Strategic Networking

By Schools, With Schools, For Schools – For Students

Focused on learning, and on infusing learning into all aspects of a school’s culture, Strategic Networking:

“is practically based in experience, yet also intelligently informed by evidence. (It) combines a sense of urgency and a push for success with a culture of optimism and inspiration that leads educators to understand and appreciate that, with some outside assistance, the solutions to raising achievement lie within their own professional hands.”

                                             Professors Andy Hargreaves & Dennis Shirley

                                             Final Evaluation: Raising Achievement, Transforming Learning

 

During the first decade of the twenty-first century, social networking emerged as one of the most powerful ways people communicate. During the second decade of the century, Strategic Networking is becoming one of the most powerful ways in which organizations can collaborate—and innovate—professionally.

 

Strategic Networking involves schools in:

  • Verifying their performance, practice, and policies (Learning by Verification)
  • Building their capacity to distribute leadership, foster trust, practice reciprocity, and continuously examine and enhance progress
  • Engaging in joint practice development* with other schools eager to improve their performance, practice, and policies
  • Benchmarking their performance, practice and policies with other network schools

[* …a process that is truly collaborative, not one-way; the practice is being improved, not just moved from one person or place to another. Joint practice development (JPD) gives birth to innovation and grounds it in the routines of what teachers naturally do. Innovation is fused with and grows out of practice, and when the new practice is demonstrably superior, escape from the poorer practice is expedited.”

                                                                                            David Hargreaves

                                                                                            Leading a self-improving school systems]

                                                                      

One of the best recent examples of Strategic Networking is the Raising Achievement Transforming Learning (RATL) Initiative. Profe  sors Andy Hargreaves and Dennis Shirley of Boston College, in their evaluation of RATL, judged the initiative to be:

 

“…a unique and sophisticated model that yielded early and measurable benefits in student achievement in two-thirds of the project schools. The model is practically based in experience, yet also intelligently informed by evidence. (It) combines a sense of urgency and a push for success with a culture of optimism and inspiration that leads educators to understand and appreciate that, with some outside assistance, the solutions to raising achievement lie within their own professional hands.”

The Aquarium Project in Finland and the Alberta School Improvement Initiative in Canada provide two further examples of the power of networking – an approach that is grounded in practice-based evidence. Strategic Networking is neither bureaucratic nor opportunistic. Rather it provides a culture and structure within which teachers and administrators can transform their own practice and performance through their work with colleagues elsewhere who are engaged in similar work. Through its focus on observing, thinking, questioning, experimenting, and networking,  Strategic Networking underpins and promotes innovation, even as it seeks to assist schools and students in achieving levels of performance beyond their own and others expectations.

In addition, Strategic Networking addresses the “exposure gap,” i.e., the gap that all too often exists between the only practice, values, and policies to which many educators have been exposed—their own—and the often different practice, values, and policies that drive the performance of the highest achieving schools and school systems, wherever they might be.

CEBE provides the outside assistance essential to successful Strategic Networking. Working with schools, it supports the development of their commitment to this strategy, their capacity to engage in it successfully, and their carrying out the key strategies and practices that the evidence of their networked learning has persuaded them will contribute to the yet greater success of their students.

Currently, CEBE is developing a web-based platform that will enable schools engaged in Strategic Networking to communicate with each other, irrespective of whether they are three miles, three hundred miles, or three thousand miles apart.

For further details about how a school, a network of schools, or a school district can participate in this work, please contact CEBE.