Dover Bay Secondary SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

School Name: Dover Bay Secondary

School District: SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

Inquiry Team Members:Clarice Tyce
Ray Andrews
Tanya Lebans
Burton Wei
Devon Jones
Heidi McWhinnie

Inquiry Team Contact Email:

Type of Inquiry: AESN (focus on Indigenous learners or Indigenous understandings)

Grade Levels: Secondary (8-12)

Curricular Area(s): Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Reading, Language Arts – Writing, Physical & Health Education, Science, Social Studies

Focus Addressed: Aboriginal understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Differentiated instruction, First Peoples Principles of Learning, Inquiry-based learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? “Will the completion of a guided inquiry project early in the school year enable students to apply the Spiral of Inquiry and some of the First Peoples’ Principles of Learning to complete a personal inquiry at the end of the year? The personal inquiry question will be, ‘How does your spark connect to the world around you and make it a better place?’”

Scanning: September 2017
Last year students did the First Peoples Inquiry in the spring, followed by a Global Citizen inquiry in Humanities toward the year end. We looked to see if there was a connection between how the students did on their first inquiry and their success on their second inquiry. We examined the ways that both projects could be improved.
January 2018
At a celebration of learning where students presented their First Peoples Inquiries at the University, teachers and guests noticed that students were able to discuss their learning very adeptly. Students realized the depth of their understanding.
Data was gathered from student surveys after the First Peoples Inquiry Project was complete.
Teacher reflections about how well our students did on the project this year (compared to last year) were gathered after our collaborative marking sessions.
How did you use the four key questions as part of the scanning process?
What did you notice about the experiences of your learners that were most important to your team?
We noticed that our learners were able to delve more deeply into a topic when given the time and space to do so. During the First Peoples Inquiry and the Spark inquiry, students worked on their projects in all core classes. This reinforced the idea of holistic learning. As well, both inquiries, although research-based, encouraged the students to examine their own identity and role in society. Students also identified personal strengths and challenges with regard to conducting research and presenting their learning.

How did you use the OECD principles of learning and the First Peoples Principles of Learning in your scanning process?

We focused on the following First Peoples Principles of Learning (FPPL) for our inquiry:

FPPL #8 – Learning requires exploration of one’s identity – Having a spark allows our students to connect with what is important to them. It is individualized and helps define one’s identity.
FPPL #1 – Learning supports the well being of self, the family, the community, the land, the spirits and the ancestors – We will require the students to explore how others are using their spark to improve the world. They will also be asked further their spark in the local community, a plan they can enact to make their place better.

FPPL #2 – Learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential and relational
Holistic means cross-curricular, that all disciplines can be applied to the learning activity.
Reflexive means that learning itself becomes a habit.
Reflective means that we need to pause and consider the full meaning of our learning.
Experiential means that we want learners to live their learning; take it to heart.
Relational means that learning in one area can be applied to other situations and circumstances.
FPPL #3 – Learning involves recognizing consequences of one’s actions – Students successfully complete an independent inquiry. The personal inquiry question requires students to look at their community and identify any opportunities that currently exist. Students explore these opportunities and find ways to make connections to themselves. How can their actions change the trajectory of the current issue in a positive direction?

Focus: In September, we looked at those elements of learning that were not well incorporated into the previous year and decided that it was necessary to make changes in order to allow the students greater success at independent learning.
We wanted students to become more comfortable with the inquiry process, as well as learning holistically by incorporating cross-curricular elements into their inquiry studies.

Hunch: September 2017
Our first hunch in September was that conducting a guided inquiry earlier in the year would help the students to complete an independent inquiry at the end of the year.
January 2018
Our second hunch in January was that completing the First Peoples Inquiry Project earlier in the year will support students to engage in an independent inquiry with the FPPL as the foundation for their learning.

New Professional Learning: September 2017
Collaboration built the groundwork for success: The team worked together to introduce learning skills to support inquiry and retool the First Peoples Inquiry Project.
Created Ideal Learner and Growth Mindset lessons and assigned student ePortfolios in order to help students connect personal responsibility to their learning journey.
Rebuilt the assessment rubric after conducting lessons around rubric building to improve student ownership of the assessment tool.
Introduced focused lessons on note taking, researching, mind mapping, reference writing and the notion of origin story.

January 2018
Teachers support each other to create and introduce the new inquiry project.
Each subject area will identify Curricular Competencies related to the discipline. This will serve as the frame for the assessment rubric.
All subject teachers share the Curricular Competencies so teachers are able to uniformly support the students’ learning.

Taking Action: September 2017
-Presentation of Learning at Vancouver Island University provided students with an authentic audience in which to present their First Peoples Inquiry Project.
-The audience included school board trustees and senior management; University faculty, deans and student teachers; and members of the community.
January 2018
-Projects in Humanities classes will reinforce students’ understanding of, and competency with, the Spiral of Inquiry.
-Create the Inquiry Project assignment, criteria and assessment rubric.
Establish a schedule for students to work on the project.
-Introduce the project and use an activity to get students brainstorming about a possible Spark for their personal inquiry.
-The umbrella Spark Inquiry question for this final cross-curricular project is “How does your Spark connect to the world around you and make it a better place?”
-Plan a Celebration of Learning that corresponds with project completion.

Checking: I feel that students on average worked more independently on this cross-curricular inquiry than they did on the First Peoples’ Inquiry. I base this on the following:

-The project criteria were much more open-ended, requiring that students think more independently.
-Students were by now quite familiar with the spiral, having used it a total of four times before the Spark inquiry. I fielded very few questions regarding how to conduct and organize research.
-The presentations included many inquiry questions which I had no hand in creating; I suggested only a handful of tweaks.
-There was a slight increase in the number of students who achieved Applying of higher on the Spark assessments.
-I helped less on this inquiry than I did on the First Peoples inquiry.

Some students have designed a plan for their inquiry and are off and running, but many are struggling with the initial stages of choosing their topic. Teachers are reminding students that this is part of the scanning phase in the inquiry process and that it is okay to have some confusion at the start.
Students are asking questions about how soon and on what scale they have to make a difference, whether they really have to achieve their goals or just make a beginning
Teachers have noticed that some students are trying to make cross-curricular connections immediately, rather than giving themselves time to research their subject and then find areas where these subject areas come into play.
Many students are excited for the opportunity to choose a topic that interests them and to choose their own medium for presenting their learning.
The personal inquiry (Spark) requires students to make an action plan and to synthesize a product that represents their learning. This is a sizable jump for some students as they have little or no experience in this type of project and so require some one on one coaching.

This was a chance for some students to really shine. I was surprised that some of my “not so academic” students were able to really dig deep with their learning in this project and create a really comprehensive project encompassing their passion (Spark).
It was wonderful to see students presenting their inquiry to parents and fellow students, and to see their learning demonstrated to viewers. It was an opportunity for some students to showcase skills they may have not previously demonstrated in the classroom. They loved picking their own topic and for some students, it really made a difference to their overall engagement with the project.
The showcase of learning was a great way for the students to demonstrate their learning. I think that a lot of students were surprised how much they learned. When they were asked questions about their projects they knew it front to back and were able answer in significant detail with examples from their SPARKs.
It was interesting to watch some of our more “academic” students struggle at the beginning because they wanted a list of things to do and accomplish them in order. The nature of this inquiry forced them to come up with their own order of operations and that proved to be one of the hardest tasks for them. This is where I think these types of projects really challenge students and provide them with valuable learning experiences.
Teachers established a need to clarify criteria, extend the timeline and find ways to better introduce the meaning of an action plan as the team agreed that they want to do this project again next year.

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