Aboriginal Inquiry: Lifting All Learners

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

5.4.3 Leadership

The topic of leadership was exemplified throughout my interview with the teachers involved in the Conrad inquiry question. First, the idea of emergent leadership through shared engagement was strongly evidenced by the conversations between these professionals. At various times in the conversation teachers referred to the lead role an individual might play as the inquiry unfolded; one teacher might lead on making connections to Aboriginal community members; another might take a lead role in data collection; another in assessing resources to be used. Yet it was not just the distribution of tasks that seemed central to their description of their work; rather their role as shared leaders was exemplified in how they described the contributions that others had made to their emerging learning and how such leadership built a committed team of inquirers. In other words, the shared nature of the work helped scaffold teacher learning and deepen it.

The role of formal leaders in supporting and deepening the inquiry process was also an important idea that was evidenced through these teachers’ reflections on their inquiry. The school principal Judy Zacharias described how the inquiry approach gave her inroads into new conversations that widened teachers understanding of the multiple contexts in which their learners were situated, and how these contexts needed to be addressed in order to deepen their engagement with literacy texts. This school leader described how she sought to have teachers engage through these ongoing professional conversations, with their own values, beliefs and assumptions. And as these conversations were recursively cycled through subsequent iterations of their questions, the inquiry moved from one focused solely on cognitive performance to one that embraced students’ cultural knowledges and experiences. While not explicit in this leader’s words, there is clearly a level of trust that has developed among the AESN members and this leader. As a lead learner, this leader provided a powerful, safe support system for continued cycles of inquiry and learning as is evidenced by the increasingly more focused efforts to re-structure their inquiry over a three-year period.