For me, it was refreshing to read through the case of Learning Forward Ontario'sCollaborative Inquiry: A Facilitator's Guide because no faculty members ever collaborate with each other in my program at Centennial College and maybe we need to start for the benefit of our students. I believe we do not collaborate partly due to the system in place (some make a lot more than others doing the same job so it creates a competitive atmosphere, not a collaborative one), and the perceived buy in of taking on the task of collaborative inquiry. A second problem is that we, as a team, never seem to be on the same page when issues with students are brought up. Some teachers may want to deal with how to address plagiarism and cheating on tests, where others may want to address issues related to technology in the classroom. Another problem in my professional setting is that changes are made based on opinions and assumptions that are not grounded in research findings or evidence gathered. The guide offers some solutions to these problems and this is how I would use it: 1. Collaborative inquiry leads to professional development "Professional growth is well documented as a rewarding professional learning experience for those who engage in the process" (Learning Forward Ontario, 2011). Trying to pitch this idea of individual professional growth would hopefully transform our competitive environment into a collaborative one by giving an extra incentive for working with others. 2. Problem framing could help to narrow the focus of an issue that needs to be addressed By putting the focus of the problem on student needs, identifying common issues, and prioritizing the problems we face, we could have a more clear direction for our theory of action to solve the important problems. 3. Evidence-based findings would help to create changes that are grounded in observations and facts, not assumptions Sometimes changes are made, for example, bringing in standardized testing then taking it away, without any reason other than change for change sake. I believe if you are going to change an element of a program, the change should be motivated by observations and not just assumptions. Collecting and analyzing data could be useful in proving that the change is necessary. I liked the structure as it eliminates potential roadblocks to collaborative inquiry by giving us a starting point for collaborative inquiry and supports the reader through the process. My only concern would be that some might not want to take on the extra work of engaging in collaborative inquiry. I'm not sure how practical this project would be for teachers who already have a lot of extra work outside of the classroom in elementary, secondary, and post secondary education settings. Although, if we could emphasize the positive outcome this might have for students, the teachers might find the buy-in a little easier (assuming all teachers care about their students' needs). Collaborative Inquiry: A Facilitators Guide http://misalondon.ca/PDF/collabpdfs/Collaborative_Inquiry_Guide_2011.pdf
Why Collaboration doesn't happen at my work... I was impressed at how well DeLuca, Bolden, and Chan (2017) outline both the factors that enhance and inhibit the collaborative inquiry process among teachers. Before reading the articles in module 3, I assumed that collaborative inquiry did not happen in my professional setting because of the competitive culture, or perhaps a lack of collaborative culture that is present. Reading through the articles made me realize that there was a lot more underlying factors that were contributing to the lack of collaborative experiences among teachers at my workplace. Below are three main inhibitors that were mentioned in the articles, and what I plan to do to fix them. Full-Time versus Part-Time: As a part-time teacher, I have been to many meetings in my department where our chairperson or dean completely dominate the meeting and don't consider facilitation while preferring a lecture style when presenting new ideas, approaches, or updates. When we do branch of to groups, the leaders with more say, tend to be the full-time professors. It is hard to get a word in as a part-time teacher and this ends up decreasing the number of part-time teachers who attend optional meetings. Deluca (2017) found in a study of Ontario teachers that, "Lack of willingness of those I am working with to listen to my ideas," was one of the main factors that inhibits CI learning among teachers (73). We as a group at my work need to "engage in negotiating goals and values for the inquiry and buy into a shared learning culture" (Deluca et. al, 2014). From now on, I am going to try and inspire my part-time colleagues to have a say at meetings in an effort to change perception that they can not contribute. Building trusting relationships with colleagues: Deluca (2017) mentions that teachers need to feel vulnerable and admit when they do not know something or need help from others (72). This only happens when teachers know each other well and trust each other. This trust will more likely lead to success in collaborative settings. I know this will sound overly simplified, but we have so many coffee options at our school, and every teacher in my department always goes to get one, but no one ever seems to go together. My mission for the next semester is to take one or two new people (people I don't know) for a coffee each week and try and talk to them about their experiences in their classrooms. Hopefully this small gesture will snowball into more people discussing and trusting each other at work. Creating a collaborative culture: Before reading the articles in module 3, I assumed that collaborative inquiry can't happen without a collaborative culture, but Deluca (2017) proves that it is the other way around. A collaborative culture can be created by a collaborative inquiry project. Collaborative inquiry improves teacher willingness to take risks, reflect on learning, but most notably, it can change the school culture into a more collaborative one, (Deluca et. al, 2017). This finding has given me more motivation to try and come up with collaborative inquiry project for our department to improve the school culture for teachers and students. Does this seem like a reasonable thing to try, or could it be too much to take on?
DeLuca, C., Bolden, B. and Chan, J. (2017). Systemic professional learning through collaborative inquiry: Examining teachers' perspectives. Teaching and Teacher Education, 67, pp.67-78. DeLuca, C., Shulha, J., Luhanga, U., Shulha, L., Christou, T. and Klinger, D. (2014). Collaborative inquiry as a professional learning structure for educators: a scoping review. Professional Development in Education, 41(4), pp.640-670.
Module 4: Engage in Collaborative Design with Peers
Professional Learning Communities on LinkedIn: A few years ago, the dean at my school encouraged us to develop a LinkedIn page and be an example for our students. Until, now I was not very active on LinkedIn, but started looking into groups that I could join that would enhance my own practice and stay up-to-date on current literature that dealt with adult learning. I joined a few groups on LinkedIn, but the one that I identify with most is The Teaching Professors which defines itself this way, "The Teaching Professor is for college faculty of all disciplines who are interested in the art and science of better teaching." (https://www.linkedin.com/groups/4249252)
Through our collaborative inquiry course, I have learned that collaborative inquiry only works if you are willing to ask questions of others. Sometimes that means asking for help like Heather did:
My group (The Science group for module 4) also created a survey for our problem brief, and the quality of answers helped us gain insight on a few inquiry questions we had based on interdisciplinary learning. Therefore, I thought I would be helpful and share my experiences with teaching online to help Heather. Here is the email exchange:
The survey allowed me to reflect on practices that helped keep students engaged in an online setting such as keeping videos short and under 7 minutes, because my audience retention really drops off at that point, even if the topic seems like it would be interesting and engaging. Secondly, keeping modules to 5-7 is key just like the courses we take here at Queen's. Some of my colleagues create 14 modules to reflect all 14 weeks of the semester and that is just way too much to follow for most students. Through this experience with this interaction, I realized that teachers in these groups can work together for mutual benefit. This also led me to inquire about a topic I am enthusiastic about: interdisciplinary learning.