Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Can Students Articulate the Vision?

Sorry, I took a day off from College Knowledge. But I'm back.

A high school program of instruction that prepares students for college success requires intentionality and a certain commonality of purpose. The program must be geared toward a clear goal: a level of intellectual and skill development that connects seamlessly with what will be expected of students in college. Therefore, the faculty must have a vision of what a well-educated student looks like after four years of study at their school. This vision of a well-educated student can serve to guide the structure of the academic program and ensure that educational experiences over the four years are intentional and additive from the student's perspective. A good test of the degree to which a school has such a vision framing its instructional program is the number of students who can articulate the vision and describe how their current, previous, and future classes are contributing to achieving it. Few schools have attempted to create this sort of integrated, coherent, intellectually definable and defensible articulation of how a successful student would think, act, and learn after completing the school's program of instruction. (p. 102)

I've blogged before (here and here) expressing my doubts about whether we as a faculty "have a vision of what a well-educated student looks like after four years of study" at AHS. But I think the author makes an important statement when he says "A good test of the degree to which a school has such a vision framing its instructional program is the number of students who can articulate the vision . . ." - emphasis is mine. This goes back to some of the ideas in The Power of Their Ideas book that I excerpted previously. If you randomly stopped 10 students in the hall at AHS, what kind of response do you think you would get to the question "What's Arapahoe's vision and describe how your current, previous, and future classes are contributing to achieving it?"

My opinion is that if we were a great school, not just a good school, at least 8 out of the 10 students (and 9 or 10 on a good day) would give a pretty good answer. Do we not think this vision is important enough to communicate it to our students? Or do we not think they are capable of grasping it? I worry about how many of our staff would answer yes to both of those . . .


  1. I really like this way of thinking. If anything is every going to get done, we should know about it shouldn't we? School exists for students, it's simply a fact, so when students are not informed as to the goal or point of being educated, half the value is lost. It simply becomes a lesson in direction following as opposed to critical thinking skills we will need.

  2. I am actually afraid of what the students would say. Not just the 2 that would not give "good" or well thought out responses. Since I sometimes wonder what the vision is, in my little world, I findit hard to believe that the students would be able to talk about it. Perhaps, I am not giving the studens enough credit. Molly says some important things. School should be for the studnets and I am not sure that "we" and I mean "I" always remember that. Some of the things that I do on a daily basis are not geared to help the students the most but are setup to help my day be easy. I know, I know, this is wrong but I still do it. Molly is also on to the idea that if the students know where they are headed then they take a more active role in their education. (At least that is what I think I am hearing, or I am just making that up?)

    As far as Karl's question, the one about if we think the students are "capable of grasping it," I think that as educators we need to think that way. If we doubt the cognative abilities of the students then we are attempting to put them in our own little boxes. Then we go further and limit the amount of skill development that we allow them to explore. I think the current problem is that I do not communicate the "vision" or purpose or goal with my students and I just expect them to know it. The concern I have is how do I move past this?

  3. In order for our students to buy into and grasp our vision, I think there needs to be one. We touched on this during our December discussion. If 10 teachers at AHS were asked to articulate our vision, would there be 8 (9 on a good day) excellent responses? I don't mean to be negative towards anyone as a teacher or an individual. I just agree with Brian that we don't know what our common goals are. Sure, we'd probably all agree that it's to challenge kids, make them life-long learners, and get "them prepared for the real world" (I'm quoting myself from a post way back about testing!) But, do our classrooms really reflect that on a daily basis? I know I've got miles to go...

    I agree with Molly that there would be some awesome power in making students aware of and involved in our vision, we just need to do that as a staff first.

  4. Our next department meeting will challenge the teachers in Social STudies to see if they can do this. My prediction: no. If I ask a Western Civ junior teacher what essesntial skills and knowledge he or she expects the students to have when they walk in the room OR what senior year teachers need of him or her, my hunch is that we create a response, but it isn't something that has been addressed weel (or at all) in the last decade. If we can't, how can studets. I hope I'm wrong, but...