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Year Four and Beyond Practitioner Enquiry

We are now just into our fourth year of taking a Practitioner Enquiry approach to our school development. All our evaluations, internal and external, have demonstrated the positive, and continuing, impact we have had. Teachers and schools have moved forward and we have lots of hard, and soft, evidence to support this assertion. In our last session teachers finished their research posters and we had most of these professionally reproduced.
We started this session with an in-house sharing by teachers with their colleagues around their enquiries and their posters. The schools were buzzing with conversations around teaching and learning, and the sharing of experiences and discoveries. A fabulous way to start the new session!
As you will understand, we are committed to taking the same approach. Staff have again asked, to which we agreed, for more input around language so we are looking at poetry as a genre and persuasive writing as another. All staff are carrying out their own enquiries again into an aspect of their practice, decided by themselves.They can also decide how they are going to share this with colleagues at the end of the school year. Most are talking about using the research poster again.
In addition we are also looking at Carol Dweck's work around Growth Mindsets and how we can use her research to help us develop more resilience in all our learners. The approach we are taking to this is very much a practitioner enquiry one. Currently we are identifying the professional reading that will be necessary to support and inform this.
We have also begun working with the other primary school in the town, as they begin their own journey of discovery, using practitioner enquiry approaches. Our senior management team have worked with those from the other school to identify how we can support them and their staff and we will work alongside them as they begin their own journey. The local secondary school has also been very interested in what we have been doing, and we have began speaking to their managers about how we might support them on a similar journey. There is an exciting opportunity to develop a common approach to development within a cluster of schools, whilst still recognising the uniqueness of each setting, and the fact that they all start from different positions.

So, what are the main benefits we have identified so far in taking a practitioner enquiry approach to school development?

  • Attainment and achievement has been raised for all pupils
  • Learning and teaching experiences have improved in all classrooms
  • Teacher understanding of both aspects of curriculum and pedagogy have deepened
  • The approach has helped re-professionalise the profession
  • Collaboration and professional dialogue have been enhanced and promoted
  • We have been able to connect up all the key elements of development and manage change
  • We have connected in a meaningful way to school, local and national priorities
  • Informed innovation is promoted and expected
  • It challenges orthodoxies
  • It is meaningful and sustainable, it is a disposition

What are the health warnings we would give?

  • This is a Pandora's box. Once opened there really is no going back to superficial, tick-box approaches
  • It's messy and complicated. There is nothing much linear about this approach
  • All senior managers need to be fully engaged to really understand and support
  • It needs an open, supportive and trusting ethos and culture
  • One size does not fit all, so you have to start from where you are
  • The support of a 'critical friend' is crucial
  • Not all staff can, or will, develop at the same speed
  • It is challenging to teachers and management
  • To be really effective you will need to slow down and provide 'space'for assimilation
None of the health warnings should stop any school from taking a similar approach because, in our eyes, the benefits have been so substantial. 
Our journey will continue and I really believe others can achieve as much and more from adopting  practitioner enquiry as their development focus. 
Remember, you are not alone!

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