VisionWorks

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VisionWorks is a programme based on the methods of Psychology of Vision developed by Sue Allan, a Psychology of Vision Master Trainer from Great Britain. The programme is predominantly propagated on the German and British Newage markets. Vendors are PoV Trainers who seem to offer VisionWorks on separate websites.

VisionWorks is devised for use in schools by teachers and students, claiming it will "equip young people with the key life skills that underpin a happy and successful life"[1], and is propagated as a veritable cure-all for classroom problems:

"Our ready-to-use, complete schemes of work shape the school in so many ways. They:
Increase self-confidence, empathy, perseverance and resilience
Promote independent learning
Improve relationships across the board
Influence the ethose of the school
Contribute significantly to moving schools from 'good' to 'outstanding'."[2]

Connections between VisionWorks and Psychology of Vision

According to one vendor, relations between PoV and VisionWorks are reciprocal:

"VisionWorks is based on the PoV work created by Chuck and Lency Spezzano and VisionWorks is supported by PoV. In the true spirit of cooperation, this reciprocal relationship makes the work more meaningful and rewarding for all involved. And that’s how great relationships work!"[3]

The website further emphasises the „Steps for Leadership“ programmes sold worldwide by various PoV Trainers. On the other hand, VisionWorks is also promoted on the websites maintained by Psychology of Vision[4], and events with Sue Allen organised by PoV are also linked to events of VisionWorks, as becomes apparent on the German facebook site of VisionWorks:

"On May 25, 2012, a VisionWorks meeting will take place from 10-12 a.m. at Wolf-Ferrari Haus in Ottobrunn prior to the workshop with Jeff and Sue Allen."[5]

Aims and Methods of VisionWorks

The programme means to offer various tools for both teachers and students with the promise of easier handling of classes resp. social and emotional learning, and a better success in school and adult life. VisionWorks websites also employ Newage catchwords:

“VisionWorks programmes are a practical and effective way to implement a holistic approach to student wellbeing and personal development.“[2]

Besides the promise of „practical and effective ways“, the site also speaks of „ready-to-use, complete schemes of work“ which “shape the school in so many ways“.[2] This approach suggests that both programme developers and vendors have a rather mechanistic view of humans and presume that the same input will produce the same output in any given person, regardless of individual background, culture, personal disposition etc. Similarly, the approach reveals that the programme belongs to the field of self-optimising systems claiming that the set of rules, or „schemes of work“, they offer was the key to each and any problem of their customers.

Aims as presented at VisionWorks German websites

Comparing the English and German language sites selling VisionWorks, there are substantial differences in claims and presentations. The German website says:

To dissolve conflicts and anger not when they erupt, but, using the right awareness, already in their emergence; Positive emotional intelligence for students; motivating to learn and improving learn processes; communicating emotions forthrightly and without affront; to improve cohesion within grades; Understanding and being understood.
VisionWorks programmes supply young people with important abilities for their lives which are useful for themselves, their schools and the entire society.[4]

When speaking of dissolving conflicts and anger as they emerge, the programme seems to aim at suppressing conflict and anger rather than providing or teaching adequate methods to deal with and solve them in acceptable ways, or ways to cope with frustration. This eventually will not lead to an improved feeling of cohesion, but to such issues being suppressed and covered up in an atmosphere of reinforced superficial and pretended smiles. Students thus will not learn to solve conflicts or cope with frustration under this programme which therefore, opposite to its claims, will not prepare them for a successful life in a modern, pluralist society.

Aims as presented at VisionWorks British websites

The English sites are predominantly concerned with the catchwords of "emotional intelligence" and "life skills":

"VisionWorks teaching programmes equip young people with the key life skill that underpin a happy and successful life.
Developing a whole school approach to emotional literacy in partnership with VisionWorks has made a significant contribution to narrowing the gap and moving schools from 'good' to 'outstanding'."[1]

This phrasing reflects the PoV approach of getting clients interested by promising them to offer ways of having successful relationships and being able to overcome partnership problems by the simple means of booking seminars and courses. At the same time, this difference in presentation and in emphasis of its ultimate aims reveals the VisionWorks programme is not to be viewed as a method based on educational theories.

It is a further interesting aspect that the term of 'life skills' usually is applied in Special Needs Education and means the teaching of abilities important in coping with every-day life.

