Learning and Change Networks: Connecting students with learning

Issue: Volume 93, Number 19

Posted: 28 October 2014
Reference #: 1H9csP

“If you are an active learner, then you think for yourself, but if you aren’t an active learner, then someone thinks for you.” – Primary student.

“If you are an active learner, then you think for yourself, but if you aren’t an active learner, then someone thinks for you.” – Primary student.

The Learning and Change Network strategy (LCN) was developed to accelerate achievement for students yet to achieve national expectations for literacy and numeracy through future-focused learning environments. LCN involves networks of students, parents, teachers, and community members from multiple schools to collaborate in developing innovative new learning environments.

There are currently 53 LCN networks of schools, comprising seven early childhood centres, 19 kura, 285 primary schools, 25 intermediate schools, 30 secondary schools, and 14 Special Education schools. Participation by schools, individuals, and networks is entirely voluntary.

What is a Learning and Change Network?

Participants from each network’s schools work in communities of practice to find out what they can change to accelerate achievement. Networks are structured to support:

  • Lateral learning connections among all participants
  • Appreciation of positive supports and achievements
  • Active participation of all participants in students’ learning
  • Cultural alignment of learning environments.

LCNs have not rushed the understanding and change process. They have collaborated on in-depth analyses of students’ contexts, taking time to ensure that students, teachers, families, and whānau make direct contributions to plans, actions, and indicators of change. Network activity has been facilitated by The University of Auckland’s implementation team and the Ministry of Education’s support and advice team.

“School is whānau in my eyes because our children are going to be with a group of friends that you’re hoping will move along with them throughout the years. I’m associating that whanaungatanga with their education as well.” – Parent.

Learning and Change activity

The Learning and Change framework involves understanding students’ broad learning environments through iterative, information-driven investigations. The flexible framework supports networks to conduct systematic, mutually understood analyses, and shape change activity for their particular contexts.

The achievement challenge

At the outset, participants in each network meet to identify a common student achievement challenge. These challenges become the foci of network activity.

Learn what to change

Networks learn what practices, structures, or tools to change in order to improve students’ achievement. Learning what to change involves all participants examining students’ learning environments, and together, analysing findings to identify the various influences, particularly supports, on the achievement challenge. Networks design their own schedules for learning what to change. Some have created fit-for-purpose tools or selected a range of methods to access information.

“There can be an ‘uncomfortableness’ in opening up because we don’t have all the answers. We haven’t always let parents know, and we certainly haven’t let the kids know we haven’t got these answers, but now we’re making sure that there’s a good understanding of the achievement problem and what all of us can do to overcome that.” – School Principal.

Planning change, changing and checking for impact

Participants determine the changes they will make and propose indicators of anticipated change in their own practice. Change activities are informed by collective knowledge existing inside the network, knowledge purposefully accessed from outside the network, such as that found in professional publications or information from other networks, and new knowledge emerging from syntheses of information from these sources.

What changes have networks noticed?

LCN schools have reported positive changes associated with their involvement in the Learning and Change Strategy (Milestone Reports 3 & 4(external link); Learning and Change videos(external link), http://bit.ly/ZGyueW). These include the following:(external link)

  • Early indications of accelerated progress for students involved in networks.
  • New insights into students’ learning that had not surfaced through routine methods of exploring learning environments.
  • Students demonstrating fresh confidence, enthusiasm for learning and ability to articulate ideas about learning.
  • The development of new teaching and learning relationships as participants share and create knowledge across multiple learning environments. This has included collaboration among schools.
  • Data driven decision-making and appreciation of the role of qualitative information in understanding that which is quantitative.
  • The broadening of leadership expertise through schools and networks.
  • Transfer of LCN methodology to other school and network initiatives.

While networks report they have effected changes in practice and perspective, the activity has also generated important questions that have propelled them into the next cycle. For example, one network leader commented that:

“The parent community want to … increase their knowledge on how to help their children, so the next step for us is to dig deeper into that and ask what does that mean? What is that exactly?”

Accordingly, networks are learning to create meaningful home/school relationships. They are also learning how to measure concepts that are critical to learning but not readily observable and quantifiable and are working to further integrate LCN practices with wider school and community activity.

More information

Rose Carpenter, national manager, Learning and Change Network Strategy, Ministry of Education.

Brian Annan, programme director, Learning and Change Network Strategy, UniServices – Faculty of Education, The University of Auckland.

BY Jean Annan and Rose Carpenter
University of Auckland & Ministry of Education,

Posted: 6:39 pm, 28 October 2014

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