To Change a Culture

I am consistently drawn to and inspired by the work of Fullan, and I also follow Senge and Kotter who essentially all look at ways to build momentum for change through intrinsic motivation. Fullan’s approach is very concise and often written for educators,  making it highly accessible. What I connect with in their writing is the relationship between organizational change culture and how we as leaders practice what we believe.

Our organizational culture starts with our values which is represented in our rituals. If we seek a culture shift, we cannot do it through policy alone, especially if that shift is intended to build a culture of self-directed, intrinsically motivated learners. If we try to do it through policy, we contradict the very core values we claim to have and and want to see in our classrooms. We can only realize a culture shift by living the same core values we wish to see everywhere in our schools.

The implications for school leaders are that we must look at change very differently. We must set up the framework and trust our faculty to aim, achieve, and reflect in their own self-directed, intrinsically-motivated drive to personalize learning. There are quite a few different approaches to this, all of which require what Peter Senge calls the “enthusiasm and willingness to commit”. Without this you will wind up with negative feedback cycles that ultimately undermine any effort you make to change a culture.

At the AISC, we have recognized that this is a very long process that starts with a strategic plan and vision and continues with ongoing strategic conversations at all levels related to that mission. These happen in innovation and implementation teams around the school with teacher leaders who are trusted to pursue the end results of our plan with guidance from our school leaders. These teachers become leaders themselves, build a volunteer team, and face some of the same challenges that our school leaders face. The trick here is to make this a net positive experience for everyone involved through the acquisition of learning capabilities, leadership skills, credibility and influence among peers, and other personal and professional gains. This essentially creates a sanctioned ground-swell of interest in change that will hopefully turn the tide of culture.

The main driver here then is that the desire to transform learning that comes from within. Like anything else personal, which teaching most definitely is, nobody can force you to change beliefs, patterns, habits and values; that change must come from within each and every teacher. It must be intrinsic, just like the motivation to learn that we seek in each and every one of our learners.

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