A high-performance culture comprises all we do to make real the promise of an excellent 21C education – it is “the culture work”. This is a confluence of process and product towards a desired set of results that exceed that which has come before. It is most successfully constructed within the formal and informal structures of an evidence-based community of inquiry and practice.
In this, we see people coming together to ask important questions about what is being done and the purpose to which these actions are put. Evidence of the lived experience and the learning that emerges must be collected. Routine habits of research and development – hypothesising “what if?”, experimentation, data collection, analysis, proposition, debate, the exercise of creative and critical thinking – become part of “the way we do things here”.
The object of such a culture requires us to demand something better than simply maintaining a default position of preserving the status quo. Our society demands its citizens contribute on an ongoing basis to a market-place of ideas and exchange that treasures a combination of the old and the new but which at no point seems to hold itself in place or retreat to the past. Change readiness, therefore, is a natural and necessary part of the human condition, even though it challenges us constantly to review, reconsider, and adapt what we do even when we might prefer it otherwise. When change is natural and necessary, therefore, we need to do more than just grudgingly concede defeat. We need to embrace the opportunity to learn from what has happened and to grow and evolve. In this way, we might more successfully model both individually and organisationally those same competencies that we seek to teach to our students.
As part of this, we also need to ensure that we routinely and rigorously test the efficacy and relevance of what we do by measuring the impact of what we do, especially our impact on the learning of our students. If schools are going to remain fit for purpose in educating young people with good character, we need to know what is going on in them and to what effect our labour is being put. We can’t just assume that output will equal input and that all of the emotion and effort we put into the business of educating young people will be either well-directed and bear the fruit we wish it to. We need to evaluate the efficacy of our work and we need to know it is doing good. If not, then we need to be assiduous in finding new and better ways of doing things. We also need to ensure that what we do is not simply that which entertains, interests, and intrigues us – we must collaborate as novices and experts through the intimacy of a learning relationship that seeks to guide, encourage, teach, and sustain learners on their journey to acquire character and competency.
If schools are going to remain fit for purpose in educating young people with good character, we need to know what is going on in them and to what effect our labour is being put.
We argue, therefore, that high performance culture can be seen most particularly in “the work” of apprenticeship in a community of inquiry and practice dedicated towards the delivery of an excellent 21C education. The success of this shared pedagogy of apprenticeship can be recognised through the creation of the “secret sauce” of aspiration, kinship, and pathways to success and their application to a climate of inspiration, challenge, and support. This climate should foster both the pursuit of excellence by young people of character and their sense of belonging to and engagement in a school that keeps them in their groove and holds them to an educational purpose of the attainment of graduate outcomes based on 21C civic, performance, and moral character and related holistic competencies that point to what students know, can do, are disposed towards, and can reflect on. We recognise “the culture work” in terms of:
Process: High performance in practice can be witnessed by the continuing growth of staff in their teaching, learning, and leadership.
Product: High performance in product can be measured according to school culture and climate, leadership of the educational program, teacher effectiveness in growing the whole person, student educational experience and outcomes, strategic and operational alignment, and teacher professionalism in a community of inquiry and practice.
Personal attributes: High performance character can be demonstrated in habits that are shared within and contribute to a culture that seeks answers to important questions related to:
Self: who are we?
Relationship: Where do we fit in?
Service: How do we best serve others?
Commitment: Whose are we?
Public Standing: High performance in a community of inquiry and practice can be warranted through evidence of the frequency, rate, quality, and consistency of professional competency, relationships, commitment, and service through teaching, learning, and leadership
High-performance culture in a whole education is about a commitment to growth and change in a community of inquiry and practice that is dedicated to improving outcomes for all of its learners.