Preparation for College and Life: Developing Essential Skills

Whitfield students gain a strong foundation in all academic fields, while learning to creatively solve problems and think critically. Our rigorous college preparatory curriculum is designed to cultivate and strengthen six essential skills—writing, collaboration, presentation, literacy, research, and thinking.  As a result, when combined with a strong command of the Habits of Mind & Heart, our graduates leave Whitfield having mastered the competencies needed to find success in college and in life.

“These essential skills are the ‘proof’ that our students are prepared for college and beyond,” said Upper School Director Sara Ringe. “It’s our hope that when our students graduate, they are ‘advanced’ in all of these skills and the six Habits. Then we know that no matter what they chose next for college or career, they will know how to think, how to demonstrate their thinking, and how to work with others to be effective team members and leaders.”

These essential skills are ‘spiraled’ throughout the curriculum, creating a consistent academic approach in our middle and upper schools. At each grade level and in each academic department, faculty actively cultivate these essential skills with consideration to demonstrating the transferability of these skills from course to course and to the ways in which we strengthen the skills each year.

“Spiraling our essential skills throughout the curriculum ensures consistency and continuity in our academic program,” said Mrs. Ringe. “Having spiraling skills also creates an ‘academic roadmap’ that our faculty can reference for each student.”

A student’s essential skills proficiency is described as novice, intermediate, or advanced. 

“In our minds, novice is grades 6-8, intermediate is grades 9-10, and advanced is grades 11-12,” said Mrs. Ringe. “However, we also look at the essential skills on an individual student level. For example, we have seventh graders who are already writing like advanced writers and we can challenge them further knowing this.”

In addition to being used for assessment, faculty members guide students to use the language in the essential skills as a tool to reflect upon their own progression and goal attainment as they prepare with their Advisors for Parent/Student Conferences.

This rubric (novice, intermediate, advanced) also lends itself to understanding one’s development of each Habit of Mind & Heart. “There isn’t a way to ‘assess’ a student’s character strengths like we do other core academic subjects—nor do we want to,” said Director of Health & Wellness Ginny Fendell. “But we can look at the character strength of leadership, for example, through the lens of novice, intermediate, or advanced in order to identify opportunities for growth. This process gives students the ability to accurately identify their personal strengths, to learn to accept feedback about themselves, and to see situations from the perspective of others.”

Whitfield is a process-oriented school that believes a strong foundation in essential skills and character strengths prepares students for success in college and beyond.