Aboriginal Inquiry: Lifting All Learners

An Impact Assessment of the Aboriginal Enhancement Schools Network (AESN)

5.4.2 An inquiry mindset

Four of the members involved in this inquiry were interviewed; they included two classroom teachers, the school librarian and the school principal. Each described in different ways how critical the concept of an inquiry and learning centered mindset was to their work and approaches to enhancing student success. For example, one teacher described the more typical way of doing curriculum in her class was to “just get through it” but that through her focus on this inquiry, she was able to realize the importance of ‘walking slowly’. “Hagwil yaan” is the Ts’msyen word for ‘walking slowly’; it brings attention to the importance of patience, taking time for relationships and engaging in collaborative work. This teacher said that by focusing on “Hagwil yaan” as she worked with her colleagues and her students she could focus in more fully on “how can we make this [teaching and learning] better?” To use this language signals a way of conceptualizing practice differently: to become less oriented to immediate results, and more engaged in caring, thoughtful and mindful relationship building with their students.

Another interviewee talked about how working with colleagues on a shared inquiry created the opportunity to learn more deeply and get new ideas; the inquiry process provided the means through which to “get more comfortable with being able to ask questions”. In other words, inquiry provides a very necessary professional learning space for teachers themselves in which to move from the role of “expert knowledge holder” to “inquirer”. This might seem like a relatively simple statement, but more typical teacher professional development activities put teachers, not student learning, at the center of their efforts. Throughout the interview with these teachers, their comments illustrated that they had moved significantly away from this conception of the teaching and learning relationship; collaboration, cooperation, questioning and investigation into how students are experiencing their efforts has replaced their earlier emphasis on lesson content and teacher delivery. The school principal summarizes this point well in her description of how her involvement in the Network has evolved over time. “Inquiry” she said, “has changed the way I do things.” It has clearly changed the way these teachers work together and focuses on how to better engage students in relevant and engaging learning opportunities.