The Power of Networks for School Improvement: Learning with Steven Katz (1)

[The Manitoba Association of School Superintendents (MASS) 2019 Summer Institute includes 3 days of learning with Steven Katz. Here are some of my notes from this learning opportunity.]

Creating Networks for School Improvement

We want to move from VERTICAL to HORIZONTAL capacity building so we can learn in at least three ways:

  • Learn FROM one another [when I need information I don’t have]
  • Learn WITH one another [when we all want to know]
  • Learn ON BEHALF OF others [when we learn something we don’t need to know so that we can share it with others in our network who need it]

As we move from vertical learning [e.g., the province tells you what your strategy will be] to horizontal learning [the group uses structures and protocols to determine the right path forward], there are four aspects of the work we need to keep in mind.

Four Key Criteria that make learning networks functional and productive:

  1. Diversity of opinion – Networks THRIVE on diverse ideas, thoughts and opinions. This is NOT a weakness! Diversity of opinion is essential. [Ensuring compliance and “toeing the party line” limits the ability of networks to solve adaptive problems.]
  2. Independence – Each person has to feel that they have some agency and control over what they are doing. If people are called out for “going rogue”, diversity of opinion is stifled. [Is your organization about compliance? Or does it embrace the passion work of individuals?]
  3. Decentralization – The closer you are to the work, the more invested you are in doing lateral learning as part of a learning network.
  4. Bring it all together – Diversity of opinion, independence and decentralization only work to build strong learning networks if there is a mechanism to bring it all together. There is no learning from, with and on behalf of if we can’t bring all these characteristics together in a meaningful way.

You can find all the posts in this series here:

Featured Image by on Unsplash

4 thoughts on “The Power of Networks for School Improvement: Learning with Steven Katz (1)

  1. Makes sense Donna. Me. Katz worked with Lakehead Public Schools several years ago. Always lots to ponder and perhaps implement.

  2. All of these are such important point. But decentralization stands out the most to me. When decisions about the work of teaching and learning are made as close as possible to the where it happens, there is more shared understanding and empowerment for all.

  3. Exactly.

    I think of the work of L. Todd Rose – there is no such thing as the average child. Teachers know their learners. We need to empower teachers to make decisions about student learning by creating the conditions for professional learning focused on the learning needs of the students in front of us.

    Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

  4. Interesting read. I recently attended a professional learning session with Michael Fullan; which was fantastic in a soul-feeding way. I was reminded of some things he said as I read your blog;
    Leadership qualities include being able to simultaneously respect and reject status quo – which can only occur by enabling and empowering all voices, being an expert and an apprentice [lateral learning-learning alongside], with a view to experimenting and committing to action that gives desired impact.

    Thanks for the insight!

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