Friday, May 13, 2011
3 Pillars to Uphold a Student-Centered Culture
Developing a student-centered culture in your school and among your teachers is a key component to nurturing high achievement. Effective schools recognize this, but can get stuck in the conversation about how to promote such an environment. The hard part for me has not been KNOWING this, but TRANSFORMING these beliefs into practice.
As we plan for the next school year and begin to introduce the underlying foundations for our faculty conversations, I offer these three “pillars” for upholding a student-centers culture. Each pillar is described in terms of a relevant resource for you to use as the backdrop to your conversations.
Every school at which I have worked has grappled with the issue of student motivation. Face it, at some point all teachers are confronted with the challenge of coming up with new and innovative ways to motivate students. Daniel Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us tells us about how external motivators often serve to lower productivity when we are engaged in activities beyond simple mechanical functions. Pink writes of an internal motivation that leads to greater innovation and problem solving by focusing on autonomy, mastery, and direction.
For schools, this is a great read to spur discussion and reflection on how students are motivated in your school and how your own system may actually be working against you.
The very nature of education is about change. As students move through school, they are faced with many opportunities to grow academically, ethically, morally, intellectually, physically, etc. We also observe students who are fixated on results rather than the process and effort necessary to achieve the results they desire. In our schools, we need to remember that encouraging effort and recognizing growth is often as important (or more important) than the final result.
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck presents the argument that talent and ability combined with effort and the belief that we are able to make significant changes creates a growth mindset more conducive to lifelong learning and resilience. For schools, this is a great place to begin examining your own culture's mindset. Does your school have a fixed or growth mindset? This book will help you decide and how to begin making the changes you seek to make.
One of the key factors of student achievement is the relationship developed between student and teacher. The foundation of any effective relationship is the quality of communication between the parties involved. On the other hand, one of the more anxiety inducing situations for teachers is the difficult communications that can sometimes come up with students and their parents. Entering into these difficult conversations from a learning angle instead of a defensive position builds the foundation for productive communication.
In Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most, Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen guide us through a number of difficult conversations while revealing tips and suggestions about how to transform these tough situations into learning conversations. Ultimately, the anxiety that arises from these situations may not actually go away, but we are left with a skill set to put these conversations in a more productive context.
Motivated, growth oriented, students who are the center of productive learning conversations are usually the result of motivated, growth oriented schools that enter into essential learning conversations with their teachers, administrators, and families. The three pillars described here may help provide some clarity and inspiration for your own plans for the rest of this year and moving forward into next.