by Patrick Creed

What is Knowledge Management?

Knowledge management is an integrated approach to identifying, capturing, evaluating, retrieving, and sharing any organisation’s information assets (King 2009). This can include documentation, policies and procedures, and explicit and tacit knowledge (Project Management Institute 2015).

Knowledge management carries many advantages for schools and can contribute to time savings, growth and development, and innovation. Ode and Ayavoo ( 2020) agree that knowledge generation, storage, and application contribute to an organisation’s innovation, which in turn agrees with Lai et al. (2014) who found that knowledge storage influences organisation innovation performance.

Knowledge application is a key facilitator of innovation and performance (Hamdoun et al. 2018, Mardani et al. 2018) and when knowledge is managed effectively, it increases a school’s innovative capacity and competitiveness.

Why Consider Knowledge Management?

The development of a school’s knowledge management strategy evolves with the growth of the school, and its engagement with the people that work in it, and the student body that interacts with it.

Many schools have evolved from a small team, driven by tacit knowledge. If one person knows something, and the school is built around that one person, there are relatively few issues with knowledge management worth considering - if anyone else at the school needs a particular piece of knowledge, they can ask. But as the school grows, life can become intolerable for that one person should the previous team of three turn into a team of thirteen or thirty, all with their own questions - usually repeat questions, at that.

The strategic management of knowledge must include knowledge creation, knowledge organisation and storage, knowledge transfer, and knowledge application, all of which are key to maintaining a competitive advantage (Davenport and Prusak 1998, Ferreira et al. 2016, Heisig et al. 2016). Differing approaches exist to the management of tacit knowledge. The neo-pragmatism school believes that organisations have two methods to manage tacit knowledge: either transform tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge or manage people with tacit knowledge; whereas the construction school believes that explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge are intertwined and inseparable (Katastros 2022).

Schools must incorporate knowledge management into their quality assurance documentation. Knowledge is power and schools should move to a situation where knowledge is readily shared within the organisation and where new knowledge is captured from external sources and incorporated into better business practices, helping drive innovation.

As many schools experienced staff loss during and post Covid shutdown, as schools did not engage in labour hoarding, so sharing and codifying knowledge is clearly understood as important to any school, where staff loss and the concomitant loss of the knowledge they hold is a tangible reality.

A Knowledge Management Strategy

Schools should have a knowledge management strategy, linked to their overall business goals and ambitions, which helps to support knowledge management. This can be achieved through the establishment of short and long-term goals and milestones, which include the identification of initiatives to support and connect with the vision, mission, and objectives of the school.

Knowledge-intensive organisations must keep abreast of evolving market demands and develop appropriate strategies, which in turn support organisational performance (Mohiuddin et al. 2022). With rapidly changing market environments, including that of online learning and the requirement by students now to access knowledge in new ways, schools need to embed new eSkills learned during the Covid-19 shutdown and ensure they are used as growth opportunities in the future.

Organisations should examine the four pillars of knowledge management infrastructure – Culture, People, Processes, and Embedding Technology (Bradesko 2022). The National College for School Leadership in the United Kingdom introduced an initiative called the Networked Learning Communities, which is based on the belief that educational organisations seeking to redesign themselves as professional learning communities will better be able to do so by working and learning with others (Walshe 2002).

Knowledge Management is about working and learning with others, and when prioritised, helps to drive growth, reduce costs, improve efficiency, and improve student and staff support.

Be a Learning Organisation

Language schools are learning organisations where students come to learn and develop. Are they also places where employees are given time to learn and where formal training is provided? Are people allowed to make mistakes and learn from their mistakes (Bersin 2012)?

Schools must adopt an objective perspective about knowledge, where systems are put in place, knowledge is codified, and explicit knowledge takes privilege over tacit knowledge. Knowledge must become a derivative of the intellectual process, with rules written down on how to do things, with ongoing use and sharing of knowledge within the school.

Have Vision and Scope

Codifying knowledge and making it available for everyone who needs it in a school supports a school’s business vision. Providing opportunities for tacit knowledge to be shared is important, as tacit knowledge is very evident in employees at educational organisations, and there needs to be opportunities for those staff to share that knowledge through meetings and formal and informal opportunities.

Work with Key Stakeholders

The key stakeholders in a school who need access to knowledge include the staff, the student body, external partners, and government bodies. Working together improves the effectiveness of the teams within a school as they have a better understanding of what is happening across the organisation, and have access to information about what other stakeholders are doing with the knowledge.

Knowledge Management Competencies

Knowledge management competencies consider a number of different aspects including the processes involved in knowledge management, the people involved in knowledge governance, and the technology used to support knowledge sharing. Developing knowledge management leaders and promoting Communities of Practice helps promote knowledge sharing.

