Cultivating a REAL Culture of Learning

Whatever your rules, expectations, class treaty, school values, home learning values etc are they only work if EVERYONE lives and breathes them right? Anyone can make a poster for the wall, give out a reward or say it’s what we do but unless it becomes an ingrained habit then it’s just ‘another thing’ rather than ‘the way’ or ‘what we do and who we are’.

We call it culture, it’s not something you do but something you live, someone you are. This applies to the classroom and the home. We must build a true culture of learning, not just a bunch of things that we do.

I’ll give you the example that I see quite often. Many teachers think they are already “giving” good agency/choice to learners but in reality it is a thing they do at a particular time when it suits them. They might think they have a good culture of self management but in reality having a choice board for reading is just a ‘thing’ that is done at that particular time of the day.

To really live and breathe learner agency we must do two things

  • Explicitly teach the needed skills. Not just provide learning in a way once a day that gives some choice. Without the skills to understand what strengths and needs a learner has they are unable to truly self manage their choices and are really just making a choice based on what the teacher says must be done first and/or what they enjoy or what their mates are doing. This is the theory behind Ditch the Tumble – let’s give them the tools so they truly manage their learning.
  • Ensure rules, expectations and routines are in line with the value of agency. This means rethinking rules about asking permission for things like going to the toilet, using resources and seating choice. What does it say to a learner if we are expecting them to manage themselves but still ask the teacher to go to the toilet or use pen vs pencil?

Creating a culture of learning is just this. Creating an environment where it’s the learning that is celebrated, the mistakes that led to learning, and the improvement of learning. The process is where the learning happens, the learning is not in the answer or the product. Process not product. Journey not the destination.

How often do you ask your class/children a question only to stop when you get the “right” answer? How often do you focus on getting a piece of writing or art finished so it can go on the wall? How often do you look if all the boxes have been filled in on a worksheet? This is all focusing on the product or the destination.

Instead try to keep the discussion going past the right answer, to explore further, critique ideas, multiple ideas. Try to celebrate the mistakes that have been made and learnt from, the spelling errors that have been identified, the learning that has been transferred, the factors that allowed 1/2 of the worksheet to be completed when last week it was only 1/4. Focus on the process, the journey.

Karen Tui Boyes goes into the idea of classroom culture more in our spotlight on just that. It’s really the little things that all add up. She gives lots of tips and shares ideas that make you realise the true meaning of teaching and learning. If you aren’t a member yet, take a look here to get started.