David M. Palmer & Dr. Wm. A. Kritsonis


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Dr. William Allan Kritsonis
Professor & Faculty Mentor
PhD Program in Educational Leadership
PVAMU-The Texas A&M University System

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David M. Palmer & Dr. Wm. A. Kritsonis

  1. 1. DAVID M. PALMER and WILLIAM ALLAN KRITSONIS Introduction The Ways of Knowing Through the Realms of Meaning (Kritsonis, 2007) is a philosophy for selecting the curriculum for general education. The organizational core of any school is its instruction. The curriculum and its broader objectives is a critical topic in every planning cycle or strategic performance system. Long term strategic plans, action plans, strategic thinking or SWOT analysis must have issues of curriculum and instruction Planning is reflexive and implies that schools are more than just inert pawns in the hands of socioeconomic forces (Holmes, Wootten, Motion, Zorn, & Roper, 2005). Strategic planning in education must have as its primary goal student achievements. If this is so the approach in any strategic plan will be a unitary philosophy of the curriculum with a strategy for reference to the meaningful relationships to the other components of the curriculum. When this is the case, we right away have a postmodern understanding of what it means to give meaning to the human experience through a solid foundation established by the six patterns in the realms of meaning namely symbolics, empirics, esthetics, synnoetics, ethics and synoptics (Kritsonis & Watkins, 2007). Since strategic planning in schools should command the attention of the curriculum then the strategic planning of the curriculum requires strategic and tactical decision making. With regard to the ordering of content, the relevant teaching materials should simplify learners’ task. The thinking should make their modes of thought less transient while at the same time allowing them to actively assimilate pragmatically and constructively throughout their student centered adventure (Dolence, 2004). Purpose of the Article The purpose of this article is to show the linkage between the realms of meaning and strategic planning. The article will show how symbolics, empirics, esthetics, synnoetics, ethics, and synoptics has an under pinning value to the planning that is required for successful schools. What is Strategic Planning? Strategic planning is a management instrument. As with any executive tool, it is used to help an institution do an improved job - to concentrate its energy; ensure that members of the organization are working toward the same goals; and to appraise and direct the organization in a changing environment. Strategic planning is a disciplined effort to produce decisions and actions that shape and guide what a school is, what it does, and why it does it, with a focus on the future. Strategic planning has its complexities in terms of what it requires. It is aimed at an overall focus of the organization's resources on mutually preset planned quantifiable outcomes. Useful plans include an organization's entire resources and purpose so it must be developed calculatingly and attentively (McNamara, 2008). Strategic planning begins with strategic thinking. The difference is one is analysis and the other is synthesis. It is a constant, methodical thinking process that identifies a preferred future and strategies to bring it about by linking deliberate plans with medium and short term operating programs and budgeting controls. Planning is 57
  2. 2. DAVID M. PALMER and WILLIAM ALLAN KRITSONIS getting people involved in collecting high-quality information and using it to make intelligent decisions about the future. It is the navigator and roadmap to guide a team and board to make use of an assessable plan that will bring together the priorities and maximize the performance of the school. Basically, a school undertakes strategic planning to reiterate or fine-tune its mission – why it exists, what is its rationale, what it achieves now– and to concur on its vision – what it needs to be and achieve in the future. The reason is not to decide what ought to be done in the years ahead but to decide what must be done presently to make you the most excellent school. The real value of a strategic planning blueprint is more than just having an outline that guides prospective decisions although that is extremely important on its own. It is an effective all-inclusive approach to building harmony and inspiring support, laying out critical priorities for the board and school head who are charged with the execution of the plan, and channeling all your energies in one agreed path. Strategic planning is a continuous, organized practice that helps schools and districts to foresee and chart their annual and multi-year goals and activities by analyzing their system-specific strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities, as well as those of their community (Anderson & Kumari, 2008). Strategic planning should be designed to enhance organizational and staff competences, capability