Communities of Status Quo: Is there enough disruption in your Community of Learning??

Over the last year or so I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of the establishment of what looks to be a particularly fabulous West Auckland COL - Te Whiria te Tangata. It is great to see school communities of schools coming together to collaborate to improve student outcomes. It is great to see school communities of schools collaborating, full stop.

However I do have a concern. I am not concerned that communities of learning won't see schools coming together to improve learner outcomes, what I am concerned about is that they may not, because of their very structure and achievement challenges, actually change much else. When scanning the endorsed achievement challenges and in the conversations I have had with many colleagues from a range of communities, I keep thinking, is there much within COL plans and achievement challenges that move beyond the paradigm of business as usual? Or are we simply going to see communities of schools holding hands, singing kumbaya and patting their respective inquiries on the back?

Is there much within COL plans and achievement challenges that move beyond the paradigm of business as usual? 

At this point I need to make an admission. During the period of COL policy development, or what was then referred to as IES or Investing in Educational Success I was lucky enough to be serving on the then Deputy Minister of Education Nikki Kaye's 21st Century Learning Reference Group. We were in the throes of developing a set of recommendations that came together as the report Future Focused Learning for Connected Communities. I remember very clearly the day we were briefed on the plans for IES and getting my knickers in a complete twist. Why the freakin' heck weren't they weaving the need for innovation into the very DNA of the COL policy? Having long been an amateur futurist and early adopter of technology I was confident that critical thinking, technology, personalisation and greater learner agency was something we needed to support all schools and educators to tackle.

Amos the Amateur Futurist 😂

This was compounded by the fact that I had recently had the pleasure of leading a large scale ICTPD contract at Epsom Girls Grammar School, and whilst I won't make any spurious claims about leading massive change, I did see, first hand, the potential of a school wide teaching as inquiry initiative infused with an expectation to explore e-learning interventions within every inquiry. Inquiries were still firmly focused on raising student outcomes, and also had a focus on developing thinking skills and introducing differentiation to develop greater engagement and interest. Yes, it caused unease and a certain level of discomfort as each and every teacher was expected to explore technological interventions, whether that was personally appealing or not, but it also got teachers to see the potential for employing new and different ways of engaging and supporting learning.

In this case, the demand for technological pedagogical interventions was a disruption, albeit a fairly palatable and minor one. It stopped teachers simply resorting to interventions that sat within their comfort zone. In my mind teaching as inquiry or spirals as inquiry without discomfort and an element of disruption is simply teaching.

The great thing about the policy as exists it doesn't preclude disruption, it simply doesn't demand it. And I am certainly not suggesting there isn't brilliant and innovative work taking place, I am just concerned that COLs, particularly if schools and/or educators are risk averse, can avoid any real change. So what can we do? Well the first thing I would suggest is that any educators involved in leading or supporting a COL develop an understanding of exponential change and what this really might mean for the very near future of schooling in New Zealand. See Kaila Corbin's fabulous introduction to exponentials below:

And if you are in any doubt that this isn't really applicable to education, listen to what Sue Suckling Chairperson of NZQA has to say about the Future of Education. If the chair of NZQA questions the future of NZQA, NCEA and the whole current concept of schooling, you need to wake up and smell the curriculum! (Who just today announced NZ's first micro-credential on Twitter.)

What is your COL doing to prepare for the potential disruption of COOLs? What are they doing to prepare for self-taught teenagers who can accrue international micro-credentials that render NCEA and the current concept of school redundant? If we are going to come together to collaborate, let's come together to tackle some very real threats and opportunities that are closer than we think. 

If nothing else, design some elements of disruption that at the very least prevent your Community of Learning being little more than a synergetic version of the status quo.

Connect with and follow the less amateur futurists:

Other posts that might be of interest:
#SUNZSUMMIT - What I learnt from attending SingularityU and what I reckon it means for education in NZ


  1. Great thoughts Claire and thanks for the shout out. The achievement challenges for Kahui Ako are business as usual and, if I am cynical, pretty much about boys' writing. Some schools would argue that they are just playing this game to get established and plan to be more innovative once their Community of Learning is under way. Valuable time is spent like flies around a honey pot of best intentions and incremental tinkering. Environmental scanning shows the huge impact of exponential technologies, globalisation and local context. As a futurist and foresight practitioner I spend time exploring possibilities and helping people to be as prepared as possible for rapid change. I have the same concerns about preparedness of boards so watch out for a blogpost on this early next week at

    1. Thank you Cheryl - will definitely keep an eye on ;)

  2. Once again Claire your honesty is refreshing. I have been collecting other pieces of writing from educators who are seeing similar things to you. From my experience so far (which is virtually nothing) I can not help but agree that CoLs seem to be acting within a 'business as usual paradigm' like you say - and I thought they were going to disrupt a bit more than just identifying the usual and obvious. Cheers.


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