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Tool: School culture, the purposes of schooling and induction

Purpose of the tool: This tool was designed to stimulate thinking about the purposes of schooling, aiming to build a school culture devoted to student and teacher learning.

This exercise can create spirited discourse about what your school's vision can and should become. Complete the exercise below, thinking deeply about schooling. Then begin looking for instances that support or refute what you believe.

How to use this tool: Ask faculty and staff to complete the same exercise. Engage a high school student or volunteer to compile the data. That might give you the goods for a powerful faculty meeting and a good way to bring beginning teachers on board.

Weigh and rate the purposes of schooling. Feel free to add to the list. Spend a few silent minutes in self-talk. Push yourself to give examples.

Encourage adults in your community join this conversation. When trust has been built, include aspects of the school culture that you do not admire. 

So what are schools for anyway?

We live in a very complicated world!  The challenges associated with building leadership and fostering the development of a professional learning community have never been greater! Has anyone ever asked you the big question, “So what are schools for anyway?” How would you answer?

Weigh each of the following (Plug in the other functions as they occur to you).  Then rank order them in terms of their importance:

  • Academic outcomes
  • Personal responsibility
  • Social responsibility
  • Social justice        

Academic outcomes. Of course, given the Information Age, it has become impossible to know all that is needed to function effectively in contemporary society. Students must learn how to use multiple sources of information—and determine their credibility. When academic outcomes are perceived as a priority, knowledge is viewed as liberating and people who acquire it begin to see with their own eyes and judge for themselves.

Personal responsibility. Specific remedies for student behavioral problems are conditional at best. Schools that are developing personal responsibility as a goal encourage students to become active participants in a community of learning and to assume responsibility for their own learning.

Social responsibility. When social responsibility is identified as a priority, attention is given to the creation of open, safe and active environments. Priority is given to assuring that all members of the learning community are treated fairly and equitably in areas of conduct and student achievement. Schools with social responsibility as a priority focus on collaboration rather than competition.

Social justice. When attention is given to social justice, fairness and equity are evident in student behavior and achievement. Members of the learning community go out of their way to carry out the democratic process. The school functions as an open society, and students are encouraged to be active participants in governance and due process initiatives. 

Reference: Schwab, J.J. (1978). The practical: A language for curriculum. In Westbury, I., & Wilkof, N.J. (Eds.) Science, curriculum, and liberal education. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.