Monday, October 17, 2016

Update from Network Leader Meeting

Earlier this month we held a Network Leaders meeting in Vancouver, with over 40 educators from across the province gathered to deepen our conversations about inquiry and planning our Network activities for this school year.

As a Network, we discussed how we might put more formal coaching practices into place this year, with Leaders taking on coaching roles within and across districts. Lynne Tomlinson shared this helpful document outlining an approach to coaching calls that Leaders can use with Network school teams. We think you will find her 5-4-3-2-1 framework provides a very accessible approach to coaching calls. We also had one of our colleagues – Rosie Palmer – from the Whole Education Network (WEN) in the UK share how they have been structuring support for their schools engaging in the Spirals of Inquiry through coaching. Rosie kindly shared her presentation with us, which outlines their approach. She also provided some good insight and tips, including sending out a simple agenda ahead of the call in order to allow everyone to think about the discussion ahead of time. Both of these resources will be helpful as you plan your coaching practices this year.  Rosie noted that one of the most common coaching questions they engage is “what are the learners telling you?”

We also heard from our Network colleagues in Australia – David Sim and Natalie Mansour. They joined us via videoconference to share how their Network activities are shaping up this year. Earlier in their school year, they hosted an inquiry “master class” led by Judy and Linda, supporting educators to get started get started with the Spirals and plan their inquiries. They have several Network events planned throughout the year, including a full day of pro-d around the Spirals of Inquiry as well as videoconferences showing good practice in action. They will also be hosting first Australia Network Symposium in July 2017 – very exciting!! We’ll share more details soon.

A few articles and books were mentioned as reading for professional learning over the coming weeks. Learn more about the Expeditionary Learning Model by reading this article. Expeditionary Learning is built on ten design principles that reflect the educational values and beliefs of Kurt Hahn, founder of Outward Bound. Also, explore Gregory Cajete’s Rekindling the Teachings of the Seventh Fire – a good book club selection for school teams.

Please also remember to save the date for our BC Network Symposium on May 12 – 13, 2016 in Richmond. We anticipate a full house again this year, so ensure you register early. We’ll let you know when registration opens early in 2017.

Friday, September 9, 2016

A New School Year...

When we first watched this video a couple of days ago, we knew we just NEEDED to share it here on the blog. It’s so inspirational…and so transformative. Whether you are feeling completely energized from the first week of school, or a bit overwhelmed, you need to take 7 minutes to check this out. Thanks so much to Rosa Fazio – Principal at Norma Rose Point K5 and Middle School and recent graduate of the UBC Transformative Educational Leadership Program – for her willingness to share this here. Rosa put this video together as a school opening message. Her message is indeed wonderful and encouraging, but on a deeper level it truly is an example of transformative leadership. Thanks, Rosa!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Welcome back! Videos, resources and programs for 2016 - 2017

Welcome back to school, everyone. We’re excited about all of the possibility that this new school year offers and hope you are too!

While it may seem like a long way off (and it kind of is…), we are planning ahead for the Network Symposium in May 2017.  Save May 12 – 13, 2017 in your calendar for what is already shaping up to be a great event. Take a look at this awesome video, filmed and produced by 3 videography students from the Argyle Secondary School from the 2016 Network Symposium. Not only does it give you a sense of what happens at a typical Symposium, but it also provides some great thinking from our Network both in BC and around the globe.

Two key resources to revisit early in the school year, in addition to the full text for the Spirals of Inquiry, include the Guide to the Phases of the Spiral of Inquiry and the Four Key Questions that Matter. These serve as good tools for one of your first staff meetings.  You may also want to check out the Resources section of our website. Here, you’ll find links to texts, articles, and other tools to support inquiry and deep thinking over the school year. For instance, many school teams have found the Aboriginal Understandings Learning Progression Rubric – developed by Laura Tait – to be an invaluable tool in their teaching and learning practice.

Stay tuned for more developments as we add an international section to the website, including case studies from around the globe with others involved with the Spirals of Inquiry. Both the Whole Education Network in the UK and groups of schools in Australia are intimately involved in Network activities. 

