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Active Learning Academy (ALA) Community of Practice: The Habits, Defined

The ALA guide is designed for faculty as a repository of active learning strategies, assignments, videos and link, as well as information re Reading Apprenticeship, Habits of Mind and threshold concepts.

Describing 16 Habits of Mind

DESCRIBING 16 HABITS OF MIND
By
Arthur L. Costa, Ed. D.
and
Bena Kallick, Ph.D.
By definition, a problem is any stimulus, question, task, phenomenon, or discrepancy, the explanation for
which is not immediately known. Thus, we are interested in focusing on student performance under those
challenging conditions that demand strategic reasoning, insightfulness, perseverance, creativity, and
craftsmanship to resolve a complex problem. Not only are we interested in how many answers students
know, but also in knowing how to behave when they DON'T know. Habits of Mind are performed in response
to those questions and problems the answers to which are NOT immediately known. We are interested in
observing how students produce knowledge rather than how they merely reproduce knowledge. The critical
attribute of intelligent human beings is not only having information, but also knowing how to act on it.
A "Habit of Mind” means having a disposition toward behaving intelligently when confronted with problems,
the answers to which are not immediately known. When humans experience dichotomies, are confused by
dilemmas, or come face to face with uncertainties--our most effective actions require drawing forth certain
patterns of intellectual behavior. When we draw upon these intellectual resources, the results that are
produced through are more powerful, of higher quality and greater significance than if we fail to employ those
patterns of intellectual behaviors.
Employing "Habits of Mind" requires a composite of many skills, attitudes cues, past experiences and
proclivities. It means that we value one pattern of thinking over another and therefore it implies choice
making about which pattern should be employed at this time. It includes sensitivity to the contextual cues
in a situation which signal this as an appropriate time and circumstance in which the employment of this
pattern would be useful. It requires a level of skillfulness to employ and carry through the behaviors
effectively over time. It suggests that as a result of each experience in which these behaviors were
employed, the effects of their use are reflected upon, evaluated, modified and carried forth to future
applications
HABITS OF MIND ATTEND TO: .
• Value: Choosing to employ a pattern of intellectual behaviors rather than other, less
productive patterns.
• Inclination: Feeling the tendency toward employing a pattern of intellectual behaviors.
• Sensitivity: Perceiving opportunities for, and appropriateness of employing the pattern of
behavior.
• Capability: Possessing the basic skills and capacities to carry through with the behaviors.
• Commitment: Constantly striving to reflect on and improve performance of the pattern of
intellectual behavior.
DESCRIBING HABITS OF MIND
When we no longer know what to do we have come to our real work and when we no longer know
which way to go we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The
impeded stream is the one that sings.
Wendell Berry
What behaviors are indicative of the efficient, effective problem solver? Just what do human beings do when
they behave intelligently? Research in effective thinking and intelligent behavior by Feuerstein (1980),
Glatthorn and Baron (1985), Sternberg (1985), Perkins (1985), and Ennis (1985) indicates that there are
some identifiable characteristics of effective thinkers. These are not necessarily scientists, artists,
mathematicians or the wealthy who demonstrate these behaviors. These characteristics have been
identified in successful mechanics, teachers, entrepreneurs, salespeople, and parents—people in all walks
of life.
Following are descriptions and an elaboration of 16 attributes of what human beings do when they behave
intelligently. We choose to refer to them as Habits of Mind. They are the characteristics of what intelligent
people do when they are confronted with problems, the resolution to which are not immediately apparent.
These behaviors are seldom performed in isolation. Rather, clusters of such behaviors are drawn forth and
employed in various situations. When listening intently, for example, one employs flexibility, metacognition,
precise language and perhaps questioning.
Please do not think that there are only sixteen ways in which humans display their intelligence. It should be
understood that this list is not meant to be complete. It should serve to initiate the collection of additional
attributes. Although 16 Habits of Mind are described here, you, your colleagues and your students will want
to continue the search for additional Habits of Mind by adding to and elaborating on this list and the
descriptions.
1. Persisting
Persistence is the twin sister of excellence.
One is a matter of quality; the other, a matter of time.
Marabel Morgan,
The Electric Woman
Efficacious people stick to a task until it is completed. They don't give up easily. They are
able to analyze a problem, to develop a system, structure, or strategy to attack a problem.
They employ a range and have repertoire of alternative strategies for problem solving. They
collect evidence to indicate their problem-solving strategy is working, and if one strategy
doesn't work, they know how to back up and try another. They recognize when a theory or
idea must be rejected and another employed. They have systematic methods of analyzing
a problem which include knowing how to begin, knowing what steps must be performed, and what data need
to be generated or collected. Because they are able to sustain a problem solving process over time, they
are comfortable with ambiguous situations.
Students often give up in despair when the answer to a problem is not immediately known. They sometimes
crumple their papers and throw them away saying, "I can't do this," "It's too hard," or, they write down any
answer to get the task over with as quickly as possible. Some have attention deficits; they have difficulty
staying focused for any length of time, they are easily distracted, they lack the ability to analyze a problem,
to develop a system, structure, or strategy of problem attack. They may give up because they have a
limited repertoire of problem solving strategies. If their strategy doesn't work, they give up because they
have no alternatives.
2. Managing Impulsivity
"....goal directed self-imposed delay of gratification is perhaps the essence of emotional selfregulation:
the ability to deny impulse in the service of a goal, whether it be building a business,
solving an algebraic equation, or pursuing the Stanley cup.
Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence (1995) p. 83
Effective problem solvers have a sense of deliberativeness: They think before they act. They
intentionally form a vision of a product, plan of action, goal or a destination before they
begin. They strive to clarify and understand directions, develop a strategy for approaching a
problem and withhold immediate value judgments about an idea before fully understanding
it. Reflective individuals consider alternatives and consequences of several possible
directions prior to taking action. They decrease their need for trial and error by gathering
information, taking time to reflect on an answer before giving it, making sure they understand directions, and
listening to alternative points of view.
Often students blurt the first answer that comes to mind. Sometimes they shout out an answer, start to
work without fully understanding the directions, lack an organized plan or strategy for approaching a problem
or make immediate value judgments about an idea—criticizing or praising it— before fully understanding it.
They may take the first suggestion given or operate on the first idea that comes to mind rather than
considering alternatives and consequences of several possible directions.
3. Listening To Others—With Understanding and Empathy
Listening is the beginning of understanding.....
Wisdom is the reward for a lifetime of listening.
Let the wise listen and add to their learning and let the discerning get guidance –
Proverbs 1:5
Highly effective people spend an inordinate amount of time and energy listening (Covey,
1989). Some psychologists believe that the ability to listen to another person, to
empathize with, and to understand their point of view is one of the highest forms of
intelligent behavior. Being able to paraphrase another person's ideas, detecting indicators
(cues) of their feelings or emotional states in their oral and body language (empathy),
accurately expressing another person's concepts, emotions and problems—all are
indications of listening behavior (Piaget called it "overcoming ego-centrism"). They are able to see through
the diverse perspectives of others. They gently attend to another person demonstrating their understanding
of and empathy for an idea or feeling by paraphrasing it accurately, building upon it, clarifying it, or giving an
example of it.
Senge and his colleagues (1994) suggest that to listen fully means to pay close attention to what is being
said beneath the words. You listen not only to the "music", but also to the essence of the person speaking.
You listen not only for what someone knows, but also for what he or she is trying to represent. Ears
operate at the speed of sound, which is far slower than the speed of light the eyes take in. Generative
listening is the art of developing deeper silences in yourself, so you can slow your mind's hearing to your
ears' natural speed, and hear beneath the words to their meaning.
We spend 55 percent of our lives listening yet it is one of the least taught skills in schools. We often say
we are listening but in actuality, we are rehearsing in our head what we are going to say next when our
partner is finished. Some students ridicule, laugh at, or put down other students' ideas. They interrupt are
unable to build upon, consider the merits of, or operate on another person's ideas. We want our students to
learn to devote their mental energies to another person and invest themselves in their partner's ideas.
We wish students to learn to hold in abeyance their own values, judgments, opinions, and prejudices in
order to listen to and entertain another person’s thoughts. This is a very complex skill requiring the ability to
monitor one's own thoughts while, at the same time, attending to the partner's words. This does not mean
that we can't disagree with some one. A good listener tries to understand what the other person is saying. In
the end he may disagree sharply, but because he disagrees, he wants to know exactly what it is he is
disagreeing with.
4. Thinking Flexibly
If you never change your mind, why have one?
Edward deBono
An amazing discovery about the human brain is its plasticity--its ability to "rewire", change
and even repair itself to become smarter. Flexible people are the ones with the most
control. They have the capacity to change their mind as they receive additional data. They
engage in multiple and simultaneous outcomes and activities, draw upon a repertoire of
problem solving strategies and can practice style flexibility, knowing when it is appropriate
to be broad and global in their thinking and when a situation requires detailed precision.