and resources while facilitating results. Strategic planning involves ongoing activities whereby schools and districts: develop, implement, and evaluate programs and activities designed to meet their charge, goals, and student- related outcomes; track their needs, plans, and progress over time. Strategic planning should analyzes what programs, curricula, or interventions to add, remove, replace, or add-on to existing programs, while shaping when and how to make the mid-course changes to take full advantage of these programs. It anticipates and reacts as needs arise. Strategic planning uses a systems approach to impact the educational process emphasizing valuable and efficient data-based forecast and decision-making, personnel and resource development and management, monetary and technological reliability, and school and community integration. Plainly put, strategic planning determines where an organization is going over the next year or more, how it's going to get there and how it'll know if it got there or not. The hub of a strategic plan is usually on the whole organization, while the focal point of a business plan is more often than not on a particular service or program (Gregory, 2007). There are a diversity of perspectives, models and contemporary advancements used in strategic planning. The way that a strategic plan is developed depends on the nature of the organization's leadership, culture of the organization, complexity of the organization's climate, size of the organization, and proficiency of the planners. Case in point, there are a variety of strategic planning models. Goals-based planning is maybe the most common and begins with focusing on the organization's mission (and vision and/or values), objectives to work toward the mission, strategies to achieve the objectives or goals, and action planning who will do what and by when (McNamara, 2008). Issues-based strategic planning begins by probing issues facing the organization, strategies to address those concerns, and action plans. Organic strategic planning might start by articulating the organization's vision and ideals and then action plans to accomplish the vision while adhering to those values. Various planners have a preference for a particular approach to planning, e.g., appreciative inquiry. Plans are scoped to a year, three years, or five to ten years into the future. Some plans include only executive information and no action plans. Lastly, strategic planning is a 58
  3. 3. DAVID M. PALMER and WILLIAM ALLAN KRITSONIS school’s process of defining its strategy, or direction, and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue its strategies, including its staff and students (McNamara, 2008). The best curriculum and the best staff development and campus safety programs is a must. Various business analysis techniques can be used in strategic planning, including SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats ) and in the wider educational business circle PEST analysis (Political, Economic, Social, and Technological analysis) or STEER analysis (Socio-cultural, Technological, Economic, Ecological, and Regulatory factors) and EPISTEL - Environment, Political, Informatics, Social, Technological, Economic and Legal ( Ronco, 2007). What are the Benefits of Strategic Planning Strategic planning enables people to manipulate the future. A number of trends that already strongly affect schools include; an aging population, an increasing proportion of minority students, and growing numbers of special interest groups competing for scarce public resources (Wirth, 2009). School officials must plan for shortages of teachers, particularly in math, science, and bilingual education, and they must prepare to accommodate rising numbers of Hispanic students, many of whom will not speak English. More students of all types will keep on coming from low socio economic status. These profound demographic changes will continue to reshape the nation and its schools in the coming decades. They make strategic planning particularly important and show why it must be done in unison with a strategy, plan and policy. Change is taking place at an extraordinary pace. Era and remoteness continue to be less and less significant due to fast growth of technological tools including the Internet. With no strategic planning, schools just drift, and are always reactive other than deliberate (Gregory, 2007). The benefit of creating vision and direction that is simple and clear gets your primary targets, the students, closer to the achievement outcomes you seek for them. That plan in essence is a good plan for it challenges assumptions, and is created with input from sources inside and outside the school. It attracts commitment and accountability and it becomes part of the culture to reflect changes in the environment. It allows effective communication using a different medium. Too often communication is done half way. We tell and ask and suggest and advise but don’t test for understanding. To close the loop, build in ways to test at every level and area within an organization, along with