Building a Framework for a Learning-Centered Organizational Culture

Sunday, June 24, 2001


Facilitator: Cindy Miles

Recorder: Chris Barkley

Resource: Michael Skolnik, Byron McClenney


Group consisted mostly of Presidents, Trustees, and Administrators


What do we want to discuss/hear about?


·         Biggest piece is building critical mass of involved people

§         Outcomes – strategies for dealing with culture – the hard issue

·         Implementing change (how to)

§         Hiring and orienting new folks

·         Understanding the underlying culture to effect change

·         Using existing culture to get to next state

§         Bringing cultural change to many levels (constituencies)

§         Are our changes major cultural changes or just changes in skills?

§         Difference between image and culture

§         Moving from theory to practice

·         How to measure culture

§         Identifying tough issue such as how is college organized (not just culture), power distribution

§         Factors within and outside which shape culture: Are they in or out of our control?

§         How do leadership teams transform culture?

·         Belief systems vs. organization, practical end?

§         Whether we should get to philosophy or is it really about how budget matches vision statements?

§         Integration of several cultures, how to merge them? Alignment

·         Image vs. reality of what is happening

§         Role of governance in culture

§         Getting critical mass of people, buy-in

§         Getting people to walking the talk, developing the process to get us to where we want to go

§         How our strategies will affect people

§         How do we align policies and procedures?

§         Make change not a negation of existing culture (building on, not destroying and building anew)

§         Creating a collective vision which will make change easier

·         Complex relationship between culture and being learning-centered?

§         idea must change culture to become learning-centered

§         make practical concrete changes you can and this will gradually change culture

§         truth is probably some interaction between these two ideas


“To make change stick, first look at the thousands of practices and policies which create the feel of the organization.”


Defining the Ideal Learning Centered College


§         integrity

§         respect

§         honesty

§         risk taking

§         ethics

§         excellence in learning

§         equity

§         open communication

§         open access

§         value of students

§         sensibility

§         individual worth; whole person is important

§         treat all with customer service

§         facts are friendly

§         measurement/documentation/evidence

§         diversity

§         all students succeed

§         student centeredness is true belief that students come first

§         student responsibility

§         student learning is core

§         constant personal renewal

§         all employees part of the process

§         everyone’s job is student learning and success

§         community and student and staff input is valued



§         everyone is capable of learning

§         students understand their responsibility for learning

§         students with clear plan/goal more likely to learn

§         empowerment = responsibility

§         increased engagement in learning tasks and with faculty improves learning

§         learning is multidimensional and different for all

§         students have multiple learning styles

§         people learn from each other

§         success is achieved incrementally

§         diversity improves learning

§         everyone is willing to change

§         change is good, necessary, and not hard

§         students will be the same 5 years from now

§         Is “learning focus” exclusive?

§         Do we recognize parallel presence of “legislative,” “political” and financial realities and paradigms?

Later we added

§         all is there for them to learn

§         wanted to be part of pioneering of innovation

§         like to be in charge of own learning

§         not something done to them or for them

§         students used to care more about product not process and now are more concerned about process, some students do still care about products (prefer proprietary colleges)

§         wanted students to be more involved

§         have a plan early on

§         Open systems vs closed processes

§         organization leaders must figure out how to get out-of-box thinking



§         Celebration of learning

§         rewarding risk-taking and excellence

§         campus meetings

§         induction/orientations

§         multiple ways to celebrate learning

§         public recognition of faculty/staff and students

§         fanfare of academic achievement

§         leadership academy

§         graduation without medieval trappings


Archetypes (heroes, scoundrels)

§         Hero

¨        hardworking professors

¨        peer mentors

¨        risk takers

¨        goal completers

¨        lead by example

¨        dependable

¨        seek information before judgments

¨        are critical even of themselves and new directions

¨        “I love knowledge” navigator

§         Scoundrel

¨        obstructionist

¨        elitist

¨        faculty who value content coverage over learning

¨        nay sayers

¨        arrogant

¨        afraid of risk

¨        nonbelievers

¨        conspiracy theorists

¨        pessimists

¨        “not enough money” person

¨        old mental models (“we’ve always done it this way”)


Norms and Practices

§         Constantly evaluating how well we are doing

§         shared meaning

§         student the center of all decisions

§         classroom and program assessment daily activity

§         policies/practices support learning

§         budget reflects learning

§         collective planning

§         open discussion, resolution, planning, and policies support learning

§         professional development is essential part of what we do

§         training and hiring professionals important

Later we added

§         every student would develop a plan early on

§         get more students on committees

§         students would voluntarily seek out tutoring and other services which they don’t have to do

§         self reflexive on students’ part to figure out what they are getting out of various activities


Our “Ah-Ha” Moment


If students were part of this discussion, what might they have said?

