Skills and Habits of Mind

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Part two in a five-part series of blog posts from Academic Dean Rebecca Redlon discussing the New Academic Vision at The Maine Girls’ Academy.

Mercy Matters: A Vision for Skills and Habits of Mind

When we began building the Mercy Matters Program, one of the things we knew for sure was that we wanted students to do a Capstone Project in their senior year that would showcase their skills and shine a light on their personal passions.  With that goal in mind, we set about identifying the skills students would need to be successful. These included evaluating sources; close reading and annotating; writing and reflecting; problem solving; interviewing and collaborating; and presenting for an authentic audience. Next, we structured a scaffolded series of key assignments that would first teach them the skill and then help them practice the skill over time.  Thus far, our  Mercy Matters cohorts have completed projects in Health and Wellness, Biology, and World Cultures. Each of these classes has incorporated some level of the skills named above, preparing them for the progressively more complex and nuanced work they will do in the future.

In addition to the scaffolding of key assignments and the regular practice of skills, developing habits of mind is also important to both the academic and personal success of any student. Because of this, MGA has made the direct instruction of habits of mind an integral part of freshman year. All first year students take a workshop in which they are introduced to such habits of mind as persistence, creativity, openness, engagement, flexibility, curiosity, and responsibility. Students explore the benefits of cultivating strong habits of mind and make connections to social as well as academic success; they reflect on and share experiences that required them to exercise the habits of mind, and they make predictions about potential future events that will require a conscious decision to put those habits into play.  To maintain focus on habits of mind, each key assignment in the Mercy Matters program incorporates reflection about the habits a student practiced throughout the process.  At our annual awards ceremony in June, each student receives awards based on her demonstration of the habits of mind in her individual classes.

The Maine Girls’ Academy believes that college preparatory education should go beyond course content; students need so much more than Elizabethan sonnets and the periodic table to be successful learners — they need a diverse skill set and the habits of mind it takes to employ those skills.

Past posts in this series:

Upcoming posts: