Community Languages Australia

Australian Federation of Ethnic Schools Associations Inc.

Effective learning networks and collaboration around outcomes - useful links and key success factors

In relation to how schools and stakeholders build effective learning networks and collaboration around outcomes, the following fourteen links may be of interest. With each link, a key success factor (for optimising collaboration, co-design, personalisation and outcomes in student learning, development, health and wellbeing) is also profiled (in green). All fourteen factors are included in a table at the end of the note.

1.Inside-out and downside-up: how leading from the middle has the power to transform education systems

Steve Munby and Michael Fullan. At

In proposing a model of school collaboration, Munby & Fullan observe that:

All schools should be involved in focused, productive networks within which leaders, teachers, parents and students challenge, support, innovate and learn from one another in substantive 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 may have looked possible

Some formal networks can risk being merely or mainly frameworks for vertical accountability

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 governing bodies and community groups.

Key success factor 1: how networks are creating unprecedented opportunities for students, teachers, families, communities and schools to not only collaborate but to develop truly shared responsibility for outcomes

2.Towards new learning networks

Tim Rudd, Dan Sutch and Keri Facer. At

Rudd, Sutch & Facer challenge assumptions that underpinned, historically, the organisation of education and schooling and suggest that:

  • A personalised education system, designed around the needs, interests and aspirations of each learner, obviously 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 and creative ways.
  • The main point: personalised learning (e.g., Steigler-Peters & Schweer, 2011; Wolf, 2010; Goodwin, 2010; Weigel, James & Gardner, 2009; Campbell et al, 2007; DEECD, 2007; Leadbeater, 2005; Hargreaves, 2004; Vygotsky, 1978) is the flipside of collaboration. It is obviously not new – teachers have long developed it – but the opportunities to advance it are. These include digital tools and networks to bring it to scale and to deepen it.

    Therefore, personalised, seamless, networked learning (Abbey & Baylis, 2011; DEECD, 2007) may be defined as the process by which school leaders, teachers, students, parents, mentors, health professionals and community members all help to strengthen the match between:

    • Teaching and learning. The many different kinds of learning content, strategies, opportunities and support across the contexts of location, time, device and setting
    • The individual learner as a whole person with particular needs, interests, strengths and goals and a specific social, cultural and linguistic background and skills set.

    Key success factor 2: how deeply personalised learning can only develop through strong teams, networks and partnerships

    3.Innovating pedagogy

    The series of Open University reports (from 2012 to 2015) exploring forms of teaching, learning, curricula and assessment for an interactive world. All of the reports are located at

    Providing insights into how teaching, learning, content knowledge, digital tools and networks are co-evolving, particularly through the on-going development of 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, crossover learning and combining formal and informal learning
  • Extension such as geo-learning and learning by doing real science
  • Personalisation such as dynamic assessment and adaptive teaching.
  • Key success factor 3: how digital technologies, networks, the breadth, depth and richness of curriculum content and effective teaching, learning and assessment are co-evolving and transforming education

    4.Nathalia Learning Community

    Country Education Project case study of a cluster-based and cross-sectoral model. At

    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.
  • Key success factor 4: placing students and their learning, developmental, health and wellbeing outcomes at the centre of everything that a network does

    5.Networks as communities of practice: achieving excellence and equity

    Department of Education and Training. At

    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.
  • Key success factor 5: the importance of a comprehensive and coherent framework for focusing efforts on the most significant factors and influences that support student success in school, learning and life

    6.Collective impact

    John Kania and Mark Kramer. At

    In advocating ‘collective impact’ in contrast to ‘isolated impact’, where organisations and groups mainly work alone in seeking to solve problems and improve practices and outcomes, Kania & Kramer propose five criteria for success:

    • 1.All participants shape a common agenda
    • 2.A shared measurement system for alignment and accountability
    • 3.Mutually reinforcing activities, including the engagement of a diverse set of stakeholders, typically across sectors
    • 4.Open and continuous communication
    • 5.A backbone organisation, with staff and specific knowledge and skills to serve the entire initiative and coordinate efforts.

