The theme of the recent PDN Principals conference was Influence and it aimed to provide a rich and rewarding exchange of ideas and possibilities; arousing intellectual curiosity with world class researchers and speakers that included Emeritus Professor Christopher Day, Dr John Edwards, and Andrew Griffiths.
In keeping with the theme, the title of my keynote was Influencing a Learning Culture. I shared the five things that I believe have the biggest impact on influencing a learning culture. In summary,
1. Create a shared vision.
In creating a vision I’m not talking about a generic vision statement here, not something that looks exactly like every other school in the world that says something about innovation, differentiation, personalized learning and independent learners, I’m talking about a collaboratively constructed, shared vision for the future of learning.
2. Shift from passive to active.
Shift the notion that professional learning is something that is done to you as opposed to something that you do for yourself. Implement the concept of a learning project.
3. Provide permission.
People need to know that innovation isn’t about devaluaing anyone’s work. Innovation isn’t necessarily a deficit statement. Being innovative however requires us to step outside of the normal and suspend our biases. Suspending our biases allows us to develop a capacity to disassociate from the way things have always been done. By developing this capacity we give ourselves permission to innovate.
4. Make your default “yes”.
As a leader make your default answer “yes.” Say “yes” to everything. Encourage all ideas. Even the ridiculous ones. If you really want to create an environment that allows for innovation, big innovation is right on the edge of ridiculous ideas. That means you support every single idea that comes to you from your teaching staff – ask them to try their ideas, to evaluate it, to refine it and then to share it widely.
5. Tell people they’re awesome.
Teachers have one of the most important jobs in the world and many if not all of them work so hard, day in day out, often working late into the night every night, trying to create the most memorable learning experiences that they can for kids.
To positively influence a learning culture you need to constantly thank people for their work. Leave handwritten notes on their desks. Share their work widely. Celebrate successes loudly no matter how small they may be.
I love sharing at conferences like this one. Of course, what works in one context may not work in another, but I believe these five things are the building blocks for creating a thriving teaching and learning culture in any school.
Get in touch if you would like to find out more!