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Building the Capacity for

Leading and Learning

David Hopkins
David Jackson

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School Capacity . . .
“. . . can be defined as the collective competency
of the school as an entity to bring about effective
change . . . It is now clear that for school
improvement, leadership needs to focus on two
dimensions – the teaching and learning focus on
the one hand and capacity on the other.”
(NCSL, 2001)

 School culture and climate are concepts which

lie at the heart of school-improvement – but
remain comparatively static concepts as
opposed to the forces that act in dynamic
interplay with the climate of the school – as
dynamic as the world around them.
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School Improvement . . .
 “. . . A systematic, sustained effort aimed at change
in learning conditions and other related internal
conditions . . . with the ultimate aim of
accomplishing educational goals more effectively.”
(Van Velzen et al, 1985, p. 48)
 “. . . Is a strategy for achieving positive educational
change that focuses on student achievement by
modifying classroom practice whilst simultaneously
adapting the management arrangements within the
school to support teaching and learning.” (Hopkins,
 ‘Know what’ has moved to ‘know how’. The shift to
school ownership of change inevitably leads to a
requirement for greater understanding about how to
create ‘capacity’. (Hopkins and Jackson 2003, p.87)
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Capacity – an exploration
 Staff’s preparedness to deal with change.
(Meyer, 1992)
 + The learning organisation.

(Senge, 1990)
 = A learning community. (a way of viewing
(Mitchell and Sackney, 2000)
In focusing on capacity, a school will be able to
sustain continuous improvement efforts or to
manage change effectively.
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School Capacity - A
The collective competency of the school as an entity
to bring about effective change. Key components:
 Knowledge, skills and dispositions of individual
staff members.
 Staff working collaboratively to set goals as a
professional learning community engaged in
inquiry and problem-solving.
 Programme coherence as in a clear learning
 Technical resources to facilitate and support.

(Newman, King and Young, 2000)

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School Capacity - B
Staff members = human capital

Fullan (2000) identifies two key organisational features:

Professional development of individuals having an impact
on the organisation.

 The concept of ‘professional learning communities’,

providing the ‘social capital’ aspect of capacity, i.e.
individual skills can only be realised if the relationships
within the schools are continually developing.

 The component of organisational capacity – programme

coherence, i.e. the most effective schools are those that
are able to integrate, align and coordinate innovations
into their own focused programmes.
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School Capacity - C
 “’The maximum or optimum amount of
and in so doing relates to issues of efficiency –
 ‘the optimal amount of production that can be
obtained from a given set of resources and
organisational arrangements.’”
(Corcoran and Goertz, 1995, p. 27)

 Optimal performance = efficiency

 Outcomes = effectiveness
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School Capacity - D
 In order to improve outcomes, schools
need to increase ‘leverage’ – the ability (or
capacity) of teachers to enhance student
learning. In order to expand leverage a
school needs to be able to increase its
intellectual capital (what teachers know
and can do) which it does especially by
developing its ability (or capacity) to create
and to transfer knowledge.

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A + B + C + D = 4 unifying factors
1. The importance of the people.

3. Alignment and synergies to elicit optimum

team performance and output.

5. Organisational arrangements which support

personal and interpersonal capacity

7. ‘Higher order domain’ – shared values, social

cohesion, trust, well-being, moral purpose,
care, valuing.
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 4 = climate & culture
(the interpersonal and the organisational
components of schools)
 Basis for

Professional learning community

Leadership capacity
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5 elements making up Capacity
 Foundation conditions
 The personal
 The interpersonal
 The organisational
 External opportunities

composed of the synergies,

interconnections and the emotional and
spiritual glue.
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1. Foundation conditions
Forming an infrastructural stability
3. The personal
Knowledge, skills, active and reflective construction of
5. The interpersonal
Working together on shared purposes
4. The organisational
Concerned with building, developing and redesigning
structures that create and maintain sustainable
organisational processes.
5. External opportunities
The change forces and reform directives so often
paralysing, destabilising or debilitating.
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 A static concept (the potential energy)

