Unorganized(?) Thoughts On First Year Seminars/ Tackling a Wicked Problem, Critical Thinking, Habits of Mind, and (my) “Education”?

SO–I made a Twitter thread the other day:


And then, Cathie replied to my tweet:


These are my thoughts in response to Cathie, but also in general? I thought perhaps they are valuable in some way:

Okay, so I ran out of characters but had originally wrote “FYS (which has become Tackling a Wicked Problem)”–which I mostly wrote because I kind of assumed they are very similar and maybe basically the same thing? BUT, I just read Cathie’s post on the history of TWP and now I understand it a little more. To be completely honest, I don’t know how I feel about this new direction, but I definitely am a fan of the habits of mind.

With all that said~ I still feel like the things I mentioned are super important and are also basically other habits of mind? I see them as kind of “balanced awarenesses”? Learning to not trust yourself too much, but also not trusting traditional “authority” too much? Finding a middle ground? It took me waaaaay longer to question things like “science”–I had been taught that anything labeled “science” was objective and absolutely proven true, rather than an unfinished and provisional process (that is often very biased and also poorly reported or communicated about). I very much think this is a thing that needs to be talked about and is related to learning and student agency–not just in the classroom, but in terms of information literacy (which seems to me a very important thing to try to develop ‘these days’).

As for the idea that this can’t be taught in one course: perhaps not, but I continually think about how it could maybe be introduced explicitly and talked about frequently and embedded in gen eds throughout students’ time here? And really, being in the English major, we take Studies in English and Critical Theory and they are both super great courses for this–there is a lot of potential for meta-cognition and reflection. We read a text called “The Theory Toolbox,” which introduced so many concepts about “reading,” “meaning,” and “interpretation,” which all feel so important as foundational ways to engage with information and knowledge production/ creation. I’m clearly biased since I’m an English major (but–I actually was a social work major for many years, and I wish I had had this information. Also, “The Theory Toolbox” is meant to be a general book for the “humanities, arts, and social sciences”–but honestly, the natural sciences could use a good read-through imo?)

I switched my major to English last summer and in the fall I took the intro course–Studies in English (where we read TTT)–and the first blog post I made for that class in September was in response to being asked to define the “Posts” (-modernism, structuralism, and colonialism), and it feels very relevant to what I’m talking about here? It’s pretty long and introspective, but has some good insights maybe, if you care to read it (

Last semester I then took the kind of “follow-up” course to that one, called Critical Theory, and in my opinion, that class worked very well for getting at all these ideas in a single course. The first reading we were assigned was Chapter 1 of Jonathan Culler’s text “Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction,” which feels exceptionally relevant and useful (especially the last page)–indeed, I wish we talked about it more throughout the course, not just the beginning:


I think about what it would be like to refer back to this as students continually run into the complexity and nuance of the world around them–to really stress the tension between the desire for mastery that education is based on, and the very real idea that it is not wholly possible.

Additionally, this seems very in line with Open Ed and critical pedagogy, as it stresses process over product and a whole other host of values and “habits of mind,” if you will.

Anyway, these are just my thoughts on all of this as a 26 yr old non-traditional undergrad student who failed out of PSU 6 years ago and is now back–getting 4.0’s and engaging deeply in my courses, in Open Ed, in the institution itself and the CPLC. Many teachers have expressed that my level of engagement is what they see as the potential for all students, and some ask me “how did you do it,” or other similar questions about how I went from be so unengaged to where I am now. I cannot really give you a clear answer to that, but these are at least some pieces of how that has happened and what I’ve noticed about it. Maybe they are helpful, maybe they are naive and uninformed (I am “just a student,” after all), but maybe not. I’m always happy to continue talking about these things with anyone (in fact, I l o v e it), just let me know!