Innovation provides an opportunity for leaders to shape culture

 

Sydney Harbour/Dennis Sparks

 

Culture trumps innovation. But that doesn’t mean that leaders must wait until the culture is “right” before they introduce innovations.

Because school culture is often invisible to those who work within it, innovations often reveal cultural features that interfere with the continuous improvement of teaching and learning for the benefit of all students.

For instance, an innovation based on a growth mindset that stipulates that ability is like a muscle that can be developed through effort may arrive in a culture that believes that intelligence is a fixed commodity that is either present or absent in students. Or, the introduction of professional learning communities may reveal low levels of trust among teachers or between teachers and administrators.

When innovation brings particular aspects of the school culture into sharper focus, leaders can describe the cultural features they observe, share assumptions regarding the effects of those features on teaching and student learning, and engage the community in relevant professional learning or other appropriate activities intended to shape the culture in a positive direction.

In the hands of skillful leaders innovations can serve as tools that not only improve teaching and learning but enable the culture to shift in ways that sustain and deepen those innovations over many months and years.

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