Vision? What vision?’ An un-occluded view of the importance of vision in educational development

Vision is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as ‘the ability to see’. Yet the vision statements we see adorning the covers of university manifestos are typically less about what can be seen and more about what is hoped to be seen in the future. Such ‘visions of hope’ can sometimes appear distant or unrelated to our day-to-day work as educational developers. They may also become occluded from view due to the day-to-day complexities of working in educational development (EdDev) functions. So, just how important is vision for an EdDev function, and what are the steps a leader should consider when developing a vision to guide function practice?

Quinlan (2020, p. 79) states that no matter where leaders may be found in an institution ‘having a passion, a purpose, or a vision is foundational’. Developing and actioning a vision, however, is not nearly as simple as putting pen to paper then holding colleagues to account. As a leader of learning, developing and actioning a vision requires patience and consensus, as a lack there of can have a significant impact on attainment of function cohesiveness, internal utility, and ultimately institutional reputation (Light, 2020). Important also is the sharing of vision as a means to drive purpose and provide meaning for all it services. Thus, as Wilson (n.d.) writes, not only is it important to have a vision, it is equally important to have it articulated (through conversation), displayed (through content), and embodied (through leadership).

Vision is only as strong as those empowered to enact it. Thus, a core requirement of vision development is involvement of EdDev function colleagues. It is also important that a vision statement represents more than just goal achievement. It is about the creation of culture and the rewarding of behaviours to uphold and drive said culture. As Cooke (2020, p. 223) reflects, ‘throughout my working life the nature of the culture and the journey have come to assume far more importance to me as a leader than just striving for outcomes and goals’. So, what steps should be considered when developing and actioning a vision for your EdDev function?

  • Step 1: Consider vision as a ‘what we want’ statement and engage each function member to help develop it.
  • Step 2: To support a culture of behaviours geared towards pursuit of an EdDev function’s vision, an appreciation of what the function is responsible for is required. Thus, consider next the co-development of a mission statement or a ‘what we do’ statement (Wilson, n.d.).
  • Step 3: Finally, consideration should be given to how the vision and mission of the function will be actioned. An action statement/s or ‘how we do it’ statement/s is required.

Steps in Action

As a new member of staff within the EdDev function at the University of Greenwich, I am responsible for leading a new team of university learning technologists. The steps outlined above were used in May this year to develop a sense of direction and identity for the team. The following statements were co-developed by the team at an away day and have since helped the team plan our day-to-day practice as well as our most effective ways-of-working:

Vision statement: To make teaching with technology stimulating and rewarding for all

Mission statement: To develop competent and confident users of digital pedagogies

Action statement: Lead on innovative digital pedagogy projects to explore, evaluate and recommend appropriate learning and teaching technologies to enhance student success


Kendall Jarrett is an Associate Professor of Learning and Teaching (HE) at University of Greenwich where he has strategic responsibility for curriculum design and digital pedagogy.

References

Cook, C. (2020). Leaving leadership. In K. Jarrett & S. Newton (eds). The practice of leadership in higher education: Real-world perspectives on becoming, being, and leaving. Abingdon: Routledge. Chapter 15a (pp. 222-227).

Light, R. with Razak, Md. S. (2020). The influence of experience and culture on leadership. In K. Jarrett & S. Newton (eds). The practice of leadership in higher education: Real-world perspectives on becoming, being, and leaving. Abingdon: Routledge. Chapter 4 (pp. 61-70).

Quinlan, K. (2020). Leading for learning: Building on values and teaching expertise to effect change. In K. Jarrett & S. Newton (eds). The practice of leadership in higher education: Real-world perspectives on becoming, being, and leaving. Abingdon: Routledge. Chapter 5 (pp. 71-86).

Wilson, L. (n.d.). Crafting a vision: Who we are, what we do, where we’re going.

Further reading on the importance of vision in HE leadership can be found in the book The practice of leadership in higher education: Real-world perspectives on becoming, being, and leaving available from Routledge.

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