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Future Focused Inquiries - Hereora: Collaborate, Inquire, Aspire: Community of schools


Hereora: Collaborate, Inquire, Aspire - beginning a journey as a community of schools & early childhood services: Rebbecca Sweeney, Future Focus Inquiries facilitator

The Te Toi Tupu Future Focused Inquiry (FFI) programme, founded on Teaching as Inquiry, builds evaluative capability in leaders and/or teachers. The programme’s emphasis is on future focused education. Also see Using Spirals of Inquiry to transform practice and increase student agency: A future focused inquiry.

The major impact across the community of schools to date is the increased awareness by the cluster leaders of the perspectives of others, both across schools and services and within their own communities. In a short space of time (May to November 2014), over a series of four full day workshops, the Hereora cluster leaders successfully identified commonalities and rethought the cluster vision and goals. They explored future focused themes and identified learner agency and transformation as key area of focus for the cluster. This made a difference to the way the leaders thought about, practice and reflected on collaboration.

This impact story illustrates how collaborative practice began development in the Hereora cluster of six schools and three early childhood services (Kidsfirst Kindergartens Isleworth Rd, Kidsfirst Kindergartens Kendal Ave, Bishopdale Preschool, Isleworth, Roydvale, Harewood, Burnside High, Wairakei, and Breens Intermediate schools). Facilitators supported all schools to Identify strengths and needs through collaborative practice which was integral to the process, as was the co-construction of the current situation in every school and service. It was then possible to begin developing a joint cluster vision and common needs-based goals. Facilitators focused on positive practices already existing within Hereora as a starting point for action.

Our Facilitation fostered a cluster inquiry into future focused collaborative practice. The aim was to:

  • Raise student achievement through improved collaboration
  • Improve teacher effectiveness through improved school and cluster level inquiry processes and practices

After an initial day with FFI Facilitator, using her research on collaboration, the cluster leaders recognised a need to focus on the following practices to enable effective collaboration:

  • identifying common needs and then rethinking cluster goals
  • exploring future focused themes
  • assigning roles and accountabilities for goals (beyond the cluster leaders)
  • developing a pathway, purpose, and a new cluster plan
  • defining and locating effective practice
  • building coherence

A co-contructed series of full day workshops were implemented to build capacity in effective collaboration. Critical to the success of the workshops was:

  • the inclusion of all senior staff in the schools and services 
  • the creation of “maps” that painted a clear picture of the current situation in every school and service, as well as pictures of learning for priority learners by asking them what impacts on their learning
  • the connections made between input from Raewin Tipene-Clark on exploring educational success and an unambiguous focus on Māori enjoying educational success as Māori
  • the focused work between workshops in schools and services to bring other staff, learners, whānau and families into the cluster picture, to gain their perspectives and their considered responses and feedback
  • the explicit use of Spirals of Inquiry (Halbert and Kaser, 2013) to guide the process from scanning using mapping exercises, to learning and taking action at leader, teacher and learner level
  • the inclusion of new learning about transformation and future focused themes that would drive the cluster visioning and goal setting to new and exciting places.

Over the course of the workshops, leaders become increasingly aware of the importance of the perspectives of others, not only across schools and services, but also within their own communities. This is an area where they will continue to improve, challenging themselves to involve more than the people in schools and services at earlier stages in their thinking in order to build trust and genuinely co-constructed processes and practices.

Future Focused Inquiries 1

Jenny Washington from Roydvale School worked alongside other principals and early childhood service managers in the Hereora cluster to create a picture of the current situation in and around her school. Jenny explained that this process provided her with further clarity about her own school and about the perspectives of others in the cluster.

Kathryn O’Connell-Sutherland from Kidsfirst Kindergartens Isleworth Rd and Kidsfirst Kindergartens Kendal Ave found the concept of visual mapping refreshing. “Conversations with our people about what matters here helps put things in perspective. Visually identifying and depicting the strength of various connections and potential relationships was important as it naturally led to exciting ideas, challenges and goals for our teams.”

As the leaders and others spent these days together our facilitator saw the development of true collaborative practice at leadership level. Leaders successfully identified commonalities and rethought cluster vision and goals. They explored future focused themes and identified learner agency and transformation as key areas for the cluster. Based on the evidence from the community conversations and collaboration, they are now working on defining learner agency with others in their schools, services and communities and they are challenging each other to look for questions and not answers in order to engage with multiple perspectives - this will help to ensure a transformative lens.

As the schools and services worked together on a “macro-inquiry” they ensured they continually took their learning to brought evidence from their learners and teachers. This meant the facilitator supported teachers to build their collaborative inquiries to meet cluster goals. The importance of completing loops, taking our time while also acknowledging urgency and joining dots with people back in our schools/services and communities has been vital.

Next steps

The cluster will move towards implementing “Learning” and “Taking Action” from the Spirals of Inquiry (Halbert & Kaser, 2013). The following areas will be addressed so that the cluster can collaborate successfully:

  • Assigning roles and accountabilities for goals (beyond the cluster leaders)
  • developing a pathway, purpose, and a new cluster plan
  • defining and locating effective practice
  • building coherence

                                           Future Focused Inquiries 2   

Liz Maclennan and her team at Breens Intermediate worked hard in 2014 on “Scanning” and “Focussing” using data and other evidence about their learners and their own practices. They are now highly effective in this regard, relentlessly probing over several months and using a wider range of data, including mapping exercises with students to gain not only their voice but to enable agency.

Future Focused Inquiries 4

Hereora has made a great start in learning how to collaborate more effectively and with more people such as families, whānau and learners. Their aim is for everyone in the Hereora community to know all about the cluster vision and goals and to feel involved in the process of meeting them. The cluster leaders are now talking more with learners, families whānau, iwi, teachers and others in the community who have an interest in transforming learning in Hereora. From evidence they have gathered so far, they know that learner agency and empowerment is really important, as is teacher and leader capability to continue to inquire and to mentor each other. They also know that cultural diversity is valued in Hereora and the uniqueness of Māori. So for Hereora, to be future focused is to aspire, transform and enable strong learner agency. To inquire is to ask, to find out more and to change and improve through the process. To collaborate is to do more than just share, it is to commit to common needs-based goals, to challenge and critique, to be strengths based and needs based, and to build role clarity and trust with everyone involved in the cluster. They are working with their new cluster vision, “Collaborate, Inquire, Aspire” as the way forward from 2015.

For more information about Future Focused Inquiries, visit the FFI project page or contact Merryn Dunmill.