We imagine a world where students, teachers, and researchers
collaborate to enact positive change in education.

Monthly Blog

List of 2 news stories.

  • Research in the Classroom

    Christianne Loupelle, Science Teacher and Department Head in Science at Trafalgar School for Girls

    Since 2017, Trafalgar School for Girls’ Secondary 1 science class and I have collaborated with Dr. Dawn Wiseman (Bishop’s University) and Dr. Limin Jao (McGill University) to explore and practice student-directed inquiry in STEAM. This educational research has sparked a range of questions from families, educators, and researchers alike. As Trafalgar works to develop the CoLab partnership with McGill University's Faculty of Education, I wanted to shed some light on what research in the classroom has looked like for me and my students so far.

    We begin the inquiry project by asking students about their interests and how they might tie into the Secondary I science curriculum. Students then research these topics of interest, pitch their ideas to the class, and select one as the topic for the year. To date, the majority of our classes have chosen to pursue one topic as a larger group, with the themes varying widely:

    • 2017: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
    • 2018: Designing Community Spaces
    • 2019: Fast Fashion
    • 2020: Wildfires
    • 2021: Animal Rescue and Wellbeing
    • 2022: Escape Rooms

    Once a topic is chosen, traditional roles in the classroom are reversed: students become the drivers of the pace and direction of the class and educators take a step back to facilitate the students’ learning. Throughout the year, we use large and small group discussions, student reflections, and interviews to gauge their learning, skill development, and the direction in which they want to move their projects. As this project has progressed, it has grown to include cross-disciplinary collaboration amongst Secondary I teachers and various experts from academic and professional communities.

    Below, I will address some frequently asked questions about our research with the help of my students who have shared their own experiences.

    1. What does research in a classroom look like?

    One of the most common misconceptions about all research in classrooms is that it can only happen in the presence of a one-way mirror separating researchers and students; this could not be further from the truth. Though that observation model is useful and used in certain research settings, as seen in Figure 1 below, it is quite different from the more participatory and collaborative approach we have chosen to take in my classroom. Figure 2 below shows Ms. Wiseman as a part of the classroom, interacting and working with students in the Secondary I class. From the start of this partnership, Ms. Jao, Ms. Wiseman and their graduate students have worked alongside Trafalgar students and teachers to establish mutual trust and respect necessary for this level of collaboration. As a result, students see these researchers as additional educators in the classroom to help support their learning.

    2. How do students feel about having researchers in the room with them?

    “It felt like we (the students) were in charge and the McGill teachers were there just to guide our ideas and not force what they wanted to do on us.” – Lola, Sec. 4

    “They were very kind and not intimidating.” – Rachel, Sec. 2

    “It is really helpful having more teachers in the room to ask questions if you need it and you get the help faster because of the amount of teachers in the room.” – Olive, Sec. 1

    2. How do students feel about participating in educational research?

    “It was very fun and I’ve never heard of any of my friends at other schools doing something like it!” – Emily, Sec. 2

    “I felt like I had a say in what I wanted to learn about.” – Eloïse, Sec. 1

    “I find it fun because we get to choose what we do and it’s interesting to know we are helping with research.” – Jordyn, Sec. 1

    4. What did your students learn from their inquiry projects?

    “I learnt about how art and science fit together and how I can show my strengths while learning.” – Violet, Sec. 3

    “I learned a lot about how to research and that's a great skill to have.” – Quinn, Sec. 1

    “I learned that when you let students do their own project, it’s a fun way to learn and be creative. You also have a lot more freedom doing the project.” – Chloe, Sec. 1

    As a teacher at Trafalgar, I feel that the continued success and student enthusiasm driving this research project on inquiry-based learning shows that the goals guiding the CoLab - collaborative partnerships, dynamic learning environments, and action-oriented research - are possible, and I look forward to continuing to bridge the gap between research and practice in the classroom.
  • What is the CoLab?