They create and seek novel approaches and have a well-developed sense of humor. They envision a range
of consequences.
Flexible people can approach a problem from a new angle using a novel approach {deBono (1970) refers to
this as lateral thinking.} They consider alternative points of view or deal with several sources of information
simultaneously. Their minds are open to change based on additional information and data or reasoning,
which contradicts their beliefs. Flexible people know that they have and can develop options and
alternatives to consider. They understand mean-ends relationships being able to work within rules, criteria
and regulations and they can predict the consequences of flouting them. They understand not only the
immediate reactions but are also able to perceive the bigger purposes that such constraints serve. Thus,
flexibility of mind is essential for working with social diversity, enabling an individual to recognize the
wholeness and distinctness of other people's ways of experiencing and making meaning.
Flexible thinkers are able to shift, at will, through multiple perceptual positions. One perceptual orientation
is what Jean Piaget called, egocentrism--perceiving from our own point of view. By contrast, allocentrism is
the position in which we perceive through another persons' orientation. We operate from this second position
when we empathize with other's feelings, predict how others are thinking, and anticipate potential
misunderstandings.
Another perceptual position is "macro-centric". It is similar to looking down from a balcony at ourselves and
our interactions with others. This bird’s-eye view is useful for discerning themes and patterns from
assortments of information. It is intuitive, holistic and conceptual. Since we often need to solve problems
with incomplete information, we need the capacity to perceive general patterns and jump across gaps of
incomplete knowledge or when some of the pieces are missing.
Yet another perceptual orientation is micro-centric--examining the individual and sometimes minute parts
that make up the whole. This "worm’s-eye view", without which science, technology, and any complex
enterprise could not function, involves logical analytical computation searching for causality in methodical
steps. It requires attention to detail, precision, and orderly progressions.
Flexible thinkers display confidence in their intuition. They tolerate confusion and ambiguity up to a point,
and are willing to let go of a problem trusting their subconscious to continue creative and productive work on
it. Flexibility is the cradle of humor, creativity and repertoire. While there are many possible perceptual
positions--past, present, future, egocentric, allocentric, macro centric, visual, auditory, kinesthetic--the
flexible mind is activated by knowing when to shift perceptual positions.
Some students have difficulty in considering alternative points of view or dealing with more than one
classification system simultaneously. THEIR way to solve a problem seems to be the ONLY way. They
perceive situations from a very ego-centered point of view: "My way or the highway!" Their mind is made up;
"Don't confuse me with facts, that's it."
5. Thinking About our Thinking (Metacognition)
When the mind is thinking it is talking to itself
Plato
Occurring in the neocortex, metacognition is our ability to know what we know and what we
don't know. It is our ability to plan a strategy for producing what information is needed, to
be conscious of our own steps and strategies during the act of problem solving, and to
reflect on and evaluate the productiveness of our own thinking. While "inner language,"
thought to be a prerequisite, begins in most children around age five, metacognition is a
key attribute of formal thought flowering about age eleven.
Probably the major components of metacognition are developing a plan of action, maintaining that plan in
mind over a period of time, then reflecting back on and evaluating the plan upon its completion. Planning a
strategy before embarking on a course of action assists us in keeping track of the steps in the sequence of
planned behavior at the conscious awareness level for the duration of the activity. It facilitates making
temporal and comparative judgments, assessing the readiness for more or different activities, and monitoring
our interpretations, perceptions, decisions and behaviors. An example of this would be what superior
teachers do daily: developing a teaching strategy for a lesson, keeping that strategy in mind throughout the
instruction, then reflecting back upon the strategy to evaluate its effectiveness in producing the desired
student outcomes.
Intelligent people plan for, reflect on, and evaluate the quality of their own thinking skills and strategies.
Metacognition means becoming increasingly aware of one's actions and the effect of those actions on
others and on the environment; forming internal questions as one searches for information and meaning,
developing mental maps or plans of action, mentally rehearsing prior to performance, monitoring those plans
as they are employed--being conscious of the need for midcourse correction if the plan is not meeting
expectations, reflecting on the plan upon completion of the implementation for the purpose of self-evaluation,
and editing mental pictures for improved performance.
Interestingly, not all humans achieve the level of formal operations (Chiabetta, 1976). And as Alexander
Luria, the Russian psychologist found, not all adults metacogitate (Whimbey, 1976). The most likely reason
is that we do not take the time to reflect on our experiences. Students often do not take the time to wonder
why we are doing what we are doing. They seldom question themselves about their own learning strategies
or evaluate the efficiency of their own performance. Some children virtually have no idea of what they should
do when they confront a problem and are often unable to explain their strategies of decision making
(Sternberg and Wagner, 1982). When teachers ask, "How did you solve that problem; what strategies did
you have in mind"? or, "Tell us what went on in your head to come up with that conclusion". Students often
respond by saying, "I don't know, I just did it.'
We want our students to perform well on complex cognitive tasks. A simple example of this might be drawn
from a reading task. It is a common experience while reading a passage to have our minds "wander" from
the pages. We "see" the words but no meaning is being produced. Suddenly we realize that we are not
concentrating and that we've lost contact with the meaning of the text. We "recover" by returning to the
passage to find our place, matching it with the last thought we can remember, and, once having found it,
reading on with connectedness. This inner awareness and the strategy of recovery are components of
metacognition.
6. Striving For Accuracy and Precision
A man who has committed a mistake and doesn't correct it
is committing another mistake.
Confucius
Embodied in the stamina, grace and elegance of a ballerina or a shoemaker, is the desire
for craftsmanship, mastery, flawlessness and economy of energy to produce exceptional
results. People who value accuracy, precision and craftsmanship take time to check over
their products. They review the rules by which they are to abide; they review the models
and visions they are to follow; and they review the criteria they are to employ and confirm
that their finish product matches the criteria exactly. To be craftsmanlike means knowing
that one can continually perfect one's craft by working to attain the highest possible standards, and pursue
ongoing learning in order to bring a laser like focus of energies to task accomplishment. These people take
pride in their work and have a desire for accuracy as they take time to check over their work. Craftsmanship
includes exactness, precision, accuracy, correctness, faithfulness, and fidelity. For some people,
craftsmanship requires continuous reworking. Mario Cuomo, a great speechwriter and politician, once said
that his speeches were never done—it was only a deadline that made him stop working on them!
Some students may turn in sloppy, incomplete or uncorrected work. They are more anxious to get rid of the
assignment than to check it over for accuracy and precision. They are willing to suffice with minimum effort
rather than investing their maximum. They may be more interested in expedience rather than excellence.
7. Questioning and Posing Problems
The formulation of a problem is often more essential than its solution, which may be merely a
matter of mathematical or experimental skill.
To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires
creative imagination and marks real advances.....
Albert Einstein
One of the distinguishing characteristics between humans and other forms of life is our
inclination, and ability to FIND problems to solve. Effective problem solvers know how to
ask questions to fill in the gaps between what they know and what they don't know.
Effective questioners are inclined to ask a range of questions. For example: requests for
data to support others' conclusions and assumptions—such questions as,
"What evidence do you have.....?"
"How do you know that's true?"
"How reliable is this data source?"
They pose questions about alternative points of view:
"From whose viewpoint are we seeing, reading of hearing?"
"From what angle, what perspective are we viewing this situation?"
Students pose questions, which make causal connections and relationships:
"How are these people (events) (situations) related to each other?"
"What produced this connection?"
They pose hypothetical problems characterized by "iffy"-type questions:
"What do you think would happen IF.....?"
"IF that is true, then what might happen if....?"
Inquirers recognize discrepancies and phenomena in their environment and probe into their causes: "Why
do cats purr?" "How high can birds fly?" "Why does the hair on my head grow so fast, while the hair on my
arms and legs grows so slowly? "What would happen if we put the saltwater fish in a fresh water
aquarium?" "What are some alternative solutions to international conflicts other than wars?"
Some students may be unaware of the functions, classes, syntax or intentions in questions. They may not
realize that questions vary in complexity, structure and purpose. They may pose simple questions
intending to derive maximal results. When confronted with a discrepancy, they may lack an overall strategy
of search and solution finding.
8. Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations
"I've never made a mistake. I've only learned from experience."
Thomas A. Edison
Intelligent human beings learn from experience. When confronted with a new and
perplexing problem they will often draw forth experience from their past. They can often
be heard to say, "This reminds me of...." or "This is just like the time when I..." They
explain what they are doing now in terms of analogies with or references to previous
experiences. They call upon their store of knowledge and experience as sources of data to
support, theories to explain, or processes to solve each new challenge. Furthermore, they
are able to abstract meaning from one experience, carry it forth, and apply it in a new and novel situation.
Too often students begin each new task as if it were being approached for the very first time. Teachers are
often dismayed when they invite students to recall how they solved a similar problem previously and
