I had the opportunity to meet educator and author, Jessica Vance, at a conference for instructional coaches. She took part in a session I was facilitating around coaches’ use of questions in engaging teachers in reflection as part of coaching conferences as well as in PLC explorations. After the session, Jessica provided me a copy of a book she had authored titled Leading with a Lens of Inquiry, Cultivating Conditions for Curiosity and Empowering Agency. A short way into reading the book, I invited her to join me on a podcast which you can find here.
In the podcast, Jessica discusses the values of the constructivist educator as they are applied to school leaders who invest time to model and maintain spaces that honor……
* reflection, and
In her book, Jessica explores a continuum of leadership. Progressing from a managerial leader on one end, (directs, checklist approach, gives answers rather than asks questions) to an inquiry leader on the other end (asks more than tells, less control, listener, values-driven) [Find more description in her book, Chapter 3 The Inquiry Leader]
I was recently asked to guide an exploration of a district’s walkthrough process with systemwide administrators who conduct the walkthroughs and provide feedback to teachers. As I began to prepare for the facilitation, I returned to Jessica’s podcast and book for some insights.
I pulled these words from her book to start a conversation with the administrators:
“Teaching and learning with inquiry honors the learner, highlighting the process of learning over time through rich and meaningful interactions……
…. significant, relevant, engaging, and challenging learning experiences
I had witnessed a powerful shift in learning using inquiry with students in my classroom. What type of learning was possible if leaders coached and guided their staff with an inquiry mindset.”
And these words from our podcast conversation:
“When you go slow, you notice so many more things. Modeling that as a leader is so important, so that your teachers are doing that in the classroom with their students as well. Not just looking at the standards or other expectations as a checklist of something that I have to cover. Modeling that reflective process and going slow and using questions to help us stop and pause is such a valuable tool that we can practice as educators. Not always easy for sure but is something that is well worth our time and investment as well.”
With this thinking in mind, I began the facilitation by having the administrators explore the questions they are asking themselves as they are observing. Are they approaching the observation with a mindset of learning; learning and insights that they can use to work collaboratively with teachers to extend student success?
As we explored looking at the feedback to teachers from the walkthrough observation, I shared the work of Joellen Killion, author of The Feedback Process: Transforming Feedback for Professional Learning,
Feedback is a process rather than a product.
It is ……………………
Responsive to the Learner
Joellen writes, “The most typical forms of feedback are those that occur in a conversation between or among people. With a learner committed to continuous improvement, the feedback process occurs frequently, almost constantly, internally in the form of self-initiated reflection and analysis. The attributes of an effective feedback process are based on the premise that the feedback process generates learning that leads to change in practice. The process increases a learner’s consciousness about her practice and the impact of those practices on others and the environment in which they occur.
By increasing awareness of the interactions among her own actions, those of others, and the environment, a learner gains the ability to assess whether her actions were effective, to consider alternative actions, and to plan for and refine future actions.”
The administrators in the workshop explored and exchanged strategies they use before, during, and after walkthroughs that assist in the process of providing teachers with an environment that is constructive, inquiry-based, and producing feedforward for future focused action.