When our school opened at the beginning of 2009, our staff engaged in a process of developing a Vision for Learning. The idea behind this Vision was the established need to focus our attention and energies towards specific goals we wanted our school community to achieve. This was built around the idea that we wanted our school to be a true eLearning school, where teachers embraced digital pedagogy and where a culture of personalised learning was developed. It was envisioned that our Vision for Learning would not only drive what teachers do day-to-day in the classroom, but also our strongly influence resourcing, purchasing and many other decisions made by the school administration on a daily basis.
Fundamentally, we understood that in developing this Vision, it needed to be
- collaborative, where all staff were involved in offering and debating ideas for what our schools’ focus should be;
- challenging, where our vision encouraged and fostered a culture demanding high performance where our school could genuinely be considered world-class; and,
- connected, where our Vision was closely aligned to other departmental performance frameworks, including the Smart Classrooms Professional Development Framework, Productive Pedagogies and the Professional Standards for Teachers.
We didn’t, however, want to make a glossy, ‘soft’ vision which wasn’t used or referred to by teachers. Instead, we required something which drove a change agenda – explicit performance indicators which clearly articulated goals for teacher professional practice and left no doubt as to what we wanted to achieve.
As our foundation staff came from a broad range of backgrounds and experiences, an initial process was required where everyone could brainstorm and contribute their ideas for our Vision in a safe, non-threatening environment. A Wiki in our BlackBoard Professional Community was created for this purpose, where staff were able to contribute their ideas. The brief went something like “If you walked into the best learning environment in the world, what would you see? What would you hear? What would the students be doing or saying? Who would they be talking to? List your ideas describing this environment”.
After this initial brainstorming, five broad categories were created for our vision: Learning Spaces, Curriculum, Pedagogy, Relationships, Values.
From this base, staff then discussed these contributions in a series of face-to-face sessions over a number of weeks, one category at a time. Staff justified their contributions and why they should be included in the Vision, with many staff giving examples of what this would look like in practice. Words or sections where highlighted which all staff agreed should form part of our school’s vision.
The above document details our Vision for Learning Indicators as at April 2009. Throughout the year, these Indicators have primarily been used as part of teacher’ Individual Professional Development Plans as part of our department’s Developing Performance Framework. Teachers were required to identify particular Indicators which reflected an area where they wanted to enhance their practice.
While it didn’t happen with great success in 2009, ideally teachers would form peer groups, depending on their targeted Indicator, with curriculum and digital pedagogy leaders facilitating their further development in this area. Improving the logistics and management of this program is a goal for 2010.
Recently, however, staff engaged in an important process where by they rated themselves either unconsciously incompetent, consciously incompetent, consciously competent or unconsciously incompetent. This process allowed staff to reflect on their professional practice and was a piece of formative assessment which will be used by professional development leaders for structuring professional development programs in 2010.
Measuring data using a Performance Dashboard
I’ve approached our school’s administrative team recently with an idea, inspired by this post from a colleague Shane Roberts, around the need to begin ‘measuring’ our school’s success against these Indicators. Anecdotal data is no longer good enough to judge whether or not our school is performing against these indicators. Instead, we need to regularly capture a broad range of qualitative and quantitative data from parents, teachers, students and other sources to make judgements on our performance and plan for improvement.
The above prototype demonstrates how a Performance Dashboard, when integrated into our school’s Sharepoint TeamSite day-to-day online environment, would present this data, where a primarily graphical interface provides an overview as to performance. Ideally, much of this data could be fed into the Performance Dashboard automatically. Other data could come from teacher and parent surveys, student work samples and artefacts teachers add as part of their professional portfolio as a demonstration of their classroom practice. Such an interface would facilitate reflection on our whole school performance, enable us to better plan for the future and encourage our staff to strive for excellence through an analysis of quantitative data.
Review in 2010
The Vision for Learning Indicators were never meant to be set in stone. As staff engaged with new professional learning, as better data was collected, as new research was leveraged and as new departmental or school-based initiatives were adopted, the Indicators were designed to be agile enough to shift with these. Subsequently, early next year I envisage that a review process will commence where Indicators will be added / removed / modified to reflect these new priorities.