Creating A Climate Hospitable To Education

OK. Last week I got off my chest the dilemma we all face when reading educational research – that is, what to do when the research is inconsistent.  My hope is that it provided some valuable ideas. So now let’s move on to the last three points in the CCSSO series on School Leadership In Action segment on Creating a Climate Hospitable To Education. If you’d like to review this segment, click on the screen below.

Educate the whole child and provide supports where necessary.

 Much has been written on this topic. However, much of the recent emphasis in education has been on the narrow concept of academic achievement, often at the expense of teaching the whole child.  Yet we know that by addressing the unique personal and social/emotional aspects of the learner, we can be so much more effective as teachers.

There have been many lenses through which to view “the whole child.”   Howard Gardner has written extensively about multiple intelligences. Daniel Goleman popularized the concepts of Social/Emotional intelligence.

Programs have been developed based on the understanding that learners are different and can best be reached through multiple approaches. Bernice McCarthy’s 4-MAT method is one such approach.  4-MAT is based on the belief that there are different types of learners and the delivery of instruction can address these different types.  As McCarthy states, “What should all students know? It is simply the wrong question to ask the 21st Century Learner. The key question is what competencies should they have.” – Bernice McCarthy.

 Which brings us to Sam Redding’s series on Personal Competencies. Sam proposes four competencies, which I’ll reproduce here from The Something Other: Personal Competencies for Learning and Life:

  • “Cognitive Competency – prior learning that organizes the mind and provides associations and understanding to facilitate new learning
  • Metacognitive Competency – self-regulation of learning and use of learning strategies
  • Motivational Competency – engagement and persistence in pursuit of learning goals
  • Social/Emotional Competency – sense of self-worth, regard for others, and emotional understanding and management to set positive goals and make responsible decisions”

 Sam expands on these personal competencies and provides both broad conceptual guidance and concrete ways for the school community, the school, and the classroom to support students in the development of the competencies. The entire series can be found at the CIL site at this address:

In addition, two other publications were created in response to a request from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) State Collaborative on Assessment and Student Standards (SCASS) for information on the practical application of personalized learning concepts by teachers.

Personal Competencies/Personalized Learning: Lesson Plan Reflection Guide

 Personal Competencies/Personalized Learning: Reflection on Instruction

  • Engage and listen to parents.

We all have access to our own excellent School Community Network. As stated on the home page,

“The School Community Network is in the business of connecting classrooms to kitchen tables. We've developed a suite of services and a Resource Library that help teams work together to evaluate and fortify family engagement practices and create learning environments — at school and at home — where students thrive.

Our Building Block framework supports districts and schools initiating and sustaining a systemic approach to engage families in student learning. Our program components, tools, and resources are organized by our Building Block framework which makes it easier for users to match tools and resources with family engagement objective planning and implementation.

Each of our services is designed to be used in combination with the others or as stand-alone tools for self-evaluation and planning for school improvement in the area of family engagement.”

This is a great resource, packed with relevant research, resources, and tools for connecting home with school.  Which brings me to another point. I need to be completely transparent here.  I have been tremendously influenced by my wife, Eileen Kugler, who has worked in this area for two decades and whose most recent book, Innovate Voices in Education: Engaging Diverse Communities, specifically addresses ways in which educators can engage and listen to parents.  She gathered stories and practices from 17 educators around the world.  They range from classroom teachers to school administrators and from educational consultants to state, university, and community leaders. Their message is consistent – parents (particularly, but not exclusively, parents from diverse communities) are critical partners in education and bring great value to teaching when we engage and listen to them.  Parents and families bring insights and knowledge that are often undervalued in schools. You can read the review of her book from the School Community Network by clicking on the title of her book above.

  •  Have teachers visit each other’s classrooms to observe good practices and provide time to debrief in a trusting, risk-free environment.

It’s about collaboration and the culture of candor.  There are teachers in your school who have strengths that others can benefit from, by seeing and talking about them.  But the key ingredients are providing the time, space, and safety to have these conversations.  Both Maureen Mirabito and I have written blogs about the benefits of collaboration, so I will refer you to those and hope that what we have to say inspires you to provide these key ingredients. 

Do You Hear the Hum, Feel the Tremor?

What Can Abraham Lincoln Teach Us About Leadership?

What Kind of Leader You Are and Why It Matters

What Works - Collaboration Works!

If you’re not there yet, this summer is a great time to get started by working on the master schedule to provide the necessary time.  If you’ve already accomplished that goal, what else can you do to improve upon an already successful start? Please share your approaches to providing the key ingredients of time, space, and safety. Or respond to anything I've raised in this blog. Your colleagues across the country are waiting to hear from you!

E-mail me when people leave their comments –

Paul Axtell

With more than thirty years of experience helping organizations and individuals be more effective, Paul Axtell has honed his insights in executive offices and training programs for everyone from office staff and line workers to managers and team leaders.

A large focus of his work is how to run effective and productive meetings—to turn them from something people dread into useful, productive sessions with trackable results.

Paul is the author of multiple books, including Meetings Matter: 8 Powerful Strategies for Remarkable Conversations, Being Remarkable, and Ten Powerful Things to Say to Your Kids. He can be reached at <a href=""></a> and via email at
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