an understanding of the vision. (Mogavero, & Lake, 2006). At some point in the strategic planning process (sometimes in the activity of setting the strategic direction), planners usually identify or update what might be called the strategic philosophy. This includes identifying or updating the organization's mission, vision and/or values statements. Mission statements are brief written descriptions of the purpose of the organization. Mission statements vary in nature from brief to quite comprehensive, and including having a specific purpose statement that is part of the overall mission statement. A campus improvement plan must include specifying responsibilities and timelines with each objective, or who needs to do what and by when. It should also include methods to monitor and evaluate the plan, mainly student progress which includes knowing how the organization will know who has done what and by when. 59
  4. 4. DAVID M. PALMER and WILLIAM ALLAN KRITSONIS How are the Realms of Meaning Relevant and Applicable to Strategic Planning? Symbolics The first realm symbolics consists of ordinary language, mathematics, and non-discursive symbolic forms. The underpinning of education can be found in the symbolics realm. Reason and reality concerning all things is defined by and has its essence in Language. Effective communication is most critical to strategic planning because since it focuses on the curriculum as being the inner hub of the instructional core, and since the curriculum is subject to being and rightly so a unitary philosophy within the strategic plan then symbolics represent a very fundamental foundation underpinning the path to every thing else. Symbolics is even postmodern in its congruency to planning cycle, strategic performance system, long range strategic plan, action plan, strategic thinking and SWOT analysis, these issues being critical to the success of the process. Symbolics encompasses the other constructs included in empirics, esthetics, synnoetics, and ethics and synoptic so we get analytic abstraction, comprehensive integrativeness and reinforcement from multiple interpretations in looking at the contributions, data and ideas that you get from your staff in developing it using the all inclusive approach. The integrity and moral meanings of the strategic plan is also revealed (Kritsonis, 2007). The realms of meaning can assess the planning, implementation and amendments of the strategic plan right along the continuum for the life cycle of that plan. Language allows knowledge to be conveyed and received. Non discursive ordinary language is one of the building blocks of the educational process. Strategic planning is a management tool. The language of the strategic plan and its components sharpens this tool expressly to produce disciplined effort towards decisions and actions that shape what a school is, what it does, and why it does it, with a focus on the future. Empirics Empirics are the second realm of meaning, dealing with facts. This realm includes the sciences of the physical world, of living things, and of man (Kritsonis 2007, p. 12). Empirics describe factual descriptions, mathematical generalizations, and theoretical formulations and explanations (Kritsonis 2007, p. 12). “The theoretical formulations and explanations are based upon observation and testing in the world of matter, life, mind and society” (Kritsonis, 2007, p. 12). Strategic planning begins with strategic thinking. In that statement lays both analysis and synthesis. The methodical thinking process required for strategic planning therefore is grounded in empirics. The linking of deliberate plans with medium and short term operating programs, budgeting controls, and fiscal prudence has deep empirical meanings requiring mathematics for their expression. To know a skill is to be able to put together valid general description of matters of fact (Kritsonis, 2006), but a meta analytic process is needed to communicate rationales, vision and goals at the leadership level since outcomes are directly tied to tax-based resources. Fiscal management requires disciplined logical thought. “The facts of empirics are framed in accordance with rules of evidence and verification” (Kritsonis, 2007, p.12). 60
  5. 5. DAVID M. PALMER and WILLIAM ALLAN KRITSONIS Esthetics In all things demonstrate the beauty and usefulness of esthetics. Esthetics appeals to knowledge of a singular particular form (Kritsonis 2007, p 273). A beautiful vision that inspires a flawless inclusion climate, enhanced organizational and staff competences, programs and activities designed to meet their charge, goals, and student-related outcome, valuable and efficient data-based forecast and decision- making; personnel and resource development and management, monetary and technological reliability, and good school and community integration are all beautiful enrichments like music to the ear that deepens esthetic insight. “Synnoetics signifies relational insight or direct awareness” (Kritsonis, 2007, p. 12). Strategic planning uses a systems approach to affecting the educational process