76 Walking the Walk with Habits of Mind
At PSU one of the courses I teach is Tackling a Wicked Problem and in that course the common assignment shared by all sections is focused on reflecting on growth in the Habits of Mind. I believe you should never ask a student to do something/complete an assignment, that you yourself would not be comfortable completing. So, I am going to walk the walk now and reflect on my own Habits of Mind journey this year while weaving in the CPLC values, the keynote with Generous Thinking author Kathleen Fitzpatrick, and my participation in the Care and Equity module of Design Forward to provide examples on which I can cogitate on my own growth and learning in my Habits of Mind journey this year.
Purposeful Communication: this year was a little easier than the previous two years, as I transitioned back to fully in-person classes. I realized I can teach a lot for effectively fully in person rather than remote or hybrid. This was my first year teaching for the Ascent program so I also got a lot of practice communicating with a new population of students and the team of instructors and staff who support that program. The regular meetings for that program and collaboratively designing the curriculum with the Ascent team helped to hone my communication skills, particularly for the gen ed/first year/Ascent population. This year I also realized the differences in effective communication for my Theatre students vs. the General Education students I teach and can better allocate my time to provide for the different populations of students that I teach.
Problem Solving: to reflect on this habit of mind, I want to bring up several quotes and ideas from the CPLC keynote with “Generous Thinking” author Kathleen Fitzpatrick. The crux of the keynote was about the need for collective action to fix the university since institutions are ‘structurally incapable of living out their values’. One point that resonated with me in particular was, “you cannot fix the university alone, especially not by killing yourself.” I particularly needed to hear this, since I often go on crusades to try to fix institutional level problems by myself—and I think my evolution this semester has been working more with others/as part of a team to solve problems. I believe staff, adjuncts, students, and the community at large need to join with the full-time faculty to fix the greatest challenges facing our institution today.
Integrated Perspective: my professional development work with the CoLab is the biggest contributor to my growth in this Habit of Mind. In the keynote chat discussion, Liz Ahl commented that ‘through connections we grow stronger’ is the ethos of the CoLab—and I completely agree. The readings/podcasts/videos offered for the Care and Equity module of design forward helped me to see perspectives to our institutions current struggles that are outside of my own experience—hearing from a panel of our students was particularly useful. This semester I also served as an informal mentor for a friend who is starting their teaching journey at a similarly sized, but culturally very different university in Louisiana. I was able to send him a lot of the CoLab’s open resources like the ACE Framework and the Introduction to Pedagogy module of Design Forward. When I asked Martha Burtis for advice on resources that would be good for a professor just starting, one thing she said really stuck with me; “If he’s asking questions, he’s on the right path.” I think growth in integrated perspective isn’t about always having the answers, but continued inquiry.
Self-regulated Learning: has been my biggest struggle this semester because managing my increased work load at Plymouth, my second job, and being a mom with unreliable childcare made it very difficult to consistently stay on top of all the tasks I needed to complete. I am also painfully aware that writing is not the tool through which I communicate best. I feel frustrated by these assignments because I started this assignment in late March and had pages written for this assignment last week—but editing it and pairing it down into a cohesive reflection was much harder. I also still have trouble accepting that reading and writing takes me a lot more time than most, which helps me to empathize for students who have similar challenges—but still leads to shame in my own professional development work.
As I often tell me students, the habits of mind are lifelong skills to be practiced and honed, but you’ll never be done learning them. Next semester will bring new challenges and opportunities for growth and practice in these skills. The core values that I share with the CPLC: community, empathy, and equity will continue to guide me, and I am looking forwarding to working in generosity next year. Kathleen Fitzpatrick defined generosity as, “ a mode of engagement grounded in listening.” Continued practice in generosity with our colleagues, students, and ourselves will lead to growth and positive change.