Sustainable learning culture enabling student engagement and growth in Brazil

During a recent visit to Brazil, I had the privilege of engaging with school leaders, teachers, and educators at SESI—Faculdade SESI de Educação in São Paulo. This experience also provided an opportunity to share some thoughts on the importance of a sustainable working and learning culture in schools and educational organisations. I want to share my experience and explore some key learnings in this blog.

Learner-centricity at the core

A fundamental element across all successful educational cultures, regardless of the country or culture, is a shared understanding of the role of the learner. At SESI, this was clear. Whether you call it student-centricity or learner-centricity, the core idea remains: learners need an environment where they can take ownership of their learning targets while making active decisions regarding their personal learning and focusing on projects that interest and motivate them. This approach also drives student engagement and ensures that learning is relevant and also connected to real-life challenges.

Authentic learning environments

Learning in an authentic environment, linked to real-world problems, is essential for many reasons. Education and continuous learning is needed to solve many of the global and local problems were facing. At SESI, this principle is woven into the fabric of their educational approach. The Educational Residence program is an excellent example of this. It allows student teachers to immerse themselves in natural classroom environments across São Paulo’s state extensive network of over 142 schools in 112 cities.

Over three years, this builds a good foundation for sustainable growth and PD. Mentoring and peer support are also essential when driving personal and professional development and growth.

Collaborative and reflective practices

The culture at SESI strongly emphasises collaboration and reflective practice among teachers. During my visit, I engaged with numerous educators, and I was impressed by their alignment with pedagogical targets and their understanding of their role in creating a collaborative environment. Collaboration and co-working are vital elements needed to create sustainable school learning and working culture.

Pedagogical leadership as a foundation

Effective learning cultures have a shared understanding of high-level objectives, visions, and missions. At SESI, this is not just the responsibility of school administrators and school leaders but also a shared mission among all educators and staff. Leadership is crucial in keeping these concepts alive in daily communication and decision-making processes, especially from the pedagogical side. Ensuring that resources, team structures, and technology align with the pedagogical mission is vital to sustaining this culture.

Sense of trust and belonging

A strong sense of trust and belonging within the school setting is vital. At SESI, the collaborative spirit among educators extends to the students, creating a cohesive and supportive learning environment. When teachers work together with a shared sense of growth and development, it positively impacts the students, fostering a sense of community and mutual respect.

As a visitor, experiencing the learning culture at SESI was genuinely enlightening. The authentic interactions and spontaneous gestures of kindness, such as the ad hoc birthday song, highlighted SESI’s genuine and vibrant working culture. This experience reinforced the idea that you cannot fake a positive learning culture; it must be felt and lived daily.

What are the enablers of sustainable working culture in schools?

Creating a sustainable working culture is essential for driving the overall learning culture in schools. Culture enables us to grow and develop together. A sustainable learning culture supports educators’ development and growth and enhances student engagement and learning outcomes.

When discussing the building blocks of fostering and driving, we can identify many interlinked elements. Every school/learning organisation is different, but based on my experiences, these building blocks seem universally crucial in any educational organisation I work with or visit.

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Element

 

What and why?

Values as a guide

 

Core principles and beliefs that guide behaviours and decision-making processes in the organisation. shared learning environment.

Trust and a sense
of belonging 

 

Confidence in colleagues’ and learners’ abilities, integrity, and actions fosters a safe learning environment. 

Co-teaching
practices

as a foundation

 

Collaborative teaching strategies, where educators work together to plan, instruct, and assess students, enhance learning outcomes. This is crucial to a school’s sustainable learning/working culture.

Pedagogical leadership
enabling
growth

 

A sustainable learning (and working) culture requires a clear and understandable vision of the educational goals and the importance of everyone’s contribution to achieving them. Driving this vision in an everyday setting is integral to pedagogical leadership. This applies to the whole organisation, administrators, and principals.

Collaboration
as a way of working 

 

Active partnership and collaboration among educators, students, and other stakeholders when achieving common goals.

Continuous professional development 

 

Educators have continuous opportunities to learn, grow, and develop their skills, knowledge, and practices through systematic and continuous learning supported by reflective activities and feedback.

Authentic learning environments driving engagement 

 

Building and creating learning environments that provide relevance and practical applications for learners makes learning more engaging and meaningful.

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Final thoughts

I am grateful to have been part of the SESI experience and look forward to talking more with educators worldwide about how we can promote learner-centricity, authentic learning environments, collaboration, and pedagogical leadership by working together at different levels of education. We need to work together and share best practices to enable change on a global scale.

Author Markku Pelkonen is the Chief Commercial Officer at GraphoGame. 

Screenshots of GraphoGame