The spiral of inquiry.

Last year we were given the reading: ‘The spiral of inquiry’ (Timperly, Kaser & Halbert) by our LwDT coordinator. I put it in a safe place. This worked, until I moved classrooms. It’s new ‘safe place’ is secure from me, something I’m sure everyone can agree with.

Regardless, after searching online and in my house, it finally popped up in ‘The Pond‘ (a NZ site established for educators to share resources etc). It is similar to, but different from the VLN – (virtual learning network).

This is an excellent reading, one that really clarified my understanding of the teacher as inquiry process (and one I need to keep revisiting – hence the blog). The biggest wrinkle I have had with the process is the sole emphasis on the priority learners. This is definately essential (and what my inquiries are focussed on). I can understand this better now. My biggest stumbling block initially was that this ‘inquiry thing’ seemed to put a roadblock between me doing my broader learning and readings. I have passed this, and perhaps better understand how the

I’ve been thinking a lot about the marginal middles – those that aren’t performing at their peak, but are just far enough inside the bubble to miss out on the detailed focus of these inquiries. I would love to do an investigation around this.


Notes from Unlocking Formative assessment

These are my short notes. I have tried to put it in my own words, however there will be cross-overs. Please refer to the original text.

Chapter 1

  • Make learning intentions clear
  • Design activities that enforce these learning intentions – not busy work.
  • Rather than displaying the short-term plan for the week, display the learning intentions for the week.

Chapter 2: Sharing learning intentions

  • Separate learning intention and success criteria from the task instructions. Ensure students differentiate between what you want them to learn and to do. Begin with activity instructions rather than learning intention: what to learn and what to do
  • Clear learning intentions – the last piece of the puzzle.
    • How will we know? 
    • Invite to participate
    • Display the WALT and SC – makes a significant difference to simply telling the students. 
    • Write the learning intention, not the instruction 

It doesn’t matter if the activity does more than the learning intention requires. The learning intention is the ‘minimum’. 

Teachers have found learning intentions develops learning culture, with students demanding learning intention if it is forgotten.

Create positive language around children getting stuck – learning occurs when something is hard.


  • Feedback is most useful when focussed on the learning intention.
  • Oral feedback: loudest on learning intention, whisper minor changes.

Feedback on 4 levels p.66

  1. about self – you are a good student – unrelated to task
  2. At motivation – leads to increased effort
  3. Aimed at the process – processes required for success.
  4. About the task – how to

To close the gap… (p.67)

  1. Highlight 3 places where best aspects against the learning intention.
  2. Indicate with an asterisk where improvement to be made
  3. Extend an arrow to the nearest white space and write closing the gap prompt by suggesting small improvement.


  • Give chance to respond
  • Students vote on possible answers
  • All students write down answer – read a few
  • Dialogue should provoke reflection.

Raising children’s self-esteem

Strategies to maintain self-concept.

  1. self-handicapping (excuses)
  2. Learned helplessness
  3. Discounting – dismiss feedback as not valuable
  4. Adopt less challenging goals
  5. Social comparison (with others).

Chapter 9: using this book to make a difference

  1. half term-term: ensure learning intentions clearly visible
  2. half term: introduce and trial sharing learning intentions. Feedback and continue
  3. Half term: introduce and trial student self-evaluation. Feedback and continue.
  4. Half term to term – introduce and trial oral and written feedback against learning intentions.
  5. Term: feedback all the strategies so far, to see how more time has changed their impact and teacher’s expertise
  6. Term: introduce writing target cards or flaps. Feedback and continue
  7. Discuss self-esteem in the light of the formative assessment strategies and review current practice.

This year’s teaching as inquiry

With the ever growing importance of tracking and monitoring and data gathering I have just been thinking about how I can monitor the effectiveness of different element of our learning programmes.

Longitudinal data will prove the effectiveness of moving to a team teaching model.

After doing paired writing last year I was intrigued by the in and out data it provided, particularly the words in ten minutes. I think that that is one really easy method to follow. I would like to use it in our generic writing programme every five weeks or so to monitor development. Continue reading