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February 19, 2019

Professional Learning Series: Investigation

Using Investigation Strategies in Professional Learning

One of my favorite things to do in my free time is to watch ANY show about criminal investigation. Popcorn…check! Heavy blanket…check! Total control of the remote…check! I’m happy!

Documentaries like The Making of a Murderer or The Staircase and other fictional TV shows like Criminal Mindsare quite popular these days. There are an abundant number of podcasts on these topics as well. But why are these my favorite and why are they so popular? Here is my theory…people like problems and we like to work toward solving them which is, in essence, investigation.

In professional learning, investigation is imperative to tackling new and tough topics. It allows us, as the learner, to focus on the identified “problem” to be solved and hunt for clues to solve it. This is quite engaging for many learners, and it is also research based.

Two models of professional learning include investigation-type activities. Transformational Learning is described as, “…learning that changes the way individuals think about themselves and their world, and that involves a shift of consciousness.” (TEAL, 2011) A key component of Transformational Learning includes exploration and exposure to different points of view…in other words, investigation. Research on self-directed learning tells us that participants need an opportunity to use the experiences of experts to construct more knowledge…also, investigation.

At Learners Edge, an integral component of our Professional Learning Model is investigation. Investigation allows the participant the opportunity to examine many relevant and research-based resources specific to learning goals, motivations, and outcomes. These investigations may take the form of the course reading requirement which is typically a current seminal text on the course topic. Participants are asked to respond to questions related to the readings, their own past experiences, and professional practice moving forward. Additionally, investigation involves a resource requirement where participants find research-based resources, summarize them, and most importantly, identify how the resource will transform their professional practice. Investigation may also involve viewing tutorial videos or relevant teaching videos and working to connect the new knowledge to prior knowledge and learning goals. Through a variety of learning tasks, Learners Edge invites participants to investigate accurate, up-to-date information on their learning topic, with the goal of application and transformation of professional practice.

What can you do to provide opportunities and encourage investigation for your professional learners?

Here are strategies to consider:

  • Provide choice! Give the learner a choice on topics if you can. If you can’t, offer options that align to what needs to be covered. If there is a mandated topic to be covered, provide choices related to how they learn about the topic and how they demonstrate their learning.
  • Give them access to resources. To make it a bit easier for them to dig in, research, and learn more on a topic, provide quality websites to get them started. Here are a few of our favorites:
  • Let them discuss. This could be done in a face-to-face way, structured or unstructured. It can also be done online using chat rooms and/or discussion forums, your district’s learning management system, Flipgrid, or Padlet. Learning from each other is a form of investigation. Verbalizing (or writing about) what you have learned and how you plan to use the new knowledge increases the likelihood the information will be retained and used. Learning is a social process, so embrace it.

While professional learning might not be as exciting as a freshly released Joe Kendapodcast or the latest episode of NCIS, allowing the participant an opportunity to look at problems and dig for solutions will engage them and increase the likelihood of learning!

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