AU Core Curriculum Habits of Mind

Preparing students to "Know what to do when they don't know."

What Are Habits of Mind?

Habits of mind courses teach students to develop questions, employ methodologies, and create new knowledge or solutions. The AU Core includes five required Habits of Mind, each one focuses on specific ways of thinking or knowing: Creative-Aesthetic Inquiry, Cultural Inquiry, Ethical Reasoning, Natural-Scientific Inquiry, and Socio-Historical Inquiry. 

AU faculty believe inquiry goes hand-in-hand with the curiosity that characterizes life-long learners. The Habits of Mind help students broaden their knowledge base and prepare them to draw connections between their Core experience, classes in their majors/minors, and lives after AU.

Creative-Aesthetic Inquiry

  1. Identify and describe acts, practices, and products of artistic and other creative expressions or of aesthetic interpretations and discuss how they reflect, respond to, or shape their many contexts
  2. Describe and analyze the formal and structural components of artistic and other creative expressions in at least one discipline or domain, or across a range of disciplines or domains
  3. Engage in or with creative processes, which could include constructing meaning through the practices and products of artistic or other creative expressions, interpreting the meaning of artistic or creative expressions, practicing divergent thinking, or assessing the aesthetic value of artistic or other creative expressions
  • ARTH 105 - Artist's, Audiences, and Afterlives
  • ARTH 210 - How Art Became Modern
  • ARTS 100 - Art: The Studio Experience
  • ARTS 215 - The Artist's Perspective: Sculpture
  • LIT 107 - Creative Writing Across Genres
  • LIT 121 - Rethinking Literature
  • LIT 245 - The Experience of Poetry
  • PERF 115 - Theatre Principles and Practice
  • PERF 205 - Masterpieces of Music

Cultural Inquiry

  1. Identify your own or other groups' norms, biases, or forms of representation, and recognize their implications
  2. Examine how culture intersects with power relationships and how this intersection shapes knowledge production, ideas, or behavior
  3. Ask significant questions about a culture or cultures, and seek answers that include multiple perspectives and take into account cultural dynamics
  • AMST 140- Washington, DC: Life Inside a Monument
  • ANTH 215- Sex, Gender, and Culture
  • ARTH 225- Buddhist Arts of Asia
  • ASIA 100 - Introduction to Asia
  • AWST 115 - Introduction to the Arab World
  • GERM 230 - The Modernist Explosion: Culture and Ideology in Europe
  • PERF 118 - World Music
  • PERF 200 - Dance as an Art Form (Beginning Spring 2019)
  • RELG 145 - Religion Without Borders
  • SPAN 210 - Latin America: History, Art, Literature
  • WGSS 225 - Gender, Politics, and Power

Ethical Reasoning

  1. Identify and differentiate ethical perspectives or questions
  2. Demonstrate ethical awareness by critically discussing and analyzing moral presuppositions
  3. Recognize the origins or structures of complex ethical issues
  4. Apply ethical concepts and frameworks
  • AMST 240 - Poverty and Culture
  • ECON 110 - The Global Majority
  • PHIL 120 - Do The Right Thing
  • PHIL 220 - Moral Philosophy
  • SOCY 210 - Power, Privilege, and Inequality 

Natural-Scientific Inquiry

  1. Describe, evaluate, and communicate experimental results using appropriate technical, qualitative, and quantitative skills
  2. Analyze and interpret data or theories about natural phenomena, using pertinent scientific terminology, principles, and theories
  3. Synthesize theory, observation, and experimentation to understand the natural world through laboratory, simulation, or field experience
  4. Assess science-related content in popular discourse, daily life, or scholarly research
  • BIO 100 - Essential Biology for the Modern World (Beginning Spring 2019)
  • CHEM 150 - Chemistry of Cooking
  • ENVS 150 - Nature of Earth
  • PHYS 100 - Physics for the Modern World
  • PHYS 110 - Principles of Physics
  • PHYS 160 - Astronomy with Laboratory

Socio-Historical Inquiry

  1. Examine an idea, problem, policy, or institution over a defined period of time
  2. Employ a critical or systematic method to analyze the relationship between human values, ideas, institutions, policies, or perspectives and their social and historical contexts or conditions
  3. Analyze and evaluate evidence and sources to develop an argument, or other student work product, that takes into account social and historical contexts or conditions
  • ARTH 205 - Art of the Renaissance
  • GOVT 235 - Political Conflict
  • GOVT 335 - Democratization
  • HIST 100 - History, Memory, and the Changeable Past
  • HIST 120 - Imperialism in History
  • HIST 140 - Modern European History: 1750 to the Present
  • HIST 215 - Social Forces that Shaped America
  • HIST 285 - Understanding Africa: Conquests, Protests, and Post-Independence Struggles
  • JLC 245 - Cities and Crime
  • LIT 267 - Literature of the Global South
  • SISU 211 - Civilizations of Africa
  • SISU 212 - China, Japan, and U.S.
  • SISU 215 - Contemporary Middle East

Call for Habits of Mind Courses Proposals for Courses to be Considered for Habits of Mind Must Include:

The deadline for submitting a new or existing course proposal is February 15, 2019.

