Changing Schools from Within: Creating Communities of Inquiry


286 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 0-7744-0404-3
DDC 371.1'02





Reviewed by Michael Kasoian

Michael Kasoian is an elementary-school principal in Burlington,


As a researcher and teacher’s teacher, Gordon Wells has used teacher
research to investigate language, literacy, and learning. The focus of
the research is change—changing learning opportunities in schools and
classrooms and changing the structures of teacher education and
development. The authors of the case studies presented in Changing
Schools are teachers enrolled in the graduate course “Action Research
in Language and Learning” at the Ontario Institute of Studies in

Wells is able to show in-depth studies from the inside out, from the
classroom and students to the teachers in their schools. In doing this,
he stresses the concept of a community of learners—an environment
created for learning and development consisting of students, individual
teachers, and groups of teachers. Each chapter is a study in personal
discovery staged in each teacher’s particular learning situation. Real
change happens when inquiries are made by these teachers seeking to
improve conditions to enhance student learning.

This is a book about educational change that successfully hits the
right target—teachers and administrators as well as students. At the
same time student learning is improved, the case studies show how
teachers grow and develop. With the emphasis on inquiry, we hear about
examples of language acquisition through collaborative talk, joint
student activities and interactions, and conferencing (which is about
listening and learning, reading and responding—student to student,
student to teacher, and teacher to teacher). A critical point is made
about how learning has moved from teacher-directed instruction to
student and teacher inquiry, where both student and teacher keep an open
mind, communicate, and learn from each other.

Wells has been able to show how teachers can learn from learning
relationships seen in classrooms with students. The development of
teacher partnerships and the use of dialogue journals between supervisor
and teacher are valuable tools for the professional development of
teachers. Action research—observe, interpret, plan change, and
act—when used with one’s own theories on learning, is shown to be an
effective strategy for change.

This is valuable study of teachers in action that can help inspire
others to become inquirers into their own practice, and thereby change
schools from within.


Wells, Gordon, et al., “Changing Schools from Within: Creating Communities of Inquiry,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 25, 2024,