What can teachers learn from the workplace culture of companies like Google? A new paper suggests that one way to improve students’ happiness and performance is to revamp the classroom to look more like one of the United States’ top companies.
Heather Staker, an adjunct researcher for the Christensen Institute, a nonpartisan think tank that focuses on innovation, authored a white paper that gives teachers a guide to creating higher-performing, happier classrooms in seven steps. The 81-page “playbook for teachers” includes three case studies—a mixed-income public school, a low-income charter school, and an independent affluent school—that show how teachers from all backgrounds and of all grade levels can make their classrooms look more like the highest-ranked workplaces.
The paper’s three researchers, David Richards, Jennifer Wu, and Mallory Dwinal, are all former teachers. They found that the best corporate managers do three things very well—they empower their teams, they are great coaches, and they emphasize accountability.
Teachers can and should do this, too, the researchers thought. And these three principles can be implemented through seven action steps:
- Teach mindsets. Top companies want their employees to have agency, creativity, growth mindsets, passion, and be able to work on teams. Teachers can empower their students by teaching those mindsets through embedding relevant activities in student work, the paper says.
- Release control. The paper calls for teachers to let students gain agency in their learning by moving away from the traditional classroom model of a teacher delivering instruction in front of the whole group. Instead, the paper calls for teachers to incorporate online learning into their instruction.
- Encourage teaming. Instead of relying on stable teams, having a shifting, impromptu mix of partners to work on various projects is more like the workplace, the paper says.
- Give feedback. The researchers wrote that teachers should give feedback separated from grades and formal assessments. The consulting firm Deloitte, for example, has “radically frequent check-ins” to help their employees grow, the paper notes.
- Build relationships of trust. Teachers should show interest in and concern about their students to develop a mentoring relationship, the researchers said.
- Help students hold themselves accountable. Like all cutting-edge organizations do with their employees, the researcher said, teachers should help their students learn how to set goals, track them, and follow through.
- Hold yourself accountable. The researchers found that Google employees complete a survey twice a year to give anonymous feedback to their managers, which motivates their bosses to improve. Teachers, they said, should also set their own goals and use reflection time, student surveys, peers, and self-assessments to make sure they’re on track.
Of course, students are not employees, and classrooms are not companies. But the paper says that in both cases, the main goal is essentially the same: creating a happy climate that encourages and maximizes positive results.
In an Education Week opinion essay, Aaron Schildkrout wrote about his transition from a high school teacher to a startup CEO—and how the two jobs are more similar than one might think. He lists the similarities between how teachers run their classrooms and how CEOs run their companies: They create an unforgettable experience, they get out of the way (or give students control), they measure their progress toward goals, they learn through failure, and they succeed by developing people.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.