Collaborative Inquiry as a Model for Student Improvement

Area(s) of Focus: technology, math
Division(s): Junior
Level(s): Grade 4, Grade 5

How to use Sesame HQ as a way to improve pedagogical documentation (by teachers and students) and teacher collaboration.

The project focused on the collaborative inquiry process as a means for creating meaningful teacher-directed learning. The focus of the project was around improving teaching/ learning strategies around mathematical documentation (using iPads). Based on a recent student survey, problem-solving strategies was a need identified by our students. Teachers were looking for a way to document and share student learning digitally with students and parents, and as a means of tracking progress for reporting. The app used for tracking was Sesame HQ. This project allowed a fairly new team of teachers in the Gifted Program to collaborate and improve their teaching practice.

Team Members

  • Barbara Graydon

    Toronto District School Board

  • Lisa Reid

    Toronto District School Board

  • Jennifer Edmison

    Toronto District School Board

  • Liisa Sathmary

    Toronto District School Board

Professional Learning Goals

PART ONE (Collaborative Inquiry Process)

Our team was able to work through the collaborative inquiry process successfully. We were able to define the challenge (digital documentation of student work), collect and analyze data (problem-solving focus with a co-created success criteria based on the Ontario Math Curriculum Problem-Solving Model, pg. 13), identify our priorities (narrow the focus down to a specific problem each cycle), develop and implement next steps (co-created success criteria), and assess reflect and refine goals (discuss what worked, what didn’t and how to move forward).

PART TWO (Familiarity with use of app and applications)

Completion of professional learning for iPads and use of Sesame HQ for documentation. Teachers all became familiar with the use and features of the app.


Activities and Resources

Collaborative Inquiry  for Educators – Jenni Donohoo

YouTube – Collaborative Teacher Inquiry (

Sesame HQ –

Sesame – blog ( how Sesame HQ can help with formative assessment

SesameHQ – Twitter (@SesameHQ)

Good Questions: Great Ways to Differentiate Mathematics Instruction – Marian Small

Open Questions for the Three-Part Lesson – Marian Small

Unexpected Challenges

Challenges included:

  • Internet speed and reliability during meetings, classroom use and conversation
  • The app is not easy to print from and hard copy records were desired by most team members
  • It has come to our attention that this free app is now converting to a paid app (disappointing news). There will still be a free app, but it will not have all the features available.

Enhancing Student Learning and Development

To prepare students to function in a technology-based society, they must be able to select appropriate strategies while problem-solving. By creating an environment that promotes problem-solving through stressing problem-solving processes and the acquisition of problem-solving strategies, students will gain confidence, foster a growth mindset and develop a positive attitude. Using the Sesame HQ app, teachers and students will be able to document learning and provide timely descriptive feedback through this web-based/app-based pedagogical documentation program. Parents will also be able to view their child’s work and self/peer and teacher assessment within a closed online forum. It is anticipated that improved confidence in mathematical problem-solving will transfer to other curriculum areas including science and social studies.


We have shared our plan and project with other teachers in the school through a mentoring process. Each teacher chose a colleague to mentor and inform about the project. We also plan on sharing our knowledge at the final division meeting of the year.

Project Evaluation

We feel the project was a success and that having time to work with our colleagues was perhaps the most valuable aspect of the whole project. It was situated well in the school year (we started knowing this project was to be completed from September to April) so we planned with the project in mind and it didn’t feel like an add-on. We all used the app successfully and worked collaboratively through creating success criteria for problem-solving in mathematics and chose rich tasks for the students to complete. The speed and reliability of the Internet was a concern on a few occasions as was the app’s inability to print information reliably. Next time, we feel that we might have included the students more as some of the tracking responsibility became difficult and time-consuming.

Resources Used

YouTube – Collaborative Teacher Inquiry

A great overview of the collaborative inquiry process.

Sesame HQ – the homepage of the app we used for digital documentation

Sesame – blog – how Sesame HQ can help with formative assessment

SesameHQ – Twitter (@SesameHQ)