When Teachers Thrive, Students Thrive: Creating the Professional Learning System that Makes the Difference—Part 3.1: Collaborative Inquiry

April 16, 2024

By: Lee Kappes, Ed.D, Interim Executive Director at the Danielson Group

As spring arrives and summer is just around the corner, we know that teachers and school leaders continue the learning for students across our country. At the Danielson Group we know that teaching is an active practice that does not stop.

Part 1 of this blog series laid the groundwork for the DG’s approach to professional learning through the three spheres of influence (reflective practice, instructional coaching, and collaborative inquiry) and highlighted Reflective Practice as a significant starting point that helps educators establish deeper understanding of how they can be intentional, and purposeful in their instructional decisions. In Part 2, we delved deeper into Instructional Coaching and the value of feedback as being essential in understanding and analyzing classroom success and opportunities for improvement.

In Part 3 of this series, we explore the third sphere of influence: Collaborative Inquiry. As we shift our focus to collaboration, we elaborate on the power of true and authentic Collaborative Inquiry in your PLCs that can transform and expand the possibilities for learning in your practice.

Illustration of the constructivism approach to learning.

More About Collaborative Inquiry

The Framework for Teaching is grounded in “constructivism” and a constructivist approach to learning. Constructivism recognizes that, for all human beings — adults as well as children — it is the learner who does the learning. That is, people’s understanding of any concept depends entirely on their experience in deriving that concept for themselves.

Excellent instruction is grounded in a constructivist approach to teaching and learning. Though teachers may ultimately deliver instruction alone, their planning and preparation and professional learning is always enhanced by collaboration with colleagues. Individuals’ understanding of any concept depends entirely on their experience in deriving that concept for themselves. The constructivist approach makes explicit that different individuals, depending on their experiences, knowledge, and their cognitive structures at the time, will understand a given presentation differently. Collaborative Inquiry enhances this process exponentially. If excellence is the goal, “it is important for students – all students – to acquire deep and flexible understanding of complex content, to be able to formulate and test hypotheses, to analyze information, and to be able to relate one part of their learning to another.” Students need to experience this type of learning to be successful in their education, their careers, and their lives. And in a democracy, such as ours, this type of learning is required to ensure an educated citizenry.

The Cycle of Inquiry: Work Sample Analysis

Try this exercise and activity with your PLC today!

Through our work with partners, the DG team has witnessed the amazing impacts and transformations that are possible when collaboration, inquiry, and innovation are supported. Teaching depends, fundamentally, on the quality of relationships among individuals, which are built through and reflected in classroom activities and practices. This process begins with the collaboration among leaders and teachers. It lays the foundation for collaborative learning and success for educators and students.