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
  • 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
  • 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 March 2, 2018. 

Those attending any part of the two-day workshop series with Dr. Tom Angelo may have until March 7 to submit proposals.

  1. Learning Outcomes Worksheet - Complete the learning outcomes worksheet, which connects the 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.
  2. Syllabus - Provide a syllabus that clearly and consistently supports the learning outcomes of the Habit of Mind. Course descriptions and required texts should reflect the goals of the specific Habit of Mind. Assignments (either in the syllabus or in supporting documents) should allow students the opportunity to practice learning outcomes, and a week-by-week breakdown of readings and assignments should reveal the course's engagement with the learning outcomes.
  3. Supporting Documents
    1. If the assignments (such as exams, essays, structured discussions, quizzes, discussion posts, creative work, etc.) are not detailed in the syllabus, please provide representative assignments that demonstrate how the work students will do connects with the learning outcomes.
    2. Committee members will find it helpful if you answer the following questions in one paragraph each: 1) What is the course about? 2) How is the course organized? 3) How will students practice the learning outcomes through their work?
    3. What steps will your department take to ensure course quality and adherence across multiple sections and over time? Consider indicating what will vary by instructor and what will remain consistent across sections.
    4. If your course is a Major Selective (courses students may elect to take for major credit) or has prerequisites, what steps will be taken to ensure that students from across campus enroll? What help might be needed from the AU Core team to help ensure that a range of students from across campus enroll?

Course Proposal Materials

To be sent the course proposal materials please email us at core@american.edu

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 - E. Andrew Taylor (eataylor@american.edu)

Cultural Inquiry - Lindsey Green-Simms (lgs@american.edu)

Ethical Reasoning - Ellen Feder (efeder@american.edu)

Natural-Scientific Inquiry - Jessica Uscinski (uscinski@american.edu)

Socio-Historical Inquriy - Mary Frances Giandrea (giandrea@american.edu)