All of these considerations serve as the foundation for functions such as training, education, development, and performance management because they specify what essential knowledge, skills, and abilities are needed, and how they will be promoted.
Competencies alone are not sufficient as they must be accompanied by an organisational culture shift towards knowledge-sharing and collaboration (Rhem, 2021).


Knowledge management techniques allow access to knowledge by the people who need it, when they need it, and helps to support the effectiveness of current business processes. A school’s recording of data (attendance, syllabus, lesson plans etc) and reporting and outputs should be interactive and easy to navigate, and allow the end user (Student, Staff member, External partner) to see data presented in the most effective way.

People and Governance

Knowledge management governance supports the development of policies and procedures to align knowledge management with organisational strategic aims. It provides a framework to authorise knowledge management processes, and evaluates and reviews them while providing financial support for knowledge management practices (Zyngier 2011).

Good governance also includes security of knowledge, protecting data, and avoiding data breaches or GDPR non–compliance. Schools do not need complex processes to access data, but should use access controls and encryption systems to secure data and knowledge access.

Reviewing existing content management policies, GDPR rules, and security controls in the knowledge management lifecycle form part of the knowledge management governance at any organisation.

Knowledge Management Technology (Systems/Tools)

A study by Nawaz et al. (2020) showed that across a number of different university settings in a number of different regions (Middle East, Europe, and the Far East), knowledge management practices are similar in knowledge perception, gathering, creation, and sharing, but more work is required with information technology-based practices to enhance knowledge sharing and knowledge management practices.

Schools use a number of different basic tools to help access explicit and tacit knowledge – including, for example, email, face-to-face meetings, WhatsApp, a School Management system, the use of Google Docs etc. Google Docs may provide a simple and useful way for content to be written and shared within a group. If correctly set up, Google Docs allows for direct collaboration between team members - there is no need for the group members to send their work to the owner of the document and then wait for the edits to happen; they can make these edits directly, with Google Docs providing the possibility to track who made what edits and when, and to roll back to a previous version of the file if necessary. This provides a basic way to record explicit knowledge, but also for tacit knowledge and ideas to be shared for discussion and inclusion as needed. More complex, better, and more modern technologies would always be very useful for schools, which would bring with them more advanced knowledge sharing and knowledge storage, and search functions, further supporting knowledge management.

Knowledge Management Leaders

A study at Malaysian Higher Education Institutions has shown that raising knowledge management awareness among staff was key to helping higher education sectors improve standards in teaching and learning (Nair and Munusami 2020). Knowledge management should be promoted throughout schools to include supporting knowledge creation and the sharing of knowledge. Schools could explore the idea of creating positions such as a Knowledge Manager who oversees the implementation of the knowledge architecture; who helps identify, organise, and provide access to scattered, heterogeneous information (in digital and paper form as needed); and who leads a knowledge audit to determine and continually re-evaluate the specific knowledge needs of stakeholders within the organisation (Gartner 2022).

Communities of Practice (CoPs)

School staff should become involved in external Communities of Practice through attendance at workshops and external training e.g. online forums, IATEFL communities, special interest groups.

Staff need to be positively encouraged to participate in such activities and be given a platform to return knowledge learned to the organisation as a whole, following participation in CoPs.

Where to begin?

Schools can start their process of self-evaluation of their knowledge management by applying the metrics used to assess knowledge management systems, content, and outcomes. These Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) help measure how knowledge is used, and accessed when needed, to achieve specific outcomes.

In most schools, some knowledge management competencies exist in its people and processes, and in the use of technology. All processes however need to include a clear understanding of knowledge management principles, and the clear development and understanding of a knowledge management strategy as part of the school’s knowledge management governance.

Those who manage schools must start to look to their staff and encourage them to become Knowledge Management leaders, who will help further promote the knowledge management culture in the school through the development of knowledge sharing, and supporting the development of Communities of Practice.

An organisation's ability to use and leverage knowledge is highly dependent on its human resources, which effectively create, share, and use that knowledge (Antunes and Pinheiro 2020). Technology supporting knowledge capturing and sharing is useful. An awareness of the need to define metrics to refine knowledge management and the use of knowledge management technology where appropriate, can all help to support strong knowledge management across any organisation, for the benefit of all.


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Author Biography

Patrick Creed’s background is in English Language Teaching and Training in which he has worked since 1994. He has held roles as Teacher, Teacher Trainer, ADoS, DoS and now School Owner and Director having worked in Italy, Greece, Australia, Kenya (volunteer position) and Ireland. He co-wrote the Clockwise Intermediate Teacher Resource Book published by OUP and completed his Delta qualification in 2016. He holds a Masters in Ergonomics and Physics, Masters in Renewable Energies and a Masters in Project and Programme Management.

He currently runs an English language school, which is also a teacher training institute, in Galway Ireland, Bridge Mills Galway Language Centre, one of the founding members of Select Ireland.