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Social capital has recently emerged as an effective approach to rethink schools as wider learning ecosystems where students, teachers, and families have greater access to learning resources through social interaction. In this sense, the literature has not provided research-based assessment tools that document school leaders' abilities to weave social relationships between actors within the school and across the community. This paper presents an international experts' validation of the SchoolWeavers Tool, an online resource that supports school leaders to assess the health and potential of their school ecosystem and provides meaningful feedback to weave social and professional capital and lift learning opportunities and educational goals. Theoretical validation was conducted in the first round by 15 experts from 8 countries with prior experience in network leadership in education, and in the second round, with 54 school actors from the same 8 countries. The final model provides an internationally validated tool that supports school leaders' capacities to weave learning ecosystems and improve collective effectiveness, internal and external collaboration, innovation, and equity. Furthermore, the SchoolWeavers Tool creates research opportunities to analyze and discuss commonalities and differences regarding climate and culture in school ecosystems across the world, allowing school leaders and researchers to support systemic impact and sustainable improvement. June 2020, School Leadership and Management Journal 2
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June 2020, School Leadership and Management Journal
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The SchoolWeavers Tool: supporting school leaders to weave learning
ecosystems
Jordi Díaz-Gibson, Ramon Llull University, Spain; Alan Daly, University of California
San Diego, United States; Gitte Miller-Balslev, Southern Denmark University; Mireia
Civís, Ramon Llull University, Spain; Yi-Hwa Liou, National Taipei University of
Education, Taiwan.
Abstract
Social capital has recently emerged as an effective approach to rethink schools as wider
learning ecosystems where students, teachers, and families have greater access to
learning resources through social interaction. In this sense, the literature has not
provided research-based assessment tools that document school leaders’ abilities to
weave social relationships between actors within the school and across the community.
This paper presents an international experts’ validation of the SchoolWeavers Tool, an
online resource that supports school leaders to assess the health and potential of their
school ecosystem and provides meaningful feedback to weave social and professional
capital and lift learning opportunities and educational goals. Theoretical validation was
conducted in the first round by 15 experts from 8 countries with prior experience in
network leadership in education, and in the second round, with 54 school actors from
the same 8 countries. The final model provides an internationally validated tool that
supports school leaders’ capacities to weave learning ecosystems and improve
collective effectiveness, internal and external collaboration, innovation, and equity.
Furthermore, the SchoolWeavers Tool creates research opportunities to analyze and
discuss commonalities and differences regarding climate and culture in school
June 2020, School Leadership and Management Journal
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ecosystems across the world, allowing school leaders and researchers to support
systemic impact and sustainable improvement.
Keywords: Educational leadership; weaving; social capital; school ecosystem;
innovation; school–community collaboration.
Introduction
There is widespread consensus that educational systems worldwide are not necessarily
focused on fulfilling the complex needs of the present and future generations who will
live in and lead our rapidly changing world (UNESCO, 2014; Clayton, 2016; Liou et al,
2019). Scholars worldwide suggest that current educational systems are often solely
focused on knowledge-based and standardized one-size-fits-all curricula, where students
are taught in single-subject silos (Clayton, 2016). Additionally, schools are struggling to
find solutions beyond the school walls and often do not have the capacity to take
advantage of social relations and community capacities to overcome local educational
needs (Godfrey and Brown, 2019; Longás et. al, 2019; Daly and Liou, 2018). In this
sense, the traditional school organization is based on often rigid, disconnected, and
fragmented structures that favor isolated professional cultures (Liou and Daly, 2018;
Díaz-Gibson et. al 2019; Daly, 2010).
Within this context, school principals worldwide share 2 big external pressures that
provoke a stressed school climate and a silo-centered approach: 1) an overly focused
pressure on test scores (Pino-Yankovic and Ahumada, 2020; Díaz-Gibson et. al, 2017;
Daly, 2010), where schools narrow their work to a range of assessment tools for
language and math, and 2) an emergent pressure regarding the necessity of innovation
and change (Díaz-Gibson et. al 2019; Clayton, 2018; Civís, et al, 2019; UNESCO,
2014), where schools are challenged to provide an updated education based on
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competences, where soft skills become important. Moreover, external pressures on
achievement, or on producing innovative practices can reduce leaders’ focus of
attention on the whole organizational process that leads to these final results (Godfrey
and Brown, 2019; Díaz-Gibson et al 2017; Daly, 2010; Liou et al, 2018). Thus, these 2
vectors are difficult to manage and align because both can be understood as a
reinforcement of a current silo-oriented system that inhibits school–community
collaboration and potentially narrows learning opportunities for students, professionals,
and families.
