We implemented an inquiry approach to improving teaching with cross-sector cohorts of instructors. We all worked together to support cohort work in different ways, by providing a process, reinforcing and explaining the process, providing opportunities for sharing and feedback, and resources for analyzing data.
We worked with support from edBridge Partners, a consulting firm with significant expertise in education, cross-sector collaboration, and high school to college transitions. Our consultants organized the project, facilitated all the large group meetings, and supported the leadership team by holding regular meetings and ensuring the work progressed on time.
Project leads developed the process with guiding documents (protocols) to support cohort work and cohort sharing their work with the large group (See Our Facilitation Tools and Resources). We held 3 large group meetings per year for three years, each meeting lasting four hours. Instructors within each cohort met outside of these large meetings, and a Canvas course was set up for documents and to facilitate communication. Two ELA faculty and two math faculty regularly contacted cohorts to check in to see how the work was progressing and to see if cohorts needed any help. Cohorts were expected to bring specific work to share at each large group meeting, and each meeting included work time in addition to keynote presentations. These expectations, protocols, and presentations kept the cohorts focused on the bigger goals while they determined their own focus areas and problems of practice.
Project leaders met regularly to design the large group meetings, develop protocols and presentations. While there was an overarching plan, leaders adapted the content of the large group meetings to the needs of the cohorts. The earliest meetings and activities built awareness of shared issues within and between Math and ELA and within and between high school and higher education.
The design of the project creates a sustainable professional development model that encourages instructors to address shared issues in ways that best fit both the high school and the higher education culture and context. It established a culture of inquiry in the region that future projects and collaborations can build on, and it provides a forum for faculty to work on these shared problems of practice—providing the framework for them to work together.