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Building Shared Vision

What is Shared Vision?

There is nothing new in stating the critical importance of Vision within the context of any school innovation. What is new, however, is establishing the link between the macro level vision of the school or school district and the micro level vision of the classroom teacher and ensuring alignment between the two in practice, not just in words. This is shared vision: shared across different constituencies within the school community and articulated through classroom practice and organizational culture.

Why is this important?

At the macro level we anticipate seeing a vision, articulated by the state, district or school leadership, of what learning may look like now and in the future for our students. The vision should then devolve down through the various scaffolds of the organization: from district, to school, to grade level, to subject, to class until it reaches the specific context of classroom practice.

Experience tells us that this process is often the missing piece. It is a critical part of the innovation. Shared vision is critical to empowering individuals in the change process; collaborative school cultures are more likely to thrive in an environment in which individuals and teams feel empowered to act in their translation of the broader vision.

What does the research tell us?

Vision at the macro level normally is described in the published works (see below) of Beare, Garnder, Kohn, Negroponte, Papert, Reich, Schlechty, Seely-Brown, Sizer, Tapscott, and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. While not an exhaustive list, it is information like this that provides school leaders with an understanding of the future, of alternative school experiences and of the impact of societal changes on educational contexts, that help in the formation of this larger picture of the possible.

When shared vision is in place in an education system, Fullan argues that we are more likely to see successful collaborative efforts with teachers working together in a coordinated fashion to move vision into action, as opposed to what he calls the 'stuck schools' where there appears to be no organizational learning occurring and separate elements of the schools or districts working as isolated 'islands.' (Fullan, Building 21st Century Schools)

Key Questions

1. What strategies would you need to put in place to build shared vision?

2. What evidence would you look for in determining the extent to which vision is shared across the school and/or district?


Beare, Hedley. Creating the Future School.London: Routledge Falmer, 2001.

Gardner, H. The Disciplined Mind. What All Students Should Understand.. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999.

Kohn, A. What Does It Mean to Be Well Educated? Boston: Beacon Press, 2004.

Negroponte, Nicholas. Being Digital. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1995.

Papert, Seymour. The Children's Machine. Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer. New York: Basic Books, 1993.

Reich, Robert. The Future of Success. Work and Life in the New Economy. London: Random House, 2001.

Schlechty, Phillip C. Inventing Better Schools. An Action Plan for Educational Reform. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001.

Seely-Brown, J. Learning in the Digital Age. 2004. Available: http://www.johnseelybrown.com/speeches.html#digitalage. March 1 2004.

Tapscott, Don. Growing up Digital. The Rise of the Net Generation. New York: McGraw Hill, 1998.

Sizer, Theodore R. Horace's Hope. What Works for the American High School. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996.

Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Learning for the 21st Century. Washington, D.C., 2003.