Monday, September 21, 2009

Mission Statements/Mission Questions

Lionofzion makes another great point, this time in response to my post about schools being organized around questions. Here is the last paragraph of loz's response (all of which can be read here.)

Perhaps the first step towards this model of education could be to replace the classic 'mission statement' with a 'mission question' thus moving the school's central goal away from instilling some sort of knowledge or character (a central feature noted in most school mission statements) and towards serving as a challenge to students and teachers to more thoroughly examine their places in the world.
I took a look at Westminster's mission statement, and I think loz is onto something. Here is the first paragraph of our mission statement:

We are a community of learners with a long and honored tradition of caring deeply about students and their education. Students are challenged to experiment with ideas, raise questions, critically examine alternatives, and make informed decisions. We encourage students to accept responsibility for their own learning, to discover and pursue their passions, and to act with responsibility.

Imagine the first sentence as a series of questions:

As a community of learners we want to understand the following:
  • What role does our tradition of education play in supporting student learning today?
  • What obligation does a learning community have to care deeply about its members?
  • How does caring influence student learning?

So now, some questions of my own: How would a college use a mission question to recruit students? I'm giving a talk to potential students and their parents this Saturday. I'll let you know.


Peter said...

Well, if you had a mission question you could recruit students who wanted to be part of something that seeks to answer questions, instead of having all the answers.
For example, rather than meeting with students and "lecturing" to them about how great Westminster is you could Discuss with them the idea of a community of learners. They could describe it in some way and you could point out the connections to what is happening on campus. and so forth.
This would also make our mission align with our goal of a learning centered institution. Rather than teach them who we are we would help them learn about the college. A good example of practicing what you preach.

Bryce said...

Using questions to recruit is an intriguing concept. It would be a way of engaging students in dialogue, knowledge construction, and meaningful learning before they are even on our campus. In theory, an admissions office could identify students who are a "good fit" based on how they engage with these questions (in an admissions essay, an interview, a group session, etc.).

On a very visceral level, questions could increase students' interest in an institution simply by exposing some gap in their knowledge or understanding (e.g. "I don't really know how caring influences learning? Maybe I should go to Westminster and find out?"). That is probably somewhat naive; however, intrigue and mystery are great ways to increase engagement.