emphasizing valuable and efficient data-based forecast and decision-making. That awareness sets the stage for us of a diversity of perspectives, models and contemporary advancements used in strategic planning. The way that a strategic plan is developed depends on the nature of the organization's leadership, culture proficiency of the organization and the complexity of the school as social system (Gregory, 2007). Ethics The relationship between individuals and conflict resolution in school is a sore point in many schools. Ethics is the fifth realm, and should be the foundation of our personal conduct and free conscience. Professionals and leaders often resort solutions inconsistent with integrity, professionalism ethics and dignity as exampled by the rubber room experiences of hundreds of New York teachers. Without strategic planning, schools just drift. When that happens and with the subsequent potential effect on the learners, it becomes unethical. An internal code of conduct, not explicitly written in a strategic plan should always guide operational plan. Professional development for staff should be reflected in the strategic plan. Synoptics Synoptics is a term that comprises meanings having an integrative function, uniting meanings from all the realms into a unified perspective (Kritsonis, 2007, p. 479). Faith can be a reservoir of strength to draw upon when difficulties arise. Strategic planning is also about essential decisions and actions, but it does not make future decisions. Strategic planning involves anticipating the eventual environment, but the decisions are made in the now. This means that over time, the school must stay abreast of changes in order to make the best decisions it can at any time. Concluding Remarks In conclusion, strategic planning through the lens of the realms of meaning can be used to determine mission, vision, values, goals, objectives, roles, responsibilities and timelines. Strategic planning has also been described as a tool – 61
  6. 6. DAVID M. PALMER and WILLIAM ALLAN KRITSONIS but it is not a substitute for the exercise of judgment by leaders. Strategic planning, though described as disciplined, does not typically flow smoothly from one step to the next. It is a creative process, and the fresh insight arrived at today might very well alter the decisions made previously. Symbolics empowers to communicate effectively. Empirics provides mathematical soundness to decisions. Esthetics promotes the beauty in accuracy. Synnoetics, embraces relational knowledge. Ethics gives moral meaning that expresses awareness of fairness and success without question. This means we self evaluate honestly and we evaluate our strategic plan outcomes truthfully. The final realm, synoptics, refers to meanings that are comprehensively integrative. All these are relevant to a successful strategic plan. REFERENCES Anderson, S., & Kumari, R. (2008). Continuous improvement in schools: Understanding the practice. Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto, Canada. Retrieved July 23, 2009, from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob Dolence, M. G. (2004). The curriculum centered strategic planning model. Research Bulletin, 10. Retrieved July 23, 2009, from the Center of Research Web sit http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERB0410.pdf Gregory, A.J. (2007). A systems approach to strategic management. Retrieved July 23, 2009, from the Centre for Systems Studies, Business School, University of Hull, UK Web site: http://journals.isss.org/index.php/proceedings51st/article/ viewFile Holmes, P., Cockburn-Wootten, C., Motion, J., Zorn, E.T., & Roper, J. (2005) Critical reflexive practice in teaching management communication. Business Communication Quarterly, 68 (2), 247-257. Retrieved July 23, 2009, from http://www.nipissingu.ca/oar/PDFS/V812E.pdf Kritsonis, W.A. (2007). Ways of knowing through the realms of meaning: A philosophy for selecting the curriculum for general education. Houston,TX: National FORUM Journals. McNamara, C. (2008). Strategic planning (in nonprofit or for-profit organizations). Retrieved July 23, 2009, from the Authenticity Consulting Web site: http://managementhelp.org/plan_dec/str_plan/str_plan.htm Mogavero, M. A., & Lake, E. (2006). Collaborative strategic planning in a student- centered university. Paper presented at NCCI, Edinboro, PA. Retrieved July 28, 2009, from http:// www.ncci-cu.org Ronco, S. L. (2007). Start your planning with a SWOT: Institutional effectiveness & analysis. Retrieved July 24, 2009, from the Florida Atlantic University Web site: http://iea.fau.edu/inst/sair05.doc Watkins, D., & Kritsonis, W. A.(2008). Developing and designing an effective school curriculum: Enhancing student achievement based on an integrated curriculum model and the ways of knowing through the realms of meaning. FOCUS on Colleges, Universities, and Schools, (2)1, 1-15. Retrieved July 23, 2009, from http://www.nationalforum.com Wirth, RA. (2009). Benefits of strategic planning. Retrieved July 23, 2009, from http://www.entarga.com/stratplan/plngbenefits.htm 62