Communicating Instructional School Visions for Your District

Dr. Rick N. Bolling
Dr. Rick N. Bolling
Division Superintendent of Schools; Ed.D. in Leadership
A group of professionals sit in a conference room, having a formal meeting.

Quality and innovative instructional practices and curriculum that prepare students for post-secondary ventures should be the primary goal of a school district. Developing an instructional vision for your district goes beyond research and precisely written documents. The plan developed must be practical, relevant, and implemented with fidelity. As such, the plan should be direct and organized with clearly developed expectations and associated measurable goals related to the assessment of practices.

Communication is the cornerstone of most successful ventures in education. The best of plans can erupt into chaos if there is not clear communication and ample planning. Communication should be timely, logical, relevant, and authentic. Effective district leaders have strong written and spoken communication skills. Further, effective communication can bring clarity to stakeholders while uniting the various groups in pursuit of common goals.

Research and Organize Your Vision

The first piece a school district should consider in developing an instructional vision is what a graduate should look like. Citizenship, empathy, academic knowledge, and innovative thinking should all be considered.

A school division’s instructional vision should communicate what teaching and learning looks like in the district. Innovative and engaging instruction across an entire district does not just happen. A plan serves as the blueprint for the district’s journey toward its instructional vision. The plan is articulated, implemented, revisited regularly with formative checks, and assessed.

Authentic and relevant instructional visions focus on the learner. The overarching goals should align with increased student learning outcomes and maximized growth.

The approved plan should promote:

  • A universal understanding of content to be taught,
  • Instructional methodologies implemented
  • Student and teacher expectations
  • Ways in which learning and instruction will be assessed

The plan must go beyond literacy and other core areas. Enrichment, acceleration, intervention, remediation, and the arts must all be given focus in the plan. That is, instructional practices must be planned to reach all learners. Consideration should be given to intervention along the way before intensive remediation is necessary. Further, accelerating and enriching student learning is considered to maximize growth and rigor for all learners. The arts promote critical thinking and innovation that can be cross-curricular that helps unite the instructional vision and reach additional students.

Time and communication are two essential investments in a quality instructional vision. Quality visions rise from shared conversations and active listening among stakeholders’ groups. The superintendent needs to develop a network that allows various stakeholder groups a voice in the development of the vision. School leaders should research high impact instructional practices, ensure alignment with state standards and literacy plans, and visit districts that have implemented highly successful instructional visions. Outside consulting groups may be necessary to organize the development process, but the decision-making component must remain in the hands of local stakeholders.

The final plan should operate smoothly like gears working together to guide the district and promote daily decision-making. The plan becomes a living document that is referenced and used. The vision needs to be clear as to the purpose of instruction, curriculum, instructional practices that are promoted, school cultural expectations, and manners of assessment. All key terms within the vision should be clearly defined for essential understanding. Goals should be relevant, measurable, and time bound.

The vision should be strategic and prioritized. The ways to improve instruction are not finite. Yet, having too broad a vision with too many initiatives will lead to burnout and the vision not being implemented with fidelity. Focusing on too many initiatives leaves faculty, students, and parents overwhelmed. Strategic and focused professional development should be differentiated according to need and align with the vision’s purpose. Further, when implementing a new instructional vision, it is essential to provide support and mentors for instructional staff.

Pedagogical Goals

Growth mindset is essential for the implementation of pedagogical goals related to an instructional school vision. Pedagogical goals go far beyond resources and tools. Pedagogy includes content, instructional practices, and the ways in which learning is assessed. Divisions should enact practices that research has shown to produce the greatest results and positively impact students. Educators must research and be willing to change.

Change is difficult so there must be communication, support, buy-in, and monitoring. Teachers are the core of effective instruction so understanding and buy-in are essential. Pedagogical goals should consider the impact of investing in positive relationships as a strategy to promote greater achievement and understanding. When relationships are productive among stakeholder groups, students benefit. Further, students need to know that a teacher cares about them as an individual. When a student knows a teacher cares, research shows learning is enhanced.

Further showing the need to embrace change, there is always room for pedagogical improvement. Educators should promote and model life-long learning. We need to explore new research-based instructional practices. The instructional vision should include new ways to differentiate instruction to reach all learners.

The vision can make instruction more learner-centered to help promote empathy and shared decision-making. Students have flexible routes to demonstrate mastery and can self-reflect upon their learning? The world is constantly evolving. As such, education should evolve over time. Pedagogical goals should consider innovation and creativity. As such, project-based learning should be explored.

The job market needs innovative thinkers who can contribute to teams. Routine facts can be researched, but students need to be able to think and bring concepts together to complete a project.

Common Rubric Models Outline Clear Expectations

Rubrics communicate clear expectations, criterial standards, performance levels, and define overall mastery. These components are more objective and concrete using carefully crafted rubrics that are aligned with the district’s instructional vision. Feedback is a foundation piece for continuous improvement for both the learner and teacher. Rubrics provide the opportunity for more substantive and rich feedback.

Rubrics should be used for classroom observations. Feedback should be clear as to exemplary practices and areas of needed improvement. Teachers with a sound understanding of common definitions and ongoing communication will know what is expected. Observations using rubrics should be strategically planned to allow for both formative and summative measures of the instructional practices. In addition, the rubrics can provide teachers a way to self-reflect within known parameters.

A graduate degree in administration prepares you to lead as a principal, superintendent or other school administrator and help shape the future for generations of students. Check out our available administration and leadership graduate degrees and get started today!

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