re-lensing learning 3

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.
— R. Buckminster Fuller

There are too many learning cultures in our school There is a lack of coherence

Your school has a clear culture around learning. However, it was developed quite a while ago and lots of things have been added to it willy-nilly. With research and new ways of learning becoming more popular, you are not sure what is still relevant and what is not. There are mixed messages. Teachers are well embedded in their way of doing things. Your teachers have the go-to strategies that they know work. In many cases, teachers are aware and are able to speak about, various learning strategies, but they operate primarily with the one they know best.
Frequently, there is a learning gap for your teachers from theory to action that needs attention and support. However, what that looks like exactly is unclear.
The way schools approach solving this problem is to run a whole school Professional Development. Possibly get a specialist in. What schools often fail to do is to take the time to really understand where the gaps are.  To gain clarity and coherence. Create a true vision of learning for a future state in the school.
Therefore, schools are unable to unpack - exactly - how to meet the learning needs of the learners - who are in this case the teachers.
Compounding this approach is the usual process of change management.
A process where change is implemented from the top down. Such a change process is hierarchical and often leads to the following issues:

  • Initiative fatigue (overload)
  • Ad hoc projects
  • Arbitrary top-down policies
  • Compliance-oriented bureaucratization
  • Silos and fiefdoms everywhere
  • Confusion
  • Distrust and demoralization

The solution requires the individual and collective ability to build shared meaning, capacity, and commitment to action.

Fullan (2016) identifies four drivers of change that result in the above situation. The more system leaders try to correct a problem, the worse it gets. At the top of the list of negative change drivers, are punitive accountability. You don’t get coherence by imposing diktats.
Then there are decision-makers who use individualistic strategies—let’s attract and reward better teachers, better school principals, and so on.  An everyone is replaceable, “shape up or ship out” attitude.
Again, this is not a solution to the problem experienced around change or lack of traction schools are getting with respect to their change initiatives.

The third wrong driver that needs to be recast is technology. Historically, technology as a solution can be summed up in one word —acquisition. The tacit assumption is that if you want to be progressive, buy more digital devices.

However, if you want to add to the confusion, layer on a bunch of technology.

The final bad driver is ad hoc policies. Politicians try to solve problems one at a time or simultaneously through separate initiatives. Let’s call this the silo problem. One part addresses teachers, another administrators, still another technology, curriculum, standards, and so on. I have seen this happen on numerous occasions as a derived solution to an identified problem. The questions get asked, “what does the policy say about this?" or "do we have a policy to address this issue?" 
Where the answer is no, then one is written or an existing one is amended.

The take home from all of this -  if you want to change a group, an organization, or a system, you actually have to focus on the culture as well as the individuals within it.

So with that in mind, Fullan has identified the 4 drivers of change that makeup what he calls the Coherence Framework. All parts work in conjunction with the each other to enable sustainable change.

  • Focusing direction
  • Cultivating collaborative cultures
  • Deepen learning
  • Securing accountability

Over the next few weeks, I will be exploring the elements of Focusing direction and cultivating collaborative cultures as part of Alfriston Schools' journey to Re-Lense Learning and Empower Sustainable learning cultures as they look to shift pedagogy and deepen learning.



Fullan, Michael. Coherence: The Right Drivers in Action for Schools, Districts, and Systems. SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.


It starts with establishing coherence and clarity - developed through common experiences, involving contribution by all members of a department through purposeful interaction. Working on a common agenda, identifying and consolidating what is working and making meaning over time.

Empower sustainable learning cultures is a program for leadership teams who want support to unpack their schools learning culture. 
It is focused on moving your schools learning culture from - told about it to grow it. Together we are able to:

  • Bring clarity to the journey for teachers and leaders in your school to make a change
  • Execute next steps to deepen/elevate the learning and engagement of 21-Century learning skills and dispositions in learners.
  • Excite leading-edge learning, and strengthen your foundations to grow pedagogy and sustain change.

The process requires a minimum of 3 sessions where we work through a process of Discover, Dream and Design for future learning direction.

Tabitha Leonard