“What’s going on for our learners?” is the inquiry question for the scanning phase. 

The important principles in scanning are involving learners, being driven by curiosity and ensuring you cover cognitive, cultural and social-emotional domains.

Leaders, teachers and learners engage in scanning in different ways. There are no set rules. It depends on what you want to find out.

This phase of the spiral is referred to as Analyse what’s going on for your learners in the Report of the Professional Learning and Development Advisory Group (2014).

Mindsets for scanning

To make a difference to learners you must start with the learners and what they are saying. This is an important finding from the Best Evidence Synthesis report on teacher professional learning and development (Ministry of Education, 2008).

Adults are often convinced they know what’s going on for learners, but if they approach the task with genuine curiosity, there will be surprises when they ask learners.

Judy Halbert talks about the importance of scanning.


What some leaders and teachers have said

“We need lots of different sources of data including achievement data, student interactions, how the class is going, the quality of student engagement, the input of students, peer and video observations. The student achievement data is the easiest part. The rest is much harder.”

 “I can’t believe what we found out from the learners. Some just don’t feel safe at school and couldn’t name two adults who thought they would be a success in life. That’s scary.”

“The big challenge is that when inquiry starts from teacher interest instead of understanding what’s going on for learners we lost the impact.”

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Number 1 rule

To answer the scanning question you need to find out directly from the learners. Using the four questions below can be transformational.

Scanning questions

  1. Can you name TWO adults in this school who believe you will be a success in life?
  2. What are you learning?
    • What are the big ideas you are learning? What are you learning and why is it important?
  3. How is it going?
    • Where are you going with your learning? What would you like to tell others about how you’re doing? How do you know how you’re doing?
  4. Where to next?
    • Tell me what the next piece of learning is for you. What do you need to do to get better at this?

Question template

Linda Kaser and Judy Halbert developed a template for the four questions for schools in British Columbia to use.

Four key questions (PDF 445 kB)

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Leadership challenges

“We kept jumping to the solution without finding out what was happening for our learners. We didn’t solve the problem.”

Mindset challenges

  • Helping others to pause before assuming they know it all and how to fix it.

Organisational challenges

  • Finding time. It's about priorities. What will you stop doing?
  • Ensuring the scanning process is informed by the right expertise and happens in ways that gets the real answers – not just what the adults are expecting.

A related question

Student voice and student agency – what’s the essential difference?

“I’ve been thinking about that … for student voice you gather their voices to help you identify what the problem is and to develop a solution. Whereas student agency, you’re working with students to say ‘well what’s going on here, how can we solve it together?’”

View students showing great agency in their learning through setting goals and seeking feedback.

Mt Roskill Primary School students – UACEL on Vimeo

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