Plymouth State University requires you to take classes in General Education so that you can develop some Habits of Mind that are critical to your success in college and beyond. The General Education program provides you with opportunities to practice four particular Habits of Mind. A habit of mind is a usual way of thinking, a way of engaging with the everyday world. The Habits of Mind that we focus on at PSU are: purposeful communication, problem-solving, integrated perspective, and self-regulated learning. “Tackling a Wicked Problem” has been designed as the first course in which you will practice each of these.
Purposeful communication is a habit of mind characterized by the construction of meaning through interactions with texts and people and the creation of new messages. “Text” refers broadly to any communicative message, including, but not limited to, messages that are spoken or written, read or listened to, non-verbal, and/or delivered through any form of media (digital, social, artistic, print, etc.). Construction of meaning and creation of messages are influenced by individuals’ prior experiences as well as cultural and historical contexts. Creation of messages involves the development and purposeful expression of ideas and is designed to increase knowledge, foster understanding, and/or promote change in others’ attitudes, values, beliefs, or behaviors. To be effective, messages must engage the perspectives of others and foster dialog among individuals and the community.
Problem Solving is a habit of mind that involves an iterative process of identifying, explaining, and exploring problems, describing challenges, envisioning possible solutions and their implications, and making decisions about how to proceed based on all of these considerations. Problem solving encompasses a broad array of activities and approaches. Problems range widely in scale and scope—small to large, local to global, well-defined to ambiguous, simulated to real-world—and problem solving may be undertaken individually or in collaboration with others. In all cases, engaging in problem solving requires the ability to think creatively, adapt and extend one’s thinking, acknowledge different contexts and incorporate different perspectives, embrace flexibility, consider potential implications, determine courses of action, persist and adapt despite failure, and reflecting on the results. While the types of problems encountered and the strategies used to grapple with problems vary across disciplines, the problem solving habit of mind is relevant to all disciplines.
Integrated Perspective is a habit of mind characterized by the recognition that individual beliefs, ideas, and values are influenced by personal experience as well as multiple contextual factors—cultural, historical, political, etc. All human beings are interconnected through their participation in natural and social systems. An integrated perspective recognizes that individual decisions impact the self, the community, and the environment. Students will acknowledge the limitations of singular points of view and recognize the benefits of engaging with and learning from others in order to integrate multiple perspectives for effective communication, problem-solving, and collaboration.
Self-Regulated Learning is a habit of mind that encompasses the desire to learn, the ability to set personal goals for learning, and the capacity to engage in a self-monitored learning process. Self-regulated learners typically demonstrate strong commitment to the process of learning and take responsibility for their own learning. They take intellectual risks, persist in the face of challenges, and learn from their mistakes. They are able to organize and reorganize information, interpret information in new ways, and generate their own ideas. Self-regulated learners demonstrate meta-cognitive awareness (an understanding of the factors that influence their own learning) and cultivate the skills and confidence they need in order to be effective learners.
Developing these Habits of Mind is a lifelong pursuit. When we start developing them, we are at the “Basecamp” level of achievement which is the level of achievement your instructors at PSU expect you to have when you finish your first year here. By the time you graduate, we expect that you will have achieved the “Summit” although we also feel that no one ever completely masters any of them. Everyone, no matter how old, educated, or skilled in these Habits of Mind has something they can improve upon.
The following infographic shows the components (or “signposts”) that make up each Habit of Mind in the Plymouth State University General Education program. You can read more about each of the signposts in the next chapter of this book.