students don't remember. It's as if they never heard of it before, even though they had the same type of
problem just recently. It is as if each experience is encapsulated and has no relationship to what has come
before or what comes afterward. Their thinking is what psychologists refer to as an "episodic grasp of
reality" (Feuerstein 1980). That is, each event in life is a separate and discrete event with no connections to
what may have come before or with no relation to what follows. Furthermore, their learning is so
encapsulated that they seem unable to draw forth from one event and apply it in another context.
9. Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision
I do not so easily think in words.... after being hard at work having arrived at results that are
perfectly clear... I have to translate my thoughts in a language that does not run evenly with them.
Francis Galton, Geneticist.
Language refinement plays a critical role in enhancing a person’s cognitive maps, and their
ability to think critically which is the knowledge base for efficacious action. Enriching the
complexity and specificity of language simultaneously produces effective thinking.
Language and thinking are closely entwined. Like either side of a coin, they are
inseparable. When you hear fuzzy language, it is a reflection of fuzzy thinking. Intelligent
people strive to communicate accurately in both written and oral form taking care to use precise language,
defining terms, using correct names and universal labels and analogies. They strive to avoid
overgeneralizations, deletions and distortions. Instead they support their statements with explanations,
comparisons, quantification, and evidence.
We sometimes hear students and other adults using vague and imprecise language. They describe objects
or events with words like weird, nice, or OK. They call specific objects using such non-descriptive words as
stuff, junk and things. They punctuate sentences with meaningless interjections like ya know, er and uh.
They use vague or general nouns and pronouns: "They told me to do it". "Everybody has one." "Teachers
don't understand me. They use non-specific verbs: "Let's do it." and unqualified comparatives: "This soda
is better; I like it more".
10. Gathering Data through All Senses
Observe perpetually.
Henry James
The brain is the ultimate reductionist. It reduces the world to its elementary parts: photons
of light, molecules of smell, sound waves, vibrations of touch--which send electrochemical
signals to individual brain cells that store information about lines, movements, colors,
smells and other sensory inputs.
Intelligent people know that all information gets into the brain through the sensory
pathways: gustatory, olfactory, tactile, kinesthetic, auditory, visual, Most linguistic, cultural, and physical
learning is derived from the environment by observing or taking in through the senses. To know a wine it
must be drunk; to know a role it must be acted; to know a game it must be played; to know a dance it must
be moved; to know a goal it must be envisioned. Those whose sensory pathways are open, alert, and acute
absorb more information from the environment than those whose pathways are withered, immune, and
oblivious to sensory stimuli.
Furthermore, we are learning more about the impact of arts and music on improved mental functioning.
Forming mental images is important in mathematics and engineering; listening to classical music seems to
improve spatial reasoning.
Social scientists solve problems through scenarios and role-playing; scientists build models; engineers use
cad-cam; mechanics learn through hands-on experimentation; artists experiment with colors and textures.
Musicians experiment by producing combinations of instrumental and vocal music.
Some students, however, go through school and life oblivious to the textures, rhythms, patterns sounds and
colors around them. Sometimes children are afraid to touch, get their hands "dirty" or feel some object
might be "slimy" or "icky". They operate within a narrow range of sensory problem solving strategies
wanting only to "describe it but not illustrate or act it", or "listen but not participate".
11. Creating, Imagining, and Innovating
"The future is not some place we are going to but one we are creating. The paths are not to be
found, but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination."
John Schaar, Political Scientist,
University of Santa Clara
Author, Loyalty in America
All human beings have the capacity to generate novel, original, clever or ingenious
products, solutions, and techniques—if that capacity is developed. Creative human beings
try to conceive problem solutions differently, examining alternative possibilities from many
angles. They tend to project themselves into different roles using analogies, starting with a
vision and working backward, imagining they are the objects being considered. Creative
people take risks and frequently push the boundaries of their perceived limits (Perkins
1985). They are intrinsically rather than extrinsically motivated, working on the task because of the
aesthetic challenge rather than the material rewards. Creative people are open to criticism. They hold up
their products for others to judge and seek feedback in an ever-increasing effort to refine their technique.
They are uneasy with the status quo. They constantly strive for greater fluency, elaboration, novelty,
parsimony, simplicity, craftsmanship, perfection, beauty, harmony, and balance.
Students, however, are often heard saying, "I can't draw," "I was never very good at art," "I can't sing a note,"
"I'm not creative". Some people believe creative humans are just born that way; in their genes and
chromosomes.
12. Responding with Wonderment and Awe
The most beautiful experience in the world is the experience of the mysterious."
Albert Einstein.
Describing the 200 best and brightest of the All USA College Academic Team identified by
USA Today, Tracey Wong Briggs (1999) states, “They are creative thinkers who have a
passion for what they do.” Efficacious people have not only an "I CAN" attitude, but also
an "I ENJOY" feeling. They seek problems to solve for themselves and to submit to others.
They delight in making up problems to solve on their own and request enigmas from others.
They enjoy figuring things out by themselves, and continue to learn throughout their
lifetimes.
Some children and adults avoid problems and are "turned off" to learning. They make such comments as,
"I was never good at these brain teasers," or "Go ask your father; he's the brain in this family. "Its boring."
"When am I ever going to use this stuff?" "Who cares?" "Lighten up, teacher, thinking is hard work,” or "I
don't do thinking!" Many people never enrolled in another math class or other "hard" academic subjects
after they didn't have to in high school or college. Many people perceive thinking as hard work and therefore
recoil from situations, which demand "too much" of it.
We want our students, however to be curious; to commune with the world around them; to reflect on the
changing formations of a cloud; feel charmed by the opening of a bud; sense the logical simplicity of
mathematical order. Students can find beauty in a sunset, intrigue in the geometric of a spider web, and
exhilaration at the iridescence of a hummingbird's wings. They see the congruity and intricacies in the
derivation of a mathematical formula, recognize the orderliness and adroitness of a chemical change, and
commune with the serenity of a distant constellation. We want them feel compelled, enthusiastic and
passionate about learning, inquiring and mastering.
13. Taking Responsible Risks.
There has been a calculated risk in every stage of American development--the pioneers who were
not afraid of the wilderness, businessmen who were not afraid of failure, dreamers who were not
afraid of action.
Brooks Atkinson
Flexible people seem to have an almost uncontrollable urge to go beyond established limits.
They are uneasy about comfort; they "live on the edge of their competence". They seem
compelled to place themselves in situations where they do not know what the outcome will
be. They accept confusion, uncertainty, and the higher risks of failure as part of the normal
process and they learn to view setbacks as interesting, challenging and growth producing.
However, they are not behaving impulsively. Their risks are educated. They draw on past
knowledge, are thoughtful about consequences and have a well-trained sense of what is appropriate. They
know that all risks are not worth taking!
Risk taking can be considered in two categories: those who see it as a venture and those who see it as
adventure. The venture part of risk taking might be described by the venture capitalist. When a person is
approached to take the risk of investing in a new business, she will look at the markets, see how well
organized the ideas are, and study the economic projections. If she finally decides to take the risk, it is a
well considered one.
The adventure part of risk taking might be described by the experiences from project adventure. In this
situation, there is a spontaneity, a willingness to take a chance in the moment. Once again, a person will
only take the chance if they know that there is either past history that suggests that what they are doing is
not going to be life threatening or if they believe that there is enough support in the group to protect them
from harm. Ultimately, the learning from such high-risk experiences is that people are far more able to take
actions than they previously believed.
It is only through repeated experiences that risk taking becomes educated. It often is a cross between
intuition, drawing on past knowledge and a sense of meeting new challenges.
Bobby Jindal, executive Director of the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare states,
“The only way to succeed is to be brave enough to risk failure. “ (Briggs, 1999 p 2A)
When someone holds back from taking risks, he is confronted constantly with missed opportunities. Some
students seem reluctant to take risks. Some students hold back games, new learning, and new friendships
because their fear of failure is far greater than their experience of venture or adventure. They are reinforced
by the mental voice that says, “ if you don’t try it, you won’t be wrong” or “if you try it and you are wrong,
you will look stupid”. The other voice that might say, “if you don’t try it, you will never know” is trapped in
fear and mistrust. They are more interested in knowing whether their answer is correct or not, rather than
being challenged by the process of finding the answer. They are unable to sustain a process of problem
solving and finding the answer over time, and therefore avoid ambiguous situations. They have a need for
certainty rather than an inclination for doubt
We hope that students will learn how to take intellectual as well as physical risks. Students who are
capable of being different, going against the grain of the common, thinking of new ideas and testing them
with peers as well as teachers, are more likely to be successful in this age of innovation and uncertainty.
14. Finding Humor
Where do bees wait? At the buzz stop.
Andrew, Age six
Another unique attribute of human beings is our sense of humor. Laughter transcends all
human beings. Its’ positive effects on psychological functions include a drop in the pulse
