Empower Sustainable Learning Cultures

Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast
— Peter Drucker

When I was at school - in art, we studied different artists and looked at their different styles. Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet were amongst the artists that caught my attention.

The way I see it, the learning culture of a school is like a painting. An intricate portrait of many layers  - weaving together to create an elaborately detailed picture of learning. Only when there has been time committed to the building and forming of a learning culture picture can it be the best it can be.

When an artist paints a picture, the artist approaches the task by carefully planning and designing the layers of the painting that will give the final picture depth, intricate detail and clarity. Each layer is carefully designed and constructed with great care to detail.
The learning culture in your school is like that painting.

The learning culture of a school may have been painted carefully by a team of teachers or leaders at its inception - but how long ago was that?
The picture portraying your school's learning culture may have experienced some touch ups - additions to the original image - that makes it a bit patchy and disjointed. It could be that new teams have just painted over the old picture and started to paint a new one over the top. But the old painting still shows through in places. These touch-ups are what happens to the image of a schools learning culture when change is implemented from the top down. New pedagogical practices are brought in without taking care of the learning culture painting.
As a well-established school, you have had best practice in education shift on you so often that there has been a patchwork of PD and there is patchy, non-integrated practice happening. - some are good, and some aren’t. The learning culture has experienced a patchwork of touch-ups.
There are so many options for what and how learning should - could -  look, and it becomes somewhat overwhelming.
And now you are looking down the barrel of even more change.
If you want to develop firm foundations to be able to leverage new learning design and pedagogies to facilitate 21C attitudes and dispositions, you need to build team capability through collaboration and contribution to a shared vision. It starts with establishing coherence and clarity - developed through shared experiences, involving participation by all members of an organisation through purposeful interaction. Working on a common agenda, identifying and consolidating what is working and making meaning over time. Designing and developing the intricate layers of a learning culture. A learning culture is more than what is encompassed in a teaching charter or a learner profile.
Imagine if you will - a schools learning culture being like the most intricately beautiful painting on the Planet.
Here are the layers of a learning culture painting:

  1. The critical elements of a schools learning culture - identified and built by the Leaders and teachers of the school - together.
  2. Clarity of these essential elements and a language of learning for all learners and learning.
  3. Development of a deeper understanding of teacher actions that grow the learning elements for the learners in the school (students, teachers, leaders and parents)
  4. The connection of attitudes and dispositions that are needed to develop learner agency.
  5. The design of learning for students and how that looks within the vision of the learning culture.

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing snippets of this exact journey. Together, Leaders, staff and I - at Alfriston School have been unpacking and building a re-lensed learning culture to empower sustainable learning cultures and deepen learning.


Tabitha Leonard