Supporting Collaboration in Action - Kahukura Community of Practice

Published: 18 May 2021
Early learning

The importance of collaboration 

Evidence demonstrates that collaboration between schools, focused on improving teaching and learning outcomes, has a positive impact on raising student, school and system performance. Schools who share knowledge and work together are more effective in improving the quality of teaching, learning, and supporting school development. They can also help bolster the education system as a whole. 

Schools working together is also essential as our students continue to learn in a Covid-19 world. With today’s ongoing uncertainty, it is important that schools collaborate and share innovative approaches that have worked to support students and whānau in this ever-changing environment.

The Tomorrow’s School review acknowledged that previous reforms in education have contributed to an autonomous approach and a culture of distrust between schools, and that these reforms had stifled collaboration and the sharing of knowledge and skills among New Zealand schools. “There is an urgent need to ‘reset the system’ with greater emphasis on collective relationships and collaboration, and the sharing of effective practices.” 

ERO’s new publications on collaboration in action 

ERO’s ‘Collaboration in Action’ series of reports provides insights to encourage and support collective improvement between schools. On 10th May 2021, ERO published two new reports as part of this series, which focused on the Kahukura Community of Practice (Kahukura), a collaboration involving seven schools in Christchurch. Kahukura is a great example of how schools have worked in partnership and agreement to create local solutions to the local issues affecting their learners. 

The report, Exploring Collaboration in Action: Kahukura Community of Practice, explores the unique collaboration model established by Kahukura.

ERO found the Kahukura model: 

  • supports and builds collective improvement through the use of focus areas 
  • clearly adds value through networking, creation of knowledge, and exploring innovation 
  • sustains change through lead teachers 
  • is likely to be sustainable into the future. 

Key lessons for schools interested in collaborating 

While collaboration through a community of practice is not a ‘one size fits all’ model, there are lessons from Kahukura for other schools to consider when collaborating. The report, Collaboration in Action: Lessons from a Community of Practice documents these lessons which include: 

  • Having a shared vision, purpose and priorities: Leadership needs to consider what their schools are hoping to achieve, and how collaboration will help support this. 
  • Clear decision-making processes and communication are important: Agreement on how decisions are made and how actions are delivered are important features of collaborative networks.  
  • Distributed leadership, role clarity and a shared direction are key: Working collectively requires clarity around how roles and responsibilities of members will be defined, along with a shared direction into the future. 
  • Calibrate the network to the local context: Leadership needs to consider the scope and boundaries of the network as it develops, such as the governance structure and the key people who need to collaborate. This ensures that learning and change occurs in context.  
  • Recognise the importance of relationships and relational trust: Relationships are the basis of collaboration. Consideration needs to be given to the characteristics of collaboration: the purpose; frequency; and between who. 
  • Pay attention to resourcing: Financial and time resources to collaborate will need to be scrutinised. Leaders need to consider how much resourcing will be required, and what may be forgone if resourcing is put into collaboration. 
  • Monitor and measure impacts and progress: Agreement from the outset on the purpose of collaboration and what success will look like is important. Periodically, making time to reflect how the network is progressing is key. Most importantly ensure that there is a line of sight to the learner, and that the resulting actions coming through the collaboration ultimately work to improve outcomes for learners.