rate, the secretion of endorphins, an increased oxygen in the blood. It has been found to
liberate creativity and provoke such higher level thinking skills as anticipation, finding novel
relationships, visual imagery, and making analogies. People who engage in the mystery of
humor have the ability to perceive situations from an original and often interesting
vantagepoint. They tend to initiate humor more often, to place greater value on having a sense of humor, to
appreciate and understand others' humor and to be verbally playful when interacting with others. Having a
whimsical frame of mind, they thrive on finding incongruity and perceiving absurdities, ironies and satire;
finding discontinuities and being able to laugh at situations and themselves. Some students find humor in
all the "wrong places"--human differences, ineptitude, injurious behavior, vulgarity, violence and profanity.
They laugh at others yet are unable to laugh at themselves.
We want our student to acquire the characteristic of creative problem solvers, they can distinguish between
situations of human frailty and fallibility which are in need of compassion and those which are truly funny.
(Dyer, 1997).
15. Thinking Interdependently
Take care of each other. Share your energies with the group. No one must feel alone, cut off, for
that is when you do not make it.
Willie Unsoeld
Renowned Mountain Climber
Human beings are social beings. We congregate in groups, find it therapeutic to be
listened to, draw energy from one another, and seek reciprocity. In groups we contribute
our time and energy to tasks that we would quickly tire of when working alone. In fact, we
have learned that one of the cruelest forms of punishment that can be inflicted on an
individual is solitary confinement.
Cooperative humans realize that all of us together are more powerful, intellectually and/or physically, than
any one individual. Probably the foremost disposition in the post industrial society is the heightened ability
to think in concert with others; to find ourselves increasingly more interdependent and sensitive to the needs
of others. Problem solving has become so complex that no one person can go it alone. No one has access
to all the data needed to make critical decisions; no one person can consider as many alternatives as
several people can.
Some students may not have learned to work in groups; they have underdeveloped social skills. They feel
isolated, they prefer their solitude. "Leave me alone--I'll do it by my self". " They just don't like me". "I want
to be alone." Some students seem unable to contribute to group work either by being a "job hog" or
conversely, letting others do all the work.
Working in groups requires the ability to justify ideas and to test the feasibility of solution strategies on
others. It also requires the development of a willingness and openness to accept the feedback from a
critical friend. Through this interaction the group and the individual continue to grow. Listening, consensus
seeking, giving up an idea to work with someone else's, empathy, compassion, group leadership, knowing
how to support group efforts, altruism--all are behaviors indicative of cooperative human beings.
16 Learning Continuously:
Insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein
Intelligent people are in a continuous learning mode. Their confidence, in combination with
their inquisitiveness, allows them to constantly search for new and better ways. People
with this Habit of Mind are always striving for improvement, always growing, always
learning, always modifying and improving themselves. They seize problems, situations,
tensions, conflicts and circumstances as valuable opportunities to learn.
A great mystery about humans is that we confront learning opportunities with fear rather than mystery and
wonder. We seem to feel better when we know rather than when we learn. We defend our biases, beliefs,
and storehouses of knowledge rather than inviting the unknown, the creative and the inspirational. Being
certain and closed gives us comfort while being doubtful and open gives us fear.
From an early age, employing a curriculum of fragmentation, competition and reactiveness, students are
trained to believe that deep learning means figuring out the truth rather than developing capabilities for
effective and thoughtful action. They have been taught to value certainty rather than doubt, to give answers
rather than to inquire, to know which choice is correct rather than to explore alternatives.
Our wish is for creative students and people who are eager to learn. That includes the humility of knowing
that we don't know, which is the highest form of thinking we will ever learn. Paradoxically, unless you start
off with humility you will never get anywhere, so as the first step you have to have already what will
eventually be the crowning glory of all learning: the humility to know--and admit--that you don't know and not
be afraid to find out.
IN SUMMARY
Drawn from research on human effectiveness, descriptions of remarkable performers, and analyses of the
characteristics of efficacious people, we have presented descriptions of sixteen Habits of Mind. This list is
not meant to be complete but rather to serve as a starting point for further elaboration and description.
These Habits of Mind may serve as mental disciplines. When confronted with problematic situations,
students, parents and teachers might habitually employ one or more of these Habits of Mind by asking
themselves, “What is the most intelligent thing I can do right now?”
• How can I learn from this, what are my resources, how can I draw on my past successes with
problems like this, what do I already know about the problem, what resources do I have
available or need to generate?
• How can I approach this problem flexibly? How might I look at the situation in another way,
how can I draw upon my repertoire of problem solving strategies; how can I look at this problem
from a fresh perspective (Lateral Thinking).
• How can I illuminate this problem to make it clearer, more precise? Do I need to check out my
data sources? How might I break this problem down into its component parts and develop a
strategy for understanding and accomplishing each step.
• What do I know or not know; what questions do I need to ask, what strategies are in my mind
now, what am I aware of in terms of my own beliefs, values and goals with this problem. What
feelings or emotions am I aware of which might be blocking or enhancing my progress?
• The interdependent thinker might turn to others for help. They might ask how this problem
affects others; how can we solve it together and what can I learn from others that would help me
become a better problem solver?
Taking a reflective stance in the midst of active problem solving is often difficult. For that reason, each of
these Habits of Mind is situational and transitory. There is no such thing as perfect realization of any of
them. They are utopian states toward which we constantly aspire. Csikszentmihalyi (1993, p. 23) states,
"Although every human brain is able to generate self-reflective consciousness, not everyone seems
to use it equally."
Few people, notes Kegan (1994) ever fully reach the stage of cognitive complexity, and rarely before middle
age.
These Habits of Mind transcend all subject matters commonly taught in school. They are characteristic of
peak performers whether they be in homes, schools, athletic fields, organizations, the military,
governments, churches or corporations. They are what make marriages successful, learning continual,
workplaces productive and democracies enduring.
The goal of education therefore, should be to support others and ourselves in liberating, developing and
habituating these Habits of Mind more fully. Taken together, they are a force directing us toward
increasingly authentic, congruent, ethical behavior, the touchstones of integrity. They are the tools of
disciplined choice making. They are the primary vehicles in the lifelong journey toward integration. They are
the “right stuff” that makes human beings efficacious.
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit."
Aristotle
REFERENCES
Briggs, Tracey, W. Passion For What They Do Keeps Alumni On First Team. U. S. A Today. February
25, 1999. Vol. 17, No. 115 pp. 1A-2A.
Chiabetta, E. L. A. Review Of Piagetian Studies Relevant To Science Instruction At The Secondary And
College Levels. Science Education. 60. pp. 253-261.
Costa, A. (1991) The Search For Intelligent Life. in A. Costa, (Ed.) Developing Minds: A Resource Book for
Teaching Thinking: pp. 100-106 Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum
Development.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1993). The Evolving Self: A Psychology for the Third Millennium. New York, NY:
Harper Collins Publishers, Inc.
Covey, S. (1989) The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People. New York: Simon and Schuster.
DeBono, E. (1991) The Cort Thinking Program in A. Costa (Ed) Developing Minds: Programs for Teaching
Thinking. Alexandria, VA pp. 27-32: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Dyer, J. (1997) Humor As Process in A. Costa, A and R. Liebmann, (Eds.) Envisioning Process as
Content: Toward a Renaissance Curriculum pp. 211-229 Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Ennis, R. (1985). Goals For A Critical Thinking Curriculum. In A. L. Costa (Ed.), Developing Minds: A
Resource Book for Teaching Thinking. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum
Development, 1985.
Feuerstein, R. Rand, Y.m, Hoffman, M. B., & Miller, R. (1980). Instrumental Enrichment: An Intervention
Program For Cognitive Modifiability. Baltimore: University Park Press.
Glatthorn, A. & Baron, J. (1985). The Good Thinker. In A. L. Costa (Ed.), Developing Minds: A Resource
Book for Teaching Thinking. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum
Development.
Goleman, D. (1995) Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than I. Q. New York: Bantam Books.
Kegan, R. (1994) In Over Our Heads: The Mental Complexity Of Modern Life. Cambridge, Ma: Harvard
University Press.
Perkins, D. (1985). What Creative Thinking Is. In A. L. Costa (Ed.), developing minds: A resource book for
teaching thinking. pp. 85-88 Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum
Development.
Perkins, D. (1995) Outsmarting I. Q.: The Emerging Science of Learnable Intelligence. New York: The Free
Press.
Senge, P., Ross, R., Smith, B., Roberts, C., & Kleiner, A. (1994) The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook:
Strategies And Tools For Building A Learning Organization. New York: Doubleday/Currency.
Sternberg, R. and Wagner, R. Understanding Intelligence: What’s In It For Education? Paper submitted to
the National Commission on Excellence in Education.
Sternberg, R. (1984). Beyond I.Q.: A Triarchic Theory of Human Intelligence. New York: Cambridge
University Press.
Sternberg, R. (1983) How Can We Teach Intelligence? Philadelphia, PA: Research for Better Schools
Whimbey, A. and Whimbey L. S. (1975) Intelligence Can Be Taught. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum
Associates
This article is adapted from Costa, A and Kallick, B (2000) Habits of Mind: A Developmental Series.
Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development:
Book I: Discovering and Exploring Habits of Mind
Book II: Activating and Engaging Habits of Mind
Book III: Assessing and Reporting Growth in Habits of Mind
Book IV: Integrating and Sustaining Habits ofMind