The AU Core Curriculum values curiosity and inquiry, preparing students to “know what to do when they don’t know.” Habits of Mind courses teach students to develop questions, employ methodologies, and create new knowledge or solutions. The AU Core includes five required Habits of Mind, each one focused on specific ways of thinking or knowing: Creative-Aesthetic Inquiry, Cultural Inquiry, Ethical Reasoning, Natural-Scientific Inquiry, and Socio-Historical Inquiry.

Faculty Support:

Seek the Advice of the Committee Chair:

  • Proposers interested in feedback prior to February can send their Outcomes Worksheet to the respective Habit of Mind chair (list to the right).

Request an In-Person Consultation with a Committee Member:

  • Proposers interested in meeting with a committee member in-person may sign up here.


A Microsoft Word template for proposal elements 1-3 may be accessed online here.

1. Learning Outcomes Worksheet

Complete the attached worksheet, which connects the Habit of Mind learning outcomes and content of the course to the work students will complete. These outcomes will also appear on your syllabus and will be the basis for assessment. Successful worksheets make clear what students will do but also include evidence that students will receive the necessary instruction to complete those tasks.

2. Supporting Documents

In addition to the learning outcomes worksheet and syllabus, committee members rely on a set of supplemental materials that address the following:

  • Assignments: If assignments (such as exams, essays, structured discussions, quizzes, discussion posts, creative work, etc.) are not detailed in the syllabus, please provide brief descriptions of low- and high-stakes assignments that demonstrate how the work students will do connects with the learning outcomes. (You may also submit assignment sheet(s) if they contain the elements listed here.)
  • Course Organization: How is the course content organized and how are assignments sequenced?
  • Learning Transfer: Briefly discus the instruction you will provide to empower students to transfer the Creative-Aesthetic learning outcomes from this class to other contexts. This might happen in assignments, classroom discussion, reflective work, etc.
  • Course Consistency: Course proposals are not faculty-specific; however, we expect the proposal will reflect the intentions of all faculty who will teach the course. What steps will your department take to ensure course quality and adherence across multiple sections and over time? How have faculty who will likely teach the course been involved in the proposal creation? Consider indicating what will vary by instructor and what will remain consistent across sections.

3. Course Information Sheet

Fill in the course information sheet to signal the intended course title and description, as well as the contact information of those responsible for the proposal.

4. Syllabus

Provide a syllabus that clearly and consistently supports the Habit of Mind learning outcomes. Successful syllabi not only align with the Outcomes Worksheet; they demonstrate substantive development of the concepts and tasks presented on the Worksheet. This development should be evident in the course readings and related materials, daily schedule, assignments, and grading system. All syllabi should include the Habit of Mind learning outcomes.


Proposals must be received by Friday, February 15. Once all materials have been assembled, each proposal must be sent to by the Department Chair or Program Director. Proposal materials may be sent in separate files or combined into one. The AU Core team will merge them into a single PDF file for the review.

  • Existing courses will be submitted for you to Curriculog, the university’s curriculum management system, after the course is approved by the relevant AU Core subcommittee.
  • New courses must follow the established curriculum review and approval process within your department and/or school, as well as the process outlined for the AU Core. The proposals undergo simultaneous review, with the AU Core and the EPC coordinating as needed. Please consult with your school’s Associate Dean for EPC submission instructions.

If you have questions about the process, please contact Cindy Bair Van Dam ( or Brad Knight (

Course Proposal Materials

To be sent the course proposal materials please email us at

Email AU Core

Contact Us

If you wish to discuss ideas with the faculty who comprise the AU Core subcommittees, you can contact them below:

Creative-Aesthetic Inquiry - Jeff Middents (

Cultural Inquiry - Katharina Vester (

Ethical Reasoning - Ellen Feder (

Natural-Scientific Inquiry - Jessica Uscinski (

Socio-Historical Inquriy - Mary Frances Giandrea (