A Culture of Improvement

Beth Mollenhauer Content

For School Leaders

The Challenge

As there are always things that can or need to change in a school community, a school leader maintains a culture of improvement among its stakeholders. Families, students and teachers are stakeholders alongside the school leader. It is critical that the school community, not the visitors or onlookers determine what can change and how to bring it about. School leaders working in a community of collaboration need an attainable process to lead the way to improvement.

Motivate to Change

An effective school leader, with a personal vision of a dream for the future motivates teachers to develop and maintain a culture of improvement. The word improvement implies change.

In order to make a change, people need to be motivated and sustain their motivation. Change can be a challenging process for both the leaders and participants involved, as people may be worried about the consequences.



The first step of an attainable process to motivate the school community to develop and maintain a culture of improvement is a self-review. A self-review is a collection of data about what is going well and what is not going well. To maintain a self-review, a community of collaboration must be willing to examine its culture. With a self-review, much of the data is collected routinely and the analysis is both interesting and informative. It enables the school leader to focus energy on the areas that will make the greatest difference. School leaders and teachers need to evaluate and make judgments based on strong evidence.

The heart of what’s fighting for within the school is creating deep cultures that work daily on purposeful, continuous learning.


Shared Vision

A vision statement is essentially a value statement. It summarizes the moral purpose of the school and reflects a set of shared values. Developing a vision for a school is an important part of being an effective school leader. It is one of the biggest contributors to a school leader’s success in leadership. And student achievement follows successful leadership. An effective school leader shares a personal vision and relays the importance of creating a shared vision statement together. When a school community creates a shared vision, each person has ownership of the vision and will be motivated to work towards goals together. This is the second step of the process.

Plan of Action

The third step of the process is to create a plan of action. A plan of action is written to address something that has the potential to change. A plan of action includes the problem to solve, who will address it, a timeline, and the criteria for success. Using the self-review, a school leader and the team may become aware of more than one thing that is not going well. It will require time, but it is possible to write a plan of action to change and improve each one of those things revealed in the self-review.


The process to become a culture of improvement is designed to be reviewed and repeated when necessary. Scheduled self-reviews yield new and updated plans of action. A shared vision can also be reviewed to determine if it remains appropriate as the school’s dream. As the school improves or government policies change, new priorities will emerge, and a new shared vision may be created. This way of thinking has the potential to make a school an incredible place to work and learn.

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