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Creating a Culture of Learning

February 12, 2017


Most schools put student learning on full display. Well crafted bulletin boards hang outside proud elementary teachers' classrooms like the prominent billboards promoting exceptional products along the busy highway. Even in most middle schools and high schools you can find a section of the trophy case dedicated to academics. Some select few may even go the extra mile to showcase student work outside the four walls of the school and in the community somehow. Putting student work on display is great way recognize and honor the student as a learner. 


While I believe putting student work on display is a positive way to build school culture, we often only see the final product. We rarely get to see the process or growth in learning that was achieved in completing that final product. This can be deceiving for those outsiders who get to enjoy the product on display.


  • What kind of feedback did the student receive in order to make improvements?

  • How many changes/adjustments did they make before coming to this final product?

  • What were the "hurdles" the student was presented with? How did they overcome them?

  • What new methods or skills did they try that they haven't tried before?


These would all make for good reflection questions for the students, but what kind of benefit would it be for students to put that reflection on display as well? That way we can see the process as well as the product


And while all of this is something to consider to build a positive, growth mindset culture for students...


What about Educators?


The image above was taken at MFL MarMac middle school in northeast Iowa. I have the privilege to work directly with them in various ways through my role as an educational consultant at Keystone AEA. They are a school that has adopted the Personalized PD model that gives their educators (teachers AND administrators) the autonomy to direct their learning for the sake of positive effects on learner outcomes. This also leads to Professionally Driven educators.


While I'm use to seeing student learning put on display (or at least the final product of that learning) and keep walking as I glance, the TV monitor displaying educators and THEIR learning in the main entrance at MFL MarMac middle school made me stop immediately...and smile. I can't recall ever walking into a building and seeing educators being showcased. I don't want to say it never happens anywhere, but no building that I've walked into. Maybe a plaque honoring an educator that has received some kind of award, but nothing that recognizes an educator and where they are in the process of their own learning. 


MFL MarMac's Personalized PD website that houses everything the educators need for their journey. 


MFL MarMac's analogy for their Personalized PD is "Learning is a journey." The idea of a road trip is used to emphasize this. This is why you see the educators holding up their Research license plates to indicate they have completed the Research Phase of their learning journey. The educators may do whatever they wish with their license plate. Some choose to put it on display in their own classroom. I overhead one educator who said she hung it up in the front of her classroom. She had some students ask her about it. She said it lead to a good conversation about how educators are learners too. Again...I smiled. 


Final Thoughts


What kind of culture do we create when we... 

  • put student learning on display? 

  • show a student's progress along with their final product?

  • put educator learning on display?

  • show an educator's learning process for students to see?

I argue, we create a culture of learning focused on growth for all. 


Jarod Bormann



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