Sticking to the theme of reflection and professional learning, I thought I would dedicate this post to professional inquiry or action inquiry or action research. Action inquiry is the term I used during my studies, the IB uses the term professional inquiry (and offer a workshop in it too), and some others say action research. The exact definitions may differ a little, but all of them should include vital steps.
Kurt Lewin designed the following action research model:
Picture taken from Fern Uni Hagen
What I find is important to any professional/action inquiry/research approach is that the general or initial idea, as shown above, is clear to the practitioner. We might want to inquire into something new to us, or something that we found was not working the way we want it to in our practice. It can be anything, as long as you are enthusiastic about it. The process requires some work, and without some determination, it might easily fail or be forgotten.
Lewin allows for a nice fact finding stage. I think this is where you get immersed in literature. If you are working on university credits or similar, you will probably have to to a proper literature review at this stage. It might take some time. Do not rush through this, because if a lot has been said about your idea before, then you might get some answers during this stage already.
At this point I should say that even if you are not doing this for anyone other than yourself, make sure you document the process. This does not have to be a proper research report, but a well-organized learning journal or blog might be a good way forward, to keep track of your reflections, thinking, findings and new ideas.
As you enter the planning stage, you are deciding on making ONE change to your practice. This is where the ACTION comes in, where we take the theory into the classroom. At this stage you should know how you want to collect data!
This is research, or an inquiry, and what you do need is evidence! To some extend this is where the difference between inquiry and research might be the most obvious, but I think that in both cases proper data collection and analysis is important. Get yourself acquainted with qualitative and quantitative data collection methods. Be aware of ethics. You might only be doing this for yourself, but do it properly anyway!
After taking the first step and collecting your data, you need to analyze and evaluate, you draw conclusions on the change you made and you will probably change your original change, or add to it. This is a cyclical approach, we never stop learning! If you are happy with the achieved result, then well done, if not, then continue to inquire until you are!
I think this is such a fantastic way to learn! In July 2009, when I attended the Pedagogical Leadership in the PYP workshop in Zürich, I was lucky enough to be invited to the Professional Inquiry in the PYP workshop. The participants had been working on establishing their research plans, or plans for action, and were eager to share them and get feedback (another crucial part!!!). It was a fantastic experience, and I somehow ended up talking a lot to Kathy Short, who was running this workshop, without knowing who she was! An amazing woman!
Before I conclude here, let me say something else about feedback. Collaboration makes this process easier. If the inquiry is about your practice only, make sure you have some critical friends to provide you with another perspective! But action inquiry can also be a collaborative effort!