While some may see this as a nifty tool for a district to use, and it certainly is that, we at KnowledgeWorks see this as much more. Based on the research we’ve done around the conditions necessary for districts to scale personalized learning, we believe a district’s vision is central to everything a district does and hopes to accomplish. Creating a profile of a graduate that is aligned to a district’s vision allows that vision to come alive for district stakeholders. It moves the vision from a set of words and sentences painted on district and school buildings to a tangible set of outcomes that a district and its stakeholders can expect to see in their graduates. Alignment of the vision to resources, time, and activities is a key to scaling personalized learning across a district.
Beginning with the end at mind, we at KnowledgeWorks believe that the portrait of a learner can serve as a guide for a student from their earliest school experiences through graduation. This portrait can be utilized by the learning community as a target towards which all of their passion, interest, and talent is directed. The portrait of a graduate assists communities in providing all students the opportunities to develop each aspect of the portrait to his or her fullest potential. When districts develop their portrait as critical element of their visioning process, the portrait can become a beacon for the characteristics, attributes, virtues, and qualities their learners will possess as they enter life after their school careers.
In our partner districts of Marysville Exempted Village School District and Marion City School in Ohio, design teams of district and community members and business partners have developed Portraits that not only align to the district’s vision but also articulate the habits of mind that will be taught through personalized learning experiences. These districts considered these questions of inquiry when developing their portraits: What will learners at our school look like/aspire to do? What will a learner of our school have learned and accomplished? How will graduates of our school impact their communities in positive ways? The portraits are unique to each community and go beyond the curriculum of content skills and processes, highlighting the learners in a broader, more holistic way.