I recently attended a workshop conducted by Dr Darlene Fisher – international accreditation leader and education consultant – on ‘Leadership for impact on quality learning’. A large part of the discussion was centred around how the vision and mission statements of any educational institution offer a guiding path.
By the end of the insightful session Dr Fisher had us convinced that, if well thought out, these statements can form the crux for establishing an ecosystem of focused learning where the efforts of all associated stakeholders are directed towards a common goal.
However, in order to sincerely abide by the vision and mission statements, they must be carefully embedded in the routine activities of the classroom that take place on a daily basis. In this article (which is partly based on my discussions with other educators at the workshop), I will share how schools can better connect their vision and mission statements to their day-to-day activities and collect evidence and feedback to further guide teacher planning.
Ensuring school community awareness
One of the priorities in making the important connection of the guiding statements to everyday learning is to ensure all relevant stakeholders – teachers, students, parents, and administrators – have fully ingrained the statement.
The Harker School in San Jose, California proudly presents its mission as ‘to educate students for success in college and beyond and to foster kindness, respect and integrity within a safe and nurturing environment’. In line with the mission, the school conducts a program called ‘Character and study skills’ for the elementary children. The program is implemented in the form of a 20-minute lesson every day, focused on themes like bullying, self-control and biases and through activities such as book readings and speaker sessions. The school also has a diversity, equity and inclusion department (DEI), which works with the student council to conduct events that foster a feeling of oneness. Teachers are made to associate with these events on a monthly rota basis, thus ensuring that the wider community is aware of the school’s mission and can lend a helping hand in accomplishing the same goal.
Besides spreading awareness, it could be beneficial to have faculty professional development sessions and parent-teacher interactions having a strand focusing on the school’s goals and the best practices that can help in accomplishing them, while also working collaboratively to gather evidence of students achieving the same.
Embedding guiding statements in planning
Once the school is assured that all stakeholders are well versed with the guiding statements, they need to be introduced and embedded within the classroom. One simple way to do this is to include them in unit plans, so that the teachers can review them while planning their lessons and can design activities that support these goals.
For example, The British School in New Delhi has a mission to prepare students to become more respectful of the diverse local, national, and international communities. The school holds an annual CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) week in which students work with an NGO; they visit and undertake various activities after learning about the work the NGO is involved in. The school also regularly participates in international forums and events such as Round Square and MUN (Model United Nations) to foster global citizenship and promote intercultural connectivity and appreciation among the students. In lessons, teachers are encouraged to incorporate opportunities for students to learn about other communities and their cultural practices through case studies used during class time and encourage research work around such topics, while sharing best practices in the curriculum area meetings.
The use of positive reinforcement can also help students better understand the direction the school wants them to head in. The popular Young India Fellowship (YIF) concludes the academic year, with the YIF Torchbearer Award and the YIF Spirit Award for students exemplifying the ideals of the program and abiding by its vision and mission. Hence, use of appreciation and rewards can help identify students who display qualities aligned with the goals of the institution while allowing others to use that behaviour as a benchmark to model their own practices.
Evidence, feedback and evaluation
An important aspect of connecting guiding statements to daily learning is collecting evidence. Formative assessments can play a critical role and provide teachers with crucial feedback on students’ learning and how well connected it is to the school’s goals. For instance, if the school’s mission is to develop critical thinkers, then assessments could be created to push that skill in students.
Student reflection forms are one way to collect feedback, which provides further understanding about how well the objectives reflected within the vision and mission statements are being met, and any gaps that need to be filled. Schools with CIS (Council of International Schools) accreditation are required to undertake regular student surveys to gain an insight into how much the students understand the school’s vision and mission statements and find them aligned with the daily lessons. The findings can then be used to encourage teachers to make any adjustments to ensure they design lessons and activities that are more tuned to the guiding statements.
Thinking about your own school context: What is your school’s vision and mission statement? How many students, parents and other stakeholders are aware of it? How are linking the goals of these guiding statements to your own lesson planning and classroom activities? How do you evaluate if you’ve been successful?