Success spirals from teacher collaboration

A new study looks at the most effective ways of working together to improve academic outcomes. Jim Griffiths reports.

Image: Inquiring minds: Beecroft Public School teachers Michelle Durrington, Ellen Randall, Joanna Wilson, Louise Smith and Bryony Herborn.

While collaboration is important in many professions, in teaching it is key to sharing successful and innovative practices that result in improved student outcomes.

The latest Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation publication, Guide to evidence-based models of collaborative inquiry, identifies five models of collaboration and the conditions under which they work best.

School leaders can use this guide to determine which model is most suitable for their school.

“Collaboration allows best practice to be identified and shared across classrooms, and doing so effectively improves both student outcomes and teaching practice,” Jacky Hodges, Executive Director, Schools Policy and Evidence, said.

The newly published resource explores the evidence to support five effective practices:

  • instructional rounds
  • quality teaching rounds
  • data walls
  • learning walks
  • spirals of inquiry.

“School leaders and teachers may choose to apply one or more models depending on their school’s context,” Ms Hodges said.

“By reviewing the common elements across the models, school leaders and teachers can develop an understanding of which models may meet which needs or purposes in their school.”

Beecroft Public School has used the Spirals of Inquiry model to lift collaboration.

A Spiral of Inquiry provides a step-by-step framework for teachers to work in teams to address key challenges in their school and ensure that their students’ needs are being met.

This concept is based on the idea that innovation and change are driven by systems that encourage, nurture and sustain curiosity.

Teachers can use Spirals of Inquiry to understand what is going on for learners, interrogate how they know what is going on and reflect on why it matters.

Beecroft Public School relieving principal Ellen Randall said through the model teachers had created a dynamic culture of continuous improvement with a focus on results.

The collaboration is led by an ‘expert other’ – a teacher who is teaching the year group and leads the enquiry – who uses deep inquiry questions to start the process, as well as reflection and evaluating the results of previous spirals.

“To begin with, we started looking at reading, and when we saw improvements in our students’ reading abilities, we broadened this collaborative practice and shifted our focus to numeracy,” Mrs Randall said.

Teachers use the Spiral of Inquiry process to critically interrogate a range of data, formative assessments and their own professional observations to find where the gaps in student learning are.

Target areas for additional and differentiated professional learning are identified and staff work collaboratively to connect new learning to current teaching and learning programs.

Teachers investigate what they are currently doing and turn their attention to what else they need to learn and how they can take action to make a meaningful difference.

“As a result of this collaborative inquiry, we’ve not only seen an improvement in our NAPLAN results through explicit teaching, but we’ve also seen a shift in collegial discussions and professional learning culture that is embedded into everyday practice in every classroom,” Mrs Randall said.

The Guide to evidence based models of collaborative inquiry is currently only available to NSW Department of Education teachers and school leaders.

  • News
Return to top of page Back to top