There is still time to apply for the 2nd cohort of the UBC Transformative Educational Leadership Program (TELP) which begins in October. This post-graduate program, led by Judy and Linda, was a huge success in its first year and aims to bring together individuals from across the K – 12 system interested in transforming themselves and their communities by exploring and engaging in dialogue and debate about major challenges and opportunities facing school districts. But don’t delay if you want to be involved this year – applications are due on September 11th.

For those schools and teams specifically addressing school health, check out this new  physical activity documentary featuring Josh Ogilvie – a CIEL and VIU graduate from Burnaby School District, as well as Dr. John Ratey from Harvard. Deep thinking to start off the school year!

We’re once again grateful and impressed at the caliber of work that network school teams are leading. Case studies that were submitted over the summer are almost ready to put up on the website. We’ll post a link here when these are accessible.  We are also preparing templates for submitting your 2016 - 2017 Inquiry Focus - more to come!

We’re grateful to the Ministry of Education, the Irving K Barber Learning Centre at UBC and the Annual Foundation for their funding and support of the Networks. Book sales from Spirals of Inquiry also continue to support the exceptional work of network schools. 

Looking forward to another great year of learning, teaching and inquiring together!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

UBC Transformative Educational Leadership Program - Apply Now!

In October 2015, the UBC Faculty of Education launched the first Transformative Educational Leadership Program (TELP) cohort, bringing together individuals from across BC’s K – 12 system interested in transforming themselves and their communities by exploring and engaging in dialogue and debate about major challenges and opportunities facing school districts.  Led by Drs. Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser, the program was a great success providing participants with relevant and in-depth interaction alongside innovative researchers, practitioners, and world-class scholars, at the beautiful UBC Point Grey campus. Hear what the 2015/16 participants shared about their experience.

We are excited to be launching the second cohort in October 2016, with applications due by September 11th.  The TELP is for highly-motivated individuals who already have a masters degree and want to expand their world-view, gain new experiences and raise their academic credentials to new levels. Spaces will be limited to ensure meaningful interaction.

Learn more about the program at, listen to our recorded information session and share the brochure with colleagues. You can also contact us directly at

“I was very grateful to be part of the TELP cohort and to learn with and from such an exceptional group of leaders. We were engaged in rich and meaningful dialogue and had the opportunity to hear from top educational researchers from around the world. I feel I am part of a network of leaders now and that I will apply what we learned into my work at the school and district level.”
         - Birgitte Biorn, Principal, SD 38 Richmond

“Pressing pause in one’s busy professional life and taking the time to read, learn, reflect and apply current educational research to practice is the hallmark of TELP.  Case studies from provincial leaders, and dialogue with international experts, coupled with first rate leadership by Drs. Halbert and Kaser, position this program as an inspiring catalyst to transforming learning not only in one’s own district context, but in making a difference in learning systems across BC.”
         - Terry Taylor, Superintendent of Schools, SD 10 Arrow Lakes

“TELP has given me insight into, and improved understanding of, the transformational goals for public education in BC.  I’ve acquired tools and language that translate seamlessly between the educational and the business divisions of school districts.” 
        - Julia Leiterman, Secretary-Treasurer and CFO, SD 45 West Vancouver

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Reflections on Spiralling Down Under

Linda and I are just back from ten days in Sydney and Melbourne where we had the great opportunity to work with close to 700 school leaders in eleven different sessions held in a variety of settings.  What each of these groups had in common was their interest in applying the spiral of inquiry to developing, deepening and extending the work of professional learning communities. 

In addition to learning, somewhat to our dismay, that it can be really cold in Australia in winter, we also had a chance to reflect on some key ideas that we believe can contribute to strengthening the impact of our inquiry work here at home.

Here are our current top ten:

1    The pull of curiosity can be more powerful than the push of policy.   A challenge for district, school and network leaders is to create the conditions for teachers to be professionally curious.  Intentionally and strategically asking the four key questions  - and then acting on the responses - is a starting point in building educator curiosity about what is going on for their learners.

