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Springvalley Elementary School
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Our Inquiry Process

Our Inquiry Process

In the past years our primary goal was to focus on academic and social/emotional intervention in order to give our Skyhawk community its best chance at success in learning and life as global citizens.  Such emphasis has resulted in quality individualization of support as well as a calm and focused school tone.  This work is now embedded in the culture of the school, and we continue to have conversations as a staff to sustain and deepen the work in these areas.

Our collaborative scanning of our community has resulted in a new focus for our Learning Plan.  This year we begin a journey to give our students more ownership and agency in their learning.  Our first tool will be communicating student learning through electronic portfolios. 

Here children select evidence of learning which demonstrates their progress over time.  Students then have learning conversations that focus on the specifics of what they are doing well, and their next steps in learning.  The goal is to put students in the driver's seat of their learning with the input and guidance of their parents and teachers.

The Spirals of Inquiry guided our work as a community in developing our Learning Plan. 

Scanning our Skyhawk Community

In fall 2018, we continued scanning our learning community.  We started by sitting down with children from all grade levels and asking them questions about their learning journeys.  We asked numerous questions such as:

"Think about your writing skills a year ago and now.   

  • How has your writing changed?
  • What does this show about your growth in your writing skills? 
  • What are your next steps in your writing journey?

and

"What are you excited about in school?  What are you learning in this area?  What are the next steps in your progress in this area?"

In summary, we noticed that our students were confident in speaking to their development on skills in writing such as improvements in their use of conventions such as capitals, sentence structure and punctuation.  There were fewer comments about higher level writing skills such as idea development, voice and story structure. 

Students at all grade levels were quick to speak to their ability development in Math.  Students spoke confidently about what they were doing well and were able to comment on specific skill sets such as fractions, decimals, adding, subtracting etc.  Community and collaborative spirit was also evident as numerous students named wanting to help others in their math skills as a primary focus for next steps in math as well.  Students spoke about their success in math, and mentioned regularly that they wanted to continue to have fun in math.

When asked open-ended questions regarding what they wanted to learn next, students mentioned wanting to improve in Science, Art and improve their reading skills.  A large number of students commented on how much they enjoyed researching a variety of teacher and student chosen topics.

When asked about what they were excited about at school, many students mentioned PE, recess, volleyball, art, sports and extra-curricular activities such as being a crossing guard.  Another theme emerged clearly at several age levels.  There was much excitement and engagement around a variety of inquiry projects.  Students could speak passionately, for example, on their inquiry work on the topic of trash. Design thinking projects rooted in inquiry such as developing a plan for an artificial leg also brought much enthusiasm. 

Our parents are key players in developing three way conversations about student learning using electronic portfolios.  As such, feedback from them is critically important.  We asked our PAC to comment on the effectiveness of electronic portfolios, the four point scale and learning summaries in communicating student learning. 

Feedback from PAC included comments on the different look of portfolios depending on the classroom.  Frequency of posting was mentioned, and there was a general consensus that a few more posts could help them understand more effectively where their children are at in their learning, and would help them have conversations about their progress over time. 

Parents had questions about whether to comment themselves online, or whether conversations at home were enough.  They also saw the value of children posting evidence of learning themselves, and commenting on their progress and next steps which demonstrates ownership of their development.  Parents noticed that there were more posts right before learning summaries were released, and mentioned that having posts at regular intervals throughout the term would be helpful.  They also wondered how to connect with a teacher without the child seeing the comment, and the email link on the top of the page was found. 

We also sent a questionnaire home through a Google form inviting any parent to comment on our learning portfolios and learning summaries.   

Furthermore, we continue to talk about creating a calm and welcoming environment through our focus on social/emotional interventions.   

The Spirals of Inquiry guided our work as a community in developing our Learning Plan.