Search This Blog

Friday, February 12, 2016

Building Your Community of Learners - A kete of resources for collaboration

If you are part of a Community of Learners, a cluster or a collaborative group of schools and ECE services, I recommend that you check out some of the resources below plus my early blogposts about collaboration to review where you're at as a collaborative group. All of these resources come from the work I do with COLs/clusters.

It doesn't matter if you're a learner, a teacher, a parent or a leaders in your group - if you check out these resources, you can pass the relevant things on to others in order to make some improvements to your collaborative practice across schools and services in 2016.

I work with communities and clusters around Aotearoa and I often find the same issues being faced by all - regardless of how long you've been together. I enjoy helping leaders and teachers to move through these challenges:

Podcasts from School Leaders

Part 1: How Did Your Cluster Start?

Part 2: What is Collaboration?

Part 3: Future Focused Collaboration - where to next?

Articles about Collaboration and Teaching as Inquiry using Spirals of Inquiry

Videos about effective collaboration

Hereora COL Leaders talk about effective collaboration (clarifying goals and plans using Spirals of Inquiry)


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Using Spirals of Inquiry to Reflect on my Facilitation Practice

I try to practice what I preach. That's why this year, when I was asked to take on a small team leader role for the Future Focused Inquiries team, I asked the team what they thought about us developing a collaborative team inquiry into our own facilitation practices. They were keen as mustard (because they are so fabulous) and we began a journey to explore our practices using Spirals of Inquiry

We set up a private GoogleSite for the team and we nutted out the process together. We then spent all of the first term and a lot of the second term this year observing each other in action, and asking any other colleagues to observe us too. We kept observations loose with no specific criteria to begin with - that was a risk but it has paid off. As we were observed and given general feedback we gathered our reflections on our own pages within our team site. 

This was our initial WHY:

Team Inquiry: Building our capability to facilitate FFI clients to utilise the spirals of inquiry as a tool for equity and innovation

Our Team Inquiry emerged from our scanning phase and is underpinned by the Vision, Principles, Key Competencies, and Values of the New Zealand Curriculum. Our work also aligns to the 7 Principles for Innovative teaching and learner success (The “Seven Principles of Learning” are taken from the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI), a subsidiary of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).)

We realise the power of professional learning and its impact on learning communities (leaders, teachers and learners, whānau/aiga etc)

Half way through the year I worked with the team to look over all of our reflections and observations and other notes and thoughts in order to try to focus our inquiries. We spent time together looking across our own data and each other's data about our practices to look for themes. We found HEAPS to work on so we needed to think about how to prioritise. 

We found common themes across all of our data about our facilitation and narrowed down to several areas where we could work together. We summarised them into these two key areas:

  • developing our facilitation skills to help FFI clients to use cultural frameworks (such as the Talanoa model) in a range of practical contexts, adapting and extending the Spirals of Inquiry framework to include Pasifika or Māori frames and contexts
  • build our capability to translate theory into practice and vice versa and to help our FFI clients to do this

Since this focusing of our team inquiry, we have continued to work with our schools and services. We've used Story Hui to evaluate using narrative inquiry and we've continued to have others observe us but this time with a narrower focus on our two team inquiry areas.

I've seen enough evidence from these continued processes of observation to feel ready to consider the Spiral phase called "Developing a Hunch". This phase is about getting deeply held beliefs and assumptions out on the table about our practice. So today I used a practice analysis process to reflect on what I have been seeing in my schools, services and clusters. This is where, as a team, we can all start to really sharply focus our inquiry because strong evidence is now bubbling up from the people we facilitate (our learners, if you like). In my case, as you read the "Hunchwork" below, you will see that what has bubbled up from my "learners" seems to be confirming the need for me to focus on building my capability to translate theory into practice and vice versa. This is so exciting for me! I am now hoping that my team mates are ready to do something similar as we deliberately move through the Spirals phases towards taking some specific actions within the Learning and Taking Action phases.

