Activity Guide

At first glance, establishing a solid culture of excellence seems to be incongruent with making “risky decisions.” Meet one principal who believes that risk-taking is an important component of innovation. This is an activity that gives value and balance to both risk and innovation in creating a solid culture of excellence.




Distribute the reading or link prior to the discussion so that staff can read closely and highlight important passages that support and encourage the efforts at your school to create a culture of excellence. Ask participants to sit in instructional or grade-level teams, or by content-area groups. Those without a team or department may choose to sit with a team or group that has relevance to their grade level or content area. Limit group size to eight to 10 participants or fewer for best participation.

Begin your discussion with the following Discussion Prompts.

  1. What do schools with a positive culture value?
  2. What are the traits of the best and brightest teachers?
  3. What are the outcomes of a positive school culture for students and staff?
  4. How did this principal improve culture “around conversations?”
  5. What message does the Purple Cow Program have for your school?
  6. As you evaluate your school culture, list strategies from the article that could improve your school environment.
  7. Why is “calculated” risk-taking important to improving school culture?
  8. Have your school instructional teams discussed innovation and learning and the strategies that connect both?
  9. How does a focused professional development program support and improve academic learning?
  10. How can your teachers model successful academic learning at your school? List those experiences for your students.
  11. How can your school connect culture, expectations, instruction, and innovation to improve academic performance at your school?
  12. Does the culture at your school encourage and support teacher innovation?
  13. How do teachers at your school design visual, hands-on, and sensory experiences that challenge students to strive for excellence?

Continue the Discussion

Work within your departmental, instructional, or grade-level teams to consider the following:

Since a transformed culture is “gained through diligent work in the trenches,” how might the strategies in this article affect each of the following at your school?

  • Rewards program
  • Professional development
  • Staff conversations
  • Academic culture improvement

What strategies and activities can your team design and plan that intentionally focus on creating or improving your culture of excellence? Work collaboratively with your colleagues to include recognition programs, learning communities, and needed professional development. Pick someone to be a recorder and summarize your plans. Debrief this activity by sharing your design and plan with the full faculty.

Extend and Apply

Select a team member to compile group discussions and summarize strategies and plans. Use the Discussion Guide Planning templates to create or enhance your improvement plan. Have your instructional teams discuss the model and provide input. Prepare to update the administration and full faculty as you design your team plans. Solicit ideas from your colleagues to support cross-content academic and social opportunities for your students.