In this sense, although many guidelines and tools support school leaders’ assessments of
achievement, fewer tools support leaders to better assess school cultures. These cultural
assessments may measure a school’s ability to engage with the whole community,
empower trusted and collaborative relationships between actors within the school (e.g.,
teachers, staff, parents, and students) and across neighborhoods, and enhance learning
opportunities that are responsive to local educational challenges. These cultural
assessments have the potential to document movements from ego to eco-systems that
make stronger connections between and among educational community members.
This paper aims to provide novel insights into why so few tools support school leaders
to weave collaborative and innovative ecosystems that enhance learning opportunities
for all school actors. This paper presents a validation of the SchoolWeavers Tool. This
web-based resource is co-designed by scholars from the NetEduProject
(www.neteduproject.org/en) and allows school leaders worldwide to assess the health
and potential of their learning ecosystems by considering the voice of teachers, staff,
diverse community professionals, school leaders, students, and families.
The SchoolWeavers Tool enhances leaders’ capacity-building to mobilize and weave
resources embedded in the ecosystem by providing comprehensive data and favoring an
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informed dialogue across the community. First, 15 experts from 9 countries—Spain,
Denmark, the United States, England, Turkey, Greece, Chile, Colombia, and Taiwan—
reviewed the assessment model that grounds the measurement of the tool and provided
significant insights into the development and growth of school-based learning
ecosystems from an educational leadership perspective. Second, 54 school actors from
the same countries reviewed the significance and validity of items and provided a
grounded perspective to better adapt to context realities. Finally, the paper provides the
“Weaving circle model” for systemic impact in school-based learning ecosystems.
Understanding Schools as Learning Ecosystems
In the 21st century, efforts are being made at the educational level across the world to
shift from organizational models based on hierarchical authority and control to more
distributed and network-connected organizational forms (Daly, 2010; Torfing & Diaz-
Gibson, 2016). This shift suggests a series of transitions in education from centralized
leadership to the distribution of leadership, from independence to interdependence, from
responsibilities to co-responsibility, from specialists to multidisciplinary generalists,
and from dogma to dialogue (Godfrey and Brown, 2019; Daly, 2010; Daly and Liou,
2018). Thus, to improve educational action, schools have become more aware of the
need to strengthen the quantity and quality of social relationships among actors (Díaz-
Gibson, 2019; Liou, 2019) and connect with their wider community (Longás et al, 2019;
Díaz-Gibson et al., 2016; Díaz-Gibson et al., 2019).
Bronfenbrenner (1999) suggested that to understand schools and learning with high
“ecological validity,” generating authentic knowledge that could be applied in real life
and not just in ideal labs we necessary to study the various subsystems that ecologically
affect youth and schools as individual, but interconnected units. In this sense, the
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perspective of educational change and innovation in schools varies and is acquiring a
systemic and relational focus because each school is located in the context of a
neighborhood, which is highly relevant as an informal education space. Hence, the
focus on social relationships as a specific entity to be considered by school leaders to
mobilize resources across schools relies on the idea of social capital.
Social capital is generally defined as the resources embedded in social networks,
namely, resources that can be accessed or mobilized across the network through a
purposive action (Lin, 2009). Theorists such as Bourdieu (1986), Coleman (1988),
Putnam (1995) have shared the general understanding that social capital resides in the
resources that exist in relationships rather than in the resources possessed by
individuals. These authors highlight the importance of social networks in the conception
of social capital. Social network theory builds on the idea that social resources such as
knowledge, information, and expertise are exchanged through informal networks of
relations between actors in a system. A fundamental element in this theory is concerned
with the pattern of social ties between actors in a social network that create an overall
social structure (Scott, 2000). In this sense, actors with more ties are more likely to
quickly move resources across the network because they are well-connected to many
actors (Daly, 2010, Lin, 2009). By contrast, actors with fewer or no relational ties may
have limited access to the mainstream information and may not be able to efficiently
move information because their communication channels are less well-connected (Liou
et al, 2019). Hence, leaders must have a clear sense of the schools’ social networks to
better understand how the resources flow in the wider ecosystem and to promote
broader opportunities to all the actors.
