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This ASCD Study Guide is designed to enhance your understanding and application of the information contained in How to Create a Culture of Achievement in Your School and Classroom, an ASCD book written by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and Ian Pumpian and published in May 2012.
You can use the study guide before or after you have read the book, or as you finish each chapter. The study questions provided are not meant to cover all aspects of the book, but, rather, to address specific ideas that might warrant further reflection.
Most of the questions contained in this study guide are ones you can think about on your own, but you might consider pairing with a colleague or forming a study group with others who have read (or are reading) How to Create a Culture of Achievement in Your School and Classroom.
- Consider the culture of your school. What's working and what needs to be changed? Talk with others at your school about the culture as they experience it.
- What is the mission and vision of your school? Who developed the mission and vision and do they reflect the current priorities of the faculty, staff, students, and administration?
- Review figure i.1. Are each of the below-the-surface elements available for evaluation?
- Review figure i.1 again. Are the above-the-surface elements in place such that a culture of achievement can be created?
Chapter 1: Creating Culture in Schools
- Consider the list of five factors of educational engagement near the beginning of the chapter. Do these represent your beliefs and those of your colleagues? Would you add anything to this list?
- The interaction between a teacher and a leader that is presented in the middle of the chapter suggests that agreements about quality are important in the feedback and coaching cycle. Discuss this with other people. Do you have a common understanding of quality?
- Use the Baldridge self-analysis (action research tool 1) to begin the assessment of your school. Which areas are strong and which areas need attention?
- If your mission does not reflect the current priorities of the faculty, staff, students, and administration, use action research tool 2 to update the mission.
- Begin a SWOT analysis, action research tool 3, and continue to update the SWOT as you discuss each of the pillars in the subsequent chapters.
Chapter 2: Welcome
- Invite a visitor to your school and ask this person to think about how he or she was greeted and whether the school had a welcoming atmosphere.
- Think about a recent visit to a store. Why did you select that store? Would you return to that store? Did the experience economy have any influence on your decision?
- Do students and families choose your school? If not, what could you do to change that? What experiences might people be having that reduce the likelihood that they choose your school? What experiences are people having that increase the likelihood that they choose your school?
- Is the attendance rate at your school acceptable? Have you considered the role of the welcome pillar in improving attendance? What specific steps could you take to improve the experience such that attendance increases?
- Review Maslow's Hierarchy of Need. Does your school meet those needs? Are some students not welcomed?
- Analyze the 10 organizational principals in the middle of the chapter. Which ones would be considered strengths at your school and which ones might require attention?
- Consider using the action research tools from the end of the chapter to determine the different ways that people experience the welcoming culture of the school.
Chapter 3: Do No Harm
- Discuss the Hippocratic origin of this pillar. What does it mean to you?
- What do people at your school believe about discipline? What polices work and which need updating?
- Consider the sample courtesy policy in figure 3.1. Would this work in your middle or high school? Should schools in the 21st Century assume responsibility for teaching students how to be respectful with their technology?
- Would Hallway TLC facilitate positive changes in your school's culture? How?
- Discuss the concept of restorative practice. Should students have to face their victims when they behave inappropriately? How can students be taught to face the people who harm them?
- Analyze your school's discipline policy and compare it with the school discipline window (figure 3.3). In general, is your school punitive, neglectful, permissive, or restorative? Is that approach working for the various stakeholders in the school?
- Attempt a restorative conference (using the bulleted list of questions under the heading "affective questions") with a low-stakes behavioral issue. How did the student respond? How did it make you feel?
- Schedule a circle conversation with a group of students. Start the conversation with a low-stakes issue and allow students to identity issues to discuss. Could this process be used to hold students accountable for their behavior? Did students share things that you needed to know to improve the culture or climate of the school? How did it make you feel?
- Consider using the action research tools from the end of the chapter to understand the experiences related to discipline at your school. What did you learn? What needs updating and what's working well?
