Posts Tagged ‘Habits of Mind’

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Scaffolding Assignments: The Habits Redux

posted: 7.20.12 by archived

Before I get into specifics of assignment design, I just wanted to mention a couple articles I’ve come across that respond to the habits of mind that have been on my mind this summer:

  • Clancy Ratliffe  at CultureCat blogged about how the habits of mind described in the Framework could be aligned with WPA outcomes;
  • The most recent issue of College English includes a symposium on the Framework, which seems to have excited quite a bit of not-entirely-positive feedback.

I’ve been thinking lately about how to structure a series of assignments “inspired” by the habits of curiosity, creativity, and persistence.

  1. I usually begin the semester with the generic “writer’s autobiography,” asking students to tell me and the rest of their classmates something about their history as a writer, how they assess themselves, what writing they do now, and what they hope to get out of the class. As a first informal assignment this fall, I’m thinking of asking students to write about how they are curious and creative and persistent (hereafter C, C, and P); this may have involved learning about dinosaurs or experimenting with make-up or practicing one’s foul shot. I will also ask them to comment on whether and how this connects to their experiences as a writer. This will be an informal first post on their individual blogs set up this first week of class. [read more]

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Habits of Mind: Creativity

posted: 6.1.12 by archived

To continue my tentative course design inspired by “Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing,” we’ll move from asking questions to writing text, from the ghost-essays that exist perfectly formed (maybe) in the writer’s mind to the dribble or flood of words that move across the page. Like so many adolescents who lose the joy of drawing they all felt as children, many of my students seem paralyzed by fear that keeps them silent or limited to brief outbursts. For this students, my goal is more basic than an introduction to academic writing: to give them the confidence that they can write and to have them see a value to writing on a personal level, an appreciation of the discoveries the writing process can enable and a sense of pride at what they can produce. (A disclosure: with a background in creative writing rather than comp-rhet, I prefer teaching students how to juggle rather than how to understand the physics of projectile motion.)

Thinking about creativity (or, to paraphrase the Wizard, you had the power all along). I might start by asking students to consider in what ways they are creative, not just traditional art forms but also cooking, carpentry, gardening, make-up or tattoos. Is making something always a creative act? Does a creative act always produce an object of some sort? Can there be creativity in science or in sports? What would that look like? I would encourage students to theorize based on their examples: what are the elements of creativity? how can creativity be a habit? what inspires or inhibits creativity? in what ways is it useful (or not) to judge creative acts, and how does one make those judgments?

Some additional sources. I’ve been collecting these up over the past few weeks, in the adrenaline rush that comes at the end of semesters. There’s Sir Ken Robinson’s oft-cited TED talk on how schools kill creativity, of course, but also Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit, Michael Michalko’s Thinkertoys, James L. Adams’s Conceptual Blockbusting, and Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine. The Atlantic had a great series last year on the creative process of nearly twenty artists from Chuck Close to Tim Burton to Frank Gehry, titled “How Genius Works.” This might work as an introduction to invite students to brainstorm other “creative geniuses,” and then to do their own research to find what these people have said or written about their own inspirations and work habits. [read more]

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Habits of mind: Curiosity

posted: 5.11.12 by archived

The end of the semester brings a predictable series of emotions: from excitement about the semester to come, to frustration and exhaustion as I respond to a deluge of late papers, and finally, if all goes well, surprise of satisfaction at the work my students end up collecting in their portfolios. Right now, though, I’m at glum. In chance meetings with the colleagues with whom I dare to be frank, we compare our students’ projected completion rates. I’m realizing this semester how much the issue is not my students’ lack of writing skills but rather something deeper that underlies their ability to get writing projects started and completed.

I’ve been thinking a lot, again, about that WPA/NCTE/NWP document “Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing” that lists these eight habits of mind as crucial: curiosity, openness, engagement, creativity, persistence, responsibility, flexibility, and metacognition. I’m starting to see this not as a wish list or a series of prerequisites but rather as my agenda: to foster these habits of mind through more explicit discussion, through modeling, and through the design of my assignments.

So I’ve been thinking about organizing my next iteration of first-year comp around these habits of mind, starting with curiosity. I’ve written before Bruce Ballenger’s Myth of the Boring Topic and Larry Weinstein’s list of Fifty-seven difficult questions. I just ran across Chris Anderson’s inaugural video for the new TED Ed site, Questions No One Knows the Answers To, which would be worth a quick viewing as a conversation starter. Another, more concrete way to begin might be asking students to bring in objects for a show-and-ask questions session, to see what sort of questions even very simple objects might elicit (cf. Henry Petrosky on the toothpick, Colin McSwiggen’s recent meditation “Against Chairs”, any of Nicholson Baker’s loving descriptions of staplers or drinking straws or paper towels). [read more]

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