International research has investigated multiple correlations between social capital and
different types of educational outcomes in schools. For example, researchers have
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demonstrated a positive relationship between social capital and academic achievement
(Civís, et al, 2019; Daly et al. 2014; Díaz-Gibson, et al, 2017; Gasevic et al., 2013; Liou
et al., 2016) and indicated the importance of networks where teachers interact,
collaborate, and co-produce educational innovations (Liou and Daly, 2019; Daly and
Finnigan, 2010; Moolenaar et al., 2010; Penuel et al., 2009). Thus, we acknowledge that
social capital is correlated with school achievement and an innovative condition that
may play a role in supporting teachers’ relationships and performance by providing a
safe environment in which school actors are willing to take risks to improve education
(Civís, et al, 2019; Díaz-Gibson et al, 2019).
Thus, schools as living ecosystems can be understood by thinking about schools as
social networks and considering the diverse actors involved and their multiple
interactions. The concept of a learning ecosystem is linked to the practical need to un-
derstand and conceptualize the dynamic, diverse, and interactive nature of the
relationships between businesses, educational institutions, and practices enabled by
digitalization (Virolainen et al, 2020). Clayton (2016) defined ecosystems in education
as the intersection between a wide array of innovation actors, such as teachers, school
leaders, students, parents, technologists, civic entrepreneurs, designers, researchers,
philanthropists, and policy makers, and the factors that enable them to collaborate to
disrupt existing practice, design new learning models, and build new learning
communities beyond the traditional notion of a school.
Godfrey and Brown (2019) defined a school ecosystem frame based on 3 principles: 1)
the need to connect all school change ultimately to its intended educational impact on
children, and by corollary to society; 2) to ensure that elements of the system—
especially at the individual-school level—are not viewed reductively or in isolation; and
3) to view system change as both interconnected and working in patterns of
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multidirectional cause and effect (Shaked et al, 2018). Thus, the idea of a school as a
learning ecosystem embraces a networked and systemic understanding of all school
units, a collaborative action within and across the community to increase social capital
and collective learning, and finally, the innovative and disruptive component as a
central focus that promotes systemic impact across the whole ecosystem.
Weaving learning ecosystems as an emergent school leadership model
Transforming a school into a learning ecosystem demands new forms of educational
leadership. Thus, principals and educational leaders must be systems thinkers and focus
on relationships between people and entities that can strengthen the school purpose,
establishing common objectives, promoting trust, connecting synergies, and facilitating
a shared discussion and a collective construction of knowledge (Díaz-Gibson, et al,
2016; Godfrey and Brown, 2019). In this sense, a school leadership approach from a
social and relational perspective has gained increased research attention in the last 15
years. Distributed, shared, and democratic leadership demonstrate that school leadership
involves multiple leaders and is premised on interactions rather than actions along with
the establishment of new teams, groupings, and connections for specific purposes
(Leithwood, 2019). Gumus et al. (2018) provided evidence that distributed leadership,
despite being a relatively new model, is the most studied leadership model in
educational research in our times and has received empirical attention.
Although a distributed leadership approach is based on relational and nonhierarchical
purposes, it is not completely aligned with the efforts necessary to rethink schools as
learning ecosystems. Hence, a networked leadership approach adds to the distributed
model and is a deliberative attempt to build network structures for systemic action
within schools and across the community. Networked leadership is considered a
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different type of nonhierarchical leadership, where information and expertise are
substitutes for an authority structure through a self-organizing process, held together by
mutual obligation that develops over time by reaching a consensus on decisions
(Agranoff and McGuire, 2003; Spillane and Orlina, 2005; Díaz-Gibson et al, 2016).
Networked leadership becomes a social phenomenon stretched across individuals and
groups, and its specificity relies on its network approach, underlying the social nature of
organizations and the need to focus on the quantity and the quality of relationships as a
means to promote human and social capital. This powerful interaction of internal and
external connections has also had rich support in the social network literature, which
suggests the importance of creating a network of ties through which resources may flow
in support of goals (Daly, 2012; Liou et al, 2019). Moreover, the network literature has
also indicated that a dense constellation of relationships surrounding an educational
organization may provide additional support and better facilitate efforts to create
change, given the robust nature of dense connections (Cross and Parker, 2004; Díaz-
Gibson et al, 2019). In addition, these dense relationships support the development of
the complexity of the entire network, potentially resulting in desirable outcomes (Liou,
2019; Daly, 2010).
Furthermore, the concept of weaving is emerging exponentially worldwide as a
transdisciplinary leadership perspective that embraces a relational, distributed,
networked, and systemic approach. Weaving is defined as an approach to leadership
that intends to transition from ego to eco-system by relying on curating circles, hosting
conversations, building trusted relationships, and shepherding people with highly
diverse institutions, roles, backgrounds, and perspectives into meaningful collaborations
that have positive systemic impacts (Luksha et al, 2020).
