Chapter 1 of Earl and Timperley’s edited book: Earl, L. M., & Timperley, H. (2009). understanding learning conversations Springer Netherlands.
p1: Schools that are able to take charge of change, rather than being controlled by it, have been shown to be more effective and improve more rapidly than ones that are not (Rosenholz, 1989; Stoll and Fink, 1996; Gray et al., 1999).
p1: having and using knowledge wisely is an essential skill
p2: conversations that are grounded in evidence and focused on learning from that evidence have considerable potential to influence what happens in schools and ultimately enhance the quality and the efficiency of student learning. We have also come to the conclusion that having conversations based on data in educational contexts is very hard to do. It is hard because productive use of evidence requires more than just adding data to the conversation; it involves a way of thinking and challenging ideas towards new knowledge.
p2: “activity traps” – moving quickly to doing, to being busy and to feeling productive, without sufficient attention to selecting the right things to do in the circumstances.
p2: significant change in schooling depends on the creation of new knowledge for the adults who are making the decisions… knowledge is created through dialogue or conversations that make presuppositions, ideas, beliefs and feelings explicit and available for exploration.
p3: Qualities of Productive Evidence-informed Conversations – it is an iterative process of asking questions, examining evidence and thinking about what the evidence means in the particular context.
p5: it is necessary to approach decision-making with an inquiry habit of mind (Earl and Katz, 2006) and a belief that improvements occur through engaging with the ideas of others and the evidence on which these ideas are based.
p5: Leaders with an inquiry habit of mind do not presume an outcome; instead they allow for a range of outcomes and keep searching for increased understanding and clarity.
p5: decisions that have far-reaching consequences or are high stakes deserve to be investigated thoroughly through the lenses of pertinent data, as a way of either validating hunches or rethinking ideas
p5: “aporia” – recognizing that you do not know and being determined to get increasing clarity and understanding
p8: All too often educational decisions are made using data that are available, rather than data that are appropriate.
p9: Evidence of all sorts provides the tools for measuring important educational concepts, but the evidence is only as good as the thinking that goes into the interpretation.
p9: While individual reflection can be a powerful process for identifying issues and the processes for improvement, if those reflections remain with the individual, patches of brilliance may result, but these patches are unlikely to become institutionalized beyond an individual teacher’s classroom or administrator’s responsibilities. If knowledge is to become more generic, it needs to be socially constructed by the key participants, the merits debated and the potential flaws exposed.
p10: Improvement does involve showing respect by taking the time to understand each others’ viewpoints because there are always many sides to a story, but the purpose is to probe meanings, challenge each others’ interpretations of the evidence and the reasoning on which the different viewpoints are based.
In this chapter entitled ‘Understanding how evidence and learning conversations work’ , Earl and Timperley note:
Conversations that are grounded in evidence and focused on learning from that evidence have considerable potential to influence what happens in schools and ultimately enhance the quality and the efficiency of student learning. We have also come to the conclusion that having conversations based on data in educational contexts is very hard to do. It is hard because productive use of evidence requires more than just adding data to the conversation; it involves a way of thinking and challenging ideas towards new knowledge. (2009, p.2)
They go on to outline what they believe are the qualities of productive evidence-informed conversations. Read this carefully and consider your own context and situation. This information about learning conversations might be a useful focus for you to discuss with your coaching/mentoring colleague(s), now or at a later stage of the process.
Come to Seminar 2 with having identified two or three qualities of learning conversations that interest you and that you feel you could develop in your situation. Be ready to discuss these and your plans for their development.
Learning conversations: socially constructing knowledge
- an inquiry habit of mind – “aporia”
- relevant data – available v appropriate / quality of interpretation
- respectful (but challenging) relationships
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