Trevor MacKenzie is an experienced teacher, author, keynote speaker and inquiry consultant. His passion is supporting schools in implementing inquiry-based learning practices.
Hi, and welcome to the effective teaching podcast. I’m your host, Dan Jackson. And today is the last part of a three-part series where I am talking with Trevor McKenzie, who is an author and educator. He’s into all things inquiry. He has a new book coming out on the 15th of May. It is called inquiry mindset, assessment edition. And I am today going to be chatting to Trevor about this book to find out what is actually in this book, what we will learn from this book, if we choose to get it and all the ways that we can benefit from this in our classrooms. This is our final book club episode with Trevor. Well, Trevor, thank you so much for joining me once again to talk about your new book that’s coming out. I believe this week on the 15th of May, will be available on amazon.com will be available in australia at amazon.com.au?
Absolutely. Shortly thereafter. Amazon is always just a little bit slower than amazon.com, but for my Aussie friends, that will be available really quickly if not immediately. Yeah.
Okay. So can you tell me why, why did you need to write a whole new book that’s just focusing on inquiry and assessment?
Yeah, that’s a, that’s a great question, Dan. a lot of my work around the world is in supporting schools and implementing inquiry based learning. You know, I would say 90% of the work I do is, is in that field, in that reality. And a lot of the schools that I’ve supported get to a really amazing place across the years. A lot of this work, isn’t just a single workshop. It’s several years in terms of a partnership. And, and we, we get to a really amazing place in inquiry. You know, we see some data that tells me, achievement is increasing. attendance increases, improves, students report out feelings of belonging that their learning is meaningful to them. that, that they have a sense of belonging and community at school. And those are all amazing. Like don’t, we all want those things in our school.
Um, but when we asked her students questions around assessment specifically, we heard different things from them. we heard that assessment causes stress, assessment causes anxiety. When students were describing inquiry, they were saying, I feel calm and confident. And then when they’re describing assessment, we hear a totally different experience. And, and we began to question as inquirers you why the misalignment, why this really amazing experience here and the somewhat not amazing experience over here. And, and we saw, we begin to begin to notice some interesting things. We, we began to notice that, for the most part, but this is a broad stroke. So forgive me. But for the most part, assessment was, an action, a behavior that was being utilized outside of class, away from students. So there is this uncertainty and lack of transparency around the assessment practices that in inquiry teachers and students were having this really meaningful experience, but then assessment was something a little bit more hidden and nebulous.
Um, and then we started to really look at well, how much assessment is being done in class with kids as, as partners, as co assessors, how often are teachers trying to build up the assessment expertise of their students? So, you know, don’t get me wrong, Dan, this isn’t assessment book, but it’s an inquiry book. It’s how do we in inquiry co-design and collaborate with students in the incessant realm of, of, of learning, because we should always be assessing, we should always be gathering evidence that guides our practice and asks students to reflect on their thinking and themselves as learners. So that’s kind of why this book has come to, you know, May 15th. It’s been years in the making. It’s definitely been my largest undertaking in terms of a publication. and it’s by far the book that I’m most proud of, which is amazing. It’s not even out yet. And I’m already saying, I don’t know what the response will be. but I’m just so proud of this book because I think it really is going to support teachers and students and sharing the landscape of assessment and inquiry.
Okay. So now, if you could talk to you a lot about collaborative approaches to assessment, how do, how do you go about that? Is it similar to your like dive into inquiry book where you scaffold things with the students and then let them kind of create things more? Or is it constantly together where we’re working together with our students to create it?
Yeah, it’s a little bit of both Dan, but this book proposes a conceptual framework, a continuum of assessment strategies and equitable assessment strategies. So students across this conceptual framework can take on more ownership of the assessment of their learning. And to me, the pinnacle of that, you know, the top step of that assessment continuum, if you will, is to sit next to a student and co-design report cards together. And in that conversation, students have such accuracy and such clarity and such confidence in their sharing of their learning that we can actually write a report card together. And not only can we write a report card together, what goes home? You know, they go home to their parents and they say, mom, dad, you know, guardian read that report card comment. And, and the parents is why. And they say, because I co-broke that, you know, when we talk about inquiry, a big benefit, a big, a big, lasting impact, excuse me, is that sense of belonging that autonomy and sense of belonging and for all too long in a student’s educational experience, I would say report cards are probably the most depersonalizing experience for a students.
