Curriculum » The Essential Skills and Habits

The Essential Skills and Habits

As a college-preparatory school, The White Mountain School’s curriculum is structured according to the traditional liberal arts model; however, our ultimate focus is the intellectual engagement and development of our students.

The research is clear: academic success in college depends on the development of research skills, critical thinking skills, and communication skills. We have long studied the current research on teaching, learning, and academic achievement in college and interviewed college admissions officers, surveyed students, and solicited feedback from some of the most highly respected educators in the country. During and after that process, we developed our list of six Essential Skills and four Essential Habits for White Mountain students, which include:

  • Research Skills

  • Critical Thinking Skills

  • Communication Skills

  • Quantitative Reasoning Skills

  • Organizational Skills

  • Study Skills

  • Curiosity Habits

  • Reflection Habits

  • Collaboration Habits 

  • Persistence Habits

These skills and habits—naturally developed through student-driven inquiry—are what students need to thrive as learners in high school, college, and beyond. Taking this one step further, we give students frequent, specific, and actionable feedback on their development in the Essential Skills and Habits. When you combine a culture of student-driven inquiry and small class sizes with targeted feedback on our Essential Skills and Habits, students develop into dynamic learners and become creative problem-solvers.


The Six Essential Skills In-Depth

Engaged learners proficient in this skill:

  • Can identify relevant issues, debates, and questions.

  • Are adept at accessing, evaluating, and incorporating a wide variety of information and resources.

  • Arrive at original conclusions or arguments based on evidence.

Engaged learners proficient in this skill:

  • Think systematically and logically. 

  • Comprehend, analyze, synthesize, and interpret knowledge and information. 

  • Efficiently assess the soundness of an argument.

Engaged learners proficient in this skill:

  • Express ideas with clarity, concision, and grace. 

  • Write with correct grammar, mechanics, and citations. 

  • Write well-structured essays or lab reports that come to logical conclusions. 

  • Prepare and deliver engaging and informative presentations.

Engaged learners proficient in this skill:

  • Are adept at describing and interpreting ideas with equations and graphs. 

  • Can analyze and explain quantitative data.

  • Are comfortable using mathematical tools and principles for problem-solving.

Engaged learners proficient in this skill:

  • Have good time management practices.

  • Are effective at setting short- and long-term goals.

  • Organize and can efficiently navigate and pull from their physical and digital workspaces.

Engaged learners proficient in this skill:

  • Have effective strategies for taking and organizing notes. 

  • Have strong reading skills. 

  • Know how to prepare for and take examinations.

The Four Essential Habits In-Depth

Engaged learners proficient in this habit:

  • Use questions to drive their learning.

  • Know how to frame questions well.

  • Explore ideas with purpose and enthusiasm.

Engaged learners proficient in this habit:

  • Are aware of their current level of understanding.

  • Reflect on successes and challenges.

  • Use feedback to improve work.

  • Understand that ability and competence grow with effort.

Engaged learners proficient in this habit:

  • Welcome and engage in spirited dialogue.

  • Participate successfully on teams and in study groups. 

  • Communicate openly with teachers and advisors.

Engaged learners proficient in this habit:

  • Pursue inquiry as a dynamic and recursive experience.

  • Work with precision and accuracy. 

  • Persevere, especially when presented with a novel, difficult, or ambiguous task.

  • Are confident with the problem-solving, experimental, and inquiry processes.