Aims as presented by Psychology of Vision websites

The German resp. Mainland Europe section of the Psychology of Vision website also promotes the VisionWorks programme and e.g. mentions two sets of benefits, one for students, the other for teachers:

For students:
It helps students to make more positive decisions regarding their behaviour. The establishment of an independent learning behaviour, an increased emotional maturity. It helps students to feel more assured and included at school.[4]

These benefits listed remind of an instant solution, a shortcut which allegedly realises in the time of one or a few workshops what takes years of maturing in real life. It also indicates a rather mechanistic view of human nature, presuming that, with the appropriate input of methods and techniques, the same results will be reproducible with every person.

VisionWorks for Teachers:
Optimising of homeroom classes with simple moduls immediately useable. Improving of behaviour and tolerance in students. Establishing a common language in order to handle conflicts and differing views.[4]

While this may sound appealing to stressed teachers at first sight, this goes beyond a mechanistic view of human nature. The language used bears one striking resemblance to Scientology's redefinition of terms when differing views are to be "handled". Furthermore, establishing a common language may well mean the implementation of redefined terms, creating a closed group communicating in a language not understood by outsiders due to the redefinition of words. On the other hand, teaching curricula make it quite evident that differing views are nothing to be "handled", but to be encouraged as one result of democratic pluralism. It is also not possible to "handle" conflicts simply by introducing a common language. Students exposed to such procedures will not learn to cope with pluralism, or learn to seek solutions in case of conflicting interests. The course therefore may be quite detrimental to providing students with adequate knowledge and social abilities for their future lives in a democratic society.

Course System and Prices

In the same way, Vision Works keeps in stock at set of different programmes and courses for teachers, for students, and for entire schools, with courses and material available on various levels.

Courses in Britain

In Great Britain, teachers can book a two-hour "Induction Training" either as a tutor team or a whole staff group: "What does it do? It introduces the VisionWorks model of teaching Emotional Wellbeing in schools"; this two-hour training comes with a price of BP 400.[6] The "INSET Training" for tutor teams or whole staff groups lasts one day: "What does it do? It explores the VisionWorks programmes in depth" at the cost of BP 600, with the promise: "How will it help? Training will embed the principles within year groups and staff teams, enhancing the effectiveness of the programme so that the 5 domains of emotional intelligence become an integral part of your school ethos".[6]

Further courses offered are "School Inset: Emotional Wellbeing - a vital key for learning" and "Managing behaviour - a better way", of variable length between evening courses, half a day and day courses at between BP 400 to BP 600. Both are described with claims such as:

"There will be improved classroom behaviour, better academic results and stronger relationships. Staff and students will feel less stressed. The school community will be a happier one" and
"You will see improved classroom behaviour through raised self-esteem and increased self-management. Relationships across the board will show a marked improvement. Classes will be more settled, therefore everyone's learning will improve" and
"In this seminar we pinpoint the root causes of behaviour and demonstrate how simple strategies can give pupils new awareness and power to make more positive choices about their behaviour, and more effective ways to manage themselves and their behaviour."[6]

While this may have an initial appeal for stressed teachers, the programme is advertised as an instant solution after whose implementation problems are completely wiped out once and forever, while a personal development in children and youths, rather a continuing development over years, is said to be procurable by a fixed set of "simple strategies". This attitude rather reflects the mechanistic approach of many self-optimising courses in the Newage psycho market who claim successes for their method while blaming failures on the clients' lack of attitude and determination.

Courses in Germany

The German VW course system is arranged for different age groups, one being advertised for children "..aged 7 to 10, i.e. from grade 4, in particular for grades 5 and 6".[7] While the age group of 7 to 10 will in fact be found at elementary schools, students in grades 5 and 6 are above the age group mentioned. The other programme aims at students in "grades 7 to 9" and "age group 10-15" in all levels of secondary education, but "may also be applied with older students".[7] Both descriptions display this surprising error in ascribing age groups correctly to the respective grades which is particularly remarkable as the website claims: "The authors are teachers themselves..."[8], but then so are the various typographical errors and misspellings. The German site advertises its products as customisable.[7] German VisionWorks also makes a point of including participants into a network offering further workshops and network meetings.[9]

The German website does not provide any information as to the course fees. However, the person responsible for client contact exploits her professional position at a German university to promote VisionWorks by publishing her office address[10] which is not in accordance with regulations for persons in public service.

Critical Aspects

Besides the aspects mentioned so far, as e.g. the underlying mechanistic view of humans or the redefinition of terms, there are further aspects which ought to be viewed critically by prospective customers.

No Academic Reception

It has to be pointed out that VisionWorks, same as Psychology of Vision, is not recognised by academic research. Therefore, it never was subject to any peer review or academic research and is not part of any course of studies at German or British universities. As a result of this, VisionWorks trainers will also receive no professional supervision.