2.   The power of giving it a go.  We learn about the potential of the spiral of inquiry to change outcomes for learners – of all ages – by giving it a go. Once we have some basic understanding of the spiral of inquiry, we get started and we learn together from our actions. The first time through gives us the opportunity to understand how the spiral works, and after that the work just gets deeper and deeper.

3.     You can start anywhere. While we teach the stages of spiral as a sequence, the reality is that you can start anywhere – as long as ultimately you pay attention to all of the stages. Your curiosity may have been piqued by some new learning experiences that you had during the summer. You may have read an article, seen a YouTube clip or attended a conference that got you thinking about your own learners. So you might go right from new learning to scanning. Or, you may have had some niggling thoughts about your own practices that you aren’t sure are as effective as they might be. You have a hunch that something may not be quite right. Time to scan and to check it out. 

4.     Mindset matters. Ever since Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success was published in 2006 we have been encouraging all our grad students and every participant at any workshop we lead to read this book. Subsequent research studies have validated the importance of mindset in developing confident resilient learners. If you have yet to seriously explore the research on mindset, make this the year it happens.  And once you have done the reading, then make sure you develop ways to teach the importance of mindset directly to your students and to the families you serve. The evidence is simply too compelling to ignore.

5.     The meso level is where change action takes place.  In Schooling Redesigned, one of the final publications from the OECD study on Innovative Learning Environments, David Istance argued that in all the cases reviewed as part of this work, it was a rich web of networks and partnerships that lead to substantive and meaningful innovation.  The argument is no longer whether innovation is motivated from the top or from the bottom, or indeed from the middle.  Rather, it is the extent to which systems support networks and partnerships across all levels.

6.     Shared language and common frameworks build coherence.  The findings of the Learning First study on teacher professional learning in high performing systems ( emphasized the importance of teacher professional learning being inquiry-based, linked and coherent.  We believe that the more BC schools and districts are intentional about using the spiral of inquiry to change outcomes for learners, the more linked and coherent our system will become.

7.     Our goals should be hard and we need to double down.  We have been pushing towards achieving our goal of EVERY learner crossing the stage with dignity, purpose and options for close to ten years. At one point we thought achieving this goal would be a cool way to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017. We won’t be popping the champagne just yet as we aren’t quite there.  As an increasing number of schools and districts in BC take up this challenge – and are able to say how close they are getting to make this a reality – this may be the perfect time to pick up the pace.

8.     Aboriginal education is for everyone. We have been inspired and encouraged by the ways in which educators across BC and the Yukon are picking up their paddles, getting into the canoe, and paddling together to make the changes that are so necessary to support our Aboriginal learners. Our vision for AESN is that together we create an inquiry community where everyone learns and works together to ensure that every Aboriginal learner crosses the stage with dignity, purpose and options -  and that together we eliminate racism in schools.

9.     Keep it simple.  Sometimes it seems like the biggest challenge for us as educators is to keep things simple and focused.  If a one-page plan is good, wouldn't a ten page plan be even better? Not true.  Whether we are writing growth plans, designing rubrics, creating learning continuum or writing personal professional plans, it is too often the tendency to keep adding and adding.

      Put down the ducky. At the NOII symposium in May Helen Timperley ended her remarks with a clip from Sesame Street  ( that made the point that when we are learning something new, we have to decide what we are going to stop doing.  What’s the ducky you are going to put down??

Ten is such a nice tidy number – and it isn’t quite enough. If we could add one more to the top ten – it would be this. Friendship Matters.  What was so special about being in Australia this time was to see new friendships being formed, to deepen friendships already in place, to create new opportunities and possibilities for collaborative work in the months and years ahead and to hear abut how much Australian visitors to BC have appreciated the warm welcome and gracious hospitality of school districts hosts.  Margaret Wheatley argued that very great change starts from very small conversations. Change happens when one friend turns to another and says, “I have an idea, what if….?”  We have seen great things happen when friends get together and take action on what really matters most. Sometimes those friendships take us on journeys we could not have anticipated.