The case for network learning
Mary John O'Hair and Wiel Veugelers
The primary way in which schools have traditionally accessed ideas and knowledge is through formal staff development efforts such as workshops, in-services and conferences. During the past decade, a new way of accessing ideas and knowledge has gained increasing attention globally and involves the participation in school networks (see, for example, Veugelers and Zijlstra 1995, 1996; Lieberman 1996; Lieberman and Grolnick 1996). Essentially, school networks help schools learn from each others' efforts. They consist of educators from a number of schools who come together owing to a shared vision of schooling and who are connected to each other typically via a loose organizational structure that facilitates their interaction across schools. The glue that connects network schools with each other is regular cross-school meetings of teachers, principals and other educators from member schools, monthly meetings of school coordinators, crossschool visitation, attendance at professional development opportunities focused on the network's and participating schools' visions, and a network resource staff which works to facilitate sharing across network schools. The intent of school networks is to accelerate the change process within schools.
School networks are based on the beliefs that you cannot improve student learning without improving teacher learning (Fullan 1993) and that teachers learn best by sharing ideas, planning collaboratively, critiquing each others' ideas and experiences, and reducing the isolation encountered in most schools (O'Hair et al. 2000). Networking results in increased professional interaction across schools, which generates excitement and learning. In today's global business and education community, there is no