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The Transformative Power of Collaborative Inquiry

The Transformative Power of Collaborative Inquiry
Realizing Change in Schools and Classrooms

A Joint Publication with Learning Forward

May 2016 | 136 pages | Corwin

Foster reflective teacher leadership and make real change happen!

Teachers are powerful change agents in the on-going process of school improvement. This insightful, must-read guide helps school leaders shape the development of a sustainable professional learning culture. Practical suggestions and in-depth research shed light on your path as you explore the benefits and challenges of adopting authentic teacher collaboration across schools and districts. A follow-up to Jenni Donohoo’s best-selling Collaborative Inquiry for Educators: A Facilitator's Guide to School Improvement, this book will quickly move you from theory to practice. Learn valuable lessons from leaders’ experiences in the field and discover:

  • A rationale and framework for engaging in inquiry 
  • The vital conditions needed to ensure systemwide collaboration 
  • Common pitfalls and the four stages of school improvement

Included are Cardwork Strategies with explicit actions and phrases to improve professional practice. Use this insightful guide to develop teacher leaders who lead and learn productively! 

"The concept of collaborative inquiry is increasingly bandied about these days with little precision. In one fell swoop, Donohoo and Velasco change all that with this succinct, hard hitting, complete, powerful, and, above all, accessible book on collaborative inquiry.”
—Michael Fullan, Professor Emeritus
OISE/University of Toronto

"Donohoo and Velasco guide readers through an inquiry process that can strengthen every professional learning community. They provide the ‘how’ to teacher collaboration and shine light on the path that will get us all there.”
—Douglas Fisher, Professor
San Diego State University

About the Authors
List of Figures, Tables, and Resources
Part One: Collaborative Inquiry: A Transformative Professional Learning Design
Chapter 1. Teacher Driven Improvement
Addressing Adaptive Challenges
A Collaborative Inquiry Framework
What it is and What it is Not
What do the Experts Say?
Moving Collaborative Inquiry from Theory to Practice
Chapter 2. Bringing Collaborative Inquiry to Scale
Coburn’s (2003) Redefinition of Scale
Conditions Necessary to Bring Collaborative Inquiry to Scale
Part Two: Strengthening the Power: Realizing Change in Schools and Classrooms
Chapter 3. Determining and Maintaining Focus
Establishing a Needs Based Focus
Formulating an Inquiry Question
Developing a Robust Theory of Action
Chapter 4. Provoking Thinking to Assess Impact
Building Appreciation for and Capacity to Use a Variety of Assessment Data
Teacher Learning Through the Collaborative Analysis of Student Work
Determining Next Best Move
Reconciling Discrepancies: Theories of Action
Chapter 5. Shaping the Development of a Professional Learning Culture
Shifting from Professional Development to Professional Learning
Building Quality Professional Relationships
Improving Collaboration
Expanding the Reach of Learning


"There is a new #1 in Visible Learning – teachers’ collective efficacy. This book gets to the heart of working together to build the confidence that teachers and school leaders can change the learning lives of all learners, that they then do change their learning lives, and that they collaborate in this endeavour. Donohoo and Velasco ensure we focus on the right problems to collaborate about, that the process can be scaled, and that thinking is provoked to maximise impact. A most worthwhile book that shows the why, the how, and the impact of collaborative inquiry."

John Hattie, Professor of Education & Director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute
University of Melbourne

"The concept Collaborative Inquiry is increasingly bandied about these days with little precision. In one fell swoop Donohoo and Velasco change all that with this succinct, hard hitting, complete, powerful and above all accessible book on Collaborative Inquiry. It’s all there: research, practice, theory, examples and crystal clear charts and guides to comprehension and deep action. _We learn what high quality Professional Learning is, and what it is not (13 comparisons); the 6 Lynchpins of Collaborative Inquiry, the distinction between Professional Development and Professional Learning, and each chapter starts with a ‘Cardwork Map’ that contains the 4 key ideas in each chapter.
The Transformative Power of Collaborative Inquiry is as it promises: you can transform learning in your school and district by examining and employing the ideas in this book!"

