A habit of mind is usual way of thinking or way of engaging with the world. For example, one way of engaging with the world is to habitually think about communicating with a purpose. These habits of mind represent the learning outcomes of the General Education program as a whole (as opposed to individual components of the program) and can be assessed in every General Education class, not just those of a particular component. The task force also developed a benchmark for each habit of mind. The following, from the task force’s final report, explains the key decisions in the articulation of the habits of mind and benchmarks.

We envisioned a student’s journey through the General Education program as being similar to ascending a mountain—starting at basecamp, climbing, and eventually, after much effort, reaching the summit.

With this metaphor in mind, we decided not to use rubrics, which are traditionally associated with grading finished products. Instead, we designed benchmarks, which are intended to show where students are in the process of developing habits of mind.

The benchmarks for each habit of mind identify signposts, which are the significant elements comprising each habit of mind. For each signpost, the benchmark shows three levels of achievement. …

Since the habits of mind and benchmarks are designed to assess the General Education program as a whole, they should be used in a wide range of classes, including First Year Seminar (FYS) and a General Education capstone experience (the INCO). We would expect most students in FYS to be at the basecamp level of achievement in all four habits of mind and we would expect most students in the capstone to be at the summit level of achievement in all four habits of mind. If our assessment activities show this not to be the case, we will need to determine why and change the General Education program to do better. This is our vision of how the habits of mind and benchmarks will provide assessment for the program as a whole.

Purposeful Communication

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 reflect 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

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

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 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 metacognitive 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.


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