About The DISA Tool


The purpose of the Diagnostic Inventory of School Alignment (DISA) is to provide schools with information on which to base judgements about leverages for school improvement – identifying the challenges and focusing on the successes on which it is possible to build school capacity for sustainable improvement.

The DISA provides schools with three levels of information.

  1. Firstly, it has been designed to give comparative feedback from teachers, parents and students on each Element of an organisational image called the Research-based Framework for Organisational Alignment (RBF) (see Figure 1).
  2. Secondly, it scores a school’s level of social, intellectual and organisational capital. This is termed the School Capital Index.
  3. Thirdly, it provides information on the overall level of organisational alignment or coherence. This is termed the School Alignment Index.

1. Comparative feedback

Staff, parents and students provide individual perspective on the Elements of the RBF, namely: School Successes and Achievements; Strategic Foundations; Community Cohesiveness; Pedagogical Development and Deepening; Generative Resource Design; and Holistic Professional Learning. The quantitative analysis provided by the LRI of the University of Southern Queensland provides summary means and standard deviations for each of the Inventory items and the contributory elements as a whole – for each of staff, parents, and students, and overall (See example below).


Note that the student and parent section excludes the collection of information on the Holistic Professional Learning element and also excludes selected items answered by Staff.

Figure 1: Research-Based Framework for Organisational Alignment (RBF)



2. Index of School Alignment

An institution is like a tune; it is not constituted by individual sounds but by the relations between them (Peter Drucker, 1946, p. 26).

Peter Drucker’s use of a music metaphor to help us understand highly successful organisations raises a number of questions for schools as they confront demands to increase their effectiveness and to sustain significant successes that they achieve. In particular, if a successful educational institution is likened to a piece of music, what are the individual “sounds” that comprise the musical piece and how can they be brought into “tunefulness”, “coherence”, or “alignment”?

We assert that alignment is the deliberate linking of the key features of the school so as to best serve the purposes of the school as a dynamic educational environment. That is, the creation of meaningful alignments between school vision, community input, classroom practices, physical infrastructure, and professional learning. Alignment is enabled by administrators and teachers developing each of the six elements of the RBF and bringing them into a philosophically consistent connection with each other. Thus the foundations are laid for teachers to engage collectively and creatively in pursuit of heightened aspirations, through resourcing and schoolwide pedagogical processes.

Based on an analysis of authoritative contributions from educational organisational research, the following definition of alignment has been developed to guide schools:

Alignment (tunefulness) in schools occurs when each of the five key, or “contributory”, elements (i.e. the sounds) of the school is developed comprehensively, when the five elements are philosophically congruous (i.e. in harmony) and when they are implemented so as to be mutually re-enforcing in the school’s (orchestral) practices. REFERENCE

Our research tells us that schools that are characterised by high levels of alignment, or tunefulness of their contributory elements will be better placed to achieve outcomes that reflect their aspirational goals. That is, using Drucker’s musical metaphor, they will have the conditions in place to create rhapsodic music – high levels of student achievement, teachers’ sense of professional well-being, community support and embedded processes for sustaining success.

The Index of School Alignment (Figure 2) depicts the develop-mental depth (on a scale of 1-5) of each of the six elements of the RBF and the developmental relativity in relation to one another.

Figure 2: Index of School Alignment



3. Index of School Capital

The Index of School Capital derives from a combination of a number of ‘capital’ models of school capacity building. They include Hargreaves’ (2001) notion of enhancement of outcomes partially achieved through ‘leverages’, namely, intellectual capital (what teachers know and do) and social capital (the school’s capacity to generate trust and sustain both internal and external networks). The notion of organisational capital is taken from Mitchell and Sackney (2000) and Hopkins and Jackson (2003) and its definition further defined from our own research (Andrews et al., 2009; Andrews et al., 2012).

Social Capital

Social capital describes professional relationships of trust and respect, dynamics within parallel leadership and in student well-being. The underpinning concept is that of relationships. Our use of the term closely resembles Mulford (2007) who asserts that in successful processes of capacity building three types of social capital are created, namely, bonding (which occurs among colleagues), bridging (which occurs between schools) and linking (which occurs between the school and its community).

Intellectual Capital

Intellectual capital describes a combination of: the creation of a school vision, identification of a school’s underpinning values, the conceptualisation and articulation of a schoolwide pedagogy, insights about school improvement processes, and student academic achievement across learning areas.

Organisational Capital

Organisational capital describes a combination of procedures for shared school planning, linkages internally and to external networks, organisation of time and space, use of technologies, curriculum design, and school aesthetics. The term organisational capital has been coined to describe intentional design, those structural organisational arrangements that Harris et al. (2003) assert generate associated synergies, interdependence and efficiencies.

Each item of the DISA is assigned to one of the three capitals – social, intellectual or organisational. The Index of School Capital indicates a value (for each capital) that is calculated by averaging the summary means for all items that are attributed to the respective capitals. The example (Figure 3) depicts the Index of School Capital from the combined perspective of the three audiences.

Figure 3: Index of School Capital




Andrews, D., Abawi, L., Conway, J., Dawson, M., Lewis, M., O'Neill, S., Petersen, S., & Associates. (2009). A research report on the implementation of the IDEAS Project in Victoria, 2004-2008. Leadership Research International (LRI), USQ: Toowoomba.

Andrews, D., Crowther, F., Morgan, A., & O'Neill, S. (2012). The Effectiveness of the IDEAS Project in Sydney CEO - A research report. Leadership Research International (LRI), USQ: Toowoomba.

Drucker, P. (1946). Concept of the organization (revised ed.). New York: John Day Co.

Hargreaves, D. (2001). A capital theory of school effectiveness and improvement. British Educational Research Journal, 27(4), 487-503.

Harris, A., Day, C., Hadfield, M., Hopkins, D., Hargreaves, A., & Chapman, C. (2003). Effective Leadership for School Improvement. London: RoutledgeFalmer.

Hopkins, D., & Jackson, D. (2003). Building the capacity for leading and learning. In A. Harris, C. Day, D. Hopkins, M. Hadfield, A. Hargreaves & C. Chapman (Eds.), Effective leadership for school improvement (pp. 84-104). New York: RoutledgeFalmer.

Mitchell, C., & Sackney, L. (2000). Profound improvement: Building capacity for a learning community. Lisse, Netherlands: Swets & Zeitlinger.

Mulford, B. (2007). Building social capital in professional learning communities: Importance, challenges and a way forward. In L. Stoll & K. S. Louis (Eds.), Professional learning communities: Divergence, depth and dilemmas (pp. 166-180). London: Open University Press and McGraw Hill.


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