The primary aim of this assignment is to encourage you to
develop an honest and detailed understanding of your own intellectual character
strengths and weaknesses and to “own” these strengths and weaknesses (and
therefore to work on developing intellectual autonomy and intellectual
humility).
There are two main parts to the assignment: (1) an initial
narrative-based self-examination and commitment to a self-monitoring
discipline; and (2) a final narrative-based assessment.
Part I
In this part of the assignment, you will write a 3 (double-spaced, one-inch margins, 12 point Times New Roman type) narrative
essay in which you address the following questions:
o
Drawing from the list of seven “master virtues,”
what are your top two intellectual character strengths? What, specifically, do
they look like in your life? How have they benefited you in your life as a
student or otherwise? Illustrate with some honest, concrete, and detailed
examples.
o
Similarly, what are your top two intellectual
character weaknesses? What, specifically, do they look like in your life? How
have they hindered or harmed you (or others) in your life as a student or
otherwise? Illustrate with some honest, concrete, and detailed examples.
o
When you look back over the course of your life
(at where/how you were raised, at the community and/or culture in which you
grew up, your role models, formative experiences, etc.) how do you think these
intellectual character strengths and weaknesses came about? Illustrate with
some honest, concrete, and detailed examples.
o
In one substantial paragraph, describe the kind
of intellectual character you would like to have. Be detailed and specific.
o
Identify and describe one or several “self-monitoring
disciplines” that you will use on at least a weekly basis for the duration of
the semester to reflect on your current practice or failure to practice the
intellectual virtues that matter to you most – choose one or two such
intellectual virtues. Describe the details of this practice. (Here’s one
possibility that you’re free to use: on a weekly basis, take at least 15
minutes to reflect on specific ways in which you have practiced or failed to
practice the virtues in question in the previous seven days. Record your
observations. Also address why you think you acted in these ways and what these
observations might teach you about yourself.)
OPTIONAL: instead of merely reflecting on your own
intellectual character (something which might be hard to do transparently and
accurately), also talk to someone close to you and ask them to tell you what
they think, or, even better, to write it down after some considerable amount of
thought. Make sure this person knows you
well and will give you an accurate and insightful assessment, and not merely
tell you what they think you want to hear.
The point of this exercise is for you to develop an accurate assessment
of your intellectual strengths and weaknesses, so such external thoughtful assessments
can be invaluable sources of information for this task.
Part II
In this part of the assignment, you will write another 3 page (double-spaced, one-inch margins, 12 point Times New Roman type) narrative
essay that addresses the following questions:
o
Looking back at your initial description of your
intellectual character strengths and weaknesses, how has your understanding of
these strengths and weaknesses changed over the course of the semester? Be
specific and detailed. Illustrate with concrete examples.
o
Provide a lengthy discussion of your experience
using a self-monitoring discipline. What discipline did you end up practicing?
How did it go? What did you struggle with? What did you find useful or
insightful?
o
What have you learned about yourself in this process?
How much did you advance in the chosen virtues?
o
Moving forward, describe again the kind of
intellectual character you would like to have, being very specific and
detailed.
o
Finally, describe three practices, habits, or
activities that you think would help you grow in this direction and explain how
or why you think they would have this effect.
Grading
Obviously, this is, in many respects a “subjective”
assignment. However, this does not mean that everyone will be scored equally
well on it. In grading these assignments, I’ll be asking myself the following
sorts of questions:
o
Did the student follow all the instructions,
answering all the questions, meeting the specified requirements of length,
margins, etc.?
o
Has the paper been carefully proofread? What’s
the quality of grammar, mechanics, diction, spelling, etc.?
o
Most importantly, are the student’s answers to
the questions well-developed? Do they clearly demonstrate that the student took
his/her time with this assignment and engaged in deep, thoughtful, and honest
reflection?
o
Are the examples well-developed? Are they
realistic? Or do they seem fabricated or dishonest?
o
Did the student clearly engage in a
self-monitoring discipline?
o
Overall, does the paper demonstrate careful and
thorough thinking and reflection?

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