The programmes VisionWorks promotes and sells are therefore to be seen merely as part of the Newage market in psycho courses. Due to at least part of its trainers being also involved with Psychology of Vision and functioning as (high-ranking) trainers or so-called facilitators (i.e. persons responsible for the organising of seminars, workshops etc.) and due to the tendency of organising VisionWorks meetings in temporal vicinity and in the same premises as Psychology of Vision events, participants of VisionWorks may also be encouraged, if not requested, to get involved in PoV.

Further aspects

Both German and British websites are not definite in their descriptions of the programme and largely offer commonplace statements, like ""... programmes provide young people with important abilities which are useful for themselves, their school, and the entire society"[4], which in the English version becomes a somewhat more modest "... the whole community". [11]

These abilities remain a claim not substantiated at the websites. While this is not surprising with programmes designed for sale, it also renders the claims vague. Customers thus cannot make informed decisions beforehand, but are sought to be attracted by the alleged effects of the programmes. Whether a teacher or school in fact agrees with the particular methods and abilities taught are aspects they are only able to decide in retrospective.

Students are further said to "... feel more included"[4] by VisionWorks. However, no concrete ways or methods to achieve this inclusion get mentioned on the VisionWorks websites. It must be pointed out that this is one of the most widespread characteristics of programmes and within groups actively selling on the psycho market: to create a feeling of 'belonging' and inclusion with their participants, in order to achieve client retention. The psycho market is rather interested in a long-time commitment by its clientele and therefore seeks to create conditions encouraging and promoting customer loyalty.

Vendors

There are various vendors in Great Britain and Germany selling VisionWorks programmes.

Vendors on the British Market

VisionWorks is said to have been developed by Sue Allen who is a high-ranking member of Psychology of Vision, in fact one of five persons to be labeled as "Master Trainer" on PoV websites. The Allans also publish a website promoting their PoV activities with the name of "VisionWorks for Life", but the VisionWorks aiming at schools is promoted by a different website, "VisionWorks.net".[12]

This website is a cooperation of four persons:
Sue Allen is portrayed as a former "Head of history and Head of Year 12 ... until she joined VisionWorks full time in 2001"; it gets pointed out that she has co-developed the VisionWorks programmes. The site further claims VisionWorks was being used "sucessfully in schools all over the UK for the last six years"; Allan is also said to teach "emotional intelligence to adults".[12]
Janet Grant is portrayed as a former primary and secondary school teacher, a teacher of Emotional Wellbeing, a "co-author of VisionWorks for schools", and active in teachers' training.[12]
Ruthie Alexander-Morgan also is portrayed as having worked in education and seems to have been into Special Needs before. She is described as a "qualified teacher of Mindfulness meditation for young people" working in a Young Offenders Institution.[12] Alexander-Morgan also maintains her own website selling VisionWorks and so-called mindfulness.[13]
Suzanne Corrywright is another teacher having worked both in the USA and in UK and now a tutor for GSCE and A-level students, as well as a co-author of VisionWorks programmes.[12]

The German website, VisionWorks.org, provides different information, so e.g. Alexander-Morgan is not mentioned there, while Grant gets portrayed as a teacher of 25 years' experience and a headmaster of 14 years' experience. Corrywright, on the other hand, is called a "private teacher" there which may be due to faulty translation.[14]

Vendors on the German market

At least one of the vendors was registered as a non-profit organisation; the person named as a contact also provides a postal address at the University of Frankfort/Main where she seems to be responsible for a „studium digitale“.[15] The text explains:

“Claudia Bremer takes care of your inquiries with VisionWorks, sends out programmes, and does respective teachers' training programmes in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. In her „everyday job“, she oversees teachers' training, a training in coaching and oversees organisations, in particular educational institutions, with their development. She is the director of an institution of training and service at Goethe University in Frankfort.“[15]

Bremer thus exploits her professional position to further sales of her VisionWorks activities. On the other hand, Bremer avoids mentioning any PoV involvement in her professional environment, as e.g. on her respective website[16], but material available online shows she at least participated in one seminar held by Chuck and Lency Spezzano in May 2012, and the wording suggests her participation in prior PoV events:

"I also look forward to the days in the castle, the environment, the time with Chuck and Lency and most of all to spend these days with you, to meet many friends, to meet new people and to spend some wonderful days with you there!"[17]

Another person named on this site is Hedlen Zirngibl who is a resource teacher at a Bavarian school; she is also named at the website of Psychology of Vision as a contact for courses and seminars in 2012 and 2013.[18] She is also a member of a non-profit organisation providing aid for children in Sri Lanka and did a teachers' training for local teachers there.[19] As all programmes, DVDs etc. provided by this organisation are priced between € 140-160, with prices for seminars and courses not being specified on the website, the status of a non-profit organisation is somewhat surprising.

