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Networks in education and learning

June 16, 2016

In building truly effective networks and partnerships in education, schooling and learning, these twelve links may be of interest.

1. Inside-out and downside-up: how leading from the middle has the power to transform education systems, Steve Munby and Michael Fullan.
In proposing a model of school collaboration, the authors observe that:
  • All schools should be involved in focused, productive networks within which leaders, teachers and students challenge, support, innovate and learn from one another in ways that measurably improve outcomes
  • The ‘job description’ of a successful leader includes being an exceptional networker and connector of people, with the ability to broker constructive relationships where none looked possible
  • The partnership should go beyond relationships between school leaders to really engage with students, teachers, families and communities, including listening to the student and parent voice and the engagement of governors and community groups.
2. Towards new learning networks, Tim Rudd, Dan Sutch and Keri Facer.
The authors challenge several assumptions that have historically underpinned the organisation of education and schooling and suggest that:
  • A personalised education system, designed around the needs, interests and aspirations of each learner, taps into the resources that exist in the school, the wider community and within personalised learning networks
  • The full personalisation of learning is possible only if diverse and multiple sites of expertise and learning outside the school walls are harnessed in new ways.
3. Innovating pedagogy. The series of Open University reports (from 2012 to 2015) exploring new forms of teaching, learning and assessment for an interactive world. 
Providing insights into how teaching, learning, digital tools and networks are co-evolving, particularly through personalised and seamless learning (across locations, times, technologies and social settings), among the big themes in the series are:
  • Scale such as crowd learning and massive open social learning
  • Connectivity such as seamless learning, the flipped classroom, bring your own devices and crossover learning
  • Extension such as geo-learning and learning by doing real science
  • Personalisation such as dynamic assessment and adaptive teaching. 
4. Networks as communities of practice: achieving excellence and equity, Department of Education and Training.
Affirming that the best education systems in the world are highly networked, this DET document profiles a powerful strategy that includes:
  • Geographic networks operating as communities of practice (chaired by a principal class member) and using the ‘Framework for Improving Student Outcomes’ (FISO) to drive improvement in student outcomes
  • Collaboration and collective responsibility for all learners
  • Collaboration across schools that is not limited to traditional leadership positions, but occurs across all levels to improve outcomes
  • Senior Education Improvement Leaders (SEILs) facilitating, connecting, integrating and challenging to ensure effective network practice.
5. Essential features of effective networks, Santiago Rincón-Gallardo and Michael Fullan.
The authors discuss effective networks that include:
  • Ambitious student learning outcomes linked to effective pedagogy
  • Deliberate leadership and skilled facilitation within flat power structures
  • Not only frequently interacting and learning inwards, but also connecting outwards to learn from others
  • Forming new partnerships among students, teachers, families and communities.
6. The shared work of learning: lifting educational achievement through collaboration, Tom Bentley and Ciannon Cazaly.
In examining the pivotal role of collaboration in lifting student achievement as well as setting out an agenda for systemic change, Bentley & Cazaly:
  • Discuss the problem of student, family, home and community factors and influences that support student success in school, learning and life being separated from school factors, a separation constraining better outcomes
  • Define seven key features of collaboration for learning that serve to explain the positive impact of collaboration
  • Discuss ‘local learning systems’ that translate connections and resources into concrete actions and ‘open access networks’ that provide schools with the opportunity to join wider networks such as science and maths schools, the Great Schools Network and networks run by universities.
7. From professional learning community to networked learning community. David Jackson and Julie Temperley. 
Jackson & Temperley discuss how networked learning communities are the means to make optimal use of three fields of knowledge: 
  1. Practitioner knowledge – what people know, including the practice and unique context knowledge practitioners bring to the table
  2. Publicly available knowledge – theory, research, evidence and knowledge from best practice elsewhere
  3. New knowledge that network members are able to create together through collaborative working and problem-solving.
8. Understanding learning networks, Karen Carter with Fred Paterson.
Carter & Patterson identify twelve building blocks that can assist in our understanding of successful school learning networks and what they look like in practice. These building blocks cohere interactively around:
  • Network foundations: grounding participative principles
  • Network infrastructure: building a collaborative design
  • Network innovation: transforming practice through innovation.
9. Community leadership in networks, Kate Bond and Maggie Farrar. 
Bond & Farrer discuss effective community leadership in networks that includes:
  • A focus on student leadership to promote school community champions
  • A focus on families – empowering, engaging and involving them
  • Advocating a personalised approach to learning
  • Growing leaders from a range of contexts.
10. Great Schools Network, Great Schools Network project team information brochure.  
A proposed network with three key features that, taken together, distinguish it: 
  1. Collaborative and cross-sectoral. Knowledge-sharing among schools within and across the government, Catholic and independent sectors 
  2. Inclusive and multi-stakeholder. Providing tools and services to support strong learning relationships and social capital among and between principals, teachers, students, parents and communities 
  3. Schools-based. As a co-owned, organic network, making it easier for schools to locate the best ideas, practices, contacts and opportunities.
11. Nathalia Learning Community, Country Education Project case study of a cluster-based and cross-sectoral model. 
The Nathalia Learning Community includes Nathalia Secondary College, St Marys of the Angels Catholic Secondary College, St Francis Primary School, Nathalia Primary School, Barmah Kindergarten and Occasional Care Centre and Nathalia and District Pre School Centre. 
The network applies the concept of ‘collaborative autonomy’ – education organisations working and learning together with a shared purpose while retaining a sense of autonomy and uniqueness – and strives to:
  • Place students at the centre of everything that the Learning Community does
  • Build strong relationships between education organisations, between education and the broader community and between the Learning Community and key stakeholder groups.
12. Leading lateral learning: learning and change networks and the social side of school reform, Sarah McKibben.
In this analysis of the ‘Learning and Change Network’ initiative in New Zealand, involving networks of students, parents, teachers and community members from multiple schools, McKibben considers various practices including: 
  • Viewing the scope of learning as an ‘ecology’ of opportunities, of which those that happen within school are vitally important but not the only one
  • Drawing on the productive elements of competition while simultaneously striving for the productive elements of collaboration
  • Focusing on the strengths that students and families bring to the table, shifting away from learning deficits to amplifying learning strengths while still addressing learning needs.
Happy to discuss.
Nicholas Abbey  and 0402 152 634

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