The school’s potential to give form to strategic


 An active process (the kinetic energy)

The process of capacity-building – strategies that

allow the school to harness the abilities, skills and
knowledge acquired during one process of
change to facilitate subsequent changes.
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For professional
learning community growth
and external support,

schools require

both internal
and external networking

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The Role of Networks in Supporting School
Improvement and Building Capacity
Networks are purposeful social entities characterised
by a commitment to quality, rigour, and a focus on
outcomes. They are also an effective means of
supporting innovation in times of change. In
education, networks promote the dissemination of
good practice, enhance the professional
development of teachers, support capacity building
in school, mediate between centralised and
decentralised structures and assist in the process of
re-structuring and re-culturing educational
organisations and systems.
(Hopkins, 2001, ch. 10)
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 A Network enables stakeholders to make
connections and to synergise activities
around common priorities.

 Governments adopt the system not only as

a strategy to assist in the implementation of
its reform agenda, but also as a capacity-
building innovation in its own right.
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 Isolation may have been appropriate
during times of stability, but during times
of change there is a need to ‘tighten the
loose coupling’, to increase collaboration
and to establish more fluid and responsive

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Implications for Leadership – Distributed
Leadership and Capacity Building
 D.L. resides in the potential available to be
released within an organisation. In essence,
it is the intellectual capital of the organisation
residing within its members.

 The role of the leader is to harness, focus,

liberate, empower and align that leadership
towards common purposes and, by so doing,
build and release capacity.
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Distributed Leadership
 Its increase in capacity is about creating the
spaces, the contexts and the opportunities
for expansion, enhancement and growth.
 Leadership has to be given wilfully by those
who are to be led – we allow ourselves to be
led, just as we allow ourselves to be

 = reciprocal relationship empowerment

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Synergy – allowing fluidity
and flexibility between

Alignment – moving
distributed function in a
common direction.
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Organisational implications
 Entwined power relationships and role
responsibilities – the right to lead has to
be earned, granted by the followers.
 The more hierarchical the management
structure, the more the liberation of
leadership capacity is likely to be stifled.
School as an organisation must adapt and
reshape its practices in order to generate
natural contexts for people to take
responsibility in working with and through
others i.e. the development of internal
networks. 21
Bldng the Capcty for Lding and Lrning
The Function of
Distributed Leadership in Practice
 It involves collective meaning-making in the light
of emerging knowledge and understandings
from inquiry. It is where leadership and
organisational growth collide; where knowledge
creation and the implementation of change
connect, because
‘such leadership also creates action that grows out
of these new and shared understandings. This
transformative dimension is the core of
leadership – and, by definition, it is distributed’.
(Lambert, 1998, p. o)
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 Groups of teachers, working collaborative
inquiry or planning activity, led by someone
whose leadership is not entwined with role
status, provide opportunities for the
expression and growth of leadership
capacity. It also provides lateral learning
impetus required to break down
organisational barriers and to foster cultural
norms hospitable to internal networks.
Knowledge creation and knowledge-sharing
are processes at the heart of leadership or
collaborative enquiry.
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The Role of the Designated Leader
 Everyone has both the potential and the
entitlement to contribute towards leadership.
The designated leader’s role is to facilitate
this entitlement – to create the organisational
conditions, the climate and the support for all
members to be able to contribute their latent
leadership – to release both the kinetic and
the potential energy of leadership.
 In organisations seeking to learn together,
school leaders give away power, distribute
leadership and support others to be
successful. Bldng the Capcty for Lding and Lrning 24
 In moving towards distributed leadership
models, the leader is the critical change agent –
the guardian and facilitator of transitions.
Transition management is the new focus for
 Distributive leadership and collaboration is a
social capital built on trust. Trust relationships
allow open engagement and knowledge-sharing.
Such leaders will unite the school around
shared values and higher-order purposes.
 Such re-design should normalise collaborative
learning in which leadership can be widely
available and unrelated to role status.
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