    Key success factor 6: open and continuous communication and a backbone organisation – indeed, the expectation that collaboration can be built (without a supporting infrastructure, funding and a strong governance structure) is obviously a major reason why a vast collaborative potential may not be realised

    7.Essential features of effective networks

    Santiago Rincón-Gallardo and Michael Fullan. At

    Rincón-Gallardo & Fullan 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 obviously also connecting outwards to learn from diverse others
  • Forming new kinds of partnerships among students, teachers, families and communities.
  • Key success factor 7: how best to learn the fundamental lessons from research and evaluations about effective networks

    8.Boundary spanning in action: tactics for transforming today’s borders into tomorrow’s frontiers

    Lance Lee, David Magellan Horth and Chris Ernst. At

    Boundary spanning leadership is defined as the capability to establish direction, alignment and commitment across boundaries in service of a higher vision or goal. The five types of boundaries are:

    • 1.Vertical – across levels and hierarchy
    • 2.Horizontal – across functions, skills and expertise
    • 3.Stakeholder – across partnerships and communities
    • 4.Demographic – across diverse groups (including age, gender, ethnicity, culture and socio-economic status)
    • 5.Geographic – across distance and location.

    A similar concept is, of course, ‘system leadership’ (e.g., Senge, Hamilton, & Kania, 2015; Fullan, 2014; Hopkins, 2009).

    The educational leadership literature (e.g., Harris, 2013; Leithwood & Seashore Louis, 2012; Dufour & Marzano, 2011; Louis, Leithwood et al, 2010; Hallinger & Heck, 2010; Robinson, Lloyd & Rowe, 2008; Marzano, Waters & McNulty, 2003) obviously provides many insights into how the relationship between leadership, collaboration and outcomes – if infused with sufficient focus, support, time, resources and networks for it to flourish – is the engine of a potentially huge acceleration in performance improvement.

    Key success factor 8: the pivotal role of leadership that is collaborative, distributed and boundary spanning in order to co-develop direction, alignment and commitment across boundaries in service of a higher vision or goal

    9.The shared work of learning: lifting educational achievement through collaboration

    Tom Bentley and Ciannon Cazaly. At

    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
    • •Outline the negative consequences of a narrow focus on teacher quality
    • •Discuss the fundamental importance of building shared goals and understanding with families for student achievement
    • •Discuss the importance of growing community voice in decision-making and restructuring governance around learning
  • Define features of collaboration for learning that serve to explain and reinforce 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
    • •Advocate institutional investment in open data repositories and software applications for educational use together with other architecture that promotes sharing and pooling.
  • Key success factor 9: widely shared goals and governance around ‘anywhere, anytime’ learning together with school participation in local learning systems, open access networks and digital platforms that accelerate knowledge sharing and co-creation of innovations

    10.Great Schools Network

    Great Schools Network information brochure at and schools forum report at

    The work of the Great Schools Network highlights three principles of effective school networks:

    • 1.Collaborative and cross-sectoral. Better knowledge-sharing and collaboration among schools within and across the government, Catholic and independent sectors
    • 2.Open, inclusive and multi-stakeholder. Supportive of strong learning relationships and social capital among principals, teachers, students, parents and community partners
    • 3.Schools-based and organically developed. Fluid, flexible and participatory networks – co-owned and co-developed by schools through their own self-governance – that make it easier for schools to connect and co-create great practice, innovations and improvements.

    A key challenge: enhanced online support for speedily facilitating cross-sectoral, multi-stakeholder and school community-based opportunities for knowledge sharing and joint work.

    Key success factor 10: the importance of inclusive networks that are cross-sectoral, multi-stakeholder and co-owned by schools and stakeholders and, further, are supported by the very best digital tools

    11.From professional learning community to networked learning community

    David Jackson and Julie Temperley. At

    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.

    Key success factor 11: optimal use of practitioner, publicly available and new knowledge within networks

    12.Understanding learning networks

    Karen Carter with Fred Paterson. At

    Carter & Patterson identify twelve building blocks that can assist in our understanding of successful school learning networks and what theylook 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.

    Key success factor 12: how a network not only provides practical support in the ‘here and now’ but also unites around an aspirational and moral purpose

    13.Community leadership in networks

    Kate Bond and Maggie Farrar. At

    Bond & Farrar discuss effective community leadership in networks that includes:

  • A focus on student leadership to promote school community champions
    • •Exploring the practice of dialogue to facilitate engagement, planning and active participation and conducting ‘community conversations’
  • A focus on families – empowering, engaging and involving them
  • Advocating a personalised approach to learning
  • Growing leaders from a range of contexts.
    • Key success factor 13: practicing the art of dialogue – in sum, how we talk to each other, the questions we ask, our ability to listen without egos and resistance and our commitment to explore
  • 14.Leading lateral learning: learning and change networks and the social side of school reform

    Sarah McKibben. At

    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, of course, not the only ones
  • 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.
  • Key success factor 14: student learning as an ‘ecology’ of positive opportunities, strengths, needs and interests at school, at home and in the community

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