learn and follow collaborative norms; when leadership and structures support the inquiry (Langer & Colton, 2005).

Learn and practice collaborative and interpersonal skills (Kuhn, 2015).

  • Use norms (share the air, step up, step back, sentence starters such as “I wonder”), group agreements and protocols to approach the analysis of student work in a supportive and respectful way. (T. H. Nelson et al., 2008)
  • Appoint a teacher-facilitator to lead groups in these approaches.
  • Ask probing questions and engage in questions that challenge and promote further thinking (Langer & Colton, 2005).
  • Co-create stem statements, questions or accountable talk prompts, to be used in the beginning stages to guide the discussion and allow for deep, thought provoking questions.
  • Use a NSRF Describing Student Work Protocol to collaboratively examine student work.

Encourage social interaction outside formal collaborative inquiry sessions to build positive professional environments in which educators feel comfortable challenging each other. Opportunities to interact socially also contribute to group function (Pentland, 2010, 2014).

  • Take time to build a sense of community within each group. (Kuhn, 2015).
  • Organize social events away from the school.
  • Encourage a school staff social committee.
  • Include social opportunities as part of formal gatherings

This paper was created as part of my participation in the graduate course Collaborative Inquiry at Queen's University as part of the Graduate Diploma in Professional Inquiry leading to a Master of Education degree. This work, shared with permission, was a collaborative effort with this group of passionate fellow learners and leaders. 

  • Scott Dowling, Student Achievement Officer with the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat in Barrie Ontario
  • Erin Elmhurst, Principal, Forest View Public School in Oshawa, Ontario
  • Chris Elliott, Intelligence Officer, Canadian Armed Forces in Windsor, Ontario
  • Kristin Harding, Teacher at Maani Ulujuk Ilinniarvik in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut
  • Brendan Lea, Vice Principal, Curriculum at The Bishop Strachan School in Toronto, Ontario.
  • Miles MacFarlane, Teacher, Leila North Community School in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
%d bloggers like this: