As educators I am sure we can all recall looking at diagrams of school/district visions on staff room walls, school offices, websites, etc. – colorful diagrams that map out mission statements, core values, buzz words, and buzz phrases that represent the school/district’s aims and ideals. As eye-catching as these visual representations of a school/district’s vision can be, they cannot be mistaken for educational frameworks. Why? Simply because they are not a road map or a plan of action, they are merely a representation of all the fragments and disjointed pieces of a framework. The generic diagram below represents the general pieces of a school or district’s vision and if you look, nothing connects, and it doesn’t have to. That is not the purpose of a vision. However, if we leave the diagram as is, without taking it one step further and also developing an educational framework alongside it, what are the consequences?
The consequences – visions not coming to fruition – have been taking place at a majority of schools for years. Staff members walk in and look at the vision; most connect to one particular area of the diagram and perhaps make a conscious effort to implement that area in their classroom. Every so often during the year there will be a staff meeting where teachers are reminded of the diagram and the vision, and changes might even be made to the vision – maybe a revamp of the mission statement, perhaps values are added, possibly a little rewording here and there. Again, perhaps a few staff members will implement changes in their classrooms to meet certain areas of the vision. In addition to the staff meeting reminder(s), some professional development may occur at the school or at conferences, touching on certain aspects of the vision. But again, nothing that takes the vision as a whole, and transforms every aspect of one’s school into a uniform and cohesive teaching culture. As a result, the staff are at a disconnect, a little confused, and each classroom has an individualized version of the vision. No well-defined plan for implementing this vision is present and everyone has their own take on how to make this vision a reality, since they have not been provided with the next steps, which include tools and a roadmap. A vision is not a plan of action, it is simply a school/district’s set of ideals.
Taking things one step further, if the teaching culture at a school isn’t cohesive, what is the impact on the students? The impact is that the teacher in each mainstream and specialist class is implementing an individualized strand of the vision. For example, one class is focusing on some of the core values, another is focusing on innovative learning, and another is focusing on personalized learning, etc… all depending on what their teacher finds to be most important. From mainstream to specialist classes, and from year to year, student’s must re-adjust and adapt to a different version of the school’s message, due to each teacher’s interpretation of the vision and what they think is important. This can have a negative impact on student learning and success, as students are unclear about what expectations are.
Don’t get me wrong – visions are necessary, and the diagrams that represent them are also a valuable as part of brainstorming a school or district’s philosophy, values, etc., but those diagrams are not the final step in the process – the educational framework that transforms a vision into a plan of action is. The educational framework is a roadmap that illustrates how each teacher is connected to the other, shows how all the subjects are connected, how the school’s values and philosophy are incorporated etc. – IT is the diagram that should be placed on your school or district’s wall.
When teachers have an educational framework they are clear on what is expected of them, and the impact on student learning is tenfold. If you are wondering what a framework looks like and the impact it can make on your school, refer to our previous articles: “What is an Educational Framework?,” “The Language Framework,” “The Early Years Framework” and “The Transitional Framework.”