What is a Community of Learning for?
The Government wants to see a shift in achievement results for learners across the education system. Their CoL strategy is based on the theory that each Community will form collectives that will jointly plan to shift achievement for the children in their community who are not currently succeeding. This plan is known as an “achievement challenge”. The Government hopes that these achievement challenges will cause a collective shift at the national level.
Will it make a difference?
While research shows that sharing effective practice is important to boosting quality teaching, most communities facing challenges with under-achievement have to focus on the conditions for learning as well as teaching practice. Socio-economic factors have the most significant impact on children achieving success, even according to John Hattie, who is an advocate for improving teaching quality:
‘Visible Learning is not a book about what cannot be influenced in schools – thus critical discussions about class, poverty, resources in families, health in families and nutrition are not included-but this is not because they are unimportant, indeed they may be more important than many of the influences discussed in this book.’ John Hattie, Visible Learning 2009.
Noticing there is an issue is the first step for any community to creatively accept a challenge and overcome it. Denying it exists will repeat time consuming initiatives that can’t affect change on their own.
Many Communities of Learning already know factors external to school need to be addressed as well as ensuring effective teaching or growth in teaching practices if system shift is to occur. These Communities may include partnerships with other community agencies or groups who do have the desired opportunity to influence community based factors.
Can we do what we want to meet our community needs?
Many Communities say they want to include goals such as well-being and engagement with whanau in their achievement challenge. This is understandable given the complexity of the challenges to learners’ success - and is reflective of the broad and competency-based nature of the New Zealand Curriculum.
There is a mandate for going beyond a basic “subject” focus in the Ministry of Education’s own Statement of Intent 2014 – 2018. The Statement’s Priority 4 is the goal of “Engaging children and students, and their families and whanau to sustain participation and transitions in education”.
NZEI encourages Communities to advocate for the goals and “achievement challenges” that will genuinely meet their children’s and students’ needs and that are authentic to their own context. For example, a Community of Learning might choose to focus on social learning or issues using the New Zealand Curriculum’s key competencies, or a community initiative to improve children’s or students’ readiness to learn. Improvements to literacy and numeracy would be an outcome of success in meeting these well-being goals. A Community of Learning would also need to articulate how this goal contributes to a shift in success for the learners.
How do we form or join a Community of Learning? Who’s my Tribe?
You are looking for your natural partners across your community. This may not be obvious for many communities. Look for the closest approximation of the pathway your learners need to support success from early childhood through to post-secondary life. Who can collectively support this pathway?
Remember Community of Learning membership does not exclude you from working with schools and centres in other Communities of Learning or with clusters or schools not in Communities of Learning.
Take time to form the relationships that will form the foundation of the collaboration you will be attempting.
‘No significant learning occurs with a significant relationship’. (Dr James Comer, Yale University)
As well as primary and secondary schools, your Communities of Learning may include other community partners that are not part of the resourced component of IES in their structure. These may include:
- ECE services and centres
- Non-Government Organisations (NGOs)
- Community groups/clubs
- Local business
What are the stages we need to go through?
- Seeking partners/finding your tribe/forming your relationships
- Developing your purpose
- Designing strategy
- Designing fit for purpose leadership
- Designing fit for purpose leadership
- Appointment of leadership and teacher roles
NZEI has a helpful flow chart of this process. You can also listen to other NZEI members’ experiences in working collaboratively across schools.
How do we form a collective purpose?
Start first from gathering the tacit knowledge your community has about the learners across the pathway you are looking at (think about ECE as well as schooling). Where are the learners succeeding and where are they facing hurdles? Local knowledge combined with a variety of data sources will create this picture.
- The successes you can build on.
- The most pressing challenges to success learners face in this community’s pathway.
- Who the learners are that these challenges affect the most.
- Challenges to undertake that could lead to success for these learners.
- What, where and how the resources generated by the CoL will be mobilised to support those learners.
- What kind of leadership will be needed at principal level and across classrooms.
What do we get and how do we use it?
The Community of Learning decides the allocation of resourcing to schools (and centres if appropriate) in the Community to meet the achievement challenge. This is not about equal shares - it is about the Community of Learning creatively allocating the resources to create equity of success for all learners.
All the resources are generated by the Community of Learning and its combined rolls, staffing and number of schools. The resource is then distributed to the Community of Learning via the individual schools. Some components will remain with each school. Most of the resource is distributed back to the Community of Learning as agreed in the achievement challenge. The allocation is not the sole property of the school that receives it.
Will we miss out if we wait to form or join a CoL?
There is no need to rush. It’s not a race! And you can’t “miss out”. The IES is entitlement funding, not contestable funding. The funding your school generates for a CoL cannot disappear or be taken without you.
Can we be bigger than 10 schools?
NZEI maintains no “one size fits all” approach will work. Practicalities about distance or distinct character may determine a different structure may be justified. Creativity may be exercised by some communities combining CoLs to create more leadership roles, for example.
Do we have to have ECE in the CoL?
It is not compulsory to include ECE, however a CoL may choose to do so. The Joint Initiative found that there were many clusters around New Zealand already undertaking successful collaborations with ECE. Research also shows a consistent link between quality ECE and successful outcomes for children’s on-going learning. NZEI encourages CoLs to bring ECE partners into their achievement plan in order to address the whole learning pathway of the child.
Does it mean we can’t belong to other or existing clusters, communities?
You can only access the IES resourcing through one CoL. However you can participate in more than one CoL if it suits your children or students. There is no limit on the work that may still continue between other schools and non-CoL schools nor with existing clusters that schools recognise make a difference.