The Aspirations Principles
To be able to dream about the future, while being inspired in the present to reach those dreams’
Dr. Russell J. Quaglia
The Aspirations Academies Trust
Three Guiding Principles
Lived out through 8 Conditions that Make a Difference
As educators and policy makers strive for all students to reach their academic promise, they must ask: How can students meet high academic standards if they don’t believe in their ability to do so? How can they learn if they aren’t academically engaged? How can they set and reach academic goals if they don’t see the purpose in doing so?
If students are to enjoy academic, social and personal success, they must believe in themselves, be engaged in their learning and see the connection between what they learn today and who they want to become tomorrow. When these experiences are absent, aspirations flounder and achievement declines.
The Aspirations Academies Trust (Aspirations) in partnership with The Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations The Quaglia Institute are committed to helping schools foster student aspirations so that all students reach their fullest potential. When students have high aspirations, they have the ability to set goals and think about the future while being inspired in the present to reach those goals. Aspirations and QISA believe that for students to have high aspirations, three Guiding Principles must be present: Self-Worth, Engagement, and Purpose.
The Guiding Principles, in turn, are lived out through the 8 Conditions that emphasise relationships, active and engaging teaching and learning, and a sense of responsibility over one’s own aims and goals. The 8 Conditions are: Belonging, Heroes, Sense of Accomplishment, Fun & Excitement, Curiosity & Creativity, Spirit of Adventure, Leadership & Responsibility, and Confidence to Take Action. The 8 Conditions make a difference because they help schools put into practice the three Guiding Principles that guide Aspirations work.
The Guiding Principles, lived out through 8 Conditions, provide educators with a practical model that can be used to guide the development of educational experiences, from the individual classroom to the entire school building. If school curriculum, activities and lessons support each of the Guiding Principles, students will be more likely to achieve academic, personal and social success.
The three Guiding Principles are:
Self-Worth, Engagement and Purpose
The Guiding Principle of Self-Worth
Lived out through the Conditions of Belonging, Heroes and Sense of Accomplishment
Self-Worth begins when students experience a sense of Belonging: They feel like they are part of the school community while being recognised and appreciated for their uniqueness. Students also experience Self-Worth when someone in their lives believes in them. They need Heroes: people they can look up to, respect and learn from. To develop Self-Worth, students also need a Sense of Accomplishment. They must be recognised as much for their effort, perseverance and citizenship as they are for high grades and academic achievement. As students build Self-Worth, they are more likely to persevere through difficult tasks and be inspired to take the steps needed to reach their goals.
The Condition of Belonging means that a student is a valued member of a community, while still maintaining his or her uniqueness. It is a relationship between two or more persons characterised by a sense of connection and support. Belonging is a necessary Condition for students’ well-being, social engagement and competence. The Condition of Belonging increases intrinsic motivation, for it fosters self-confidence and investment in the community.
Heroes are the everyday people—teachers, friends, family—in students’ lives who inspire them to excel and to make positive changes in attitudes and lifestyles. Heroes are people students can connect with, those who have a positive influence on them and who listen to and value their ideas. Heroes build trust in others and belief in oneself. Educators are by definition Heroes to their students who look up to teachers and school leaders as people to learn from and communicate with about many things. Building relationships with students through support, guidance and encouragement enables them to become more confident in their academic, personal and social growth.
SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT
The Condition of Sense of Accomplishment recognises effort, perseverance, and citizenship— along with academic achievement—as signs of student success. Educators have traditionally used a narrow view of accomplishment as it refers to innate ability, grades, or who is “best in the class.” The Condition of Sense of Accomplishment, however, views success in terms of personal growth and effort, not just class rank and test scores. Schools can celebrate their students’ accomplishments in visible ways. Taking time to recognise and support students’ efforts will result in students who are motivated to persevere through difficult tasks and to create a healthy learning environment through hard work and dedication.
The Guiding Principle of Engagement
Lived out through the Conditions of Fun & Excitement, Curiosity & Creativity and Spirit of Adventure
Engagement means that students are emotionally, intellectually and behaviorally engaged in their learning. Emotionally engaged students experience Fun & Excitement by becoming so involved that they almost lose track of time. At the end of the lesson, they wonder, “Where did that time go?” Intellectually engaged students are not afraid to ask “Why?” or “Why not?” about the world around them. Curiosity & Creativity are alive in the way they learn, fostering inquisitiveness and a desire to satisfy their minds with new discoveries. Behaviorally engaged students have a Spirit of Adventure. They are not afraid to try new things, or to take on healthy challenges, regardless of whether they might succeed or fail. Engagement in learning means students are interested and motivated to learn whilst demonstrating effort, perseverance and focus as well as undertaking challenges that extend and progress their knowledge and skills.
FUN & EXCITEMENT
The Condition of Fun & Excitement is characterised by students being inspired to learn. They are actively engaged and emotionally involved in their school work. Students who exhibit Fun & Excitement are self-confident, curious and prepared; they are willing to meet the challenges of the day. To foster this Condition in schools, students need to be offered relevant opportunities as well as meaningful challenges that are connected with their individual interests.
CURIOSITY & CREATIVITY
The Condition of Curiosity & Creativity is characterised by inquisitiveness, eagerness, a strong desire to learn new or interesting things and a longing to satisfy the mind with new discoveries. Curiosity triggers students to ask “Why?” while creativity gives them the initiative to ask “Why Not?” The intensity of Curiosity & Creativity tends to diminish over time due to the habituating effects of the environment. Therefore, to sustain student motivation, schools must pay careful attention to creating learning environments that promote questioning and creative exploration.
SPIRIT OF ADVENTURE
The Condition of Spirit of Adventure is characterised by students’ ability to take on positive, healthy challenges at school and home, with family and friends. Students experience the Spirit of Adventure when they tackle something new without the fear of failure or success. When schools promote healthy decision making and healthy risk taking, their students become more confident and resilient. Students with the Spirit of Adventure see life as full of opportunities worth exploring for their own sake.
The Guiding Principle of Purpose
Lived out through the Conditions of Leadership & Responsibility and Confidence to Take Action
Schools must challenge students to think about their Purpose—who they want to become as well as what they want to be. To reach this goal, students need to explore what it means to have and create, a successful and rewarding life. Purpose is about being responsible, accountable and confident. To develop Purpose, students need the opportunity to assume Leadership & Responsibility in their lives. They must learn to make decisions and understand the consequences of their choices. When students have Purpose, they have the Confidence to Take Action toward a meaningful, productive and rewarding future. They believe in themselves and are motivated to reach their dreams.
LEADERSHIP & RESPONSIBILITY
The Condition of Leadership & Responsibility means students are able to express their ideas and are willing to accept consequences for their actions. It cultivates accountability for the classroom environment and school community. Schools which promote this Condition teach and expect their students to be good decision makers. They provide legitimate decision making opportunities, seek student input and expect students to be accountable for their actions and words. Students are trusted to make the right decisions and are recognised for doing so.
CONFIDENCE TO TAKE ACTION
Confidence to Take Action is the extent to which students believe in themselves. It encourages them to dream about their future while being motivated to set goals in the present. This Condition is what educators strive for; all other Conditions must be established and supported for students to attain this level of aspiration. Confidence to Take Action is characterised by a positive and healthy outlook on life and by looking inward rather than outward for approval. Schools can help build their students’ Confidence to Take Action by providing support, celebrating diversity and encouraging independent thinking.