Culture shift doesn’t occur overnight

by Rick DuFour


Rick DuFour examines the impact that teacher practices have on student learning. He asks, “What happens in our schools when, despite our best efforts in the classroom, a student does not learn?”

DuFour notes that there are two potential responses: a laissez faire "It’s up to the individual teacher to cope" approach; or one where the school embraces a collective approach to managing student learning.

He describes four schools that have undergone a major culture shift to become conscious professional learning communities. A common factor in the success of each of these schools is the principal’s style of leadership. Each is committed to:

  • distributing leadership – in particular enabling lead teachers in curriculum areas
  • developing collaborative decision-making processes.

 He notes the issue of principals dealing head-on with teachers who resisted the move towards the learning community model, and how this resistance was managed.

Reflective questions

These reflective questions might guide you in your reading of this article:

  • On a continuum of 1–10, where would you rate your school as a learning community? Is there a shared commitment to the achievement of all students by all teachers? What have you done to move teachers towards this type of thinking about their accountability to students’ learning?
  • Where do the teachers in your school place the responsibility for students’ lack of achievement? On the home, on the school, or on themselves? If you were a new principal coming into a school with a prevalent culture of shifting responsibility to others, what would you do to confront it?

Further reading

Cardno, C. (1998). Making a difference by managing dilemmas. set: Research Information for Teachers, 1 (Item 13).


DuFour, R. (2004). Leading edge: Culture doesn’t shift overnight – or without conflict. Journal of School Development, 25(4).

Tell a colleague | Back to top