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A network weaver is aware of networks around them and explicitly works to make them
healthier, helping people identify interests and challenges, connecting people
strategically where there is a potential for mutual benefit, and serving as a catalyst for
self-organizing groups (Holley, 2012). Moreover, weaving is a networked leadership
practice with a profound focus on system thinking and systemic action that also adds
systemic change as a key orientation of collaborative efforts. Additionally, weaving
entails the idea of securing the health and the potential of the wider ecosystem by
cultivating relationships between people and encouraging the leadership to lead
organizations as living cells. Thus, weaving as an educational leadership approach
completely aligns with the networked, collaborative, systemic, and disruptive purposes
of learning ecosystems.
Validation process of the SchoolWeavers Tool
The SchoolWeavers Tool was created between 2018 and 2020 by the NetEduProject
international group of scholars and practitioners (www.neteduproject.org) and intends to
build a research-based online resource that supports school leaders to become weavers,
allowing them to assess and improve their learning ecosystems, collecting real time
data, and monitoring the ecosystem growth. Specifically, the SchoolWeavers Tool
supports school leaders to assess their school’s learning ecosystems’ health and
potential and then receive contextualized feedback and leadership tips to improve.
This paper focuses on the initial assessment functions and claims to validate its
measurement model and builds on our previous work (Díaz-Gibson et al, 2013 and
2017; Daly and Liou, 2018; Liou et al, 2019). Considering the assessment functions, the
tool collects information from all community actors: teachers, leadership teams, staff,
families, students, and other professionals involved from diverse institutions. All these
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actors responded to an online survey on climate and culture in the school and
community. Once the responses are gathered, the tool automatically displays general
and segregated results in a dashboard that illustrates the ecosystem’s potential.
The validation was conducted between 2018 and 2019 by a pool of 15 experts with prior
experience in network leadership in education research and practice (median = 5 years),
7 of them were scholars who had previously collaborated with the NetEduProject and
were familiar with the existing measures, and 8 of them where external scholars who
worked and reviewed the model for the first time. These scholars had published papers
on educational leadership in impact journals during the last 5 years and were working in
research departments focused on network research with an international overview.
Specifically, the number of scholars per country was as follows: 1 from Chile, 1 from
Colombia, 3 from Denmark 3 from the United States, 3 from the United Kingdom; 2
from Spain, 1 from Taiwan and 1 from Turkey.
Step 1: Initial departure
The measurement model that served as an initial departure was initially built and tested
in 2013 in communities in Spain, Denmark, and the United States (Díaz-Gibson et al,
2013), providing a comprehensive framework that linked network leadership strategies
to specific indicators of social capital at the community level. The model was formed by
5 domains—Shared Commitment, Transversality, Horizontality, Collaboration, and
Innovation—with a total of 43 items and was designed to collect information from the
diverse professionals involved in the local learning ecosystem. Departing from this
initial model, an international validation process was undertaken to theoretically review
and adapt the model to a school–community based perspective, claiming to inform and
support school leaders across the world to strengthen their learning ecosystems,
enhancing internal and external relationships that provide greater learning opportunities
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for children and for the whole local community. Experts where asked to review the
model and identify strengths and limitations for further discussion.
Step 2: Expert discussion
Step 2 of the expert validation process was developed in a 2-day Workshop held in
Barcelona (Spain) in November 2018, where 8 of the 15 experts involved in the process
engaged in a face-to-face discussion on 3 main topics: 1) analyze opportunities and
limitations of the initial measurement model (Díaz-Gibson et al, 2013); 2) discuss the
domains that define a school-based learning ecosystem and the actors involved; and 3)
discuss the balance between the global and local use of the tool. Consequently, experts’
discussion ended with 3 consensual agreements on the structure of the assessment
model.
The first agreement was related to the domains that define a school-based ecosystem. In
this sense, to strengthen its innovative and inclusive potential, the proposal was to add 3
new domains—Equity, Trust, and Personalized Learning—to the model to deepen the
trust in and purpose of relational conditions and to consider the orientation of the
learning ecosystem toward a student-centered and social justice approach.
The second agreement was related to the tool respondents. The experts identified
potential ecosystem actors and suggested a set of participants be added to the
assessment model: a) School Leaders: All formal leadership positions such as
principals, managerial teams, and medium-level leaders; b) Teachers: All teachers in the
school, including teachers of core subjects and the arts; c) Staff: All certified and
classified staff members operating in the school, such as a psychologist, speech
therapist, social worker, librarian, cafeteria worker, administrative worker, and
maintenance worker; d) Community professionals: All professionals and volunteers that
work in a different organization in the community but collaborate with the school on a
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project, program, or activity; e) Families: All parents that have child(ren) in the school;
and f) Students: All students from the school aged <10 years.
