The last time someone asked you about the culture at your school, what was your response? Were you happy to talk about the positive working and learning environment? Or were there ongoing problems at your school that were negatively affecting the students and staff? One of the growing focuses of modern teaching and leadership is the impact of school culture in academic performance. It’s becoming increasingly well-known that students in a safe, inclusive, and connected environment are more engaged, less prone to stress and anxiety, more likely to achieve academic success, and less likely to drop out.
But fostering a positive learning culture has benefits that extend far beyond the school grounds. It also helps strengthen family relationships, develop harmony in the local community, and provide students with the greatest chance of success in their lives beyond academics.
Let’s take a closer look at the impact of school culture in academic performance, the factors that can influence it, and how as a school leader, you can play a vital role in setting your students up for long-term success.
How Do We Define “School Culture”?
When we talk about school culture, we’re generally referring to a broad-ranging set of beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, traditions, and written and unwritten rules that influence every aspect of the school environment. But culture also covers your students’ physical and emotional wellbeing, the trust and respect between teachers and students, the acceptance of racial and cultural diversity, and the overall cohesiveness of the classroom atmosphere.
“Shared vision and high expectations go a long way toward achieving a school’s mission. When faculty, staff, and students are deeply engaged and embrace their school’s culture, it reverberates throughout a school community.” —David Garrick, UCDS Schools
For example, we often hear school leaders say that their school “has a great culture” when teachers share a common vision, staff and student retention rates are high, and academic performance is positive. But in other cases, we may hear that “the school needs to improve its culture” when teacher burnout and turnover are common, academic results begin to decline, parental feedback is negative, and there are increases in student behavioral issues.
Another important aspect of school culture, whether it’s positive or negative, is that it doesn’t change overnight. Instead, it’s an ongoing process shaped by attitudes and behaviors and the examples set by faculty and leadership that flow to the student population.
How Do Leaders Shape a School’s Culture?
“A culture will be strong or weak depending on the interactions between the people in the organization.” —Ebony Bridwell-Mitchell, Harvard University
We know that positive school culture starts with its leaders. It’s imperative that leadership groups adopt a considerate and proactive cultural approach to create an environment in which students can learn, develop, and succeed in all areas of their lives.
Just like the management of any organization, school leaders must develop a clear vision that unites all students and faculty and demonstrates a long-term commitment to wellbeing and academic success. Does your school seek insights into its students’ mental and physical health? Are there systems in place to support those needing help? Are you working to identify and measure cultural trends that are impacting your school’s educational performance?
As a school leader, you have the opportunity and indeed, the responsibility to give every student the greatest possible chance for success in both their academic and personal lives. By demonstrating a clear commitment to building and maintaining a positive, nurturing, and accountable learning environment, you can foster a culture that benefits your entire school and the community at large.
The Importance of Monitoring Student Wellbeing
Increasingly, progressive schools are adopting new measures that help keep up with developing systems to assist vulnerable students who need guidance and support. A growing area of this is the use of wellbeing tracking to maintain student engagement, reinforce the school’s commitment to health and safety, and give students more avenues to reach out to trusted teachers in a time and manner that works for them.
These wellbeing tracking systems, combined with the development of staff and teacher support networks, play vital roles in making students feel more comfortable and open to communication and creating a school culture that fosters trusting relationships that can lead to personal and academic success.
The Use of Wellbeing Tracking to Improve Academic Culture
With a growing focus on the impact of school culture in academic performance, an effective method of creating a thriving environment has been using digital tools that enable faster, simpler, and more effective monitoring of student wellbeing.
At Educator Impact (EI), we’re committed to providing school leaders with solutions that enable them to engage students and support those in need, even when everyone is working remotely.
With the use of EI Pulse, students perform a weekly digital check-in that allows them to reflect on their mental health and wellbeing via science-backed questions, in just sixty seconds. Our system provides valuable real-time insights into the school climate and allows vulnerable students to connect with the help they need in a low-risk, low-friction way.
Perhaps most importantly, weekly check-ins can develop a more open and nurturing culture, demonstrating to every student that their physical and mental health and their immediate and long-term success are among your school’s highest priorities.
If you would like to find out more about how digital wellbeing tracking can shape a more positive school culture, you can view a demo of the EI platform in action. Or, if you would like to speak with a member of our team, send us an inquiry, and we’ll be in touch with you shortly.
Educator Impact is dedicated to helping students find easier ways to ask for help, giving teachers real-time insights on those students, and helping school leaders identify trends in school wellbeing and culture trends.