Developing an Inquiry Stance Toward Teaching



Beverly Falk

The City College of New York

My Teacher Education Challenge

The challenge I explore in this website is how to help teacher learners understand that teaching is problematic rather than a given, that inquiry is part of everyday practice.

The challenges of teaching, especially teaching in the unpredictable environments of urban schools, call on teachers to be problem posers and solvers, to think and act critically, and to be able to articulate their beliefs and actions to other colleagues, administrators, families, and the public.

To prepare for this hard work, my teacher preparation program tries to help our teacher candidates learn to apply a common set of inquiry stances and skills to the unanswered questions and problems that inevitably arise in schools. We thus infuse inquiry experiences throughout our program and require a two-semester inquiry course as a culminating experience that provides teacher learners with an opportunity to generate and explore personally meaningful questions about their practice. It is our belief that by experiencing first-hand the messy, non-linear, often confusing nature of the learning process, this exploration will help teacher learners synthesize the content, pedagogical, and dispositional knowledge that they have learned throughout the program and apply it to the ongoing dilemmas of their daily lives.

As they learn how to collect evidence, analyze it, and subsequently use data from their practice to inform their thinking and their teaching, it is our hope that the process of asking and pursuing generative questions will become a habit they will carry with them long after completing their teacher preparation. By engaging in the iterative cycle of questions - questions lead to other questions and evolve as the pursuit of them unfolds - we want teacher learners to not only gain competence and confidence in their skills, but also to learn how to articulate what they know, and to translate their understanding of powerful learning experiences to the experiences they structure for their students.

My Course

To help teacher learners understand that teaching is problematic, not a given; that inquiry is a part of good teaching, I developed the two semester course on Teacher Research described in this website. It presents teacher learners with an opportunity to pursue a question about their own teaching that they study in the context of their own classroom. The goal of this experience is to consolidate an inquiry stance toward teaching; to develop an understanding that a professional teacher is continually engaged in the study of learners, of practice, and of problems related to teaching.

How I Used Quest Teacher Records of Practice

I have always referenced the work of preK-12 teachers in my teaching. For this course, I traditionally assigned teacher research articles to provide a sense of other teachers' experiences. This year, however, I added the Quest teacher websites (see below) to my course materials. During the first semester, when teacher learners were generating their questions and developing a design for their research, we consulted several Quest websites to get ideas about other teachers' questions and how they pursued them.

During the second semester of the course, when teacher learners were carrying out their own studies and putting together their findings, we returned to the websites to see the various ways Quest teachers documented their practice. We also did an in-depth study of Martha Andrews' website, which describes a fifth grade class' extended study of Colonial America, to see how she used a cycle of inquiry (questioning, gathering data, analyzing, gaining new understandings, applying new knowledge) to inform her teaching.

Martha Andrews

Melissa Pedraza

Marsha Pincus

Sarah Scapitelli

Emily Wolk

Mattie Davis

This electronic portfolio was created using the KEEP Toolkit™, developed at the
Knowledge Media Lab of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
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