A reveiw of Culture Re-Booot: Reinvigorating school culture to improve student outcomes by Leslie Kaplan and William Owings, Corwin, 2013. ISSN: 9781452217321
What can principals and teachers do to generate collective action and transform school culture in efforts to improve student achievement? How can the collective capacity of leadership teams revitalize well-established instructional and leadership practices and learning processes?
Using the analogy of re-booting a computer or application to start afresh, experienced instructional leaders Kaplan and Owings argue that the school environment is an established culture undergoing rapid social and technological change, and that a culture re-boot is possible through transformation of all parts of the interconnected system. Re-boot is defined as “rethinking, redesigning, and enacting new practices in leadership, teaching, ethics and relationships. It means readjusting the student learning environment, working with parents and community in ways that reshape the school culture, and restarting a cycle of positive dynamics that result in improved student outcomes.”
Each chapter begins with focus questions, followed by a discussion of topics with practical action-oriented strategies for developing collaborative school cultures. Relevant research and additional resources complement each chapter. The first chapter provides the framework for understanding the complexity of school culture and change, including the characteristics of a learning organization. The next five chapters are organized around elements of school culture necessary for school improvement: school leadership; ethical behaviour and relational trust; professional capacity for shared influence; a student-centred learning culture; and strong parent-community ties. An entire chapter is devoted to improving relationships with parents in culturally diverse communities and developing school-community partnerships to benefit student learning. The final chapter presents a road map for a five-year plan of action for redesigning school culture.
Despite the authors’ narrow view of technology as a tool to facilitate personalized learning, and the limited discussion of the implications of the digital age on instructional leadership and culture transformation, this is an excellent handbook offering practical strategies for school leadership teams to collaboratively initiate, enact and sustain a culture re-boot.
First published in Education Canada, September 2013