What have educators, academics and studies concluded about the validity of curriculum networks?

Executive summary

The Executive Summary of the Learning and Teaching Curriculum Network Project 2019, is a document that concludes the findings of the project and recommendations ways forward. The graphic below summarises the key stages of the project.

Image: Key stages of project

Watch this interview with the Principals in Residence to find out more about the findings from the 2019 Curriculum Network Project.

2019 Curriculum Network Project – Principals in Residence

[upbeat music]

[Can you tell us about the 2019 Curriculum Network Project?]

Deb Santucci – Relieving Principal, Canley Vale High School

So, Norma and I were both the principals in residence in 2019 working on the action research regarding the Curriculum Network Project. The purpose of the project was to look at, statewide, what the characteristics and benefits of effective curriculum networks were, what support the curriculum networks required and what they had access to. And what support was needed to establish an effective curriculum network and what would be needed to make it sustainable.

Norma Petrocco – Principal, Kingswood Public School

As part of the project, we worked with 30 identified curriculum networks across the state. We worked as part of the Learning and Teaching Directorate, and we surveyed all the networks. We then completed network leader interviews across the state. We collated the survey information and the network information. A heat map was made of where these networks were across the state, and it was quite a large reach.

We also worked with CESE (Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation) around a literature search and review, and we collated the findings of the group interviews, the research and just our conversations with the leaders of these networks to find out what were the characteristics of these networks and why they work so well.

[What were some of the characteristics of effective curriculum networks that you identified?]


So, during our action research throughout 2019, we conducted some focus group interviews. We travelled across the state to try to gather as much data and evidence of what makes an effective curriculum network. And what we discovered was that the most effective and sustainable effect curriculum networks were the ones with a clear vision, and everyone shared that same vision.

It was also the structures, the procedures and the systems that were in place. They had agendas. They had clear meeting times. It was quite… it was understood across the network when those meeting times were, and the expectation was that people actually attended. Sustainability was important. There was always you know… there were leadership opportunities but there was also a succession plan so that the actual curriculum network wasn't relying on one person running the network.


One of the most successful factors was if the principal and school leadership actually supported the network and allowed teachers and head teachers and assistant principals and deputy principals to engage with the network and supported that. That was really important. And also that the network offered profession… quality professional learning for its members and that they used a variety of sources to source that including staff from the DoE (Department of Education).

[What advice would you provide to leaders when establishing a new curriculum network?]

You really need to have the support of your school leaders. Senior executive support is going to be crucial. And I know that most leaders set up networks because they, you know, it's an opportunity to bring teachers and share practice. But at the end of the day you need to be able to measure the impact of what that sharing of practice is going to have in the classroom and that's how you're going to get the support of your senior executive. So it's about what tools are you going to use to measure impact because the impact needs to be on student learning. So how do you know that attending a network is actually going to be effective back at the school.


I think what we found too was the most successful of networks had really strong governance structures. You know, they ran meetings at a certain time of each term. There were agendas. People contributed their expertise. They allowed the time and worked with DoE experts to ensure that what they were delivering was quality. I think that's the time factor is really important because, as Deb said, a lot of this is around goodwill.

So, delegating and spreading the load is really important so not one person is constantly doing it and they burn out. And also, what's really important is to have a succession plan. So, if the person driving the curriculum network, you know, moves on, leaves for whatever reason then someone else is picking it up and it grows from there. So, I think that's… we found that that was really part of the success of those really strong networks that had been going for a very long time.

[upbeat music]

[‘The Future is Ours’ by Scott Holmes licensed under an Attribution-Non-Commercial 4.0 International Licence.]

[End of transcript]

Academic papers

Challenge: solidarity with solidity: The case for collaborative professionalism (Andy Hargreaves and Michael O’Connor 2018)

  • the most successful and sustainable efforts are characterized by both solidity and solidarity, meaning that they draw on both expert knowledge and strong collegial relationships, creating what the authors call collaborative professionalism

Making progress possible: a conversation with Michael Fullan (Thiers 2017)

  • fostering collaborative professionalism in schools, external and internal accountability, and educational leadership that make progress possible
  • the need to infuse collaborative professionalism throughout schools with a focus on deep learning for all students.

Seven elements in the professional learning context were identified in the core studies as important for promoting professional learning in ways that impacted positively and substantively on a range of student outcomes:

  • providing sufficient time for extended opportunities to learn and use the time effectively
  • engaging external expertise
  • focusing on engaging teachers in the learning process rather than being concerned about whether they volunteered or not
  • challenging problematic discourses
  • providing opportunities to interact in a community of professionals
  • ensuring content was consistent with wider policy trends
  • in school-based initiatives, having leaders actively leading the professional learning opportunities.

The elements of effective professional development (CESE 2014)

  • Curriculum-focused professional development programs that emphasised content, how to teach specific content and how students learn, generated a more positive effect on student outcomes (effect size: 0.56) than programs that focus on pedagogy only (effect size: 0.07)


  • Teaching and learning

Business Unit:

  • Educational Standards
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