    Lisa J. Starr, Associate Professor and Department Chair in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education at McGill University

    Current talk in K-12 education involves much discussion of renewed expectations regarding what kinds of knowledge, skills, and dispositions students need for an unknown future that is characterized by change more than anything else. In addition to mastering traditional academic knowledge and skills, expectations for students today include critical and creative approaches to decision-making and problem solving that will enable them to not only live in a multi-faceted world but also actively engage and thrive in its citizenship. 

    The partnership formed between Trafalgar School for Girls and McGill University’s Faculty of Education sets the stage for world class educational innovation and growth at a time when both are needed. While a strong relationship between these storied institutions has existed for more than a century, we are entering into a new collaborative partnership that we refer to as the CoLab. That naming intentionally plays on the duality of meaning of collaboration in both French and English, and also builds on a rich history of lab school partnerships between schools and universities. Our vision is the creation of a space and school where teachers and researchers are working together to innovate teaching and learning best practices in real time alongside students, with each party playing an active role in constructing meaningful learning.

    When people hear the phrase 'lab school' they often imagine professors in lab coats, clipboards in hand, standing behind one-way glass observing students and teachers. The CoLab could not be further from that image. We envision educators from Trafalgar and McGill as the nexus for building connections between young people and a diverse plurilingual world, fostering educational, economic, and political opportunities and democratic agency in the process of learning. Fundamental to the innovative approach of the CoLab is our understanding that education is relational. By this we mean that our approach positions each of its members in relation to others, to ideas, to society, to the environment, to local and global needs and issues, to places and their histories, and to oneself. 
    At its core, the CoLab is a responsive, integrative approach to partnership that places all members on equal footing to drive cutting-edge learning that enables its members to both respond to and solve current and future challenges. When we think of innovative practice in education, the Trafalgar-McGill CoLab includes the voices and experiences of all those working as a learning community to enable educators to best meet the increasingly diverse needs of all their students. Meaningful partnerships like ours enable educators through shared leadership and research to grow, adapt, and thrive in ever-changing environments which in turn better serve the needs of students.

    A Brief Overview of the Differences between the CoLab
    and Traditional Lab School
    An innovative school-university 
    learning environment that challenges educators to collaboratively transform education to enable and empower its members in responding to local and global challenges 
    A school backed by a university department or an institution that trains teachers 
    Builds a community-based approach to teaching and learning that draws on the diverse contexts, abilities, and strengths of Trafalgar teachers and McGill researchers. Collaborates with community members to share ideas that shape current and future directions through new research, knowledge and practices 
    Combines education, training and research. Develops and test new approaches. Models best practices 
    Promotes cutting edge innovative approaches to teaching and learning that include open access, multidirectional research clusters addressing local and global challenges 
    Proposes an evidence-based pedagogy. Emphasizes training and research that can be applied to public education. Creates a forum for teachers to further their knowledge 
    Organizes around thematic, timely, and relevant issues like critically-engaged teaching and learning that lead to positive social change. Encourages open access to shared resources like teaching labs and learning commons that advance innovative pedagogy. Acts as a multidirectional hub that allows for a ‘learning together’ model driven by open access to best practices in educational leadership and pedagogy. 
    Operates in alignment with a university, college, or teacher education institution and used for the training of teachers, educational research, and professional development 
    Positions all learners and educators – teachers, faculty, and students - in relation to others, to ideas, to society, to the environment, to local and global needs and issues, to places and their histories, and to oneself. Benefits novice and experienced educators equally by capitalizing on members’ situated knowledge, as well as the knowledge available through strong community connections. Fosters effective mentorship of novice educators as well to the continued professional development of established educators 
    Serves to invite and support children, teachers, parents, undergraduate and graduate students, and child study 
    Responsive & Integrative Pedagogy. Critical Decision-making. Creative Problem solving. Best practices in pedagogy and curriculum development 
    Professional development. Classroom-based research and observation. Teacher Inquiry. Collaborative action research 
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Through an innovative and collaborative school-university partnership, the CoLab fosters dynamic learning environments and action-oriented research that advance educational practice for a rapidly changing world.


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Montreal, Quebec
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