Developing a hunch

    “How are WE contributing to the situation?” is the inquiry question in the developing a hunch phase. 

Leaders, teachers and learners engage in developing hunches to uncover and test beliefs about what is leading to the situation and to hone in on what they can do about it.

This phase of the spiral is referred to as Develop your thinking about why this is happening in the Report of the Professional Learning and Development Advisory Group (2014).

Mindsets for developing a hunch

Hunches are ideas or assumptions about what is leading to the situation that you want to change. Hunches are often incomplete and may be wrong.

Many people believe their hunches to be true so the real challenge is to express them in ways that can be tested to see whether they really are leading to the current situation.

What some leaders and teachers have said

“One of the hardest things – we build in a whole lot of routines and they work so we keep doing them because they work for us. Whether they work for the students or not is a whole different question. And we don’t even know that they’re assumptions – they might be cultural assumptions or professional assumptions – they’re just who we are.”

“I’d never thought that assessing students was more about me and what I’m doing than about them?”

“We got powerful change by developing a long slow hunch, then testing it to see what was happening.”

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Number 1 rule

Don’t play the blame game and decide that things are as they are because of what others are doing or not doing. Hunches are about how we are individually and collectively contributing to the situation.

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Leadership challenges

  • Building a culture where teachers feel safe to identify what it is they do not know and the kind of support that will help them to learn it.
  • When you take a stance that the inquiry spiral involves “everyone including me” leaders need to think about how they might be contributing to maintaining the current situation. Have you taken on too many new initiatives for the school? Do teachers have enough time to learn sufficiently deeply in the focus area?

An exercise

An exercise you can do as a school to get a handle on whether you are creating this problem is to map all the activities in the school that require new learning or doing things differently.

Mapping potential overload (Word 2007 24 kB)

As one leader said after completing his map:

“We didn’t realise that we had to make the work in our area of focus core business. We talked about it but we didn’t do it. Now we have, our students have made more progress in the last six weeks than in the whole of last year.”

“In terms of organising (all the initiatives we have), my teaching is about twentieth on the list and that’s appalling. It should be top. The new curriculum, restorative justice, professional learning communities, coaching, all those things we’ve initiated – which I’ve got no arguments with at all in terms of concepts – it’s just too much. And then this inquiry project has come in on the top. So a lot of things don’t get done.”

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