A learning-centered organization, as defined by the Learning Organization Framework, identifies a learning-centered culture as one of the three critical components for leading systemic, transformational change. A learning-centered culture provides a safe, supportive, and inclusive environment that is reflective of your school's purpose. While all members of the school community play a role in establishing and maintaining this type of culture, the actions of school leaders often have the largest overall impact because of the strong influence their decisions and interactions can have on the school culture experience for both staff and students.
NTN believes that leaders must work to intentionally create this kind of culture for their staff and students, guided by these three areas of focus:
- Leaders establish a warm and caring environment for students and adults. For a learning-centered culture to exist, all learners must feel cared for and supported. This creates the psychological safety necessary for learners to take academic risks, to share new ideas, and to give and receive constructive feedback. Leaders take a primary role in ensuring that this type of environment exists for both adults and students through the policies that they create, the practices they put into place, and the types of support that they provide.
- Leaders reinforce high expectations for each learner. Leaders must ensure that each adult and student learner is held to, and supported through, high expectations for growth. This starts with maintaining an assets-based mindset (Culture Practices Card #3), for and amongst staff and students. Along with the belief that adults and students can meet high expectations, those expectations must be made clear and proper support must be provided. Leaders can do this by making sure that everyone understands what is expected of them in their role, that everyone is able to access support when needed, and that they believe in their ability to be successful.
- Leaders regularly examine their school culture for improvement opportunities. For a learning-centered culture to exist for each student and adult, leaders must be willing to regularly examine the ways in which the culture is being experienced by each member of the school community. Processes for gathering and analyzing data through surveys, focus groups, and observations are essential to ensuring that each student and adult truly feels safe, supported, and included as a valuable member of the community.