4 Habits of Mind Signposts

As you are practicing the Habits of Mind, you will want to get a sense of your level of achievement so you can think about what you need to do to continue to improve. The following tables indicate what we, the faculty at PSU, expect you to attain by the end of your first year at PSU (Base Camp), where we expect you to be as sophomores and juniors (Climbing), and what we expect you to attain by the time you graduate (Summit).

For example, by the end of your first year, we expect that you will recognize that every communication message is created and receive within a cultural and historical context. This is the Base Camp level of achievement for “Awareness of Context” in the Purposeful Communication Habit of Mind. As you develop your communication skills, we expect that you will begin to draw on knowledge about cultural and historical context, both when you create messages and when you construct the meaning of messages that you receive from others. This is the Climbing level of achievement for “Awareness of Context” in Purposeful Communication. By the time you graduate from PSU, we expect that you will seek additional knowledge so that you can better understand cultural and historical contexts, both when you create messages and when you construct the meaning of messages that you receive from others. This is the Summit level of achievement in “Awareness of Context.” In other words, as you become a better communicator, you begin to understand that the context of a message matters and, eventually, you recognize that you may not completely understand the context of a message so you seek more information to improve your understanding of both the context and the message. This is a challenging task and no one ever masters it. We can all improve on our ability.

These Habits of Mind represent what we want you to practice and develop through taking classes in the General Education program at PSU. Understanding these can help you to be more purposeful in your work in your classes.

 Purposeful Communication 
 Signposts  Base Camp Climbing Summit
Awareness of Context  Recognizes that every message is created and received within a cultural and historical context Draws on knowledge about cultural and historical context, in both the creation of messages and the construction of meaning from messages Seeks additional knowledge to understand the cultural and historical context, in both the creation of messages and the construction of meaning from messages
Comprehension   Shows understanding of the basic meaning of the text by paraphrasing or summarizing the information the text communicates Uses information in the text, general background knowledge, and/or specific knowledge of the context in which the message was created to draw more complex inferences Recognizes that the text has implications beyond its explicit message; identifies broader questions raised by the text; and/or suggests counterarguments in response to the text.
Purposeful Expression  Paraphrases, summarizes, and/or quotes from information sources to create a message with a specific purpose Organizes and synthesizes information from relevant sources to create a clear message with a specific purpose Organizes and synthesizes information to create a clear message containing new insights that achieves a specific purpose
 Effective Application of Strategies for Communication  Recognizes that others may bring different perspectives and experiences to the creation of messages and the construction of meaning from messages Uses communication strategies that take into account the perspectives of others and encourage the exchange of ideas and information Tailors communication strategies to effectively involve and/or address different audiences, foster respectful dialogue, and build relationships based on mutual understandings

Problem Solving
 Signposts  Base Camp Climbing Summit
Problem Framing When presented with a problem, describes key components of the problem Explains the problem clearly and concisely so that others can understand it and articulates relevant components of the problem in detail Explores multiple perspectives on the problem and incorporates those perspectives in explaining and describing the problem
Challenge Identification Recognizes general challenges to solving the problem Describes, in detail, challenges that are relevant to the particular problem and how it was framed Surveys the problem from various points of view in order to uncover additional challenges and determine the ways in which challenges are interrelated
Plan Development Relies on one or two strategies to identify possible solution(s) to the problem Uses strategies appropriate to the situation to develop possible solutions to the problem Employs a repertoire of relevant strategies and perspectives to develop possible solutions to the problem and explores the potential implications of those solutions
Decision-Making and Revision Identifies a preferred approach to solving the problem and sticks with the plan Takes into account the nature and scope of the problem, potential challenges, and possible solutions, and makes a case for a specific course of action, revising the plan as needed in response to ongoing feedback Weighs the potential implications of possible solutions in order to determine the most desirable course of action, providing a strong justification for that decision, and revising the plan as needed in response to ongoing feedback
Evaluation of Progress Evaluates progress in terms of whether desired outcomes have been achieved Identifies and evaluates evidence to determine whether there has been progress toward achieving the desired outcomes Reflects on positive and negative impacts of strategies employed and understandings gained from the problem-solving process

Integrated Perspective
 Signposts  Base Camp Climbing Summit
Self-Awareness Recognizes that one’s ideas, beliefs, and values are influenced by personal experience as well as multiple contextual factors Recognizes that one’s perspective influences the ways in which one understands and interprets the natural and social world Considers multiple perspectives and adjusts one’s own ideas, beliefs, and values as appropriate
Perspective Seeking When presented with various perspectives, recognizes their validity while maintaining a preference for one’s own perspective Acknowledging the limitations of a singular perspective, seeks to understand various perspectives and how they came to be Seeks to augment one’s own limited perspective with others, even those that may be conflicting


Identifies some connections between an individual’s personal decision-making and the larger natural and social world Analyzes the ways that an individual’s or a group’s decision-making influences and is influenced by the larger natural and social world Analyzes and explains the interconnectedness between and within natural and social systems and how shifts within those systems create changes
Collaboration Articulates one’s own perspective and listens to other perspectives when collaborating with others Compromises between own perspective and others’ perspectives when working collaboratively Critically analyzes different perspectives and purposefully communicates to contribute to an optimal outcome

Self-Regulated Learning
 Signposts  Base Camp Climbing Summit
Responsibility for Own Learning Strives to meet learning goals and evaluation criteria embedded in assignments and courses Identifies goals for improving as a learner, seeks help and resources if needed, and asks for and responds to feedback from others Sets high expectations for oneself and develops a plan to meet those expectations
Engagement in the Learning Process Recognizes that acquiring new knowledge and skills requires commitment to the learning process Investigates ideas and questions and persists in the face of challenges, recognizing that mistakes provide opportunities for learning and that learning takes time Generates ideas and questions, takes intellectual risks, displays resourcefulness in grappling with challenges, and shows confidence in own ability to learn
Metacognitive Awareness Identifies own strengths and weaknesses as a learner and selects general strategies to aid learning With feedback or prompting, reflects on own thinking and learning and chooses strategies to strengthen understandings and skills Reflects independently on own thinking and learning and uses strategies effectively to strengthen understandings and skills



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Habits of Mind Signposts by Cathie LeBlanc is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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