Habits of Mind

*excerpt from Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind

Describing the Habits of Mind

                       

by Arthur L. Costa

                       

When we no longer know what to do we have come to our real work, and when we no longer know which way to go we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.

Wendell Berry

This chapter contains descriptions for 16 of the attributes that human beings display when they behave intelligently. In this book, we refer to them as Habits of Mind. They are the characteristics of what intelligent people do when they are confronted with problems, the resolutions to which are not immediately apparent.

                                   

These Habits of Mind seldom are performed in isolation; rather, clusters of behaviors are drawn forth and used in various situations. For example, when listening intently, we use the habits of thinking flexibly, thinking about our thinking (metacognition), thinking and communicating with clarity and precision, and perhaps even questioning and posing problems.

Do not conclude, based on this list, that humans display intelligent behavior in only 16 ways. The list of the Habits of Mind is not complete. We want this list to initiate a collection of additional attributes. In fact, 12 attributes of "Intelligent Behavior" were first described in 1991 (Costa, 1991). Since then, through collaboration and interaction with many others, the list has been expanded. You, your colleagues, and your students will want to continue the search for additional Habits of Mind to add to this list of 16.

Habits of Mind as Learning Outcomes

Educational outcomes in traditional settings focus on how many answers a student knows. When we teach for the Habits of Mind, we are interested also in how students behave when they don't know an answer. The Habits of Mind are performed in response to questions and problems, the answers to which are not immediately known. We are interested in enhancing the ways students produce knowledge rather than how they merely reproduce it. We want students to learn how to develop a critical stance with their work: inquiring, editing, thinking flexibly, and learning from another person's perspective. The critical attribute of intelligent human beings is not only having information but also knowing how to act on it.

