Visionary Leadership in the Classroom
Teachers and instructors today are constantly looking for ideas on how to promote active involvement of their learners in the process of learning. Research appears to confirm that students from the teen years onward are most likely to take an active role if they can see some relevance between what is to be learned and their own lives. Inn essence, this means for optimum learning to occur, students must see some inherent value in what is to be learned for them.
This can present significant challenges to the teacher responsible for content that may be extremely relevant in the future, but can appear to learners to serve little purpose at the present time. Even in business workshops and seminars where one would assume an obvious relationship between the world of work and seminar content, attendance in some workshops is often mandatory, not voluntary. With voluntary attendance, participants often select courses and workshops where they can see the relevance of the content on their own and thus begin the class more motivated to learn.
It is possible and is often the case that some learning takes place even though the relevance does not become apparent till some time after the completion of the course. However, it is hard to argue with the observation that students are more eager to learn things they see as having benefit to them.
The idea of teachers and instructors thinking of themselves as leaders can help meet that challenge.
Leaders have a clear picture of a destination of value to followers as well as a road map of how to get there. The destination is a vision of future possibilities and although no one as yet has defined universal personality traits shared by all leaders, anecdotal evidence suggests vision is a common characteristic.
In theory, the idea of developing a vision and sharing it with learners seems to have merit. In practice, however, there is the issue of from where does this vision of future possibilities come?
Most teachers have sufficient experience with the content for which they are responsible to be able to sit down and flesh out a picture of what life can be like for those with full understanding of the subject.
However, some teachers feel they lack the creativity to do so, while others feel they lack the experience. For both, a very practical solution is to make use of testimonials from former students.
Good teachers and instructors in all fields often get letters or emails from former students sharing some success story in their lives and thanking the teacher for the contribution what they taught them has had in their successes.
Sharing these letters with existing students is in effect sharing a vision not of what could happen, but of what actually has happened in the life of a former learner. For newer teachers and instructors, the task becomes searching for success stories of people in your field of study.
In interviews and biographies, successful people in all walks of life often assign a significant role to former teachers and the things they learned from them. Others speak of how the field of study they selected contributed to their success. The stories are there and when told with passion and a little flair, they can serve as attractive visions of the future.