Helen Timperley: BES connections

In this audio Helen Timperley talks about what has changed since writing the BES on teacher professional development and how those changes are reflected in the Spiral of inquiry framework.

In the audio the term BES refers to the report Teacher Professional Learning and Development: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration. 

This audio was recorded during a workshop session.


I want to talk a little bit about why you've got the Spiral of inquiry rather than the old inquiry cycle.

The inquiry cycle that came out of the BES arose from the review of the literature on what makes a difference in professional development for teachers. It was focused on teachers.

Everyone including me

But the more I worked with schools, I realised several things. One is, how the school is structured, the culture, the organisation, is actually incredibly important. And so the BES sort of almost encouraged a 'leaders up here' and teachers had to do all the work and challenge their assumptions.

So, that was why we put the developing a hunch phase in [the spiral]. It's about the organisation, the leadership and the teaching. 

And, I talk about say working in the early days with the BES, this everybody but me syndrome. If everybody else would do something different, except me, because I'm perfect, then we'd have solved the problems. So, leaders blamed the teachers, the teachers blamed the leaders and the students, and the students said, if only we had decent teachers.

So, it's everyone including me, and that's why we developed this [...] with Judy and Linda.

Student agency

A couple of other things since I did the BES. The potency of the student agency has come into it. And, I found that the greatest catalyst for schools to get deep into their inquiry is when they seriously look into what is going on for our learners from the learners' perspective.

Every teacher, every leader in the school will be able to tell you what's going on for learners and I can just about guarantee it'll be inaccurate.

And, when I found the transformational process, and it's designed to be transformational, is when leaders and teachers, and parents and whānau, seriously ask, in depth, what's going on for learners. What's happening for you? What's it like – it comes from some of Russell Bishop's work – What's it like being Māori in this school? Teachers are shocked when they hear the stories.

Taking a broader view

So, that's the kind of catalysts. It's got a much sharper focus on learner agency than the BES, involves the leaders, and ... that's the main differences.

So the scanning process is very much about finding out what's going on for the learners from the learners' perspective.

And, the other thing from the BES, it was almost like we assumed what the problem was – kids needed stuff in literacy or numeracy – rather than that broader thing of inquiry into, investigation of, well what's happening here? Is it social-emotional? Is it their disconnection? Is it their cultural disconnection? – rather than we've got to focus on literacy and we've got to learn about literacy. 

Literacy and numeracy and other things absolutely come into it, but there's other things going on for some kids in our schools than just having the skills. They need to combine them.

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