The Benefits of Inquiry-Based PD
Carol Meyrink, founder of a small school in the Dominican Republic and author of The Teaching Experiment, describes how her team is using an inquiry-based structure to guide their professional development in her blog The Teaching Experiment.
We chose inquiry-based professional development because it allows teachers to have a great deal of control over their learning while also experiencing inquiry learning in action, a strategy that Meyrink and her colleagues would like to see more of in their classrooms, according to Meyrink.
The school identified two areas of focus for its efforts: differentiation and engagement, and then polled teachers to find out what they were interested in. School administrators created eight categories of possible inquiry based on the information gathered from the surveys. In the following weeks, they gathered resources for each category — books, articles, podcasts, and websites — and at the first meeting, teachers browsed through the resources, chose which category they wanted to focus on, and then divided into groups based on the categories.
Teachers brainstormed key questions to drive their inquiry using the Question Formulation Technique, which gave them a sense of autonomy and ownership over the process.
Meyrink outlines a five-step process for the inquiry cycle that her school’s teams are currently utilising, which includes:
Investigate the topic of the proposed question in greater depth.
Formulate a plan of action that will be implemented in the classroom.
Consider the implementation and how well it went, and make adjustments as needed.
The plan should be iterated upon and modified as necessary.
After you’ve gathered enough information, formulate a new question and start the process all over again.
Meyrick recommends allotting plenty of time for research, both during the allotted PD meeting time and in the intervals between meetings. Teachers should be provided with opportunities to evaluate their theories in the classroom so that they can learn from their mistakes. Teachers at Meyrink’s school “reflected on whether or not their new strategies had been successful” after they “tried out their new strategies.” Encourage teachers to share their findings and reflections with the class as a whole.