What behaviors indicate an efficient, effective thinker? What do human beings do when they behave intelligently? Vast research on effective thinking, successful people, and intelligent behavior by Ames (1997), Carnegie and Stynes (2006), Ennis (1991), Feuerstein, Rand, Hoffman, and Miller (1980), Freeley (as reported in Strugatch, 2004), Glatthorn and Baron (1991), Goleman (1995), Perkins (1991), Sternberg (1984), and Waugh (2005) suggests that effective thinkers and peak performers have identifiable characteristics. These characteristics have been identified in successful people in all walks of life: lawyers, mechanics, teachers, entrepreneurs, salespeople, physicians, athletes, entertainers, leaders, parents, scientists, artists, teachers, and mathematicians.

Horace Mann, a U.S. educator (1796–1859), once observed that "habit is a cable; we weave a thread of it each day, and at last we cannot break it." In Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind, we focus on 16 Habits of Mind that teachers and parents can teach, cultivate, observe, and assess. The intent is to help students get into the habit of behaving intelligently. A Habit of Mind is a pattern of intellectual behaviors that leads to productive actions. When we experience dichotomies, are confused by dilemmas, or come face-to-face with uncertainties, our most effective response requires drawing forth certain patterns of intellectual behavior. When we draw upon these intellectual resources, the results are more powerful, of higher quality, and of greater significance than if we fail to employ such patterns of intellectual behavior.

A Habit of Mind is a composite of many skills, attitudes, cues, past experiences, and proclivities. It means that we value one pattern of intellectual behaviors over another; therefore, it implies making choices about which patterns we should use at a certain time. It includes sensitivity to the contextual cues that signal that a particular circumstance is a time when applying a certain pattern would be useful and appropriate. It requires a level of skillfulness to use, carry out, and sustain the behaviors effectively. It suggests that after each experience in which these behaviors are used, the effects of their use are reflected upon, evaluated, modified, and carried forth to future applications. Figure 2.1 summarizes some of these dimensions of the Habits of Mind, which are elaborated in Chapter 3. The following sections describe each of the 16 Habits of Mind.

 

Figure 2.1. Dimensions of the Habits of Mind

 

The Habits of Mind incorporate the following dimensions:

  • Value: Choosing to employ a pattern of intellectual behaviors rather than other, less productive patterns.
  • Inclination: Feeling the tendency to employ a pattern of intellectual behaviors.
  • Sensitivity: Perceiving opportunities for, and appropriateness of, employing the pattern of behaviors.
  • Capability: Possessing the basic skills and capacities to carry through with the behaviors.
  • Commitment: Constantly striving to reflect on and improve performance of the pattern of intellectual behaviors.
  • Policy: Making it a policy to promote and incorporate the patterns of intellectual behaviors into actions, decisions, and resolutions of problematic situations.

 

 Persisting

Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they never quit.

Conrad Hilton

Efficacious people stick to a task until it is completed. They don't give up easily. They are able to analyze a problem, and they develop a system, structure, or strategy to attack it. They have a repertoire of alternative strategies for problem solving, and they employ a whole range of these strategies. They collect evidence to indicate their problem-solving strategy is working, and if one strategy doesn't work, they know how to back up and try another. They recognize when a theory or an idea must be rejected and another employed. They have systematic methods for analyzing a problem, which include knowing how to begin, what steps must be performed, what data must be generated or collected, and what resources are available to assist. Because they are able to sustain a problem-solving process over time, they are comfortable with ambiguous situations.

Students often give up when they don't immediately know the answer to a problem. They sometimes crumple their papers and throw them away, exclaiming "I can't do this!" or "It's too hard!" Sometimes they write down any answer to get the task over with as quickly as possible. Some of these students have attention deficits. They have difficulty staying focused for any length of time; they are easily distracted, or they lack the ability to analyze a problem and develop a system, structure, or strategy of attack. They may give up because they have a limited repertoire of problem-solving strategies, and thus they have few alternatives if their first strategy doesn't work.

 Managing Impulsivity

Goal-directed, self-imposed delay of gratification is perhaps the essence of emotional self-regulation: the ability to deny impulse in the service of a goal, whether it be building a business, solving an algebraic equation, or pursuing the Stanley Cup.

Daniel Goleman

Effective problem solvers are deliberate: they think before they act. They intentionally establish a vision of a product, an action plan, a goal, or a destination before they begin. They strive to clarify and understand directions, they develop a strategy for approaching a problem, and they withhold immediate value judgments about an idea before they fully understand it. Reflective individuals consider alternatives and consequences of several possible directions before they take action. They decrease their need for trial and error by gathering information, taking time to reflect on an answer before giving it, making sure they understand directions, and listening to alternative points of view.

Often, students blurt out the first answer that comes to mind. Sometimes they shout an answer, start to work without fully understanding the directions, lack an organized plan or strategy for approaching a problem, or make immediate value judgments about an idea (criticizing or praising it) before they fully understand it. They may take the first suggestion given or operate on the first idea that comes to mind rather than consider alternatives and the consequences of several possible directions. Research demonstrates, however, that less impulsive, self-disciplined students are more successful. For example, Duckworth and Seligman (2005) found

Highly self-disciplined adolescents outperformed their more impulsive peers on every academic performance variable, including report-card grades, standardized achievement test scores, admission to a competitive high school and attendance. Self-discipline measured in the fall predicted more variance in each of these outcomes than did IQ, and unlike IQ, self-discipline predicted gains in academic performance over the school year. (p. 940)

 Listening with Understanding and Empathy

Listening is the beginning of understanding. … Wisdom is the reward for a lifetime of listening. Let the wise listen and add to their learning and let the discerning get guidance.

Proverbs 1:5

Highly effective people spend an inordinate amount of time and energy listening (Covey, 1989). Some psychologists believe that the ability to listen to another person—to empathize with and to understand that person's point of view—is one of the highest forms of intelligent behavior. The ability to paraphrase another person's ideas; detect indicators (cues) of feelings or emotional states in oral and body language (empathy); and accurately express another person's concepts, emotions, and problems—all are indicators of listening behavior. (Piaget called it "overcoming egocentrism.")

People who demonstrate this Habit of Mind are able to see through the diverse perspectives of others. They gently attend to another person, demonstrating their understanding of and empathy for an idea or a feeling by paraphrasing it accurately, building upon it, clarifying it, or giving an example of it.

Senge, Roberts, Ross, Smith, and Kleiner (1994) suggest that to listen fully means to pay close attention to what is being said beneath the words—listening not only to the "music" but also to the essence of the person speaking; not only for what someone knows but also for what that person is trying to represent. Ears operate at the speed of sound, which is far slower than the speed of light the eyes take in. Generative listening is the art of developing deeper silences in oneself, slowing the mind's hearing to the ears' natural speed and hearing beneath the words to their meaning.

We spend 55 percent of our lives listening, but it is one of the least taught skills in schools. We often say we are listening, but actually we are rehearsing in our head what we are going to say when our partner is finished. Some students ridicule, laugh at, or put down other students' ideas. They interrupt, are unable to build upon, can't consider the merits of, or don't operate on another person's ideas.

We want students to learn to devote their mental energies to another person and to invest themselves in their partner's ideas. We want students to learn to hold in abeyance their own values, judgments, opinions, and prejudices so they can listen to and entertain another person's thoughts. This is a complex skill requiring the ability to monitor one's own thoughts while at the same time attending to a partner's words. Listening in this way does not mean we can't disagree with someone. Good listeners try to understand what other people are saying. In the end, they may disagree sharply, but because they have truly listened, they know exactly the nature of the disagreement.

