The impact of collaborative critical inquiry on teacher development

Date of Completion

January 1999


Education, Administration|Education, Teacher Training




Recent school reform efforts have not explored adequately the impact of collaborative, inquiry-oriented approaches to professional development on improving teaching and student learning. This study examined the issue in a rural elementary school in southern New England. ^ The intervention that was studied was implemented in three phases. Before this study commenced, teachers participated in a more conventional approach to professional development, based on objectives that teachers developed individually through consultation with their principal. In Phase I, the principal initiated this study with a presentation on the potential of implementing a collaborative, inquiry-based approach to professional development. ^ In Phase II of this study, the participating teachers identified three priority school improvement needs and self-selected themselves into three teams. Teachers on each team constructed the professional knowledge necessary to improve teaching and learning in an interactive, professional manner, where teachers became “learners” who were able to bridge theory into classroom practice. ^ In Phase III of this study, teachers worked in their teams for 18 months to implement strategies and to continuously assess the impact of such strategies on improving teaching and student learning. As teachers worked together and assessed the impact of their efforts on teaching and student learning, they continually revised their school improvement strategies so they would be more responsive to students' learning needs. During this period, the school principal served as a resource to the three school improvement teams in a transformational leadership sense. ^ The impact of this collaborative, inquiry-based approach to teacher professional development and school improvement was examined using an action research framework. An action research case study approach was initiated that utilized both quantitative and qualitative longitudinal data. Surveys, teacher journals, interviews, and discussions were used to determine what impact collaborative; critical-inquiry has on teacher development and school improvement. ^ Through this study, it was determined that collaborative, critical inquiry is an integral part of a teacher's professional growth and development; and it positively influences student learning. Two out of three of the teacher teams involved in this intervention exhibited a statistically significant (p < .05) improvement in their abilities to reason as measured by the Reflective Judgment Inventory. ^