Caption: Grand Erie teachers help students learn through Student Work Study Collaborative Inquiry.
Focusing on learning from the learner and paying attention to how and what students learn is the foundation for teachers to better teach.
Michelle Swyers, Grand Erie Student Work Study (SWS) teacher, believes in retreating back to the students for answers on improved teachings. The process of a Student Work Study Collaborative Inquiry (SWSCI) is one full of observation, analysis, collaboration and relationship building.
Since 2012, all school boards in Ontario have engaged in this type of learning and analysis, that when applied appropriately, is a successful way of informing and influencing different teaching strategies in the classroom. SWS Teachers have been in 38 schools and 133 classes across the board since 2009.
“Our students have much to teach us about the way we teach them,” said Swyers. “Sometimes as teachers, we have a certain outlook and tend to overlook assets that students can bring to their own learning.”
“It’s so deeply embedded in our schools and classrooms that the dynamic and relevancy is difficult to replicate any other way.”
One Student Work Study Collaborative Inquiry cycle lasts six weeks and is broken up in three, two-week blocks. The program begins and ends by examining the individual, precise student data strengths and needs. A handful of teachers will come together as Host Teachers and work alongside a Student Work Study Teacher to analyze student data and engage in professional dialogue. Together, they will study the student experience and develop plans of action that meet the student’s needs.
“Building relationships is very important at the beginning,” Swyers said. “Everything is open-book and shared.”
All three pillars from the Board’s multi-year plan – Achievement, Environment and Engagement – are considered when applying the work study.
Jennifer Hinrichs, a Brier Park teacher who participated in the program, saw learnings from previous workshops and professional development opportunities come to the forefront. Through her experiences in the six-week cycle, she developed a better understanding of what her students understand and how to help get them there.
“Having another teacher’s perspective in the room was very helpful,” Hinrichs said. “I saw that students need that hands-on approach and the time to talk through problems, work in partnerships, and debate their discoveries.”
In Grand Erie, there are two SWSCI cycles in one year. There are often opportunities to continue with the SWSCI model after the six-week period, but with less support.
“We hear most often ‘thank you for helping me see my students differently’,” Swyers said. “That is our success. We want to open hearts, eyes and ears to learning.”