Guest Post from Alex Richard

A couple of weeks ago, my First Year Seminar (FYS) classes discussed ways that we might assess the learning outcome in our class related to General Education. In particular, at the end of FYS, students should understand the purpose of general education and make connections between general education and major coursework. The class brainstormed ideas for how they could demonstrate that they have achieved this outcome and decided that writing an essay about General Education would be one way. Here is the essay from Alex Richard:

We all have habits. Some bad, and others good. Teaching yourself to adopt new habits can be difficult, especially good habits. The four habits of mind of General Education are all equally important. Each of them individually contributes towards your personal success. If you can learn to master all of them, you will find yourself consistently being in a good position to tackle problems. The four habits of mind are, purposeful communication, problem-solving, integrative perspective, and self-regulated learning.

“Communication is key.” This saying has been thrown around for decades, and it’s true. Purposeful communication is the first habit of mind. Being able to communicate your thoughts effectively to others is a lost art these days. People have lost touch with proper language due to the ever-changing world of technology. Our class has been taught this habit of mind through various activities so far, this semester. That being said, I believe that our latest project, has been the most successful way in learning this habit of mind. My group contributed to an online open educational resource on pressbooks.com. This project taught us how to purposefully communicate how political bias affects what news source people use. Using this habit of mind has helped me research properly, organize my thoughts, and both creatively and effectively communicate my ideas to my audience in a way they can understand.

Problem Solving is the next habit of mind that we have discussed this semester. This can be defined as simply finding an answer to a question. However, we learned a more sophisticated way of solving problems. First you must identify the problem. Then you must ideate possible ways to solve the problem. Next you must create a prototype that you will use to test your idea in the final step. We applied this habit of mind with our first project when we split into groups and had to figure out a possible solution to the problem of fake news. This habit of mind has taught me to thoroughly brainstorm ideas and find the best way to solve a problem. It also taught me how to analyze my results and think of new ways to improve my idea so it will be more successful.

Finding new ways to look at things, whether you agree with them or not, can make you more educated on that topic. Using the integrated perspective habit of mind has taught us that our decisions impact our self, our community, and the environment. Also using other’s ideas to help construct your own will help you better understand a problem and find a more effective way to solve that problem. In our class, we have done multiple mind mapping exercises where we take our own ideas on the fake news process and combine them with others to figure out how fake news relates and effects the world around us. This habit of mind has helped me work better with others and has taught me to be open minded and critical about other’s ideas when working in a group.

Being able to set goals for yourself that are reasonable and then accomplishing those goals is the hardest habit of mind to master. Self-regulated learning is the most important aspect of the habits of mind. If you can’t be motivated to learn on your own, then you will never be successful in your career. Employers are looking for intelligent people with a drive for knowledge. Earlier this semester we had a homework assignment that we could choose from. We had to assign ourselves homework that we would later talk about. This later applied to our projects when we had to work outside of class to finish them. This habit of mind has been the most beneficial to me as I struggled in the first half of the semester. However, once I started setting goals and applying the self-regulated learning habit of mind I found myself to be more successful in this class and my other classes.

Habits can be both tough to break and tough to establish. These habits of mind are important to everyone’s personal success in school and in their career. They apply to both general education and classes for your major. They may take some time to master, however once you do, you will be in the best position for success for the rest of your life.

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