Posted by: darcymullin | April 2, 2011

Move to Inquiry – Part Two

If you haven’t read Part One click here

Our Inquiry Question.

If we have a school wide focus on Descriptive Feedback will students feel more connected to the school and will their academic achievment increase?

Once our staff came together to form a question, we needed to move forward toward implementation.  As the principal, I stepped back and our Grade 1/2 teacher took over as the inquiry leader.  I felt that the inquiry would be better led by a teacher who was doing (and continues to do) amazing work.  It also allowed me to be a part of the conversations, rather than leading the conversations.

Within the framework of our original question, teachers developed their own question around descriptive feedback.  The concept of descriptive feedback is an integral part of our inquiry; however, each staff member has a different knowledge base.  By pursuing their own questions, teachers were able enter the professional learning at a place that was comfortable and giave them more ownership because the question can be tailored to the context of their classroom.  The hope is that that kind of thinking will also translate into the classrooms.

In our August (2010) Pro D, we went through the work we did last year.  We made sure that we were all on the same page and still felt that our goal and question fit our school.  We also decided to continue with our monthly Learning Meetings.  These meetings were optional and would be completely focused on Professional Development…each teacher working on their individual goals within our larger question.  I felt that we had a significant amount of momentum and was quite excited by the direction we were moving.

However, by December of 2010 our inquiry was losing momentum.  People were feeling too busy to come to the Learning Meetings even if they valued the professional learning.  Teachers were feeling overwhelmed with their workload and did not feel like they could take on “one more thing”. 

Not to be too dramatic, but we were at a crossroads.  I knew that the work must continue, and I also wondered about our question.  Particularly, whether there really was a tangible relationship between Descriptive Feedback and Connectedness.  Feeling concerned, I organized a  morning for all teaching staff in the New Year to refocus and build commitment.

In January of 2011 we spent time as a team going through the document, clarifying what Descriptive Feedback is, how we can use it to support our struggling students and in our day to day teaching.  Again we called upon the work by John Hattie and had teachers complete an inventory on Descriptive Feedback.  This inventory provided the focus to pursue their professional learning.  According to Hattie Effective Feedback must answer the following:

1) Where am I going? (What are the goals or Intended Learning?)

2) How am I going to get there? (What progress is being made toward the goal?)

3) Where to next? (What activities need to be undertaken to make better progress?)

Based on those questions, people did the personal inventory linked below.

Descriptive Feedback Inventory

 After completing the inventory teachers had a clear sense of where they were in the Descriptive Feedback cycle and a clear understanding of where to focus their learning.

After discussing our document in detail, we made some simple, but fundamental shifts to our plan.  These changes provided clarity and allowed us to map out the connection between Descriptive Feedback and Connectedness.  These changes are practical and fit within the structures already in place in our school.  These tweaks will be the focus of Part 3 – where we are today.



  1. […] Over the last couple of months I have been blogging about our school’s journey toward the Inquiry model of school improvement.  Click if you have not read Part One or Part Two. […]

  2. […] story of our school as we move toward the inquiry process.  If you haven’t read Part 1 or Part 2 please […]

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