Sunday, September 6, 2015

Aligning Vision With Practice

To create an inclusive learning environment which empowers learners to contribute confidently and responsibly in an ever changing world.
Hobsonville Point Schools Vision

I love our vision because it not only refers to the what but also gives the why or the intent. Our intention as a school is to empower our learners (skills, knowledge, disposition and mindset) so that they can be active participants and contributors in a world that we acknowledge is forever changing (and doing so quite rapidly).

This vision tells us that it is now no longer good enough to just equip our students with a strong qualification, largely built around literacy and numeracy skills and fashioned around single bodies of knowledge known as subjects.. It requires us to do so much more.

The first thing it requires us to do is not to go to the back of the NZC where we see there are 8 Learning Areas and simply cross out the heading Learning Area and change it to Subject. An ever changing world requires graduates who can see connections across learning areas.

The second thing it requires us to do is to develop strong dispositions that point towards contribution, confidence, responsibility and those that equip people to cope with continual rapid change.

The first thing we did in planning to open this school was to settle on two equally important excellences that aligned with our vision. These are Academic Excellence and Personal Excellence. We believe these two help us to grow graduates who can contribute confidently and responsibly in an ever changing world.

Of course, the Academic Excellence is quite straight forward as schools are good at tracking and reporting this and we can use Curriculum Levels and NCEA as the main tool and measurement. But our vision requires learners to have more than this as it does not guarantee the ability to contribute confidently and responsibly in an ever changing world.

The problem with Personal Excellence there is there are not many existing models that point to what is needed to achieve our vision. At HPSS we settled on 10 Hobsonville Habits which might be seen as the equivalent of the Learning Areas from the Academic Excellence side of things. The challenge for us has been how do we define the habits, how do we make them visible, how do we make them part of our learning and how do we track progress against them. This is difficult but exciting work and we are looking forward to cracking it.

Like all schools we have a Mission Statement and ours is Innovate Engage, Inspire. Quite correctly you will say that all schools have similar aspirational words in their Mission. What I like about what we have done is to expand on them and to develop them into a set of principles that guide all curriculum decision  making we get involved in. In these uncertain times of developing a new school which is looking at secondary schooling through a different lens it is vital that we have such a set of principles. I am proud to say that they are proving to be strong guides for us.

These principles are supporting us when making very important decisions about learning. For example, when finalising our plans for our students in their Qualification Years as they move towards their NCEA L2 over 2 years we ask ourselves the following questions:

  • do these proposals allow students' learning to be personalised or are they simply attempting the same batch of standards as others who happen to be in the same programme as them
  • are students able to partner with experts in other learning areas and beyond our school walls and link their learning to the wider community
  • are they being required to be immersed deeply in their learning while pursuing challenging questions or are they merely covering enough to gain a large number of credits.

I love this framework we are operating in: a strong relevant vision, 2 pathways of excellence to support this vision, a defined set of dispositions to support this vision and a set of principles to guide our decision making which keeps us aligned with the vision.


Cindy Wynn said...

So good to hear you articulate your thinking and understanding of this Maurie, and how it all fits together. It helps me gain new insights. Thanks for sharing!

Alan Curtis said...

Wonderful stuff. I am pleased that the board's original vision has served you well.

Mrs W said...

Love this. My school is on a similar journey, but seeing what you are doing now is really inspirational