Improving Instruction Through Inquiry and Collaboration (IITIC)

Published: 2010

Funded by the DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund, the Southern Maine Partnership and the CES Northwest Center are each working with three local schools to assess and improve classroom instruction. Instructional Improvement Through Inquiry and Collaboration (IITIC) has one ultimate goal: to strengthen schools ability to help students learn to use their minds well. The project aims to achieve this goal by creating powerful opportunities for teachers to investigate their teaching practices and the design of the school, to understand the weaknesses in their instruction and the school s design, and to take the risks necessary for meaningful change and improvement. The project also aims to document this work, so that what is learned in the course of this project can strengthen the work of the entire CES network and the broader educational community.

Action research, examining student work, and peer observation and coaching are the centerpieces of the project. Using these tools as part of a cycle of inquiry, CES regional centers are working with local schools to examine and improve classroom instruction and to promote whole-school change. CES National supports the centers work through several programs, including a Summer Seminar and a National Study Group, while regional centers will support the schools work through local seminars and ongoing coaching.

Specific objectives of the project include the following:

  • To deepen schools work on CES s Ten Common Principles. This project helps strengthen the work particularly around four principles:
    1. focusing the school s efforts on helping students learn to use their minds well
    2. applying the goals of the school to all students, including those who have been typically under-served by schools
    3. understanding that "less is more," which suggests that curricular decisions should be guided by the aim of student mastery rather than an effort to cover content
    4. thinking of student-as-worker rather than teacher-as-deliverer-of-instructional-services
  • To pilot strategies, tools, and resources which will enable teachers to assess and improve their instructional strategies both individually and as an entire faculty
  • To build the capacity of CES centers to support work focused on instructional improvement through inquiry
  • To document in an iterative process the support that teachers and schools need in order to do this work well; to learn more about what it takes to help teachers and schools improve student learning
  • To disseminate the learnings from the project across the CES network and broadly in the educational community
  • To share learnings with other school reform projects working on improving teaching and learning
  • To achieve improvements in instruction and learning in schools that serve young people from low-income communities

Practical Tools Generated by IITIC Participants

Early drafts of teachers' research questions

Descriptive Review Protocol

Some Criteria for Researchable Questions

Refining Your Research Question

Peer Observation Tool

What Counts as Data?

IITIC Discussion Group

IITIC Bibiliography

HORACE 15.4: The Cycle of Inquiry and Action: Essential Learning Communities

IITIC Cycle of Inquiry PDF version (best for printing)

IITIC Project Participants:

Southern Maine Partnership: IITIC on SMP Web site
Gorham High School
Noble High School
Yarmouth High School

CES Northwest Center:
Henry M. Jackson
Illahee Junior High School
Nathan Hale High School

Peer Coaching, Critical Friends Groups, Looking At Student Work, Teacher Collaboration & Learning

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