In our social studies PLC, we brainstormed an Everest statement* a couple of months ago, and I've been meaning to share it.
The secondary social studies department aims to produce productive, contributing, and positive CITIZENS who are:
–KNOWLEDGEABLE (historically, economically, and civically literate);
–WISE (mature, open-minded, and globally aware); and
–ENGAGED (participate in civic duties; able to take productive action on matters of concern; use their social studies experience in life after high school).
Let's look at some strengths and weaknesses.
- It's got four key words in it, indicated with bolded all-caps. This could help focus the work of the group, creating a clarity of purpose.
- It's got some passion and fire to it. I can hear individual teachers' voices behind many of the listed words and phrases.
- It's emphasis is long-term. Notice no mention of any tests, even though the department is judged based on student performance on the state's MSTEP exam.
- It's got too many words. Clearly this was made by a committee, albeit a lovely one.
- It doesn't tell me what to do next, really. There's got to be a little pruning.
To clean it up, we might create something like the following:
Here are several things that have improved:
- The Everest statement at the top of the document is more easily memorizable than the earlier draft. Once we've got things memorized, our working memory can pull them up at any time to ponder, process, mull over, and so on. We can only think on what we know.
- The four pillars of the department are emphasized, as is the work around them. In other parlance, you might call these values or strategic emphases or something. These are the things the department members believe make a world-class social studies department. These are what the work is for. And so the work of reading, discussing, researching, and experimenting forms around these things.
I share this all as rough draft thinking. Our department is in the throes of figuring out the work just like all kinds of departments all over the world. What I hope is that this rough draft thinking might help a team or two in their efforts.
*For my best explanation of Everest statements, click here for a free pdf download — no email opt-in required.
Thank you to Erica Beaton and Jeremy Verwys for voluntolding me to facilitate the Everest exercise with our social studies group. It is very liberating to just be told or asked to help in a way that someone else thinks you can help — remember that, all ye who lead! And thank you to our social studies group for being good sports.
Dawn Milner says
I’m an American teaching English in The Netherlands at a Dutch school. I’m leading the English department and I’ve been avoiding the task of rewriting our department plan, as I can’t find a way to unite a rather diverse group in their vision for our department. I really appreciate your example here, because it shows practical purpose, and yet encourages us to back up our thoughts with theory/evidence. It sort of melds the best of both worlds, as it should. I feel like this is a great way to get the many different minds to start thinking about a direction we can follow together. Thanks!
Dave Stuart Jr. says
Dawn, it’s great to hear from you (we’ve interacted before!), and thank you for your flexible thinking in applying this to a different kind of department in a different part of the world.