Establishing a shared vision amongst diverse stakeholders is critical when trying to implement wide-scale change. Cultivating a shared vision requires “practices aimed at identifying new opportunities for the school, and developing, articulating, and inspiring others with a vision of the future” (Ng, 2008, p. 5). When systems struggle to meet desired goals, it is often a result of a misalignment between the vision, policies, and practices. It is fairly common to hear or read vision statements of strategic plans where leaders describe their vision for education.
An example of this challenge in schools today is when teachers, those most influential in the learning experiences, are unclear about the desired teaching and learning or the expectations are inconsistent with the message, they can become frustrated and continue to do what has been working for them in isolation. Bill Ferriter, a 6th grade teacher, shares his experiences with the misalignment of the vision and priorities and how that impacts learning and teaching.
“There’s a constant tension between what we SAY we want our students to know and be able to do and what we LIST as priorities in our mandated pacing guides. Almost twenty years into the 21st Century, we continue give lip service to the importance of things like creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking, but we create no real space for that kind of content in our school, district and/or state curricula guides. Worse yet, we do nothing to assess those skills. Instead, we are still holding students and schools accountable for nothing more than the mastery of settled facts. That has to change. Plain and simple.”
To move forward, George Couros emphasizes in The Innovator’s Mindset, “Innovation in education is not about a “top down” or “bottom up” approach as it is more about “all hands on deck.” It is critical that we work together to understand diverse perspectives and how we can all work together to get where we want to be. If we want to better align our schools with the world we live in, we must address the tough questions and engage in conversations among diverse stakeholders. This will require that administrators, teachers, families and the greater community work together to develop a shared understanding of the desired outcomes for students and align the vision, policies and practices. It is my hope that we engage in more conversations in our communities and seek to better understand answers to the following questions:
- What type of students do we want to develop?
- How might we develop the desired knowledge, skills, and mindsets?
- How might we assess the desired outcomes?
- What is the role of the teacher?
- What is the role of technology
- How can we all work together to achieve our desired outcomes ?
I don’t believe that there are any “right” answers to these questions as they will differ based on context but we can’t assume the answers are the same as they have always been. To ensure schools evolve to meet the learners in our schools today, it is incumbent on leaders to convene the greater community to examine beliefs about learning and teaching and consider how schools can best serve the children of their community.
Ng, W. (2008). Transformational leadership and the integration of information and communications technology into teaching. The Asia-Pacific Education Researcher, 17(1), 1-14.