The Faculty Inquiry Cycle

What Is Faculty Inquiry?

Faculty inquiry is a form of professional development by which teachers identify and investigate questions about their students’ learning. The inquiry process is ongoing, informed by evidence of student learning, and undertaken in a collaborative setting. Findings from the process come back in the form of new curricula, new assessments, and new pedagogies, which in turn become subjects for further inquiry.

When faculty pursue such inquiry in the company of colleagues and students, they create a “teaching commons” on their campus–a set of interconnected forums where conversations about learning take place, where innovations in curriculum and pedagogy get tried out, and where questions and answers about education are exchanged, critiqued and built upon.

What is the Faculty Inquiry Cycle?

Faculty inquiry can be thought of as a cyclical process that begins with a question about student learning and moves through at least these four stages.

Developing a question
Designing a plan for research
Gathering and Evaluating Evidence
Presenting and Reviewing findings

(Each of these bulleted stages links to a page that explains it further, with examples and jumping off points to SPECC project examples.)

Of course the cycle is in many ways iterative, where gathering of evidence might spur rethinking of the initial question; or sharing findings leads to the need to gather more or different evidence.

The core work of faculty inquiry involves instructors asking questions about the teaching and learning that goes on in their own classrooms; seeking answers by consulting the literature, gathering and analyzing evidence, and engaging students in the process whenever possible; using what they find out to improve the experience of their students; and sharing this work with colleagues so that they and their students can benefit too. Usually, questioning begins with a problem the instructor has perceived—something that’s not going right.

Throughout this toolkit examples of community college faculty engaging in faculty inquiry are used to illustrate the faculty inquiry cycle.

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