Chapter 4: Choice Words
- What words do teachers at your school use to build students' identity and agency? Are there words used that block this development?
- What stories do the teachers at your school tell about themselves and their workplace? Are these stories healthy?
- Compare and contrast fixed and growth mindsets. What language do you hear that could result in a fixed mindset and what language do you hear that facilitates a growth mindset?
- Consider the categories identified by Peter Johnston in the section "How Language Affects Learning." Which of these are already in place in your school and which need to be developed?
- What role could language frames play in developing students' ownership of the curriculum and learning?
- Have you seen adults escalate a student's behavior? Discuss with the situation, without naming names, and how it could have been prevented.
- How many compliments did you receive today? How did those make you feel? How many compliments did you offer? Are more needed?
- Collect some data using the action research tools from this chapter and discuss the language that is used in your school with your colleagues. Analyze the strengths and needs of your school in terms of choice words.
Chapter 5: It's Never Too Late to Learn
- Discuss the idea of presumed competence. What does it mean and what implications could it have for schools?
- Quality teaching is a requirement in creating a culture of achievement. Are students at your school experiencing a high level of quality? How do you know? What are the agreements about quality teaching at your school?
- Use the descriptions of focus lessons, guided instruction, collaborative learning, and independent learning to analyze your own teaching and those of your peers. Which areas are strong and which areas could use additional attention?
- Do the teachers at your school grade competence or compliance?
- How might academic recovery be used to build students competence at your school?
- Administer the learning attitude survey (action research tool number 13) to your colleagues. What are the core beliefs at your school and what should be done about the data?
- Walk through the school using the classroom observation form (action research tool 14) to identify areas of strength and needs in terms of the instruction that students receive. Discuss the results with your peers and develop an action plan to address any identified needs.
Chapter 6: Best School in the Universe
- What are your first thoughts when you read or heard this pillar?
- What does it mean to be the best school in the universe? What would happen at such a school? Discuss the idea of being the best, not just in terms of student achievement, with your colleagues.
- Consider the conditions necessary to be the best. Discuss your thinking about each of the following aspects: the best place to work; the best place to teach; and the best place to learn.
- Think about service recovery. Have you experienced this in a retail environment? Have you experienced it in an educational environment? Would your school be a better place if service recovery were part of the culture?
- Use the school improvement process, action research tool 19, to determine which target group of students need additional attention. Discuss the findings from this planning process with your colleagues and revisit the plan at least monthly.
- Administer a climate survey developed by Hoy and colleagues (www.waynekhoy.com) to assess the openness of the school and the climate as teachers experience it.
- Update the SWOT analysis that was started in chapter 1. Discuss the SWOT analysis with colleagues and continue focusing on the culture of the school.
Chapter 7: Enacting the Culture of Achievement
- Discuss the idea of "regression to the mean" as it applies to schools. Has your school suffered from this phenomenon?
- Discuss the notion that change is fragile. Have you had experiences with failed change efforts? Did the 80:20 rule apply in that situation? How might a focus on changing the culture of school be different? What needs to be done to prevent the change from being temporary?
- How often do the teachers at your school have an opportunity to interact with each other as a group? Could something like a daily, standing meeting help?
- What types of staff recognition and celebrations are provided, and how often? Is this an area of need?
- What professional development is provided for teachers? Is the time available used well? What happens during the professional development time and is there an opportunity to see implementation of the professional development in practice through walk-throughs and coaching?
- What are the hiring practices in your school or district? Do they allow for the in-depth processing advocated by Studer?
How to Create a Culture of Achievement in Your School and Classroom was written by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and Ian Pumpian. This 225-page, 7" x 9" book (Stock #111014; ISBN-13: 978-1-4166-1408-1) is available from ASCD for $20.95 (ASCD member) or $27.95 (nonmember). Copyright © 2012 by ASCD. To order a copy, call ASCD at 1-800-933-2723 (in Virginia 1-703-578-9600) and press 2 for the Service Center. Or buy the book from ASCD's Online Store.