School based practitioner enquiry as stepping stones to change

Year: 2009

Author: Fleet, Alma, Patterson, Catherine, De Gioia, Katey

Type of paper: Refereed paper

With increasing recognition of the importance of principles of adult learning in the shaping of early childhood centres and schools as learning communities, practitioner enquiry is being pursued as a valuable piece of the pedagogical puzzle. Case studies of practitioner enquiry sites are useful tools in enabling educational communities to understand more about the processes which support the effective adaptation and sustenance of practitioner enquiry projects.

This collaborative pilot study used the resources and expertise of an (organisation=SEO) in conjunction with the (university team=U) to simultaneously implement and study a cycle of classroom-based professional learning initiatives. As facilitators in the educational change process, the university-based research team investigated its own work in similar fashion to the site-based research cycles being advocated for the school based teams.

While recognising that learning in the early years is fundamental to later schooling success and employment opportunity, educational change initiatives have traditionally been content-driven (e.g. literacy and numeracy programs) rather than focusing on teachers themselves. Given the framework and possibilities offered by practitioner enquiry, however, professionalism grows through the cyclical investigations of a supported learning community and becomes visible.

In 2008, teachers from thirteen schools used practitioner enquiry methods to investigate questions of pedagogy related to (SEO) priorities and children's wellbeing. This research is subsequently having a significant impact on teaching policies and practices throughout the (geographical region). This initiative is significant in that it increases teacher empowerment and improved practice in teaching teams in pilot schools. Key staff at the (SEO) have identified the significance of this research for them in terms of the potential it offers to explore systemic documents (The Learning Framework and Assumptions of the Early Learner) in practice. Findings also indicate that the roles of (SEO) and (U) facilitators are critical to professional learning through these change processes.

This research is enabling the project team to synthesize and codify practices and procedures associated with practitioner enquiry in order to strengthen the knowledge base and to enable these procedures to be enacted on a larger scale. Recommendations are made for further research into the use of practitioner enquiry to support systemic change.