Transforming Research Into Solution-Focused Practice

by Lyn Sharratt

Article published in Principal Connections • Summer 2023 • Volume 26 • Issue 3

Transforming Research Into Solution Focused Practice

Most of us came into education as practitioners – to teach, to learn, to change the life trajectory of our students, including those struggling the most. Along the way, many were introduced to Learning Organizations (LOs) and learned to lead within them. But do we really understand the LO research underlying “what matters most in learning, teaching and leading,” so that we can put into practice the goals of all students learning and all teachers teaching optimally in our schools? That is, an inclusive education policy designed to embrace equitable learning opportunities for all being firmly embedded in all K-12 classrooms.

Learning Organizations(LO) socially construct knowledge and understanding, enhancing the capacities of individuals and groups to solve problems and achieve the organization's purposes. LO research offers insights that can lead to individual and collective solutions for systems and schools (Sharratt,1996).

This article examines how one school system is evolving into a dynamic Learning Organization and turning research into solution-focused practice.

Catholic Education South Australia, CESA, comprises two Catholic Dioceses, which have committed to system strategies that guide their work across 103 primary and secondary schools. Their moral purpose ensures that all students learn to their full potential so they can graduate to a world where they can make a difference based on the values and beliefs of their Catholic education.

In 2020, CESA senior leaders started working with the CLARITY Learning Suite (CLS) team and me to craft Professional Learning so that every system leader, school leader and lead teacher belonged to a cohort, progressing through CLS at their own pace.


Theory – Research (Sharratt, 2019) reflects the belief that a sustainable vision for system and school improvement work:

  • Is built through consensus
  • Is understood by all teachers, leaders, support staff, students and parents
  • Fosters clear commitment to learning by all for all
  • Relates to ALL students’ improvement as the moral purpose
  • Is aligned from system to schools to community and back again
  • Moves the focus from ‘doing’ to ‘learning’ together
  • Embraces equity and excellence moderated by an unwavering open-to-learning, well-being stance

Practice in CESA – CESA leaders asked, and circled back to ask again: Do we have evidence to prove we believe:

  • All students can learn given the right time and support?
  • All teachers can teach given the right assistance?
  • In high expectations for all offering early and ongoing intervention?
  • Everyone can articulate why they are learning, teaching and leading the way they are? (Sharratt and Fullan, 2012 and 2022)


Theory – Structure drives behaviour. Research indicates an evidence-proven framework that explicitly outlines actions is a necessary structure for leaders’ self-assessment and -reflection on improvement. Figure 1 illustrates the 14 Parameters of System and School Improvement (Sharratt and Fullan, 2012, 2022; Sharratt, 2019).

Practice in CESA – Everyone is a leader and all CESA leaders:

  • Embedded the 14-Parameter Framework in every school and used them as an ongoing lens to reflect on implementation
  • Used various modes of communication (newsletters, podcasts, webinars, videos, vignettes) to re-enforce common beliefs of the vision, common language and how structures were being re-defined
  • Ensured leaders and teachers had time in the school day, across panels, to conduct Learning Walks and Talks to ask students the 5 Questions:
    1. What are you learning? Why?
    2. How are you doing in that learning?
    3. How do you know?
    4. How can you improve?
    5. Where do you go for help?


Theory – Creative tension within organizations will force form (structure) to follow function (strategy). Success
in the world of change requires that strategic leaders possess adaptability (Sharratt, 2019). Problem-coping leading is at the heart of successful change management. With the continual flow of new technology, planning needs to include teachers: identifying their own needs and becoming familiar with and developing confidence in using legacy and new software programs (Sharratt & Planche, 2016).

Practice in CESA – Strategic leaders in CESA considered LO research, and carefully planned to implement the 14-Parameter Framework, in cohorts, by:

  • Modelling robust conversations and bringing ‘students of wonder’ to case management meetings though work samples
  • Regularly evaluating progress in building the capacity and embedding strategies of all teachers to teach all students
  • Focusing on quality teaching in all classrooms
  • Embedding multiple ‘Knowledgeable Others’ in every school
  • Integrating PL into the highest levels of organizational decision making
  • Ensuring a relentless focus on students feeling safe,
    welcomed, accepted and inspired in their learning


Theory – In Learning Organizations, it is critical resources are ‘accessible to all.’ Educators need time to hone their skills, to experiment with new practices, and to reflect on what they have been learning and how it will help in future tasks. Technology helps educators use their time more productively and creatively. Research shows resources must:

  • Be ‘just-right,’ ‘just-in-time’ and equitably distributed
  • Reflect the community of learners
  • Include ‘time’ to learn together
  • Take advantage of online tools for reflective, collaborative, self-paced learning
  • Ensure that collaborative learning is enhanced in an online structure

Practice in CESA – Leaders and teachers across CESA access multi-dimensional resources that support their teaching and learning to create an authentic, diverse culture of learning.


Theory – Change in teaching requires major transfor- mation in a school’s culture. CESA leaders realized they needed to be agents of change by celebrating diversity and opening avenues of inclusivity to ensure that equity means ‘all.’

Practice in CESA – System and school leaders lead cultural change by:

  • Leaving titles and egos at the door before joining learning sessions
  • Establishing, expecting and seeking visible signs of inclusive ‘Codes of Behaviour’
  • Nourishing a collaborative learning environment through non-judgemental sharing
  • Recognizing and celebrating small wins in learning gains
  • Slowing down thinking and decision-making processes to be aware of and challenge assumptions
  • Learning from ‘’failing fast’ experiences and seeking new ideas inside and outside system and school settings
  • Training in technology and empowering teachers with quality PL


Leaders of Learning Organizations foster a climate in which risk taking and inquiry are enabled by the culture they create – a culture of support for relationships that encourage coming together as a community of learners around a singular vision and purpose. Using research and CLS as a tool empowered CESA leaders and teachers to engage in PL that is: ongoing, evidence-proven, sustainable, collaborative, timely and accessible by all. By holding their nerve and staying the course, CESA staff members have catapulted from good to great, to become outstanding change leaders and teachers.

Dr. Lyn Sharratt, Ed D. Internship Supervisor, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Toronto, Canada.
Honorary Fellow, University of Melbourne, Graduate School of Education, Australia.

Article published in Principal Connections • Summer 2023 • Volume 26 • Issue 3