As a final agreement, experts discussed how to enhance the global and local
measurement capacities of the tool. The conversation was based on the balance of
having a global tool that could capture ecosystems’ measures across countries and
cultures that could adapt to local specificities of each context. In line with this purpose,
we changed the general model structure by proposing to add scales as a medium unit of
measure between the domains and items. The experts suggested that domains and scales
could be 100% shared across countries and languages but that items within the scale
could vary with the purpose of adapting to context issues. The variation would be
related to the wording, and would remove and add context-based items if necessary. The
experts concluded that this local balance would not only enhance the impact of the tool
by favoring both the model consistency and results comparison across, but also favor
the significance of the measures in each of the countries.
After the Workshop, the model was reworked and adapted by the project coordinators,
who added existing domains, scales, and items for social justice and equity (Enterline et
al, 2008), Trust (Bryk and Schneider, 2003) and Personalized Learning in schools (Van
Harlem et al, 2019), and created new scales that considered experts’ comments and the
literature. As a result, an initial school-based learning ecosystems model was completed
in English.
Step 3: Expert validation
For the expert validation process, we created a measurement model sheet where experts
were asked to comment on 4 points responding to specific questions: 1) Domain
wording – is the wording of the domains significant in your context? Any idea on
alternative words that keep the meaning described by the items? 2) Scale and Item
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Reliability – to what extent does each scale define the dimension? Rate the scale
consistency from 1 (low – does not contribute to defining the domain) to 5 (high –
contributes greatly to defining the domain); to what extent does each item define the
scale? Rate the item consistency from 1 (low – does not contribute to defining the scale)
to 5 (high – contributes greatly to defining the scale). Share some comments on the
scale/item as nuanced ideas, reformulation, and others; 3) Extra Scales and Items – do
you find other scales/items that are significant in your context that describe the whole
domain? and 4) Parallel Items for Diverse Actors – what other actors could have
information on the health and potential of the school ecosystem? For each existing item
for educators, add parallel items to be responded by other members in the community,
such as staff, parents, and students.
In summary, if 2 or more reviewers agreed on an alternative wording for a domain, it
was renamed; if 2 or more reviewers proposed an extra domain it was added; if 2 or
more reviewers considered a scale or an item to be confusing, it was modified according
to their comments; if 2 or more reviewers considered an item to be irrelevant, it was
eliminated; and if 1 or more of the reviewers added an item, it was generally accepted.
The main disagreements between the experts’ perspectives were regarding the wording
of the items and domains.
The majority of reviewers commented that the domains where appropriate but suggested
a few significant changes. First, to modify the domain of Transversality that was
transformed into empathic communication, highlighting the actor’s communication was
necessary in an educational community ecosystem and nurturing communication items
(Beattie, 2010). Second, a suggestion was made to fuse the domain Horizontality with
the domain of Shared Commitment regarding their similarities. The domain was finally
renamed Shared Purpose which included the indicators of shared commitment but
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excluded indicators of community decision-making because they were fully represented
across the model. Regarding the scales and items, most of the comments suggested
modifications; as a result, 2 were combined and others were added.
In the final part of Step 3, the project coordinators completed the revision process and
created a unified model, which was sent to all the experts, to obtain the final qualitative
feedback on the final result. In general, the experts’ final recommendations helped to
refine the model by changing minor wording concerns, removing some items, and
renaming some scales. Once the experts’ validation was completed, the assessment
model was translated from the English version to a version for each of the native
languages of the NetEduProject scholars’ countries: Spanish, Catalan, Danish, Turkish,
and Mandarin Chinese.
Step 4: Actors feedback
All the scholars involved conducted a local validation by respondents in the 6 languages
of the tool. Thus, the aim of the validation to receive feedback from each specific
profile of tool respondents and adapt the item’s wording to the local school context.
Scholars were asked to search for participants from 2 diverse schools in an urban
context: 1 down town and 1 on the outskirts. Participants were asked to rank, from 1
(lowest) to 5 (highest), 2 qualities from each item: the clarity of the sentence and the
importance of the content. In summary, 3 school leaders, 3 teachers, 3 staff members, 3
community professionals, 3 families, and 3 students carried out the revision in 6
countries, resulting in a total of 54 school participants. This final stage helped us to
adapt to language and cultural differences across countries, and embrace the local
realities to strengthen the significance and the impact of the measurement.
