Earlier this month Linda and I spent a few days with educators, parents and trustees in Vancouver Island North. The focus of our time in Port McNeil and Port Hardy was to extend and deepen the inquiry work that is taking place. The more we work with the spiral of inquiry, we more we realize how important it is that districts see inquiry as a means for genuine transformation – not simply for tinkering at the edges of improvement. Sometimes at the end of a week of travel and presenting, we head home tired and ready for a bit of a break. Not this time. We both left the North Island energized and invigorated by the quality of the work we saw – and the commitment of the school teams to work as hard as possible to meet the needs of all their learners.
We particularly enjoyed seeing the enthusiasm of the school teams in explaining the focus of their inquiries with parents and colleagues from all the district schools in an evening session at North island Secondary School. Last fall was the first time such an event took place and the teams were understandably a bit nervous about how the evening would go. What a difference a year of focused effort and support can make. The conversations were rich, the questions were probing and new learning was evident. There is still a long way to go before North Island meets its own goals of every learner crossing the stage with dignity, purpose and options, but the momentum is certainly growing.
We asked Scott Benwell to tell us what he thought it took for a district to create a real culture of inquiry,
North Island is just one of a number of districts that is taking an inquiry stance as the means for transforming district culture and changing results for learners. We are increasingly convinced that this kind of system-wide approach builds commitment, generates enthusiasm, opens up thinking and allows for creativity. We have seen the impact in schools through the networks of inquiry and innovation and now we are excited about exploring more closely the impact at the district level. We invite your comments and observations.