Of course, a lot of Learning and Taking Action is already taking place, but the whole point of engaging in deliberate Spirals of Inquiry is to do this in a far more disciplined and highly reflective way.

I am blogging this out to show that I practice what I preach but also to seek input from my "learners" themselves. This is the truly exciting part. I want the leaders that I work with to know that this has emerged and that I want to do something about my own practice to help to address it. I'll be sharing this blog with them at my upcoming sessions to get their input. I'll name them in this post if they give me permission but for now they will stay anonymous.

As always, I welcome your thoughts if you are reading this post!
The use of Story Hui with two of the clusters that I facilitate has revealed a common
pattern that comes back to my practice. The pattern relates to our collaborative 
facilitation team goal around translating theory to practice. Many of the cluster 
leaders have reported struggles in taking the cluster work done at leadership level 
back into their own schools or services and communities. I realise now that schools 
need more support in how to translate theory into practice. Below is a situation 
analysis to help me to understand the problem better:

PROBLEM: Cluster leaders state that they have experienced difficulty in taking cluster thinking back to their schools or services and communities. Some leaders have also explained that if they came into the cluster work later they struggled to understand what was happening and some even felt "stupid" or on the back foot. The latter issue relates to the lack of work done to spread the cluster work beyond the leadership sessions with me.

 My Practices     Reasons for using those practices    
 I have purposely created and delivered sessions in ways that require the leaders to think about what effective practice is but the actual doing is left to them to decide, plan and create back in their own schools or services.  I plan and facilitate to enable leaders to be the drivers of the cluster work, not me. I give advice but let them know that it is them that have full agency over the cluster vision, design and practices.
 I focus my facilitation on theory & research, interspersed with practical ideas for how to gather other perspectives (such as Design Thinking tools); how to lead change; basically a bunch of "how to's" to support all the "why's"I assume that the cluster leaders are ready and/or confident to take the theory and some of the ideas back into their places to spread the cluster work and to gather others into the development of the cluster. (Reflection: does it feel too soon for them? or do they need more help? - I should never assume anything!)
 I don't check in to see what each school or service has done. I ask leaders to share that with each other - I rarely step down into that detail to check that leaders are doing things back in their schools/services to spread cluster work as appropriate. I don't check to see if they are doing this, or if not, I don't check to see why they are not doing this.  I assume a lot about the spreading of the cluster work beyond leaders. I don't check for the real reasons cluster work may not be spreading below leadership level. Therefore I don't address the real issues behind the problem. (Reflection: I don't even know what the issues are!)
 In my facilitation work I make it clear to the leaders that I am not holding them accountable - they need to hold each other accountable. I also make it clear that it is not my role to involve others, it is my role to facilitate their ideas and thoughts aligned to the theory and research about effective clustering. I sometimes bring examples of other clusters to help.     I don't address role clarity for cluster members while we are creating the cluster vision. I don't introduce much accountability while there is no role clarity or strong relational trust in a cluster. I try to remain a neutral, external expert by not enforcing any accountability. I explain what peer-to-peer accountability is and why it is needed and leave the cluster leaders to decide how and when to hold each other accountable.

CONSEQUENCES:I'm not effectively addressing the age-old issue of espoused theory vs theory in action - the enactment gap! The practical ideas are not enough - leaders may not have time to plan for how to involve and inform others in the cluster. I don't know what the leaders think or feel about spreading the cluster vision work back in their schools - are they confident to do this? Do they get enough time to plan for it? Are the ideas enough? Do they need more help? Are they comfortable in creating a vision with others and in learning with others?Role clarity may need to be something we address early on? Or accountability may be all that is needed?

There is a clue in this quote from one leader's story hui: We need to get comfortable as a leadership team about what is going on before we can feed back properly to staff.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Effective Leadership & Continuously Leading Change

I had the privilege of attending the Emerging Leaders Summit (ELS) again this year and as always, I got a lot of great new learning and reminders from the sessions, speakers and participants. I really do think that experienced leaders would get a lot from these summits too - they're not just for your emerging leaders.