Results
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The final assessment model of the SchoolWeavers Tool is a new global model that
captures emergent international perspectives on weaver practices and school-based
learning ecosystems’ development and growth in a reliable and comprehensive manner.
The model is formed by 7 domains and 24 scales (Table 1) and contains 6 linked
surveys for the 6 types of participants; all responses are recorded on a 6-point Likert
scale that captures the level of agreement with the items. Specifically, 94 items were for
school leaders, teachers, staff, and diverse community professionals; 59 for families;
and 46 for students. Hence the SchoolWeavers Tool entails a theory of change that
support school leaders to become weavers and transform their organizations into a
thriving learning ecosystem.
Table 1. SchoolWeavers Tool Model
Domains
Scales
N of
Items
Total
Items
Shared Purpose
Shared vision among the community
3
13
Shared responsibility
5
Distributed leadership
3
Cohesion in the school community
2
Empathic
Communication
Communication flow
3
10
Understanding the community
3
Empathic dialogue
4
Trust
Leadership team trust
3
16
Individual trust
4
Collective respect
6
Collective trust
3
Collaboration
Collaboration by actors
3
11
Community collaboration
5
Resources for collaboration
3
Equity
Social justice beliefs
8
12
Social justice practices
4
Personalized
Learning
Learner agency
5
17
Responsiveness of the structure
5
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Dialogue
4
Data management
3
Innovation
Innovation climate
5
15
Community involvement in the innovation
process
4
Resources for innovation
3
Knowledge sharing
3
Total of 7
24
94
This study defines a learning ecosystem as a social infrastructure formed by diverse
actors that share a purpose, and engage in collaboration to co-design and co-implement
innovative responses to existing social and educational challenges. In this sense,
learning ecosystems provide a new understanding of schools from a ecosystemic
perspective of school actors and their relationships; challenge traditional organizational
boundaries while providing place-based focus on local schools, neighborhoods, cities,
or transnational networks; have social capital based on systemic and cross-sectorial
collaboration; and pursue systemic impact. Thus, the SchoolWeavers Tool focuses on
reimagining traditional schools as learning ecosystems that become porous
organizations where a constellation of actors within the school and across the wider
community collaborate to disrupt existing practices and increase learning opportunities
for all.
From our collective standpoint, the school-based learning ecosystems approach
challenges a traditional “silo” culture by thinking and acting ecosystemically; building
trusted, purpose-driven, and empathic relations across the diverse actors within and
beyond schools; and facilitating meaningful and collaborative interactions that provoke
systemic impact, disrupt existing practices, and enhance learning opportunities.
The story of the SchoolWeaver tool change theory (Figure 1) describes the weaving
circle of action to achieve systemic impact. The weaver role is like an “ecosystem
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gardener,” because—as real gardeners do—weavers also plant, cultivate, shape, harvest,
and regenerate educational projects, learning communities, experiences, and trajectories
within complex living educational ecosystems (Luksha et al, 2020). Thus, the weaver
model enacts a circle of creative and transformative action that pursues changes across
the whole ecosystem by cultivating and generating the energy flow for relationships to
flourish, and facilitates the climate to thrive, continuing the ecosystemic weaving circle.
Figure 1. Weaving circle for systemic impact
The first step of the weaving circle is “cultivating relationships.” Weavers consider
social relationships between the diverse actors in the educational ecosystem as a fertile
ground that needs to be cultivated with special care to empower individuals, align
forces, and generate the climate necessary to mobilize resources and efforts for learning
and improvement. Thus, to inspire a culture of openness, mutual respect, and improved
June 2020, School Leadership and Management Journal
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teamwork, weavers must cultivate 3 seeds that become the 3 key domains to be
promoted: Empathy, Trust, and a Shared Purpose.
Initially, an empathic communication strategy claims to increase the collective feeling
of being connected, and deep into relationships that lead to win–win outcomes.
Empathy is based on showing another individual that he or she is listened to and that his
or her inner thoughts, emotions, attitudes, and values are being understood (Rhodes et
al, 2004); this is an honest way of being with others, without put-downs and without
any intellectual diagnosis implying wrongness (Rosenberg, 2006). Huda et al. (2017)
described that compassionate-based empathy is a driver of harmonious relationships,
defined as the empathetic awareness engaged entirely in helping with difficult situations
to promote deeper connections and thus a greater sense of inner peace. Hence, Empathy
is a seed that strengthens true knowledge and mutual understanding between people,
cultivating honest and meaningful connections that become a foundation for activating
processes of co-creation between actors in the school ecosystem.
