Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

College Knowledge: Creating a Culture of High Expectations

Lindsay Hawkins, Lindsay Williams, Aimee Myers | Published: September 16th, 2020 by K20 Center


Participants will gain an understanding of creating a college-going culture. Participants are asked to: a) analyze the significance of a college-going culture, b) assess the current college-going culture at their school site, and c) create a list of strategies that signal a college-going culture. Through this activity, participants will recognize the foundations of a college-going culture. This culture is inclusive to all students, is supported systemically and involves all stakeholders. In addition, this session will explore possible aspects of a college-going culture through the use of visual and auditory signals, practices/rituals, and structures.

Essential Questions

  • What is a college-going culture?

  • Why is culture important to a group?

  • How can authentic instruction foster an environment that supports a college-going culture?

Learning Goals

  • Understand the importance of creating a college-going culture

  • Assess the current college-going culture baseline of the school site

  • Create a list of strategies that signal a college-going culture

Materials List

  • "College-Going Culture PowerPoint"

  • "Instructional Strategy Note Sheet"

  • "Authentic Learning and Teaching Rubric"

  • "College-Going Culture Rubric"

  • "Graphic Organizer" for video

  • Large Post-it notes or poster paper

  • Highlighters and markers

  • Scrap paper


Begin the presentation with the introductory slides. This will allow for presenter introductions. Distribute the "Instructional Strategies Note Sheet" handout. Inform them that several instructional strategies will be modeled for them today and that this handout is meant for them to take notes about their own application of the strategies. At the end of the session, everyone will share notes.

Commit and Toss explained: Distribute the scrap paper and ask participants to look at the question on the slide titled "Commit and Toss." Ask participants to write down their answer to this question in one sentence, and then give participants a minute or two to write their answers. After all participants are done writing their answers, tell them to crumple up their papers. Inform them that they will toss their papers across the room. On the count of three, toss the papers. Once everyone has tossed their paper and someone else has retrieved it, tell everyone to toss the papers once more. Explain to them that this helps to ensure answers remain anonymous. Once everyone has a ball of paper, tell them to open the paper and read silently the statement on the paper, making sure the statement is not the one they wrote. Ask participants to share any insightful answers or answers that are questionable and need to be discussed by the group. Allow a few minutes for discussion and feedback. End the activity with the research posted on the next slide, titled “So, what is a college-going culture?” Show how many of their answers probably meet the components of a college-going culture.

Inform participants that Commit and Toss helps with anonymity for students which can encourage more participation and engagement. Ask participants to reflect quickly on how they would use this strategy in their own classroom. Then ask a few volunteers to share.

Change to the slide, "Objectives." Briefly highlight the objectives for the session. This will provide a roadmap of where you will go together during the session and will let participants know what to expect from this professional development.

Transition to the next slide, "Why is a College-Going Culture Important?" and highlight two or three challenges that are specific to the participants site. Do not read all of them. You may also decide to have the participants tell you which of these challenges their students face?


Graphic organizer explained: Show participants the slide titled “Video: Leading Success” (a link for the video is provided below the title on the PowerPoint slide and in the slide's notes). Distribute the graphic organizer to participants. Inform them that graphic organizers assist students in their note taking or brainstorming. Visuals, like a graphic organizer, help students break down new information. Ask participants to use the graphic organizer during the video to take notes over the college-going culture ideas used at different schools. Inform them that they will share their notes after the video and use their notes for the next activity.

Once participants are done with the graphic organizer, ask them to reflect on how they would use this in their own classroom. Again, ask for volunteers to share out.


Carousel explained: To close the session, participants will participate in a Carousel activity. This strategy allows participants to create their own ideas for a college-going culture at their own schools. This instructional strategy also allows formative assessment to take place where the facilitator can gather what the participants learned about the concept and whether or not they can apply their own ideas to the concept.

Place large sticky notes or poster paper around the room (this can be on a table or on the wall). On each station, write one of the four areas of college-going culture. One poster will be labeled “Visual," one will be labeled “Auditory," and so on. Show the slide titled “College-Going Culture Carousel." Let the participants know they will use their new knowledge of a college-going culture to create ideas for their own schools. Tell the participants that they will get into four evenly-distributed groups. Each group will have three minutes at their station. Once the three minutes is up, they will rotate clockwise to the next station. Once they are at the new station, they can add a new idea or elaborate on already existing ideas. Groups will rotate through the stations every three minutes. When groups have gone to the last station, they may return to the station they began at and share with the whole group some of the ideas that were added. This will allow the school administrators and teachers to see which ideas might be worthwhile for their schools. After participants are seated, you can show them some examples from schools around the state (slides 9 - 14).


Rubric explained: Show the slide titled “College-Going Culture Rubric." Inform participants that they will apply their new knowledge of a college-going culture to their own schools. Distribute the rubrics to the participants and give them approximately five minutes to complete it. Inform participants that they will be expected to share their responses after five minutes.


Think-Pair-Share explained: To facilitate discussion over the rubric, participants will participate in a “Think, Pair, Share”. This strategy allows participants to share and expand their perspectives on the college going culture in their schools.

Once everyone has completed the rubric, show the “Think-Pair-Share” slide. Ask participants to find an elbow partner (someone sitting right next to them) and share out the "celebrations" (things the school is doing right) and then share out the "opportunities" (areas where we could see some growth). After about two minutes of sharing with a partner, ask if any of the partners would like to share with the whole group and reflect on an item from the carousel that could address it.

Finish by having one last reflection over the instructional strategies utilized in this PD. Distribute the "Authentic Learning and Teaching Rubric." Ask participants to consider "How would I use these instructional strategies in my own classroom, and how do they support authenticity?" Allow them to share with others. Remind them to fill out their "Instructional Strategy Note Sheet."

Research Rationale

Many schools can create new reforms or initiatives; however, these reforms or initiatives often do not penetrate the day-to-day existence of the students within the walls of the school. Culture, on the other hand, becomes a part of the collective being within a group of people. A culture within a school cultivates aspirations and behaviors. Schools that focus on creating a college going culture create a collective environment that is conducive to college preparation and enrollment. This environment is inclusive to all students, supported systemically, and supported by all stakeholders within the school community (Corwin and Tierney, 2007).