Habit of Mind – a usual way of thinking and engaging with the world. For example, one way of engaging with the world is to habitually think about communicating with a purpose (Purposeful Communication).

Benchmark – each habit of mind is comprised of a list of 3-5 items that will be used to assess student work. These items are called signposts. The assessment will indicate the level of accomplishment of the student on the signpost. For example, the Purposeful Communication habit of mind has a benchmark comprised of 4 signposts.

Signpost – an item used for the assessment of student work on a particular habit of mind. For example, one signpost of the Purposeful Communication habit of mind is Awareness of Context. We will assess student work to determine the sophistication of their awareness of the context(s) of their communication when they are engaged in the communicative act.

Levels of Achievement – For each signpost, the benchmark shows three levels of achievement:

  • Basecamp represents the level we can reasonably expect students to attain by the end of their first year at PSU. We anticipate that some students will enter with knowledge and skills already at the Basecamp level for some or all signposts. Just as climbers use their time in basecamp to become acclimated, acquire tools they’ll need for the climb, and plan their ascent, PSU students will have opportunities and experiences during their first year to develop the skills and knowledge they will need to move to higher levels.
  • Climbing represents the next higher level of skill and understanding in relation to each signpost. Climbing is the process a student undertakes while traveling through General Education; thus, in the benchmarks, the climbing level is depicted as “longer” than either of the other two levels. Students may find some climbing level signposts easier to reach than others, just as some parts of the trail are easier to traverse than others when ascending a mountain.
  • Summit, by design, represents a sophisticated level of skills and understandings that will be challenging but achievable for students to reach. We anticipate that students will demonstrate summit level skills during their senior year. General Education capstone courses would provide ideal opportunities for students to demonstrate that they have attained the summit. Climbers who ascend to the summit are rewarded with inspiring views and new perspectives on where they have been. Similarly, Capstone courses could provide opportunities for students to look back on their progress through General Education and reflect on what they have learned and how they will apply their skills and understandings in the future.


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