Mark Osborne workshopped some great thinking and reminders about what effective change leadership involves. He highlighted Waters and Marzanos' (2006) first and second order change descriptions. I'm not going to go into detail here about what these are, but to summarise:

  • First Order Change is an extension of the past and is incremental and linear and people who see the change in this way find the change easy and manageable. 
  • Second Order Change is a break with the past, is complex and non-linear. People who see the change in this way find it conflicts with their values and norms and see the change as loss.

Waters and Marzano say that the first thing to do in change is ask how people are experiencing the change. Le Fevre (2010) also highlights the need for people to talk about change. Mark Osborne explained at ELS that as a leader, if you are ensuring that your team is continuously move between 1st and 2nd order change, you will also ensure ongoing readiness. 

In schools and clusters, ongoing change is a given because the world of education is fast moving and complex. If you don't see things this way, you might need to reflect on your leadership practice and what is happening in your school. This picture/quote recently shared by Kerri Thompson (kids in her class created this) sums it up for me:

quote: Will Rogers

People don't necessarily resist change - they resist loss. Personal loss and implementation dip leads to blame - how do we deal with this?

Supporting and leading change

The key thing about 1st and 2nd order change is that as a leader, you can't assume the change is experienced by everyone in the same way you see it. What you might see as 1st order change, could be seen and experienced as 2nd order change by some of your staff. Find out how your staff are experiencing the change by asking them about the change. Then respond accordingly: 

  • For people experiencing change as 1st order change: support with advice, experts, cheat sheets, manuals, visits etc

  • For people experiencing change as 2nd order change is primarily feelings based: support with listening, talking about loss, emotional support. Find opportunities to boost 2nd order people as role models - leadership opportunities - be strengths based. Can they be coached? If not, buddy them up. 
Throughout the change, don't use the same old role models to celebrate wins - hold up a range of staff and celebrate their progress.

"The single biggest failure of leadership is to treat adaptive challenges like technical problems" Ron Heifetz

Key aspects of readiness

Mark Osborne explained that people are ready for change when:

  • they believe the change is needed (use drivers, storytelling, sensegiving/making, examples, whys, put the learners at the centre)
  • they believe the proposed change is appropriate for the challenge at hand (hook into values, beliefs, look for dissonance to fix "if you continue to do what you have been doing, what will the result be?")
  • they believe the school has the capacity to implement the change (schools already uses design thinking, Teaching as Inquiry, or other processes and systems that support change and problem solving)

This is a really useful reminder that can support us to lead and support change effectively. In my work with clusters, as we start to move beyond visioning (the first bullet point above relates to this), we start to articulate how this vision might look. That is when beliefs really emerge as people start to talk about how the vision might look in action (the rubber hitting the road). This is when we often need to go back to the vision to rethink things. Often people in a cluster (or school) who haven't yet built enough relational and professional trust with one another won't expose their beliefs right away and they may even get through initial values/beliefs work for visioning without really exposing their perspectives. So when They begin to articulate and commit to practices, they are forced to share their beliefs to avoid committing to principles and practices that don't align to these. These are moments of dissonance that needs fixing (second bullet point above). 

The third bullet point above about capacity is a real challenge if your cluster or school doesn't yet have processes for problem-solving in place but is moving ahead with significant change. For example, many clusters have Modern Learning Practice/Environments as one of their focus areas, but they may not yet have effective and consistent Teaching as Inquiry processes in place. Therefore, the major change becomes developing Teaching as Inquiry or Spirals of Inquiry processes - one of the most effective and evidence-based processes for enabling people to move through change. Steve Mouldey's post on supporting teachers to deal with discomfort is also really useful in this space. 

Neill O'Reilly, Principal of Waitākiri School in Christchurch also presented at the ELS. He talked about the role of a teacher and the role of a leader, and the need for us to be clear on this.

