It seems that a lazy long weekend gives enough time to chase down a rabbit hole or two. Each day I receive an update from Medium, a community of readers and writers offering unique perspectives on ideas large and small. Of course, as with most of these things, we sign up with good intentions, but there is often little time to follow through.
This morning, I had the time and stumbled across a series of letters between two education leaders, Dominic A.A.Randolph is the Head of Riverdale Country School, a PreK-12 independent school in New York City and Max Ventilla is the CEO and founder of AltSchool.
Medium published an insightful interchange between Dominic and Max from December 2015 discussed:
Reimagining school (summing up from Dominic)
In the final letter Dominic outlined four themes: (1) the changing UX of schools, (2) zen learning, (3) students are more than two numbers and…
(4) developing a science of school culture: People talk about the effect of a leader on a school environment or the way a particular class is difficult, but where is the science of the culture of schools?
Culture. It’s the thing that makes or breaks any organisation, any school. Drucker is famously attributed with saying “culture eats strategy for breakfast”, when in reality, “culture eats everything for breakfast”.
Your school may have outstanding practitioners, out-of-this-world technology, a comprehensive five-year strategy, but unless the culture changes is carefully strategised and comprehensively led, humans will default to the known and to the comfortable. As Dominic says in the final letter:
I think we agree that we need to focus less on the scores and on the individual within the school environment and more on the culture of schools and how we can all play a part in making the culture of schools more dynamic, more engaging, and just a better place to learn.
To change the culture we need to look at its composition. Earlier this week I came across a paper by Haworth, How to create a successful organisational culture: Build it – Literally. The culture of our school or organisation is seen in its:
Values: What we do, our mission and what’s important to us
Assumptions: Our attitudes, often unconscious, formed through our processes and actions and inform what our people think
Artifacts: The tangible examples of what represents us – uniform/dress code, location, architecture, technologies
Our big idea might be: “We just want a better place to learn” or “An engaged community”
Start with the three As of culture change:
- Articulate and embody your values
- What really matters in reaching your big idea?
- Is everyone on-board?
- Address assumptions and attitudes that are not in line with your values
- Professional learning strategy
- Modelling and reinforcing desired behaviour
- Policies and processes that support the big idea
- Filtering policies and processes through the agreed values
- Audit your artifacts:
- Does the built environment support the big idea?
- Is there a reliance on textbooks?
- Furniture, and its arrangement, matters
If these are the ‘what’ to facilitate culture change, then we also need to look at the ‘how’. That’s a new rabbit-hole I’ve been exploring: Competing Values Framework.