Curious explorers. Inclusive collaborators. Creative communicators. Critical thinkers. These four core competencies make up the pillars of what is called the Portrait of a Latin Learner. The project is a result of a multi-year process that involved teachers, administrators, students, parents and alumni. How did this project develop, what is its significance and how it will it be used in the future?
Every piece of data was examined and became part of the portrait
The portrait was identified as a concept in the 2019 Latin Leads Strategic Design. That document laid out the mission, vision, values and strategy in order to create the best conditions for the growth, wellness, and achievement of every Latin learner. The project began pre-pandemic, when a group of Latin teachers began exploring how they could flesh out the strategic plan, according to Ash Hansberry, the Computer Science Department Chair. The project took a back seat during the pandemic but then was revitalized by the former Head of School, Randall Dunn, who asked Hansberry to be the point person and lead the team which would draft the portrait. Hansberry recruited faculty members, Fiona Deeney, Lower School Computer Science and Technology Integration Specialist, Adriana Durant, Upper School Dance, and Kelly Wyatt, Middle School French to join the Portrait team and the group set to work with ideas.
The Portrait Team wanted their work to be informed by data. Max Rouse, Assistant Middle School Director, and leader of the Learn Team indicated that all constituencies (parents and families, students, alumni, faculty and staff) provided data. For example, parents were surveyed and asked what skills their students were learning that would prepare them for the future. Middle school students were invited to create a billboard indicating what made Latin special to them. “Every piece of data was examined and became part of the portrait,” said Rouse. “We were looking for themes.” Additionally, the team looked at other organizations including data from colleges, other K-12 schools and workplaces to be sure that the portrait compared well with what other organizations expect from young people.
These themes eventually morphed into the competencies. In early summer of 2022, the Learn Team began drafting a prototype which provided descriptors and examples of ways that students demonstrate the competencies. After numerous drafts, the portrait was presented to teachers and staff in August of 2022.
Portrait Value and Next Steps
The portrait is meant to be the cornerstone for any type of learning that takes place at Latin. “We are trying to unify the language we use with students,” said Rouse. “The document provides somewhat of a road map of how to construct and refine programming and learning.” Adds Hansberry, “Long term, we want to be able to use this portrait and competencies as a through-line between all of our programs and curriculum.” Additionally, the portrait is meant to be applicable to all age groups, explained Rouse. “Students can be Latin learners anywhere along their experience.”
The next step involves implementation. Hansberry indicated that certain departments and teachers are experimenting with the portrait already. For example, in the Upper School, the college counseling department analyzed their goals and then created a document that comports with the portrait. Professional development for faculty and staff is planned for the spring.
...we want to be able to use this portrait and competencies as a through-line between all of our programs and curriculum.
Given the multi-year development of the portrait, Hansberry points out that the portrait should not be viewed as one-and-done. “Instead, the way I think about it, is that this is an alignment, a reflection and a goal setting process.” Hansberry noted that as implementation occurs, faculty and staff may identify more needs. The portrait team is open to the resulting revisions that may occur.
Rouse is eager to see how the portrait informs programming in the future. “For new programs, the portrait will help them become mission-aligned,” he said. He envisions that the portrait will help develop programs, and that the language of new programs will be tweaked to conform with the portrait. “It will become part of the process to get new programs off the ground.”