What is the job of a teacher? To cause learning to occur!
What is the role of a leader? To do everything in their power so teachers can cause learning to occur!

He also talked about the drivers of current change in schools towards Innovative Learning Spaces/Environments explaining the drivers of this and the need for teachers to collaborate. I liked his point that within-school variance in teacher quality is massive issue in NZ - that in itself makes the case for collaborative teaching. The more teachers a learner is exposed to during school, the better chances they have of succeeding on their terms. 

Neill also highlighted the need to talk not only about what you do believe, but also what you don't believe - to make the vision and values of the change extra clear:

Kotter's 8 step framework for change highlights the steps for enabling and sustaining change - again emphasising the need to get pace right. This was a great activity led by Mark Osborne at ELS where we had to try to put these steps in order:

Broad-based guiding coalition = voice and input from parents, kids, community, teachers etc...

Change Leadership support in schools seems to be a bit of a gap in Aotearoa and Steve Mouldey talks about this in his recent blogpost

Some schools are now operating in several change spaces at once, with a focus fostering a belief that MLE/MLP is needed, while also building the school's capacity to implement change - which is a major change in itself. That is complex! One school I recently worked with is focusing only on Teaching as Inquiry as the major change and is going slow on the "why" part of the next phase of change in relation to four other areas. The importance of slowing down to do this well can't be emphasised enough. Good processes to enable capacity to implement change should come first and can help to integrate different focus areas to make them manageable for staff.


Kotter, J.P. (1996) Leading Change: Harvard Business Press

Waters, J. T., & Marzano, R. J. (2006). School district leadership that works: The effect of superintendent leadership on student achievement. Denver, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning. - See more at:

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Beyond Goals | Scrapping Goals in a Complex, Fast-changing Environment

Lately I've been getting obsessed with Carol Dweck's Growth Mindset work. Not just reading the cool infographics that come out about Fixed vs Growth Mindsets on Twitter and then saying "yeah, hell yeah, I am growth mindset" and then moving on. I'm really reading in depth about this and seriously critiquing my own mindset in different parts of my life. Then, to avoid having to change stuff in my personal life, I promptly shift my thinking to my professional life and consider how school leaders and teachers can be supported to develop Growth Mindsets in themselves and their kids at school. I refer to Dweck's work a lot as I work with clusters that aim to become more future focused about their vision and practices.

Alongside this I've been getting obsessed with Guy Claxton's work. Exploratories! Powerful learners! Get Learning Fit! The importance of resilience, resourcefulness, reflectiveness and reciprocity in developing our minds to learn. The Learning Power Palette (Claxton, 2002, p. 68) designed with the future in mind with technological innovations changing the way we work, live and play. This and lots of other drivers within and aligned to this thinking all tells us that we need to think very differently about the way we teach and learn. To see more about the drivers and ideas, take a look at my presentation slides here from the recent CPPA Breakfast Session. I've also blogged before about being future focused - there is so much to think about in this space and I encourage clusters to create their own definitions of future focused education from all of the thinking and research available.

The two paragraphs above are where my brain is at. I get led there and all over the place by the work I do with clusters of schools and services. Their thinking pushes mine and my thinking pushes theirs in a wonderfully brainfrying reciprocal way.

Now for the title of this post...

A few of the clusters I work with have been developing their vision and goals for a year or so. Slow hard work that requires a lot of back and forth between deep thinking and playing with ideas and inviting the perspectives of cluster participants from leaders to learners, whānau/family and community. When we developed the thinking about strengths, priorities, needs, visions and goals, we started to get into a messy space. We already knew that education is fast-paced, changing and complex, but at times we were talking about these things called "goals" that felt cumbersome, slow, restrictive and just plain wrong. Kathryn O'Connell-Sutherland, one of the ECE leaders in one of the clusters I work with suggested I read a book called Beyond Goals by Susan David, David Clutterbuck and David Megginson (2013). So I did! It made sense of our situation immediately and here are the key points to explain that:

“the essential weakness of all goal setting endeavours is the attempt to impose closed systems thinking on an open systems reality...The limitations of such efforts at achieving control is that they cannot succeed in any long-term way with an open system reality, which is complex, non-linear, interconnected and ultimately  unpredictable” (Taleb, 2007 in David, et. al., p. 193, 2013).

