What are the Five C's?

At Highland, we believe that the essential elements of a quality education are much more than the traditional three r’s of reading, writing, and arithmetic. That’s why we’ve identified the Five C’s of Critical Thinking, Creativity, Communication, Collaboration and Leadership, and Character to serve as the backbone of a Highland education.

No matter if you’re getting these Five C’s through your involvement in academics, athletics, or the fine and performing arts (and very likely it’s a combination of all of these), you’re going to see the world and your place in it in a different way. And that’s the point.

At Highland, we believe that an education should go far beyond learning facts, figures, and test-taking techniques. A 21st century education is rooted in essential skills – the Five C’s – that you can use not only through college, but throughout your entire life.

What are Highland's Five C's? Click on the expanding boxes below to learn more:

Critical thinking

  • Identify, manage, and solve complex local and global problems
  • Evaluate validity of information by filtering for bias and reliability
  • Ask meaningful questions
  • Analyze, synthesize and apply knowledge

Creative thinking

  • Use trial and error; imagine alternatives; explore possibilities
  • Take intellectual risks
  • Develop cross-disciplinary knowledge and global perspectives
  • Use natural curiosity to promote intrinsic motivation and love of learning


  • Understand and analyze diverse points of view; listen carefully
  • Argue a point persuasively and substantively, orally, and in writing
  • Use technology effectively to present information
  • Engage with the ideas and language of more than one culture

Collaboration and leadership

  • Contribute and initiate new ideas
  • Fulfill team duties and share the workload
  • Listen to and cooperate with others
  • Use technology to share ideas and stimulate intellectual growth
  • Build trust and provide support for others
  • Facilitate group discussions, forge consensus, and negotiate outcomes
  • Coordinate tasks and delegate responsibilities


  • Foster integrity, honesty, fairness, and respect
  • Exhibit moral courage in confronting unjust situations
  • Act with sensitivity/empathy to individual differences and cultural backgrounds and with the interests and well-being of the larger community in mind
  • Make reasoned and ethical decisions in response to complex problems
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