Does your service vision lead the way?
When vision leads the way
One lesson from supporting providers and leaders of education and care services through ACECQA’s Quality Support Program is that a united service vision gives direction and motivation for the team to achieve quality outcomes for children and families. This is consistent with a finding of ACECQA’s Quality Improvement Research Project (2019) that ‘the Approved Provider’s vision for quality practice, and resourcing and support to realise this vision was a key enabler in achieving quality improvement’ (p.30).
Why have a vision
‘I have a dream…’ announced civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr in his famous speech in 1963. King had a vision for equality and inclusion. Through painting a clear picture of his vision, he was able to influence the people, captivate their imagination, and unify them under a common goal. Loris Malaguzzi, co-founder of the educational philosophy, the Reggio Emilia approach, shared a vision with the families of this region in Italy. It was to create schools where children would learn about justice and equity, and be seen as active participants with rights who are capable of constructing their own knowledge. This philosophy has had a wide reaching influence on pedagogical practices and how many of us in education and care see children today. Dr Jillian Rodd, an educational and developmental psychologist who specialises in aspects of leadership in early childhood education, explains that, ‘vision is the means by which leaders captivate the imagination of their followers and engage loyalty and support. Vision provides direction for and sustains action in the team, can boost morale and self-esteem and acts as a buffer against stress during periods of change’ (2006, p.26). As a service leader, you have the opportunity to collaborate with your team, educators, children, families and community to formulate a shared service vision for all. Your service vision will inspire, provide direction and purpose. To have vision is to be able to see, to be able to think about and to plan for the current and future goals of the service.
How is a vision formulated?
A vision statement captures the values and beliefs of your team and helps define your service goals. An effective vision statement is short, simple and specific to provide clarity and understanding. An example is ACECQA’s vision: Children have the best start in life through high quality early childhood education and care. This vision is driven by the organisation’s values and purpose. It inspires, provides direction and influences how the organisation can achieve its goals. You might like to consider Stephen Covey’s strategy for formulating a vision. He suggests to ‘begin with the end in mind’ (2016, p.102). To do this, identify the current quality practices you wish to keep in your service, and then visualise what you cannot yet see but would like to see happening. You might like to take others with you through this visualisation. Take some deep breaths and envision your ideal service:
- What is it about the service that is important to you?
- What do you see?
- Take a look around, what does it look like?
- What can you hear, what do you smell?
- What are you feeling?
- How are the children engaging with the learning spaces?
As thoughts surface during the visualisation, remember these. These thoughts will be guided by your values, examples of which could include honesty, integrity or collaboration. These thoughts are also influenced by your beliefs about how children learn and develop, and what you feel is important for them to experience in your service. You might like to document them on sticky notes and include them as part of a brainstorming session for discussion. Values and beliefs shape our behaviours. When teams identify shared values, a sense of trust is promoted as is a sense of belonging. This leads to a unified way of working. When you have an awareness of your beliefs and values, you are able to reflect on how these may impact your program and pedagogical practices and, in turn, children’s learning. Reflecting on these together as a team can inform the writing of your service vision statement. Remember a vision statement is short and specific, can usually be summed up in one or two sentences and it helps define your service goals. Considering the goals of your service also supports the creation of a vision. What do you want to achieve, how will you achieve it and by when? The Australian Department of Health’s vision statement is an example of this –Better health and wellbeing for all Australians, now and for future generations.
Your vision and your philosophy
If your vision is your compass, then your statement of philosophy is your map. It supports your vision statement, and also relates to the purpose of your service. It outlines what your service aims to provide and endeavours to foster. Your vision will become a guide to support you to make decisions for and with children that align with the service philosophy. Your philosophy is a representation of your vision that outlines the purpose and principles under which your service operates. It’s another tool to assist with the navigation towards your shared desired outcomes. The creation of a service vision might lead to a review or creation of the service philosophy. You might like to revisit your service philosophy as a team. Does it reflect your service’s core values? Does it identify what drives practices? Does it support your vision? Openly identify, reflect on and celebrate each other’s unique and shared values and beliefs? Your team are an important part of the success of the vision for your services. Support them to support you by providing them with the time, training, support and resources they might need to help you get to where you want your service to be. Remember to keep sight of your vision. It guides the decisions you make each and every day as you strive to achieve quality outcomes for your children and families.
References and further reading
ACECQA information sheet – Belonging, Being & Becoming for educators ACECQA information sheet – Reviewing your service philosophy ACECQA Newsletter 6 – Reflecting on your service philosophy ACECQA (2019) Quality Improvement Research Project, online, Sydney. Covey, SR (2016) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, Simon and Schuster, New York Rodd, J (2006) Leadership in Early Childhood, 3rd Edition, Allen and Unwin, Australia.