This quote above aligns nicely with Dweck's work where she talks about learning goals rather than performance goals (Dweck et. al. 1988). Suddenly, as a cluster we had permission to stop talking about goals and to keep talking about beliefs, vision while moving straight into what that looks like in practice. 
In setting goals we can end up with the issue where specificity can underestimate changeability and complexity. It might be a good idea to explore setting “fuzzy goals” instead. Fuzzy goals identify areas of "significance for the person [or cluster] rather than a precise description of what it might actually mean." (David et. al., 2013, p. 196).

In shifting away from specific goals, the cluster can focus more on supporting others to help to set the vision and to cope with change through developing resilience, persistence and creative problem solving. Again, nice links to Claxton here.

David et. al., state that goal setting is more likely to induce conservatism and uncreative thinking. They also advise that if you do set goals, they should be motivators - always subordinate to and in service of the greater complex reality allowing us to consider purpose and values. If you'd been where we have been in the cluster work, your shoulders would now visibly relax! This evidence aligned with our experiences and we could start to let go of the pressure we felt from ourselves and others to set specific goals.

This post is getting too long but you're probably getting the gist of what I'm sharing here. I'll leave you with some thinking from two quadrants in the Beyond Goals book (can't put them here for copyright reasons). One related to long-term goal setting and the other to short-term goal setting. The only quadrant where specificity is recommended in goal setting (SMART goals) is in slowly changing environments with simple problems to solve. Therefore, nowhere in schools, services or clusters in education!

As always, I welcome your comments as none of this is fixed thinking. Always open to shifting my thoughts!!

Guy Claxton and I during his recent visit to Aotearoa


Claxton, G. (2002). Building Learning Power: helping young people become better learners. TLO Ltd: Bristol.

David, S., Clutterbuck, D., Megginson, D. (2013). Beyond Goals: Effective Strategies for Coaching and Mentoring. Gower Publishing Ltd: Surrey, England.

Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: How you can fulfil your potential. Ballantine Books

Monday, April 6, 2015

Four keys to effective collaboration - video

Kia ora!

I did this 5 minute EDtalks clip at ULearn last year summarising the research about effective collaboration. It's a very short summary of the posts on this blog about collaboration.

I don't get time to talk about some of the tools I use to support clusters and networks but they are highlighted in previous blogposts and this year I will share more detail about how and why I use different approaches and resources (for example, design thinking processes, future focused education, Spirals of Inquiry etc).

Monday, March 9, 2015

2015 | Focusing, taking action, change, & future focused innovation in clusters & networks

In 2014 I worked with three clusters made up of primary, secondary and early childhood leaders and teachers. I facilitated the cluster leaders through a process to rethink their cluster vision, goals and plans using the Spiral of Inquiry to guide us, plus a number of other frameworks and resources depending on the cluster context. We explored the terms "future focused education" (there is not one definition of this!) and "transformation" and we started to consider definitions for learner agency and whānau (family) agency. We used design thinking for innovation, poutama planning tools, resources for creating visions, and story mapping tools to seek other perspectives and input. We also used definitions of effective collaborative practice to check on the ways we behaved, communicated and did things. Learning Talk resources came in very handy.

The Spiral of Inquiry helped us to slow down, to "back up the truck" in some instances and review what we'd done and what we were doing. In relation to the Spiral, all three clusters remained predominantly in a Scanning and Focusing space at the cluster leadership level. They began to rethink roles, to include people other than principals and to consider a wider range of evidence and viewpoints about their learners' strengths and needs.

This year, those three clusters will be continuing to work with me to move through the Spiral of Inquiry as they continue to scan, while moving their focus to Learning and Taking Action and following up on hunches. All clusters have goals that are future focused, according to their definitions of that, and they all want to enable innovation.

