Norm alignment

The power of consistency

Hey πŸ‘‹

What’s the craic? This week, we’re wrapping up our series on norms, with a dip into the importance of alignment…

Big idea πŸ‰

Norms are powerful forces in school (and society). But their power is modulated by how much the norms of adjacent groups are in alignment.

Schools contain, and exist within, multiple groups. Cultures, communities, classes, departments, friendships.

When the norms of these groups are aligned, they will amplify each other and be stronger in each context. When the norms of these groups are misaligned, they will attenuate each other and be weaker in each context.

For example, if a student moves between teachers within a school, and they experience the same set of behaviours and attitudes around listening in class, they will feel considerably more compelled to go along with the tide.

Whereas, if a student moves between teachers and they experience varying norms around how students act when it comes to asking questions, then the very idea that a norm exists will begin to dissipate. Everything becomes up for grabs.

This is why co-constructing rules with individual classes can be problematic. It can lead to differing expectations and weaker overall norms across a school (not to mention frustration from teachers and pupils because 'Mr Jones allows me to do it').

We can harness the power of norm alignment in schools by:

  1. Committing to row together, even when it impinges on our own style, because it's the best thing for the students in our care.

  2. Coming together to agree on the norms we think should be consistent across classrooms (and those things we are happy to be different).

  3. Capturing and codifying these norms in a form that can be shared with new staff and the wider community.

This last point is important, because norms don’t just bleed between classrooms, but between schools and families. The more we can work with parents and community groups to align around key norms, the greater the overall effect will be.

πŸŽ“ For more, check out this article on establishing positive norms and routines in school.


  • The power of a group norm is modulated by the norms of adjacent groups.

  • When the norms of multiple groups are aligned, they amplify each other (and vice versa).

  • We can harness alignment by committing to row together and getting explicit about a shared approach.

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Bye for now.

Peps πŸ‘Š