If you are reading this, I suspect you want to help move your school or district forward, and recognize that a critical first step is developing a shared vision with stakeholders, including your staff and community.
This is the third post describing a process to quickly build an effective vision. The first post set up the activity. The second post described how to collaboratively envision a preferred future for students you care about. This post will describe the final step in the process, developing a plan for preparing students for that preferred future.
The process enters its final phase with reflecting on your vision of where you’d like students to live, work, and learn, then asking your participants to return to “today” and think “Let’s all get to work …”
Without a plan, the vision created in the futuring phase will remain at best a dream. The worse outcome would be that it would not be used to improve teaching and learning. In short, given a clear view of what this stakeholder group wants the future to hold for their students, it is now time to use that vision to help design the kind of schools, school community, and classroom practices that can be reasonably expected to deliver those desired outcomes.
If this is our preferred future for our students, what do students, teachers, administrators, and tech coordinators need to do now to prepare students for that future?
The Student Plan
By accepting that student practice has to be the center of the target, and given the vision created in the last post, ask participants what a student would be doing in the classroom today if they were going to be “on track” for becoming the learner they have envisioned.
Have a new chart paper sheet labeled “Student.” The prompt is, “If this is what we want for our students’ futures, what does the student need to be doing now to get ready?” Record everything that they call out.
Sample Student Plan List
- Action based
- Connected to the community
- Critical and creative thinking
- Engaged in problem solving; both real world and simulations
- Group – more collaboration and integration
- Independent & self directed
- Information – equity of access to resources – not limited by location or time of day
- Initiative – connections to student interest
- Organize – self-organized & time management
- Presenting, sharing, and teaching others
- Problem solving skills (learning them) (real problems, community based)
- Projects – authentic, integrated projects
- Real world problem solving and service learning
- Questioning and research skills
- Self assessment
- Comfortable with technology
Once the student practices have been described (which you can expect to focus on inquiry, self-directed learning, teaming, research rather than memorization, growing as a learner, etc.) the participants will be ready to think about the kinds of changes in student practice we need in our classrooms.
This list of what the student needs to do to get ready for the preferred future your group has outlined is, in fact, your vision for learning. These are the kind of learning experiences you want for your students.
This is an interesting process. If you start here with student practice, you get a list of preparatory activities that really does reflect the future you have described, but it also suggests how teacher practice needs to change. But not following these steps can derail the process and not give you the information you need.
I once worked with a group that ended up skipping the step of starting with what students need to be doing now to get ready for this future, and instead simply asked what needs to happen in the classroom to prepare for this future. This group happened to be all teachers, not a larger stakeholders group. Interestingly, they simply generated a list of traditional teaching practices and “shoulds” for students (They should do their homework. They should behave. Etc.).
I think a couple things happened. One was a little bit of paradigm paralysis. When we asked what should happen in the classroom, we thought right away about what we were used to doing in the classroom. And this was exacerbated by the fact that the notion of what should happen in the classroom is just that much further removed from that preferred future than the notion of what a student should be doing now to get ready (the preferred future, after all, is about students, not classrooms). The combination of paradigm paralysis and being further removed from our preferred future kept us from coming up with a plan that was likely to get us to that future.
So the lesson is: starting with student practice is critical.
The Teacher Plan
Once the student practices have been described, ask participants to envision a classroom of today where those student practices were a reality, and describe what the teacher would be doing. In this way, they will define the “teacher practices” that would effectively support the visioned student practices.
Add another chart paper sheet labeled “Teacher” and ask the group, “If this is what the students need to be doing to get ready, what do the teachers need to do?” Record what they call out.
Sample Teacher Plan List
- Collaboration with both kids and adults
- Facilitator / coach
- Learner & being co-learners with kids
- Mentor and modeling
- Taking risks, supporting risk taking, and letting go
- Technology as a tool, not as a add on
The Administration & Support Plan
With teacher practices defined, ask participants to move out another level to describe the Principal and Tech Coordinator actions that would be seen if one were to visit a school in which the visioned student practices were happening. It will also be important to describe central office administrative practices that would support the now-visioned building Principal and Tech Coordinator practices.
Add a last chart paper sheet labeled “Administration & Support” (or maybe separate sheets for each subgroup) and ask the group, “If this is what the students and teachers need to be doing to get ready, what do the administrators, assistants, curriculum coordinators, tech directors, and other support teams need to do?” Record everything that they call out.
Sample Administrator Plan List
- Communicator, especially with community
- Goal setting and establishing high expectations
- Applaud failures as learning experiences and encourage reflection
- Involved – visible, consulting with teachers, and working with kids
- Modeling learning, and the use of technology
- PR – advocating vision, and working for systematic change
- Supporting and encouraging risk taking, and making it safe for teachers
- Support – providing professional development, encouraging teachers, and removing and managing obstacles
- Allow time for collaboration, planning, and learning
Sample Tech Directors Plan List
- Keeping current
- Learning constantly
- Make it work /keep it working
- Provide infrastructure, tools, and professional development
- Share information, wisdom, and some of the control
- Supporting & championing the vision
- Understands education and learning, not just the equipment
- Team teach with classroom teacher (while teaching the teacher)
Collectively, all your lists after the student list become your strategic plan for reaching the vision for learning (although you might want to prioritize the list, some first!).
Your stakeholder group should now be congratulated! By working outwards from the student, a clear focus throughout will be maintained on the students, their practices, and their learning, and all other efforts would be in support of those changes. You now have a draft vision and the raw material for a strategic plan that can be used to drive your work, including decisions about resource selection and allocation, the use of technology, and professional development.
There are still a couple steps. What was generated on chart paper should be typed up and the language cleaned up a little and made clearer, in order to be shared with the wider school community, including those who were not part of the stakeholder group that created it. You might even go through a process of collecting feedback from those who weren’t at the event and then seek formal approval of the vision from the educators, and then from the community.