'How to do it' Guides

How to … develop tools for inquiry

Teachers need to be equipped to carry out professional inquiry. In this introduction Vivienne Baumfield gives practical examples and shows how many teacher inquiry tools can be developed from approaches which support student learning.
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Having the right tools for your inquiry not only makes the process more manageable but also makes sharing what you are doing with other people easier.  The tools we found to be very powerful in our work in the North East Schools Based Research Consortium were designed to promote thinking skills by making the way in which students were thinking more explicit.  It quickly became apparent that the impact of these strategies on students also affected the teachers’ thinking and stimulated professional inquiry; teaching thinking resulted in thinking about teaching.  Initially the tools we used were strategies developed within programmes for critical thinking, which we adapted so that they could be infused into the teaching of subjects in the school curriculum.  We also took generic strategies for promoting understanding from wherever we could find them and by working collaboratively we tested them out in the classroom then adapted and refined them. For example, the Fortune Line described in the first “How To…’ piece was based on ideas from a book on probing understanding (White and Gunstone, 1998) and the authors themselves  acknowledge that they got the original idea from someone else.  This eclectic approach to gathering techniques to use in the classroom is characteristic of teachers who are always on the “look out” for a good idea and we don’t apologise for casting our net wide but at the same time it is important to have a clear rationale for selecting and using specific tools and to be rigorous in assessing their value.  

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