Strategies From General Education

How can systematic inquiry strengthen arts education professional development?

Wonder about your work. Ask the burning question. Inquiry is at the heart of professional development. It provides direction and focus. By reflecting on what helps teachers and students learn and systematically seeking answers, you can improve the structure of your professional development. Inquiry can help you plan the professional development framework. You assess needs and find out more about teachers’ current capacities and interests while envisioning possibilities. A culture of inquiry helps educators, their partners and supporters connect the dots among professional development, teacher growth, and student learning.

In inquiry-based learning communities, the boundaries blur between professional developer and educator as well as between teacher and student. Everyone contributes to collective learning and improved education. Teachers participating in professional development actively craft the learning community, the questions, and ultimately, help colleagues and students grow. With ongoing professional development and a culture seeking continuous improvement, periods of planning and implementation in inquiry-based communities flow together and are flexible.

The burning question may look at your process and help you adapt your approach. Example: How can we better support teachers when we’re not meeting face-to-face?

You might ask a summative question to help you take stock. “Did we or didn’t we?’ Example: To what extent are students developing dance literacy from our classroom teachers’ arts integration?

The inquiry cycle for educators
Ask, explore, find out something, contemplate what you find, adapt accordingly and ask again.
When teachers pursue the answers to thoughtful questions about their practice and are ready to use what they find out, it’s sometimes called ‘action research.’ Questions could include, “How can I measure and improve student music skills when choral work takes place in groups?”

The inquiry cycle for professional development designers
Ask, apply answers to inform structure, implement, collect data, reflect, apply changes, and ask again.
When people planning professional development ask questions about the services and broader learning community, it may be called evaluation or research, depending on the question’s scope. Questions could include, “How effective are we in delivering the services we intended?” And, “What differences has it made for students?”