§         Students might have added

§         values

§         fairness

§         place where they matter

§         Access more than just getting into the college, but access to computers, to faculty, to President, to services, later closing of offices/bookstore, etc. (students reacted differently than we expected on what access meant)

Can affect behavior but not change beliefs.  What we are really concentrating on is change

We are all learners, so we are in a new position with students (not hierarchy, but collaborative instead)


Subculture Issues


We divided ourselves into different organizational groups to examine subcultural differences. Each group was asked to identify 3 cultural support and 3 cultural barriers.


Presidents &Trustees

cultural supports

§         must have respect for each other’s opinions--can develop policies that culminate throughout college

§         feels Board is also learning cohort

§         very important so set policies to enhance employee relations

§         financial support

cultural barriers

§         political structure and term limits

§         individual agendas so not cohesive

§         external barrier legislation

§         president’s management styles

§         micromanagers



cultural supports

§         commitment to evidence-based learning

§         all levels engaged with spontaneous implementation

§         ability to create opportunities from dissent

cultural barriers

§         lack of collaboration (people out of loop)

§         misplaced recognition (articles vs. implementation)

§         conspiracy theory



cultural supports

§         having a nurturing atmosphere

§         pride (care about students and about how we and our disciplines are perceived)

§         institutional support (release time, recognition)

§         faculty are the best learning (we love to talk)

cultural barriers

§         unwillingness to/fear of change

§         blaming and being blamed

§         time (overworked)

§         model of student as consumer (ugly dynamic)

§         shame (rep of community college)


Student Development

cultural supports

§         environment (students must feel valued)

§         people-centered people easy to move to student-centered

§         access valued

§         identifying barriers (part of connecting students to resources)

§         provides a bridge to learning for students

§         developmental model already in place, meet students where they are (assessment)

§         developing plans for students

§         bring total groups together

cultural barriers

§         same services not offered to students on a consistent basis (evening students limited)

§         resistance to change

§         lack of integrated programs to support students

§         assumptions and biases: student development personnel have some biases which limits students

§         need better linkages between academics and student services

§         competition between Student Services and Instruction

§         Student Development can limit growth by smothering or being overly protective


Institutional Support

cultural supports

§         can control language and image to community

§         money raised or grants secured supported goals of institution

§         ability to be innovative (can develop the pockets of excellence and eventually put them together strategically)

§         staff leadership can have positive impact on learning

cultural barriers

§         students don’t always perceive image

§         focusing only on amount of money raised

§         money in pockets of excellence (centers) but separate but need to be strategic

§         if staff not supportive or on board with goals


Session Review

How did we do in meeting our outcomes?

§         Identification of issues, some potential solutions, understanding complexity of dealing with cultural change, participatory learning (we practiced what we preach)

What can we give to others? 

§         Duality of issues, recognition of the flip sides of our issues or how our barriers can be used to improve our institutions; we should talk through both sides.

§         Shifting of point of view from us to students very important.  See college from studen’s perspective, what he experiences. We don’t ask them.



Placing Learning First: Organizational and Cultural Change

Monday, June 25, 2001


Facilitator: Cindy Miles

Recorder: Judy Ecker

Resource: Michael Skolnik



Moving From Theory to Practice


Identify cultural indicators: barriers and supports by subgroups



·         Institutions are at various levels of development.  More mature institutions may be more bureaucratic

·         Student perspective of the issues is very different than others within the college

·         Few faculty chose the culture group because they hold different viewpoints and may be

·         avoiding conflict

·         Tensions exist between

·         Technology

·         Multi-campus among and between campuses

·         Be aware of time it takes to implement change


Best strategies-for creating learning first culture.  How do you know?


Moraine Valley
Madison Area Technical College


Build common understanding of terms and issues


Humber College


Bombed strategy- how do you know?


Transformation has interesting impact




New Models for Getting From Here to There


First Team Report


Second Team Report

1.      course

2.      department

3.      programs

4.      college area (security SII – strength, improvement, insight)

¨        Id critical learning outcomes

¨        Build measures

¨        Collect the data

¨        Analyze the information

¨        Disseminate the information  in multiple ways

¨        Review and revise

¨        Assessment is collaborative

¨        Results are used

¨        Start with an outcome

¨        Assessment needs to be constructive not destructive

¨        Supportive (remove the fear

¨        Attitude

¨        Constantly improve

¨        Beyond climate and culture


Organic Model