Their focus this year will be to ensure that plans are coherent, manageable and that there are processes, clear roles and practices in place. They will also need to enable the checking of agreed practices, not just with teachers, but with all learners in their networks, including whānau (family), leaders and students. The work of Argyris and Schon will support us as we start to check that what we say we do is what we actually do - building the bridge from theory to practice.

As a facilitator, I will be working with over five clusters this year using similar frameworks and approaches. I will be creating case studies to share about some - a bit like what I wrote with Hereora last year. I am hoping to publish more stories online with more voices included.

I will also be looking to improve and add to my work with clusters by engaging with other educators on future focused education, innovation, change and ideation and Spirals of Inquiry.

Being future focused still involves thinking about what works and use of spirals of inquiry in my opinion. Claire Amos has said a lot to practitioners in this blogpost about what can drive change, how to focus on your own practices rather than pointing the finger or blame and developing growth mindsets, mindfulness and design thinking etc.

Innovation is more than ideation - ideation is the easiest part - testing, prototyping and failing forward are the hard parts. Matt Ives is a neat teacher who blogs his practice and thinking and embraces the messiness of design thinking - I hope to swap more notes with him this year as I continue to work with leaders on innovative ideas in clustering.

Early Childhood educators and leaders have been exposing me to a lot of thinking from the Te Whāriki curriculum and Guy Claxton's work that is all about looking at preparing learners for unknown futures, developing their resilience and focusing on the whole person. I can't wait to dig into this more in 2015.

Me facilitating an ideation session from McIntosh's book with the Hereora cluster leaders last year

Part of my role this year is as a team leader for the Future Focused Inquiries team and I am loving talking about professional practice with them (Togi, Suzi, Merryn and Rowan). We observe each other and provide feedback as we all scan our facilitation practice. Later next term we will come up with a joint practice goal to work on as we move into the Focusing phase of the Spiral of Inquiry. We are practising what we preach!!

I look forward to sharing on this blog, my experiences with the clusters I work with and my growth as a facilitator and mentor.

Shout out to the Hereora Cluster, the Porirua East Group and the Masterton Cluster for committing to another year with me to build strong future focused networks beyond their school and service gates through Spirals of Inquiry and Innovation processes - and who knows what else!!

Shout out also to clusters who started out with me this year, either for one session or the whole year: Parklands, Waimakariri Rural, Te Atatu South, Burnside and Upper Hutt. I look forward to joining dots between you all at some stage!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Collaboration: Ensure role clarity & build relational trust

In my previous post about revisiting purpose and countering competition, I start to talk about building trust because it is so integral to many other aspects of collaboration. In this post I talk a little bit more about the practices that build relational trust. 

One of the things in a network or cluster that can cause a breakdown in relationships and an erosion of trust between participants is a lack of role clarity. Developing a cluster vision, beliefs and goals together can foster role clarity over time as long as cluster leaders share leadership roles and involve all participants (including learners and their families) in the development of cluster vision and beliefs. If some cluster participants take on active leadership roles without agreement from others, resentment can build between participants as some take on more responsibilities while others sit back and don't take on any roles. 

I have found that the work of Lave and Wenger on Communities of Practice is useful in clarifying or deciding on the roles of network participants. Their work discusses the value of newcomers to communities of practice and the need to re-negotiate roles as the cluster membership changes. Sometimes when a new participant or group joins the network, it might not be sensible to assume that they will adopt the role of their predecessor or that everyone's role in the cluster should remain the same. I often encourage people to rethink roles, looking for the unique strengths that cluster participants (both new and old) bring to the vision and goals. This applies to any Ministry staff that may be working with a cluster too. Sometimes government officials can be seen as only having a role in providing funding or other support, or as those who check that compliance tasks are completed. However, the involvement of government officials as genuine partners in clusters and networks needs to be negotiated in ways that allow them to add value to the work and to foster productive feedback loops between practice and policy - taking successes and issues and using them to inform future policies. 