Second, Trust is foundational for sustainability and cohesion between ecosystem actors
and can be defined as a relational element that exists in a role-relationship that
maintains mutual obligations and expectations between individuals and others based on
the willingness to be vulnerable to certain levels of risk (Lin, 2009; Tschannen-Moran,
2004). Research has suggested that trust plays a critical role in facilitating norms for
collaboration and social cohesion (Bryk & Schneider, 2002; Hoy, 2002); fostering
effective communications and knowledge sharing (Levin, Cross, Abrams, & Lesser,
2004; Tschannen-Moran, 2004); and facilitating the development and sustainability of
community collaborations (Little, 2003; DuFour, Eaker, & DuFour, 2005). However,
higher levels of trust have also been linked to school improvement (Daly, 2009; Stoll et
al, 2006). Thus, trust is an essential seed that needs to be consciously cultivated and
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sustained across the whole ecosystem to unlock social infrastructures, activate the
resource exchange flow, and increase the quality of network climate.
Third, a Shared Purpose intends to cultivate the alignment of perspectives and
expectations across the ecosystem actors. A specific effort is necessary to integrate
individual perspectives to generate a shared commitment and purpose (Mandell and
Keast 2009; Renée and McAlister 2011; Sorensen and Torfing 2009) and value
diversity. Moreover, scholars have suggested that to cultivate a shared purpose across
the ecosystem, efforts to be made to align goals and interests such that they frame a
common focus based on what members share and their mutual obligations (Kamensky,
Burlin, and Abramson 2004; McGuire and Silva 2009). Additionally, the purpose
alignment involves the capacity for building a dynamic role of leadership, based on the
added value and resilience provided by the existence of multiple and diverse leaders
throughout the ecosystem (Leithwood, 2019; Longás et al, 2019; Mandell and Keast
2009). Thus, a shared purpose is a central seed to start the collaborative process by
constructively managing actors’ differences and advancing them beyond the least
common denominator.
The second stage of the weaving circle starts during the ongoing cultivation process ,
and optimal levels of empathy, trust, and a shared purpose are achieved. At this point,
weavers need to water these seeds and provide the energy flow for a co-creative climate
to flourish. Thus, facilitating collaborative and innovative processes becomes crucial for
thriving and provoking systemic change in a school-based learning ecosystem.
An initial collaborative perspective from weavers encourages a sense of community in
which trusting relationships between and among professionals is generated and
supported (Dinsmore & Wenger, 2006; Liou et al., 2016). Hence, building a
collaborative culture, distributing leadership, and structuring the educational
June 2020, School Leadership and Management Journal
20
organization to facilitate collaboration are crucial practices of successful school leaders
(Leithwood, Harris and Hopkins, 2019). In line with this purpose, an increase in the
cohesion and connectivity of social relationships among professionals may facilitate the
generation, application, and diffusion of new knowledge and evidence and shape
collaborative and innovative climates (Daly et al., 2018; Moolenaar and Sleegers,
2010). Thus, supporting formal and informal social interaction with peers is a critical
factor that facilitates learning processes (Gasevic et al., 2013). Moreover, critical to the
development of creative responses and innovation is a supportive organizational climate
that stimulates opportunities to engage in discussion and collaboration (Ainscow and
Howes, 2007; Chapman and Fullan, 2007; Moolenaar and Sleegers, 2010). Innovation
within ecosystems re-orientates power and energy to communities in recognizing the
capacity and capability of people and citizens as agents of
change, with innate expertise and insight into solving problems closest to their source
(Clayton, 2017). Hence, weavers need to facilitate a supportive and collaborative
climate among all ecosystem actors, oriented to rethink and disrupt existing practices
within the system, enhancing learning opportunities for all.
The final stage of the weaving circle is oriented toward the ecosystemic support
students to thrive in the world. This stage relies on the need for grounding innovative
processes and practices to set students in the center of the action as active learners in a
diverse society. After cultivating the seeds in the ecosystem, caring and watering are
necessary to achieve a suitable climate, where we expect students to individual and
socially flourish. These are represented by the domains of Personalized Learning and
Equity. Personalized Learning contributes to the understanding of and creation of
formal and informal learning environments and experiences co-tailored in the
educational ecosystem to the unique needs and strengths of each student (Cheung &
June 2020, School Leadership and Management Journal
21
Slavin, 2012; Hughes et al., 2013; Martin, Klein, & Sullivan, 2007), allowing students
to have greater control and ownership of their learning as a means to prepare them to be
autonomous, self-regulated learners (Buckley, 2006). Thus, Personalized Learning is a
person-based approach that enables students’ voice and choice in what, how, when, and
where they learn (Abel, 2016).
