Practitioner knowledge and networked inquiry


If you were educated on Earth, you have background in course-like learning and you might feel the temptation to reflect on your making and learning as would suit a course. In the same way, just as you are susceptible to Earth’s gravity, you are susceptible to associate learning with courses. Instead, consider your learning in a way you might consider your learning after a camping trip, after a visit to the museum, or after a dance that leaves you sweaty, laughing, and looking for a drink of water. – Joe Dillon, CLMOOC facilitator 2014

Thank you all for your continued exploration, expertise, and support for one another’s learning and sharing. The check-in was really helpful to me to get a sense of how you all were feeling and I greatly appreciate all the work you have been doing both individually and together. It’s interesting how community can start to form even in these online spaces and I continue to puzzle myself all the possibilities. (And speaking of puzzling, I’m working on my own blog post reflecting on this work we are doing together — I’ll  share it later this week.)

Okay, so we are entering our 6th week already and the focus has been on Theories of Knowledge and Communities of Practice. Building on last week’s theme of learning in community, this week the focus will be on the role of practitioner knowledge and networked inquiry.

The week ahead …

Readings/Watchings: I’d suggest starting with a reading from Susan Lytle, a professor from UPenn, founder of the Philadelphia Writing Project, and scholar in the field of practitioner/teacher research. In this essay At Last: Practitioner Inquiry and the Practice of Teaching: Some Thoughts on Better, Susan picks up on the idea of inquiry across practice, building from Atul Gwande’s description of what it means to get “better” as a doctor and surgeon and thinking about this from an educator’s perspective.

(If you are interested in taking a deeper dive into teacher inquiry, I would recommend Inquiry as Stance: Practitioner Research for the Next Generation by Susan Lytle and Marilyn Cochran-Smith.)

From here I suggest checking out this collection at Digital Is called From Professional Development to Professional Practice curated by Stephanie West-Puckett of the Tar River Writing Project. Although Stephanie does not use the term “inquiry” explicitly, she is engaging with a group of teachers in a professional setting where the shared mantra is “make, share, connect, reflect, and repeat.” She provides some context for this work and then points to resources created by those educators as they engaged in their own inquiries, individually and also together.

In addition, please find a PDF in Blackboard of the Introductory chapter to the book Assessing Digital Writing: Looking Closely at Student Work by Troy Hicks. This builds on Christina Puntel’s work that some of you wrote about last week, Looking with Heart …, and describes the what and why a group of writing project educators got together online to look at digital writing and media products created by their students.

Blogging: Based on the idea then that we all have key questions that drive our practice forward daily, as well as important knowledge to contribute to the field, we want to tap into both our questions and our knowledge to help us in bringing equity to connected learning.

Therefore, I would like you to start to identify an inquiry question (or a set of questions) that will be a guide for you during the rest of the semester. And these questions should relate, in some way, to the equity focus you were thinking about earlier.

Inquiries are not necessarily “answerable” and there will not be a test, or even a research paper, due at the end of the semester about it. Instead, because the topic of connected learning and equity are so big, I’d like to support you in having some key question/s that come out of your own interest and practice that help you to focus a bit. Your question/s should therefore have more than a yes/no or otherwise quickly findable answer … instead inquiry questions tend to be the kind that keeps you up at night (or wake you up in the morning) … ones that emerge when you are exploring, playing, and stopping to wonder where to go next … that which you seek to make “better”.

If it’s hard to get started, you can try something that colleagues of mine do with their students — it’s called “10 Self/10 World mission” and is used as a way to support youth as bloggers at The steps include:

  1. Write 10 questions that you have about yourself (as a connected learner) and 10 questions that you have about the world (about connected learning and equity).
  2. Next, pick one question and write about it as though you are the expert. Write about why it is of interest to you and all that you already know about it. Write about what you would like to know about it that you don’t already know.
  3. Now find one focused sentence from this “expert writing” and do some freewriting. Use this freewriting to take you a bit deeper with your question … and/or surface a new one!
  4. Keep going back and forth between step 2 and step 3 to go more deeply with your questions. You can use this more deep reflection for blogging this week. (See Freewriting, focused sentences, and generative themes: Finding your niche from Youth Voices for more.)

Note that you are welcome to do a lot of this in a space of your own and then bring some sort of reflection/summary to your public blog/shared writing. Of course, how you ultimately want to do it is up to you — and if you have other ways you have found that support identifying key questions and inquiry, please share those with us all too.

Find 5: Don’t forget! One idea is that this week, maybe you can find 5 things that you might want to follow-up on and people and/or communities you might want to start to connect to who can support your inquiry.

Happy exploring!


Image: Exploring how to get up to the Manayunk bike/pedestrian bridge … and being a little lost by Christina Cantrill, cc by

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