Developing trust is the precursor to network members fostering a shared understanding about why they are working together and then agreeing to do so. Only then can they establish good relationships that allow them to move beyond sharing in order to reach a common goal. Trust and respect must be present if group members are to work together to build skills and knowledge (Annan, 2007; Bryk and Schneider, 2003; West-Burnham and Otero, 2004).

To be genuinely committed to network goals teachers need to know and understand their roles in the network and the benefits for them should be clear (Head, 2003). Involving teachers in planning and target setting to gain their commitment is a good start, however according to Bryk and Schneider (2003) they also need to build “relational trust” (p. 42), a type of trust made up of actions that reduce the sense of vulnerability between network members who are dependent on one another to achieve desired outcomes. Such actions, as discussed by Bryk and Schneider, include “respectful exchanges” (p. 42) between group members even when there is disagreement. Leaders can encourage “relational trust” and establish “personal regard” between group members. Other practices such as De Lima’s (2001) “cognitive conflict” (p. 116) which must occur if teachers are to commit to change can be fostered by network leaders. Change and improvement will be enabled through fostering trusting and challenging behaviours alongside each other.

As trust is built between members they can develop relationships that are important for effective collaboration. These are relationships that are critical, challenging, and change focused, and that foster role clarity and a shared understanding about why the group members are working together. Therefore, building trust is critical to building most of the other practices required for effective collaboration to occur.

Practices schools should and should not use to foster role clarity and building of relational trust
Develop knowledge with school practitioners rather than for them.

Focus on positive change in thinking and practices.

Foster a collective belief that the community can achieve its desired outcomes.

Ensure that every network member has the goal of trying to advance the others’ learning.

Ensure strong interpersonal interactions that all network members to learn from each other.

Have formal leaders in the network who hold the role of setting and monitoring the network agenda/goals.

Share the leadership role with others and provide support to build capacity.

Build capability to have respectful exchanges even when people disagree.

Use professional ties to build trust.
Allow debate among teachers and leaders (and others) over state policies.

Use personal ties to build trust.

Have a preoccupation with relationships.

Allow network members to attach their loyalties to cliques that cause segmentation.

Firestone and Pennell (1997) found that teacher networks resulted in a greater focus on building teacher capacity because there was no debate among the teachers over state policies and more focus on teachers’ learning needs. I included this point in the "Don't" column above because I have seen how debate over state policies can weaken a cluster's focus on goals, change and improvement. I believe that there is a time and place for debate over state policies and I don't think it is when networks and clusters could gain more from directly focusing on learning, change, transformation and improvement. Rather than stopping all debate over state policies, I suggest that cluster participants consider carefully whether or not the debate will result in benefits for learners and whether or not the topic of debate is within their circle of influence. It may be best to avoid the de-railing of good work. Perhaps those interested could plan separately for any joint effort in opposing or discussing state policies. 


Annan, B. (2007). A Theory for Schooling Improvement; Consistency and Connectivity to Improve Instructional Practice. Unpublished PhD thesis, The University of Auckland Faculty of Education, Auckland, New Zealand.

Bryk, A.S. & Schneider, B. (2003). Trust in schools: a core resource for school reform. Educational Leadership, 60(6).

De Lima, J. A. (2001). Forgetting about friendship: using conflict in teacher communities as a catalyst for school change. Journal of Educational Change, 2, 97-122.

Firestone, W. A., and Pennell, J. R. (1997). Designing State-Sponsored Teacher Networks: A Comparison of Two Cases. American Educational Research Journal, 34, 2, 237-266.

Head, G. (2003). Effective Collaboration: deep collaboration as an essential element of the learning process. Journal of Educational Inquiry, 4, 2, 47-61.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity. New York: Cambridge University Press.

West-Burnham, J., and Otero, G. (2004). Educational leadership and social capital. Incorporated Association of Registered Teachers of Victoria Seminar Series, August, no. 136.