Something that they had very little hand in. And this is the pinnacle for me in terms of that conceptual framework, scaffolding, yes, w this conceptual framework, you know, requires some scaffolding, but, in a kind of a different way than dive a new inquiry inquiry mindset propose, you know, we looked at the swimming pool graphic across both those books. This looks at a little bit different of a continuum. There, there are 10 steps to this continuum that represent 10 chapters of the book. And how do we start on this continuum? And then how do we end up in that conferencing of report cards with students and sharing that kind of formalized assessment experience with student voice and student engagement. So, yeah, that, that’s, that’s it Dan, in a nutshell
Now, I want to know what those ten chapters are. I want to know what your 10 steps are. You don’t have to go in detail, just, just list them for me.
Well, in fact, you can find them on my Instagram. You can find them on my Twitter, you know, for those of you who are familiar with my work, you know, I love sketch notes and I love the power of an image to support teachers in implementing inquiry, but also students and embodying inquiry. And so you’ll see those sketch notes, you’ll see that conceptual framework and, yeah, very excited to share this work with teachers around the world quite soon.
Yeah. I do love the fact that you do all these sketch notes with all your books, have all got these images that go with them, that, can you talk to us a little bit about how we should use those to maybe implement, to support us, I guess, better or to support our students better?
Yeah. Yeah. That’s a great question, Dan, you know, all of the sketch notes you can find for free on my website, you know, there’s no charge there whatsoever. and you know, time and time again, I’ve heard from, from students of the power of a good image to support learning. And we are asking our students to take on a different role in the classroom environment, as an inquire, we are asking them to do some different things than perhaps they aren’t as accustomed to, and, and all of these sketch notes. They hang in my class. I point to them, I refer to them often to kind of cue certain thinking, to cue a change in role from the teacher to the student, to show the landscape of, of where we’re at now and where we’re going to go to in the future, whether it’s in the next day or week or months across a year.
So the sketch notes support students in inquiry. They also of course, support teachers in inquiry, breaking down inquiry misconceptions, providing some clarity as to what inquiry inquiry can look like or sound like or feel like. and you know, the body of work, the school of thinking that is inquiry based learning. It is it’s generations, it’s decades, it’s it, you know, to present some sketch notes that provide some clarity in this school of thinking and some direction is, something I’m really proud of. and I have to give a shout out to my coauthor of my second publication, Rebecca Bathurst hunt. she is the talented sketch note or behind all of these sketch notes. She’s a kindergarten teacher, and just such a creative educator and she is the sketch loader. So we have these amazing sessions, Dan we’ll we’ll, we’ll talk about some concepts. We’ll talk about what our students need or what teachers schools that we’re working with may need. And then we’ll dream up these sketch notes, and then she goes and brings them to life. So, Rebecca, if you’re watching, thank you. I love you as do all of the educators around the world who appreciate your sketch.
So yeah, I’ll have to get her on here. We’ll chat to her about sketch noting and the whole point of it and why it’s so important. And we’ll even talk to a bit about what she’s doing in kindergarten. If she’s doing some cool stuff,
She is, she is just a dynamic inquiry practitioner with five-year-olds and at that French immersion five-year-old so students who are learning in a total French immersed environment. so whenever I hear an inquiry, you know, language acquisition is so difficult in inquiry. Hey, if a French immersion, kindergarten teacher can do it, we can all learn.
Yeah. Now, can we go back to your assessment approach? So throughout this book, do you talk much about it because I just know that you use understanding that, and we spoke about it in one of our earlier episodes already does some of this stuff from understanding by design, that whole idea of performance-based assessment, I think is what it’s called in the book. Does that kind of come into your book as well? In the sense of we’re assessing what’s done during inquiry and the end of inquiry or, or is it completely different because yeah, I haven’t seen yet.
Yeah, yeah, no, you haven’t, you haven’t. No. And it does, it absolutely does. It doesn’t come across as, as sharp as, as you’re describing it. Jay Mctighe is a mentor of mine, a dear friend and, and he’s, he’s, he’s read the book, he’s endorsed the book. I’m so thankful for his kind words. And we always come back to, in our conversations together, how understanding by design, you know, planning with the end in mind and, and have any idea of where we hope to go, but not just hand-holding our students to get there. How do we partner up throughout this process to get to that same end goal, that direction that we want to take our students, but doing it together. And in fact, chapter two, all right, it’s actually chapter three, but it’s the first step Dan of the conceptual framework it’s titled co-designing and co-constructing with our students, how do we co-design and co-construct with students, not just assessment tools, but I learning community. And, and that co-design, and co-construction that partnership and learning is going to be something that allows us to explore understanding by design, but obviously get to higher ends of that assessment continuum. And hopefully that pinnacle as I referred to writing report cards with students. So, you know, there’s not a understanding by design chapter. but definitely if you are familiar with UBD, you will see it kind of, streaming throughout all the chapters of this book.
