Friday, May 18, 2007

Visions, Missions, Values and Teaching Beliefs

What a great graphic vision from Microsoft.

I am a school junkie.

When I visit a school I am always keen to find out what it is that is felt important by all involved - the teachers, the parents and most of all the students. I want to know what are the 'messges' all they share about the school - and mostly if they all share similar versions of the same story.

I guess I want to know if the school has vision that underpins all they do and not just fine words in glossy brochure or website. Mostly I want to find out if all feel 'ownership' of the vision as something really worh pursuing; does it really make a difference in the teaching and learning.

School ought to driven by the vision not by the book.

To be powerful the vision must reside in the heads of all involved. And if anything is to be assessed then it ought to be the vision - is it making a diference, and how can you demonstrate it is? There must be an advantage in having a vision or why bother.

It might be time for schools to assess their visions?

Visions are about direction. As Chekhov wrote,'If you cry "forward" you must without fail make plans in what direction to go.'Every school should have a shared conception of of what the schools wants to become.

A compelling vision, if attractive enough, can 'pull' individuals or organisations into their desired futures.

A Vision is an image of a desired future; it gives shape and direction to the school. It is best summed up in a memorable phrase ( in many respects this acts like a 'motto'). The word vision comes from the Latin 'to see'. Obviously a simple phrase is not enough and a short paragraph may be needed to flesh out what it means in a little more detail.

The Values.The word value comes from the French word valoir, meaning 'to be worth'. Values indicate the way we operate , the behaviours we value in achieving our vision. They draw up lines we will not cross as we interact with each other, our students and our parents. The values act as a moral compass to self reference all our actions against; it is easier to speak honestly when we all have agreed-upon values.

Often schools have a long list of values but it is a good idea to select a key phrase that all can remember easily that sums up the values. 'Learning to make the right choices', or 'Caring Sharing and Daring', are examples.

Missions seem to get confused with Visions in many cases. Mission is another word for purpose and it represents to the staff what they are going to do to realize the Vision.

The Vision,Values and Mission are best realized through a set of Teaching Beliefs which define for teachers what is expected of them. It is good idea not to have too many so they can be also be easily remembered and five or six are usually enough.

The ones many schools I have worked with are:

1 Foundation skills to be in place.
2 Students to be powerful learners.
3 Teachers as learning coaches
4 Challenging learning experiences'
5 Safe celebratory and informative room environments.

Under each of the above ( or whatever 'key beliefs' are chosen) teachers need to list the actions they will take to ensure the belief is realized.

If the Vision, Values, and Teaching Beliefs can be developed around a metaphor or a simple narrative they will be more easily remembered.

When completed ( although the belief sub-points will need to be reviewed each year) the school will have 'vision community' sharing a common language that makes it clear to all what the school stands for, the values it holds to be important, and the beliefs that will ensure the teaching team implement it.

In many school the 'fuzzy' art of visioning is badly in need of clarification.

There are examples of visions and ideas to create them on our website: leading-learning for the 21stC

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It has always semed to me that this 'vision thing' is an overused idea. As you say often owned by no one and thus of little importance to anyone. As you also say when it is well done it is a powerful concept. Shame for many schools it has lost any real power to change.