Building the Plan

How can developing a vision and a plan help improve teaching in or through the arts?

Developing a vision is professional development. Think beyond what’s being done today. From general education, researchers Hyde and Pink recommend a shift in the way we think about professional development. In their cross-study analysis of the topic, they challenge us to stop thinking of professional development as a series of activities and consider it a consistent component of a cohesive plan for long-term change. They challenge communities to commit to a long-term process, both to plan and to change.

Envisioning new possibilities can happen at any level. Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education Director Arnold Aprill asserts, “The actual collaboration and co-planning between people of different expertises is a significant piece of the professional development.” Planning for stronger arts education can be done on a large scale where colleagues, communities, even states from across the country come together in framed discussions to articulate a shared vision. Or, it can happen on a very small scale, as an educator-mentor pair or a study group of colleagues imagine change in classes across a school. Much like the individual educational planning meetings in special education, big thinking can also involve the student.

Articulate your shared philosophy and belief systems. The commonly used intensive institute that brings together the whole learning community offers the opportunity to build a shared vision and language. In some learning communities, the institute seeks to help teachers learn and arrive at a particular philosophy. If they adopt the approach, an important part of their understanding is comprehending the assumptions underlying that philosophy. The time together, away from the regular day-to-day work, can help educators step back, think, learn and consider how these ideas merge with their own conceptions. See HOT Schools.

When planning, bring together the people who care about and can be involved in change. Educators involved in large scale planning efforts have the professional development opportunity to take charge of their learning. If their input is included and honored, they can help structure learning plans and environments while also developing their own leadership skills. See Arts Education Collaborative.

Within your arts learning community, develop your shared vision and chart how to get there. When figuring out your strategy, refer back to your vision. Ask “What needs to happen to make this a reality?” Maximize group assets by jointly selecting areas to strengthen while being clear and upfront about your challenges. Together, you can plan, implement, and revise your strategies.