Absolutely. Yes. I’m not at all suggesting that there should be a chapter that specifically about it ended up writing a whole new book I think if you started doing stuff like that. can we also talk a little bit about the importance of formative assessment at the very beginning, when you were talking about this book, you talked about the need for assessment to not just be this formal process, that’s kind of external to the learning, but for it to be embedded throughout, and the idea of formative assessment, cause it actually should impact what we then do you talk a little bit more about formative assessment throughout what’s in your book and how we should go back?
Yeah. You know, there’s a chapter that’s called process over product. And, you know, I think inquiry practitioners would agree that we value the process of learning just as much as, or sometimes more than the products than the summatives. And you know, a dear friend of mine Guy Claxton, and he’s an amazing educator, out of the UK, he’s written gosh, 40 books. I often say, I want to be Guy when I grow up. He’s just the coolest educator. I know. you know, Guy talks a lot about students being in learning mode and being in performance mode. And what is the balance we’re trying to strike between learning mode and performance mode, kind of formative and summative, if you will, in my mind, that’s kind of how I compartmentalize the, his language there and, and performances are important. You know, summatives are important, you know, when we’re taking our driver’s tests, we have to perform, you know, when we are taken to our girlfriend’s parents’ house for dinner for the first time we put on our best outfit, don’t we, but in terms of, learning mode, all the practices, all the risks, all the open opportunities to demonstrate vulnerable vulnerability and try on an outfit and look in the mirror and say, Oh, that’s hideous.
I don’t want to wear that to the, to the dinner. You know, that really is the power of the process, the power of the formative. And so I do propose in this book that we try to strike a balance and more of a balance in learning mode, with performances with summatives. But I have found in my career when I live more often in formative, when I share the formative with students and I’m calling on them to evidence and reflect together with my facilitation, the summatives, the performances end up being way better when it comes to marks or grades or percentage points when we share the formative and we do more formative, of course their performances are stronger. I think, as a high school practitioner, I’ve all too often seen students who have been thrust into performance mode too often in their learning experience and the risk there, if we’re living in performance mode too often, is we’re living in the stressors of performing we’re living in the anxieties of performing.
And we begin to disassociate learning from performing. We think school is all about performing and it’s not a place for learning, and that’s just not good enough. We need to strike a balance there. What that balance looks like for each of us could be quite different Dan, what your comfort is, what your curriculum is, what your reality is, could be of course, different than mine. This book maps out a little bit of what that could look like for all of us. And I’m encouraging teachers. I’m proposing teachers take a little bit of this and try on a little bit of that, depending on your context and your reality and your comfort, Dan.
Beautiful. Well, Trevor, thank you so much for coming on and joining me, can you just tell us where can teachers come and find you to number one? Where can they access this book? That’s coming out on Friday, the 15th of May, and then where can they just come to connect with you further as well?
So the book most widely will be available on Amazon, Amazon, you know, distributors around the world. You’ll be able to find it. TrevorMackenzie.com. We do international shipping right from the website, but as you and I referenced off air shipping from North America to Australia can be quite costly. So it’s most affordably found on Amazon. Trevormackenzie.com is my primary hub of connection. For sure. You’ll all the sketch notes that we’ve talked about across this series of conversations there, as well as a whole bunch of resources that are a part of the launch of this book. They’re all free resources, and just, you know, blog posts, podcasts. And then I’m really active on social media, Dan, @Trev_McKenzie on Twitter and @TntMcKenzie on Instagram very much appreciate the opportunity to connect with you, but also just teachers connecting on social media, learning from one another, quite a robust and vibrant community of inquiry practitioners at both of those spaces. So if you’re watching and you’re interested in inquiry, find me there.
Yeah, I would definitely encourage all the listeners. If you’re watching it on YouTube to go and connect with Trevor, he does share a lot of really good stuff, but you feel Instagram and Twitter and definitely go and join these newsletters and stuff too, and find out what he’s up to and all the stuff that he’s just releasing that supports the book as well. you do a fantastic job. Thank you so much for joining us.
Thank you, Dan. It’s been a pleasure.
Well, I hope you enjoy this episode and the entire three-part series really that we’ve been doing with Trevor. I really find Trevor quite inspirational. He has excellent things to say. I love his process for setting up inquiry in our classrooms and the whole point of really fostering that for helping our students to become lifelong learners. Now, if you would like anything related to this episode, you can head over to teachers, pd.net/i am a so inquiry mindset assessment, right? So head over to teacherspd.net/im a to get all the links and stuff to this episode, you’ll be able to connect with Trevor through there. I hope that you do come and connect with us that way. You can also make sure that you leave a review if you’ve enjoyed this or subscribe to the podcast and come back and see who we’re going to talk to next time until then see you later.