Disciplined Enquiry

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At this time of year we are excited to welcome our new Associate Teachers and their Teacher Educators, welcome back those on our two-year route and enjoy hearing about how our Early Career Teachers are settling in to their new roles. We are ambitious that all these colleagues enjoy elements of disciplined enquiry in relation to their development as public professionals who teach.

New Beginnings

The start of the new school year brings with it lots of autumnal excitement and expectation. Often this relates to curiosity about new learning. Being curious involves an element of enquiry and new learning is often framed by the distinctiveness of new subjects or a new phase. Each subject or phase has its own discipline. In this sense being disciplined in our enquiries involves us in being curious in a way that is informed by the distinctive nature of the subject or phase or professional capability that we are enquiring about. The term discipline is used deliberately. This is an informed and intentional systematic activity, different to everyday or informal enquiries. It is disciplined in the sense that we reference published research and colleagues’ experiences as well as our own, but not just our own.

Teaching as a disciplined enquiry process

For us, here at KNSTE, analysing how we are developing our teaching capabilities, is a disciplined enquiry process. Disciplined in the sense that we reference the features of a subject, phase or professional disposition. We ask questions informed by these references. This helps us to improve our understanding as well as our performed actions. Disciplined enquiry is a continuous, reflective and cyclical process. It can be used during a lesson, ‘in-the-moment’, or it can be more in depth. It is always about evidence-informed practice. It places an importance on requiring us to prioritise and justify (carefully) what and how and why teach elements of a subject in a particular way at a particular time. Our disciplined enquiries are based on our developing knowledge of our pupils, the curriculum, and the contexts within which we are working. In order to help aid our disciplined enquiries, this year, KNSTE is drawing on the concept of noticing.The actions of teaching

Teaching consists of a sequence of acts which cause or sustain actions involving learners. This is true for each of us both as a teacher and as a learner Actions require three elements, something which initiates (motivating context) something which is acted upon (content) and something that connects these (organising or specialising concepts). In the moment of a lesson we make a myriad of choices to sequence our teaching acts. By raising our awareness of these choices and the reasoning that underpins them, we develop the capacity to teach better.



The discipline of noticing

The discipline of noticing is a form of research, where the objects of study are our own actions, choices and how we have structured what we are paying our attention to, or disciplined by. Looking, looking more, looking yet again, comparing and contrasting ideas, theorising, testing and rejecting ideas – these are all part of the hard work of careful noticing. Noticing helps to develop a deep conceptual understanding of key aspects of professionalism by relating our experiences to the ‘big ideas’ of a subject phase or disposition.

Disciplined enquiry enables us to pay attention to our developing professionalism, to ‘notice’ aspects of our practice, intentionally and deliberately so that we become increasingly effective. The process of noticing requires us to be being open to focusing on what counts, and what we need to change for the better. It involves an enquiry approach. i.e. being open to alternative possibilities or alternative actions – remember one size does not fit all!


Mason, J., 2009. Teaching as disciplined enquiry. Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, 15(2), pp.205-223.

Mason, J., 2002. Researching your own practice: The discipline of noticing. Psychology Press.

Rosaen, C.L., Lundeberg, M., Cooper, M., Fritzen, A. and Terpstra, M., 2008. Noticing noticing: How does investigation of video records change how teachers reflect on their experiences?. Journal of teacher education, 59(4), pp.347-360.

Rooney, D. and Boud, D., 2019. Toward a pedagogy for professional noticing: learning through observation. Vocations and Learning, 12(3), pp.441-457.

Further research and materials are available at: http://oro.open.ac.uk/790/


Di Swift, KNSTE Director
Find out more about Di's background here: https://knste-shaw.org.uk/our-team/

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