NWP: ELL Inquiry Groups

How can we get teachers to collaborate and continue to learn and develop professionally? One answer is inquiry groups.

Christine Berg, Ruth Devlin, Darshna Katwala, and Lynn Welsch presented "Exploring language acquisition, academic literacy, and advocacy for ELLs ", which was about their different inquiry groups, at the 2007 NWP (National Writing Profect) 2007 Annual Meeting yesterday afternoon.

Of course, it makes sense that having people work together on learning will help them become better teachers and better at helping English language learners. Another interesting thing is that successful inquiry groups have both structure and also flexibility.

In Darshna's inquiry group, teachers kept observation journals on things that came up with their students while teaching, read research articles that pertained to those observations, and held weekly discussions at set times on those readings. The flexibility, or perhaps I should say adaptability, came from choosing research articles that pertained to what the teachers were experiencing currently instead of having a set schedule of readings.

Another, apparently crucial, feature that made Darshna's inquiry group successful was Darshna. Apparently, she was the primary recruiter of teachers for the inquiry group, and she continually motivated teachers to keep coming to the groups. From her part of the presentation, it was easy to see her personality: friendly and enthusiastic. In addition, she listened to the other teachers and spent time finding research articles that pertained to their classroom experience. She obviously put a lot of energy (time, effort, and contagious enthusiasm) into making the inquiry group successful.

It seems then that success for any group or endeavor depends upon these three factors:

  • adaptability,
  • structure, and
  • energy (effort and enthusiasm).