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learning space

March 17, 2013

We’ve been planning an open night this Wednesday March 20 to showcase new buildings/ learning environment, and I wondered about the impression created by the design features of our general learning areas and office spaces. Here’s a walk through:

art work beside front gates

front office entry

corner detail

front office interior looking out

Office exterior

Interior teacher work area

Passageway linking learning area to office

Entryway to classrooms

walkway from library

classrooms exterior

New buildings

front entry from the side

Pride in place is a force shaping any school’s culture. Sensory impacts on learning have also been studied, and found to affect academic progress.

If the debate we held on renaming our school in year 10 English last week is anything to go by, proposals to change are bound by a strong sense of community pride. Our students say their school is cool; their uniform also inspires fierce protective urges, and newcomers, like me, are subjected to considered scrutiny before being accepted as one of us.

Culture, then, is powerful. Since unique school communities have the potential to support, ignore or undermine student learning, leaders’ roles necessitate development of a strong, supportive culture focused on improving students’ learning opportunities. Key features of culture include its critical, implicit nature, and an associated difficulty of asserting change.

In the school context, culture emerges in the expression of daily shared understanding of values, beliefs, rules, routines, rituals and traditions; these shared belief systems

are transmitted from generation to generation through learning (Bates and Plog, 1990, p. 7).

From my experience in diverse and new school contexts, I understand that time is needed to

learn and appreciate the existing culture before questioning it.  This rule applies to principals too (Fullan & Hargreaves, 1996, p. 76-7).

Through the process of building collaborative structures, and embedding a willingness to be authentic, or to be known, effective leaders ensure that a mutually beneficial and sustainable culture of learning emerges (Beatty, 2005).

Strategies to steer by:

  • listen to people and learn from their stories about place and meaning
  • observe how things are done around here
  • commit to improved learning with all stakeholders
  • share honest feedback

Attention to details yields the means by which school culture is illuminated, staff and students are valued, control is distributed, and unique visions shared rather than imposed (Fullan & Hargreaves, 1996).

Selected references

Bates, D. & Plog, F. (1990). Cultural Anthropology. New York; McGraw Hill.

Beatty, B. (2005). Emotional Leadership In B. Davies (Ed.). The essentials of school leadership (pp. 122-144). London: Corwin Press.

Fullan, M. & Hargreaves, A. (1996). What’s worth fighting for in your school? Second Edition. New York: Teachers College Press.

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