Another vendor, Gerd Kühnen, is situated in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg where he runs an enterprise offering coachings for management and personnel [20] and another company offering services as developers of applications. The company apparently developed two applications as of yet, one for „Cards of Love“, the other for „Cards of Enterprise“, both complete with a link to Psychology of Vision.[21] In 2013, Kühnen also offered Steps for Leadership seminars advertised on the PoV website.[22] He also is the former registrant of vision-works dot org which is now registered by Claudia Bremer (cf. above)[23], and is furthermore named as a contact for the VisionWorks programme at the PoV website.[4] Kühnen is married to a paediatrician whose name seems to be connected to Psychology of Vision, too.[24]

Clients of VisionWork

The British website publishes a list of some 21 schools in various towns in England who participated in VisionWorks courses, among them five schools in Bristol and four in Wiltshire.[25]

The German website does not mention any particular schools. However, one school mentions their implementation of one of the VisionWorks programmes in their fifth grades and comment:

"... is a programme developed in Great Britain to support personality forming and relationship skills of students. It aims at training the consciousness of students for their own behaviour and for successful relationships, as these are the basis for success in all areas of life. Students learn to solve conflicts and anger when emerging and not only when erupting, to communicate emotions openly without attack, and to take over responsibility for themselves and their own learning processes.
Our secondary school applies this programme in the framework of individual promotion in fifth grades. This decision is based on the comprehension that cognitive learning processes are not only dependent on the development of an atmosphere without fear, on team spirit and mutual esteem, but will be optimised by them ultimately. Our students will be promoted in particular in the emotional aspects of their personality development by giving them room to discover their individual strong points, to understand the language of emotions, and to chose peaceful ways of communication in cases of personal differences."[26]

This information is completed by a link to the German section of the British VisionWorks website.

Please also see

Versions of this article in other languages

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 www.vision-works.net/ accessed 02/06/2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 www.vision-works.net/what-we-do/ accessed 02/06/2014
  3. visionworksforlife.com/pov-and-visionworks/ accessed 02/06/2014
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 www.pov-int.eu/uber-uns/visionworks-%E2%80%93-das-schulprogramm/ accessed 12/09/2013
  5. https://de-de.facebook.com/pages/VisionWorks/216423105071885 accessed 02/06/2014
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 www.vision-works.net/staff-training accessed 02/06/2014
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 www.vision-works.org/was-ist-vision-works/was-ist-vision-works-programme/ accessed 02/06/2014
  8. www.vision-works.org/was-ist-vision-works/beratung-und-fortbildungen/ accessed
  9. www.vision-works.org/was-ist-vision-works/visionworks-netzwerk/ accessed 02/06/2014
  10. www.vision-works.org/wer-wir-sind/ansprechpartner-und-visionworks-trainer/ accessed 02/06/2014
  11. vision-works.net/benefits/ accessed 02/06/2014
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 www.vision-works.net/who-we-are.php accessed 02/06/2014
  13. mindfulnessforyoungpeople.com accessed 02/06/2014
  14. www.vision-works.org/wer-wir-sind/visionworks-autorinnen/ accessed 02/06/2014
  15. 15.0 15.1 www.vision-works.org/wer-wir-sind/ accessed 02/06/2014
  16. www.bremer.cx/ accessed
  17. https://www.facebook.com/events/368318006540989/?source=1 accessed 02/06/2014
  18. www.pov-int.eu/termine/?ee=526 accessed 02/06/2014
  19. www.future-for-children.info/chronik/381-chronik-2008.html accessed 02/06/2014
  20. www.gerd4u.com/Gerdsberatung/Willkommen.html accessed 02/06/2014
  21. www.bg-creative.com accessed 02/06/2014
  22. www.pov-int.eu/termine/?ee=393 accessed 02/06/2014
  23. http://www.whoismind.com/whois/vision-works.org.html accessed 02/06/2014
  24. the-truth-about-chuck-and-lency-spezzano.com/ accessed 02/06/2014
  25. www.vision-works.net/evidence/links-schools/ accessed 02/06/2014
  26. http://www.bznrs.rt.schule-bw.de/ichdarfich.html accessed 02/06/2014