Educational networks: a key driving force for school development in a time of crisis and change

Joe O’Hara (Ireland), Patrick Shevlin (Ireland), Martin Brown (Ireland), Gerry McNamara (Ireland)

This paper examines the rise of networking in education, paying particular attention to the recent recognition of their importance during the unprecedented challenges that have emerged for schools during the COVID-19 period. The paper begins with an overview of the development of network theory, exploring how the concept has been adopted across a series of disciplines as a mode of organisational and personal development. It is evidentiated that networks are goal driven, rely on good communication, are challenging and seek to provide a way for school communities to uncover and transmit the knowledge that helps them ensure effective teaching and learning. The paper subsequently examines how networking has been adapted for educational settings and has become increasingly seen as a potential answer to many of the challenges facing rapidly changing social and educational contexts. Most notably, networking has a significant impact in the field of organisational leadership. The understanding of leadership as a mode that sees power and authority distributed among school communities as a whole has at its heart an awareness of the necessity to network, communicate and dialogue within schools and, perhaps as importantly, between schools. The paper concludes with a brief introduction to the emerging discourse surrounding the potential of networks to re-imaging educational provision in a Covid- 19 context.