I recently read The Need for Vision in Schools, a blog post by @gregmiller68. The post resonates well with me but it is the final statement “and then ACTION it!” that is the vital component. This is also highlighted in the comments by @E_Sheninger who says:
“Vision is important, but only so much so as the resulting plan for action that has to be implemented to support that vision.” Eric then extends upon this: It is also extremely important to establish a clear focus that is consistently monitored if the desire is sustainable change resulting in transformation.”
In my career, I have experienced schools who have a ‘clear’ vision and those that do not. It may be the case that some schools have a strong vision, a definite idea of what they want to achieve, i.e. what they are aiming for but the clarity is missing. Clarity in a vision comes, first of all, from the unpacking of a vision. This has to be done with the consultation and input of all members of the school community and it comes in stages. Many schools already have a mission statement and that is a significant step in understanding what is required in order to achieve a vision.
A mission statement is only the beginning of achieving more clarity, however. That in itself is not enough. There is so much more as Eric Sheninger indicates in his comments. A ‘plan of action’ is a much larger undertaking, yet without it, how can teachers and students know what is expected of them on a day-to-day level? A plan has to involve further distillation of the mission statement in order to create objectives. By having objectives, a school then has something achievable and measurable.
I had the privilege of being in the audience for a presentation by @martinwestwell recently, in which his message was that a school needs to ask itself “What is our story?” He talked about how increasing pressure exists in the education system to be data driven. Martin provided many examples to illustrate the point that data can be interpreted in many ways and depends upon context. The crux of the presentation was that every school needs to know what it’s story is, in other words, what the school stands for, what it is expecting from its students, what its objectives are. Only after answering those questions can a school look to what data can be used to analyse progress towards meeting these objectives.
Objectives clearly provide schools with a lot of leverage. They allow all those involved in the school to not only see what is expected of them but what the school is committing to in order to be able to tell its story. In laymen’s terms, the proverbial cards are on the table. However, there remain several other imperatives. These fall under the issue of ‘monitoring’ according to Eric Sheninger, where there has to be a continual process of ensuring the objectives are being met, voiced to those in the school community and all developments in the school align with these objectives:
- Consideration for implementation. How will objectives be met?
- Time planning. When are certain milestones expected to be achieved?
- Flexibility. What scope is there for making changes? Can a school’s plans cope with change?
To see an example of the processes described in this post applied to developing a Digital Learning Strategy in a university, UniSA’s recent publications: http://www.unisa.edu.au/About-UniSA/University-of-South-Australias-Digital-Learning-Strategy-2015—2020/ are well worth a look. The video gives a clear insight into the project from leadership in the university. Their clear objectives can be seen here and all the materials on the pages of their website regarding the Digital Learning Strategy provide a real story around these developments.
The UniSA example is extensive and such an undertaking is no mean feat but that in itself is important to realise for all schools who wish to improve themselves, make changes and strive for clear goals they have envisioned.
image courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/riot/871282869