Michael Fullan, Professor Emeritus
OISE/University of Toronto

"The power of collaboration is evident throughout this book as Jenni and Moses guide readers through an inquiry process that can strengthen every professional learning community. They provide the “how” to the oft-asked question about teacher collaboration and shine light on the path that will get us all there. Their goal is clear – learning – and they hold teachers in the highest esteem as they help us all improve our interactions with our peers to benefit students."

Douglas Fisher, Professor
San Diego State University

"Perhaps the greatest lesson we can learn from The Transformative Power of Collaborative Inquiry is that growth and development involves being open to challenges on the way to learning, leading and authentic collaboration. This book is a must read and a wonderful guide!"

Ann Lieberman, Senior Scholar
Stanford University

"By focusing on the importance of teachers as drivers for school improvement, Donohoo and Velasco highlight an important element that is often overlooked in this crucial learning process. Realizing that school improvement is not an event, they help us engage in the collaborative inquiry process in a way that changes culture in schools, leading to improved outcomes for students. Teachers in classrooms, principals in schools and leaders in central offices all play a significant role in creating the conditions for learning and improvement that are outlined in this very timely work."

John Malloy, Director of Education
Toronto District School Board

"The Transformative Power of Collaborative Inquiry is a quest for educators to learn collaboratively in order to improve student achievement while improving individual and shared educational practices. It blends what collaborative inquiry is with researchers’ work that supports the importance of inquiry as a productive mindset with practical tools, processes, and structures. Donohoo and Velasco build a case that collaborative inquiry can serve as a productive school improvement structure."

Larry Thomas, Executive Director
Oakland Schools Michigan

"Donohoo and Velasco's book provides an engaging, informed and practical call to action for placing educators as the leaders of their own, their peers' and their students' learning through The Transformative Power of Collaborative Inquiry. Vitally they go beyond merely calling for action to providing examples from schools and educators, their own professional experiences, and from latest research evidence. There are many authors who advocate for collaborative inquiry; where Donohoo and Velasco stand out is in a providing a timely must read book with useful resources to support facilitators develop conditions and practices for depth of quality collaborative inquiry to benefit educators and students."

Carol Campbell, Associate Professor
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto

"Robust and ongoing collaborative inquiry at every level — among teachers but also among school and system leaders —has been shown to improve schools and school systems. Yet such collaborative inquiry remains relatively uncommon. This book enables collaborative inquiry “at scale” by combining an informed and nuanced grasp of relevant research with astute and practical guidance derived from the authors’ own extensive experience."

Judith Warren Little, Professor
University of California, Berkeley

"The Transformative Power of Collaborative Inquiry is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in realizing the enormous potential of collaborative inquiry to substantially deepen the learning of students, adults, and educational systems. With a rich collection of guidelines, tools, and examples, Jenni Donohoo and Moses Velasco bring clarity and precision to the what, the how, and the why of effective collaborative inquiry. A valuable and timely book for change agents in schools and districts."

Santiago Rincon-Gallardo, Banting Postdoctoral Fellow
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
Key features
(1) Describes the conditions that are needed to implement effective professional learning across schools and districts and offers strategies for overcoming common hurdles to progress.

(2) Provides valuable insights into the critical role of school leaders in sustaining collaborative inquiry.

(3) Promotes an understanding of the need to establish an appropriate balance between accountability and teacher autonomy in promoting school improvement. 

(4) An excellent companion piece to the author's best-selling title, Collaborative Inquiry for Educators: A Facilitator's Guide to School Improvement.  This book is organized around the four-step framework of the previous book.


(5) Includes a range of illustrative cases of collaborative inquiry in practice as well as insights from practitioners in the field.

Sample Materials & Chapters


Chapter 1 - Teacher-Driven Improvement

For instructors

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