Media, Technology, and Education
Integrated ClustersMaking MeaningTackling a Wicked Problem

Understanding the Habits of Mind

A major goal of our Tackling a Wicked Problem class is to introduce students to our General Education program’s Habits of Mind, which are the learning outcomes of the program. Understanding them at a high level is not really a problem for most students but being able to look at their own learning engagement and practices to determine their strengths and areas where they need work is more of a challenge. So I want students to have a deep understanding of what these Habits are all about. I think the strategies I have used so far this semester are the most successful I have yet tried.

I first had students read the two chapters in our class OER about the Habits of Mind: What are the Habits of Mind? and Habits of Mind Signposts. In class, students didn’t think they had questions about these two chapters so I engaged them in an exercise in which I asked them to identify the kinds of behaviors they would engage in if they were demonstrating each Habit of Mind. I focused this exercise on the signposts. For example, the first signpost of Purposeful Communication is Awareness of Context. I asked students to identify a behavior that they would engage in if they are aware of the context in which they are communicating. In order to do this exercise, a student would need to understand what we mean by Awareness of Context. Now, the students had lots of questions. So after a brief conversation about what Awareness of Context is all about, one of my students said that someone who is a purposeful communicator would understand that using idioms might get in the way of effective communication in a poster about an event because many members of the potential audience may not understand those idioms. There are a lot of signposts and we didn’t get to all of them in our discussion but I felt like students were beginning to develop a deep understanding of what these Habits are all about.

Once a week, my students meet with another class also focused on climate change so that they can share what they are learning with each other. At the next class, we had students group up with students from the other section of Tackling a Wicked Problem to explain the assignment they had just completed. My students explained their climate change one-pagers while students in the other class explained their assignment which was about climate change documentation. After they explained their work, we asked them to individually write down the skills they had used to create their assignment and then to write down the skills they used to explain their assignment. They then worked in groups to come up with a common list. We then asked them to categorize each of the skills they had identified into the four different Habits of Mind. For example, one group said that in order to create their one-pagers, they needed to be creative. They then placed creativity skills in the problem-solving Habit of Mind. I then collected their categorizations and for the next class period, I compiled all the skills they had categorized so they could see the lists of the entire class. We talked about that compilation as a large group and then I gave them time in class to work on their next assignment.

The assignment has two parts. In the first part, I asked them to explain the Habits of Mind in their own words and images by creating a one-pager. In the second part, I asked them to write an essay in which they reflect on their personal development of the Habits of Mind. In particular, they should provide examples of the ways in which they have demonstrated the various Habits of Mind and indicate the places where they especially need practice. I haven’t read the essays yet but just gave feedback on the one-pagers. In general, they were really good! And I think this series of activities helped students to begin to develop a deep understanding of the Habits of Mind. The featured image and the two images below are examples of the one-pagers that students have given me permission to share publicly. The featured image is by Maeve Hally. The first one-pager below is by Calvin Dodge. And the bottom one-pager is by Nicole Rosenberger.

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I am currently Professor of Digital Media at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, NH. I am also the current Coordinator of General Education at the University. I am interested in astrophotography, game studies, digital literacies, open pedagogies, and generally how technology impacts our culture.

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