Design the Learning Alliance: The Why

When we see students not behaving in the way we desire, we naturally focus more on classroom management practices.

Careful. This paradoxically increases the poor behavior we do not want. By managing student behavior more, we reduce students’ ability to self-regulate and self-correct. Increasing classroom management and behavioral interventions, although sometimes needed, treats the symptoms and not the root problem.

It is often the result of a culture debt, which accrues compounding interest day after day. The bill for this debt is in the currency of disruptive behavior. In our schools, we are pressured to place Content before Culture. We do not invest enough in collaboratively designing with our students the desired learning culture in the first days of school. Because of this, they have no ownership, little clarity, and therefore little commitment to behave in a way that we hope for.

Culture debt leads to behavioral issues, leading to more classroom management, leaving less time for learning and developing positive relationships. Culture debt causes learning debt.

What if we invested in Culture before Content? What if students co-designed the classroom culture? Students will feel ownership of their classroom rather than told to comply to teacher-created classroom rules. Classroom management is claimed and shared by each student.
They learn and want to manage themselves and hold each other accountable. The focus on classroom management fades as students become more self-organized. Now, we shift from classroom management to culture management.

Investing in Culture before Content upfront may seem like it takes away from “the learning”.
In reality, it gives us back enormous energy and time that was once was consumed in classroom management. Time now reclaimed and reinvested into deepening learning and relationships which pays back with interest week after week.

An Agile Teacher invests in a culture of trust, visibility, empowerment, and collaboration in the first days of class. In Agile Classrooms, this is called Designing the Learning Alliance, in which students and teachers collaboratively design highly visible agreements on the culture they want and how they will behave in order to live their culture.

When students and teachers Design the Learning Alliance upfront and make it visible, they have voice, choice, and clarity. Everyone owns the culture, therefore, everyone upholds it.

There are several steps and tools that Agile Classrooms uses to help do this. In the next series of posts, we will share practical and engaging ways to Design the Learning Alliance with your classroom.

John Miller | Agile Classrooms
Twitter @agileschools

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