 Thinking Flexibly

Of all forms of mental activity, the most difficult to induce even in the minds of the young, who may be presumed not to have lost their flexibility, is the art of handling the same bundle of data as before, but placing them in a new system of relations with one another by giving them a different framework, all of which virtually means putting on a different kind of thinking-cap for the moment. It is easy to teach anybody a new fact. … but it needs light from heaven above to enable a teacher to break the old framework in which the student is accustomed to seeing.

Arthur Koestler

An amazing discovery about the human brain is its plasticity—its ability to "rewire," change, and even repair itself to become smarter. Flexible people have the most control. They have the capacity to change their minds as they receive additional data. They engage in multiple and simultaneous outcomes and activities, and they draw upon a repertoire of problem-solving strategies. They also practice style flexibility, knowing when thinking broadly and globally is appropriate and when a situation requires detailed precision. They create and seek novel approaches, and they have a well-developed sense of humor. They envision a range of consequences.

Flexible people can address a problem from a new angle using a novel approach, which de Bono (1991) refers to as "lateral thinking." They consider alternative points of view or deal with several sources of information simultaneously. Their minds are open to change based on additional information, new data, or even reasoning that contradicts their beliefs. Flexible people know that they have and can develop options and alternatives. They understand means-ends relationships. They can work within rules, criteria, and regulations, and they can predict the consequences of flouting them. They understand immediate reactions, but they also are able to perceive the bigger purposes that such constraints serve. Thus, flexibility of mind is essential for working with social diversity, enabling an individual to recognize the wholeness and distinctness of other people's ways of experiencing and making meaning.

Flexible thinkers are able to shift through multiple perceptual positions at will. One perceptual orientation is what Jean Piaget called egocentrism, or perceiving from our own point of view. By contrast, allocentrism is the position in which we perceive through another person's orientation. We operate from this second position when we empathize with another's feelings, predict how others are thinking, and anticipate potential misunderstandings.

Another perceptual position is macrocentric. It is similar to looking down from a balcony to observe ourselves and our interactions with others. This bird's-eye view is useful for discerning themes and patterns from assortments of information. It is intuitive, holistic, and conceptual. Because we often need to solve problems with incomplete information, we need the capacity to perceive general patterns and jump across gaps of incomplete knowledge.

Yet another perceptual orientation is microcentric, examining the individual and sometimes minute parts that make up the whole. This worm's eye view involves logical, analytical computation, searching for causality in methodical steps. It requires attention to detail, precision, and orderly progressions.

Flexible thinkers display confidence in their intuition. They tolerate confusion and ambiguity up to a point, and they are willing to let go of a problem, trusting their subconscious to continue creative and productive work on it. Flexibility is the cradle of humor, creativity, and repertoire. Although many perceptual positions are possible—past, present, future, egocentric, allocentric, macrocentric, microcentric, visual, auditory, kinesthetic—the flexible mind knows when to shift between and among these positions.

Some students have difficulty considering alternative points of view or dealing with more than one classification system simultaneously. Their way to solve a problem seems to be the only way. They perceive situations from an egocentric point of view: "My way or the highway!" Their minds are made up: "Don't confuse me with facts. That's it!"

 Thinking About Thinking (Metacognition)

When the mind is thinking it is talking to itself.

Plato

The human species is known as Homo sapiens sapiens, which basically means "a being that knows their knowing" (or maybe it's "knows they're knowing"). What distinguishes humans from other forms of life is our capacity for metacognition—the ability to stand off and examine our own thoughts while we engage in them.

Occurring in the neocortex, metacognition, or thinking about thinking, is our ability to know what we know and what we don't know. It is our ability to plan a strategy for producing the information that is needed, to be conscious of our own steps and strategies during the act of problem solving, and to reflect on and evaluate the productiveness of our own thinking. Although inner language, thought to be a prerequisite for metacognition, begins in most children around age 5, metacognition is a key attribute of formal thought flowering at about age 11.

The major components of metacognition are, when confronted with a problem to solve, developing a plan of action, maintaining that plan in mind over a period of time, and then reflecting on and evaluating the plan upon its completion. Planning a strategy before embarking on a course of action helps us keep track of the steps in the sequence of planned behavior at the conscious awareness level for the duration of the activity. It facilitates making temporal and comparative judgments; assessing the readiness for more or different activities; and monitoring our interpretations, perceptions, decisions, and behaviors. An example would be what superior teachers do daily: developing a teaching strategy for a lesson, keeping that strategy in mind throughout the instruction, and then reflecting upon the strategy to evaluate its effectiveness in producing the desired student outcomes.

Intelligent people plan for, reflect on, and evaluate the quality of their own thinking skills and strategies. Metacognition means becoming increasingly aware of one's actions and the effect of those actions on others and on the environment; forming internal questions in the search for information and meaning; developing mental maps or plans of action; mentally rehearsing before a performance; monitoring plans as they are employed (being conscious of the need for midcourse correction if the plan is not meeting expectations); reflecting on the completed plan for self-evaluation; and editing mental pictures for improved performance.

Interestingly, not all humans achieve the level of formal operations. As Russian psychologist Alexander Luria found, not all adults metacogitate. Although the human brain is capable of generating this reflective consciousness, generally we are not all that aware of how we are thinking, and not everyone uses the capacity for consciousness equally (Chiabetta, 1976; Csikszentmihalyi, 1993; Whimbey, Whimbey, & Shaw, 1975; Whimbey, 1980). The most likely reason is that all of us do not take the time to reflect on our experiences. Students often do not take the time to wonder why they are doing what they are doing. They seldom question themselves about their own learning strategies or evaluate the efficiency of their own performance. Some children virtually have no idea of what they should do when they confront a problem, and often they are unable to explain their decision-making strategies (Sternberg & Wagner, 1982). When teachers ask, "How did you solve that problem? What strategies did you have in mind?" or "Tell us what went on in your head to come up with that conclusion," students often respond, "I don't know. I just did it."

We want students to perform well on complex cognitive tasks. A simple example might be drawn from a reading task. While reading a passage, we sometimes find that our minds wander from the pages. We see the words, but no meaning is being produced. Suddenly, we realize that we are not concentrating and that we've lost contact with the meaning of the text. We recover by returning to the passage to find our place, matching it with the last thought we can remember, and once having found it, reading on with connectedness. This inner awareness and the strategy of recovery are components of metacognition.

 Striving for Accuracy

A man who has committed a mistake and doesn't correct it is committing another mistake.

Confucius

Whether we are looking at the stamina, grace, and elegance of a ballerina or a carpenter, we see a desire for craftsmanship, mastery, flawlessness, and economy of energy to produce exceptional results. People who value truthfulness, accuracy, precision, and craftsmanship take time to check over their products. They review the rules by which they are to abide, they review the models and visions they are to follow, and they review the criteria they are to use to confirm that their finished product matches the criteria exactly. To be craftsmanlike means knowing that one can continually perfect one's craft by working to attain the highest possible standards and by pursuing ongoing learning to bring a laserlike focus of energies to accomplishing a task.

These people take pride in their work, and they desire accuracy as they take time to check over their work. Craftsmanship includes exactness, precision, accuracy, correctness, faithfulness, and fidelity. For some people, craftsmanship requires continuous reworking. Mario Cuomo, a great speechwriter and politician, once said that his speeches were never done; it was only a deadline that made him stop working on them.

Some students may turn in sloppy, incomplete, or uncorrected work. They are more eager to get rid of the assignment than to check it over for accuracy and precision. They are willing to settle for minimum effort rather than invest their maximum. They may be more interested in expedience rather than excellence.

 Questioning and Posing Problems

The formulation of a problem is often more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill. … To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advances.

