Designing Culture for Learning

How do we design culture? We explored this at the 2020 AECT convention. Here’s an overview…and a place to share your thoughts!


Culture is perhaps the most elusive of our five spaces for design in Education. What is culture? What does it mean to design culture? These are questions we discussed in a presentation at the 2020 Association for Educational Communications and Technology Virtual Convention on November 4, 2020.

Our (tentative) definition of culture is:

A pattern of shared basic assumptions that allows groups to perceive and interpret the world in similar ways, develop and communicate meaning, and transmit values to new group members

We can think of this at a small(er) scale–such as a company, business, school, university, or even classroom. We can also consider culture at a larger scale. Let’s start with the small scale, though. Kevin explored the culture of the self-proclaimed Happiest Place on Earth:

At our salon last week, we asked Sarah Fine about school culture–what makes a school culture and how we can design for school culture:


We considered the similarities between Disney culture and the school culture discussed by Sarah Fine. These examples illustrate four guidelines for designing culture:

  1. Create a clear vision
  2. Communicate the vision (make it visible)
  3. Design for coherence across five spaces
  4. Strive for symmetry in stakeholder roles

However, creating a clear vision and communicating the vision is much easier in a contained organization than when we consider larger culture. We believe that there are probably some actions that we, as those who think about and work in education, can take to at least influence culture, but we’re still exploring this idea.

What do you think about designing educational culture, particularly larger scale culture? Share your ideas in the comments!

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