Defining ‘Profile of a Learner’; SGPS looks at criteria for students

By: 
Jordan Gerard

Throughout a revolving conversation between students, staff, parents and community members, it will hopefully result in a “profile of a learner” at Spring Grove Public Schools.

On Monday, Nov. 25, the school held an evolving conversation that will eventually reveal what a student at Spring Grove Public Schools should look like, or have traits to align with, by the time they graduate.

A survey was sent out to students, staff members, parents and community members asking them to rank what traits were most important in learners, such as ability to learn from failure, confidence, wellness, work ethic/accountability, problem solving, open mindedness, identity, patience, creativity, critical thinking and many other traits.

In finding commonalities among the three groups, ability to learn from failure and confidence were high on the list. 

Transformational Leader Gina Meinertz said the required courses like math, science, English, social studies and physical education are required, but if that’s how students are labeled, “we’re not showing their diversity.”

Critical skills like the ones listed above should also be included in schools, the group agreed.

“According to future employers ... personal skills, people skills, workplace skills and applied knowledge will be the most important things we can give our students leaving us,” Superintendent Rachel Udstuen said. “We have to try to figure out how we’re going to focus on those in Spring Grove.”

Other schools have taken the lead on similar projects as well. In 2015, a cohort of schools met in Caledonia with a facilitator who walked districts through key questions that would eventually lead to a profile for schools, Principal Nancy Gulbranson said.

Each district could eventually develop a document of guiding principles that would be used in daily operations, long-term district goals and in the classroom.

Spring Grove already has a foundation model in place that defines “bold steps” the district will take, including “Create opportunities to experiment and demonstrate innovation in teaching and learning,” “Strengthen individual student awareness about various pathways for college and career options,” “Cultivate an environment where each student has ownership in his/her learning” and “Determine ways to assess students for critical life skills, beginning with problem solving.”

Those goals and other information can be found on the district’s website, springgrove.k12.mn.us, under “District” then “School Board.”

Gulbranson said the district has already made progress in some of those areas, such as the first and second goals.

“We have been working with Mr. [Scott] Solberg on that goal. We found a match for a student and business person, and the student wants to go into the workforce right away. They’re hoping for apprenticeship or working with them,” she elaborated.

Recently Spring Grove has aligned students with businesses in order to provide a learning experience for students. 

As for the third goal, the school has taken steps in personalized learning, allowing students to have flex hours where the kids decide what they need to focus on. So far, the students are responding well.

 Gulbranson said experiential learning (or any synonymous term) is not what we do to the learner, but it’s helping each learner identify skills they need to enhance their learning so they’re able to leave these walls and speak up for it.

Indeed, it’s often the critical skills employers look for in potential employees. When school administration interviews teachers for teaching jobs, they don’t interview for content knowledge, they want to know how teachers are going to work with kids, colleagues and problem solve, Udstuen added.

Community member Gretchen Anderson said after 40 years in her career, a pilot program was established where she and her coworkers had to move to a new position, which also required a resumé.

“It was good learning experience,” she said. “I sat in on interviews for people applying for the job ... the whole interview was soft skills.”

For the second part of the process in defining a profile of a learner, the school would need a guiding document that would show students’ experience while in high school including core classes, electives, extra-curricular activities, community service and so on. It would be similar to a type of resumé.

“Our needs today are not the needs of yesterday,” Udstuen said. 

Next meeting

The next meeting of “Profile of a Learner” will be held Jan. 6, at school at 6 p.m. 

Potentially, kids’ activities could be held the same night in order to provide care for children while parents attend the meeting. Anyone is welcome to attend the meeting.