In this sense, the domain of equity contributes the notion of education for social justice
based on the recognition of significant disparities in the distribution of educational
opportunities, resources, achievement, and positive outcomes between minority or low-
income students. Thus, educating for social justice involves not only the pedagogical
strategies and methods for teachers and educators to use but also what they believe, how
they think about their work, and their larger connections, the frameworks through which
they interpret what is going on in the learning process, and how they identify and
challenge inequities (Enterline et al, 2008). Hence, the weaver circle ultimately aims to
contribute to the broader purpose of education in the social and emotional growth of
young people into democratic citizens (Cranston, 2013, p. 133).
Conclusion
In this paper, we elicited the process of the international validation of the
SchoolWeavers Tool assessment model, providing the ‘Weaving circle for systemic
impact’ as a new leadership approach where school leaders become weavers of their
local learning ecosystem. Thus, in this paper we advance on the understanding and the
practice of weaving school-based learning ecosystems to enhance systemic impact,
personalized learning and equity. Also, the study gives a robust and reliable structure to
the SchoolWeavers Tool as a resource that supports school leaders in 8 diverse
June 2020, School Leadership and Management Journal
22
countries to assess and improve their own learning ecosystems
1
. Through engaging with
the tool, school leaders can obtain a comprehensive diagnosis of the health and potential
of their learning ecosystem, enhance their connections inside and outside their schools,
and provide new learning opportunities for students and the community, increasing
collaboration, inclusion, social capital, and the whole innovative potential. Additionally,
researchers have a powerful instrument to collect significant information and create new
knowledge on the growth of school-based learning ecosystems and its effectiveness at
providing significant educational outcomes in diverse contexts. Moreover, the
SchoolWeavers Tool is a dialogue instrument that can bring together school principals,
change leaders and education researchers to collectively discuss and learn from one
another, enriching local opportunities for educational change.
A big milestone in this challenge, as is mentioned in the validation process, is to
balance the global and local needs to better support school principals and researchers in
their own local context, but at the same time being significant in a global level, where
the whole community of change leaders and researchers can benefit from global and
shared measurements while adapting to context issues that are diverse and require
nuanced support. In this sense we will continue learning and developing both win-win
strategies to find the correct ‘glocal’ balance.
Finally, the next step of the SchoolWeavers Tool is to develop further test runs in local
settings of participant countries with diverse schools engaged; so as to find new
interested partners as researchers and change leaders from educational organizations in
other countries that want to join us, become part of the NetEduProject and work on the
tool translation and local test to their home country. However, initial tool-test-runs in
1
In this site https://www.netedutools.org/school-weavers/ you can loggin and access the
SchoolWeavers Tool
June 2020, School Leadership and Management Journal
23
the participating countries will claim to improve the tool operational processes, leading
to reliable and research-based resource that can support school leaders to work
systematically with the educational ecosystem, and provide researchers the chance to
gain reliable research knowledge of processes and results alongside.
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The success of implementing Common Core State Standards (CCSS) depends not only on the extent to which educators deeply understand the new standards but also on the expectations, values, and resources that support their readiness for making necessary instructional change. Educators’ understanding of and beliefs about CCSS may largely drive their behaviors and action toward implementation. This study investigated a longitudinal dataset of teachers and principals in one large school district serving a diverse student population in California, examining the relationship between educators’ beliefs and trust and the organizational climate. Findings suggest that both teachers’ trust in the principal and an innovative climate play a consistent, critical role in educators’ beliefs about implementing CCSS.
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Purpose: The social aspect of leadership is often overlooked in the educational reform. This study aims to address the dearth of work in the social space around leadership and examines two different types of relational ties between leaders that capture the affective and work-related aspects of interpersonal relationships. Research Method: This study takes place in one large urban school district serving a highly diverse student population and investigates a multiplex relation—energy and work-related influence—from a longitudinal dataset to better understand the complex nature of social ties. Descriptive statistics, multilevel social network modeling, and network sociograms are used to understand the characteristics of this over-time multiplex relationship among central office and site leaders. Findings: Drawing on social network theory, efficacy, and climate, findings suggest that gender, work level, experience, efficacy, and climate are associated with leaders engaging in this multiplex relationship over time. Conclusion and Implications: Investigating the intersection of both affective and instrumental relationships provides a nuanced and more reality-based picture about a complex set of leadership ties and perceptions as they go about improving educational systems.