Energy and Change PD Program
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Participative inquiry

What is participative inquiry?

Participative inquiry (PI) involves planned and structured opportunities for teachers to reflect on their teaching practices in collegial groups. Teachers focus on the changes to those practices, developing solutions to problems and developing new professional knowledge.

Why do it?

Teaching is a challenging activity. Every teacher tries to improve the quality of their teaching. Working on common inquiry tasks with other teachers will assist you to extend your professional knowledge and skills.

How is it done?

By having regular discussions on these common endeavours, understanding and reflection will be enhanced. These PI discussions are more effective if organised and facilitated by a member of the science team at the school. It may be appropriate for members of the team to take turns facilitating these reflection sessions. While the discussion is the main priority, there are advantages to the group if the main outcomes of the discussion are summarised and made available to other participants.

In the Energy and change trial project of the CASSP project, the focus is on three aspects. The PI discussions are therefore designed to provide opportunities to monitor and reflect on teaching practices in these three areas:

  • student-centred approaches to learning
    • explanation follows experience
    • cooperative learning and group work
    • discussions and questioning
    • relevance and real-life context
  • inquiry and investigative approaches
  • formative and authentic approaches to assessment.

Suggested discussion questions and tasks

The following initiating questions and possible tasks could be useful in a PI program for teachers involved in the implementation of changes in practice reflected in the PD and materials for the Energy and change unit.

The main purpose of the discussion is to examine issues pertinent to the group. Initially, you may wish to discuss your reaction to the implementation of the resources, but then you should select an area on which to focus the discussion.

Student-centred approaches to learning

Explanation follows experience


  • What have been the consequences of providing activity before discussion and explanation?
  • How have the students reacted?
  • How can the benefits from this approach be maximised?

Cooperative learning and group work


  • What group compositions are working well: groups of three, groups of four, mixed sex with equal or unequal numbers of boys and girls, single sex?
  • What are the best ways of introducing the roles and reinforcing roles?
  • How can feedback on performance in roles be provided?
  • Which of the skills are going to give the greatest benefit, that is, which ones will you introduce? When will you introduce them?

Discussions and questioning

Tape-record the whole-class discussion in one lesson. Listen to the tape and note the use of open and closed questions, wait time, how answers are evaluated and how the outcome is summarised at the end of the discussion. What can be improved? What were the successes? What could be shared with your colleagues?


  • How are small-group discussions facilitated?
  • Is discussion about concepts occurring, as well as fixing task and management issues?
  • Is listening and looking at students' work before posing questions used to scaffold the discussion?
  • Are ideas generated in groups included in the whole-class discussion so all students benefit from the good ideas and explanations?

Relevance and real-life context


  • What approaches are working well to enhance the use of issues and contexts to engage students in learning?
  • Compare successes and failures – what can be learned?

Inquiry and investigative approaches


  • What difficulties are being experienced with implementing investigations?
  • What approaches are working in other teachers’ classes?
  • What aspects of students’ investigation work needs support through modelling, scaffolding or further practice?
  • What aspects of group roles or group skills need to be used more effectively?

Formative and authentic approaches to assessment

Each teacher brings samples of student work that they have assessed from their Year 9 class on Energy and change. Pass the work samples around to check star rating and develop a common understanding of star criteria.


  • What do the initial quizzes reveal about the students' understanding? What are the most common misconceptions?
  • Are there students at different levels who would benefit from different questions or different activities?
  • What sort of questions will be needed to scaffold student thinking and help them deal with issues at the next level up?

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