Albert Einstein

One of the distinguishing characteristics of humans is our inclination and ability to find problems to solve. Effective problem solvers know how to ask questions to fill in the gaps between what they know and what they don't know. Effective questioners are inclined to ask a range of questions:

  • What evidence do you have?
  • How do you know that's true?
  • How reliable is this data source?

They also pose questions about alternative points of view:

  • From whose viewpoint are we seeing, reading, or hearing?
  • From what angle, what perspective, are we viewing this situation?

Effective questioners pose questions that make causal connections and relationships:

  • How are these (people, events, or situations) related to each other?
  • What produced this connection?

Sometimes they pose hypothetical problems characterized by "if" questions:

  • What do you think would happen if … ?
  • If that is true, then what might happen if … ?

Inquirers recognize discrepancies and phenomena in their environment, and they probe into their causes:

  • Why do cats purr?
  • How high can birds fly?
  • Why does the hair on my head grow so fast, while the hair on my arms and legs grows so slowly?
  • What would happen if we put the saltwater fish in a freshwater aquarium?
  • What are some alternative solutions to international conflicts, other than wars?

Some students may be unaware of the functions, classes, syntax, or intentions in questions. They may not realize that questions vary in complexity, structure, and purpose. They may pose simple questions intending to derive maximal results. When confronted with a discrepancy, they may lack an overall strategy to search for and find a solution.

 Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations

I've never made a mistake. I've only learned from experience.

Thomas A. Edison

Intelligent humans learn from experience. When confronted with a new and perplexing problem, they will draw forth experiences from their past. They often can be heard to say, "This reminds me of …" or "This is just like the time when I …" They explain what they are doing now with analogies about or references to their experiences. They call upon their store of knowledge and experience as sources of data to support, theories to explain, or processes to solve each new challenge. They are able to abstract meaning from one experience, carry it forth, and apply it in a novel situation.

Too often, students begin each new task as if it were being approached for the first time. Teachers are dismayed when they invite students to recall how they solved a similar problem previously—and students don't remember. It's as if they had never heard of it before, even though they recently worked with the same type of problem! It seems each experience is encapsulated and has no relationship to what has come before or what comes after. Their thinking is what psychologists refer to as an "episodic grasp of reality" (Feuerstein et al., 1980); that is, each event in life is separate and discrete, with no connections to what may have come before or no relation to what follows. Their learning is so encapsulated that they seem unable to draw it forth from one event and apply it in another context.

 Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision

I do not so easily think in words. … After being hard at work having arrived at results that are perfectly clear … I have to translate my thoughts in a language that does not run evenly with them.

Francis Galton, geneticist

Language refinement plays a critical role in enhancing a person's cognitive maps and ability to think critically, which is the knowledge base for efficacious action. Enriching the complexity and specificity of language simultaneously produces effective thinking.

Language and thinking are closely entwined; like either side of a coin, they are inseparable. Fuzzy, vague language is a reflection of fuzzy, vague thinking. Intelligent people strive to communicate accurately in both written and oral form, taking care to use precise language; defining terms; and using correct names, labels, and analogies. They strive to avoid overgeneralizations, deletions, and distortions. Instead, they support their statements with explanations, comparisons, quantification, and evidence.

We sometimes hear students and adults using vague and imprecise language. They describe objects or events with words like weird, nice, or OK. They name specific objects using such nondescriptive words as stuff, junk, things, and whatever. They punctuate sentences with meaningless interjections like ya know, er, and uh. They use vague or general nouns and pronouns: "They told me to do it," "Everybody has one," or "Teachers don't understand me." They use nonspecific verbs: "Let's do it." At other times, they use unqualified comparatives: "This soda is better; I like it more" (Shachtman, 1995).

 Gathering Data Through All Senses

Observe perpetually.

Henry James

The brain is the ultimate reductionist. It reduces the world to its elementary parts: photons of light, molecules of fragrance, sound waves, vibrations of touch—all of which send electrochemical signals to individual brain cells that store information about lines, movements, colors, smells, and other sensory inputs.

Intelligent people know that all information gets into the brain through sensory pathways: gustatory, olfactory, tactile, kinesthetic, auditory, and visual. Most linguistic, cultural, and physical learning is derived from the environment by observing or taking it in through the senses. To know a wine it must be drunk; to know a role it must be acted; to know a game it must be played; to know a dance it must be performed; to know a goal it must be envisioned. Those whose sensory pathways are open, alert, and acute absorb more information from the environment than those whose pathways are withered, immune, and oblivious to sensory stimuli.

The more regions of the brain that store data about a subject, the more interconnection there is. This redundancy means students will have more opportunities to pull up all those related bits of data from their multiple storage areas in response to a single cue. This cross-referencing of data strengthens the data into something that's learned rather than just memorized (Willis, 2007).

We are learning more and more about the impact of the arts and music on improved mental functioning. Forming mental images is important in mathematics and engineering; listening to classical music seems to improve spatial reasoning. Social scientists use scenarios and role playing; scientists build models; engineers use CAD-CAM; mechanics learn through hands-on experimentation; artists explore colors and textures; and musicians combine instrumental and vocal music.

Some students, however, go through school and life oblivious to the textures, rhythms, patterns, sounds, and colors around them. Sometimes children are afraid to touch things or get their hands dirty. Some don't want to feel an object that might be slimy or icky. They operate within a narrow range of sensory problem-solving strategies, wanting only to describe it but not illustrate or act it, or to listen but not participate.

 Creating, Imagining, Innovating

The future is not some place we are going to but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.

John Schaar, political scientist

All human beings have the capacity to generate novel, clever, or ingenious products, solutions, and techniques—if that capacity is developed (Sternberg, 2006). Creative human beings try to conceive solutions to problems differently, examining alternative possibilities from many angles. They tend to project themselves into different roles using analogies, starting with a vision and working backward, and imagining they are the object being considered. Creative people take risks and frequently push the boundaries of their perceived limits (Perkins, 1991). They are intrinsically rather than extrinsically motivated, working on the task because of the aesthetic challenge rather than the material rewards.

Creative people are open to criticism. They hold up their products for others to judge, and they seek feedback in an ever-increasing effort to refine their technique. They are uneasy with the status quo. They constantly strive for greater fluency, elaboration, novelty, parsimony, simplicity, craftsmanship, perfection, beauty, harmony, and balance.

Students, however, often are heard saying "I can't draw," "I was never very good at art," "I can't sing a note," or "I'm not creative." Some people believe creative humans are just born that way and that genes and chromosomes are the determinants of creativity.

 Responding with Wonderment and Awe

The most beautiful experience in the world is the experience of the mysterious.

Albert Einstein

Describing the 200 best and brightest of USA Today's All USA College Academic Team, Tracey Wong Briggs (1999) states, "They are creative thinkers who have a passion for what they do." Efficacious people have not only an "I can" attitude but also an "I enjoy" feeling. They seek intriguing phenomena. They search for problems to solve for themselves and to submit to others. They delight in making up problems to solve on their own, and they so enjoy the challenge of problem solving that they seek perplexities and puzzles from others. They enjoy figuring things out by themselves, and they continue to learn throughout their lifetimes. One efficacious person is chemist Ahmed H. Zewail, a Nobel Prize winner, who said that he had a passion to understand fundamental processes: "I love molecules. I want to understand why do they do what they do" (Cole, 1999).

Some children and adults avoid problems and are turned off to learning. They make such comments as "I was never good at these brain teasers," "Go ask your father; he's the brain in this family," "It's boring," "When am I ever going to use this stuff," "Who cares," "Lighten up, teacher; thinking is hard work," or "I don't do thinking!" Many people never enrolled in another math class or other "hard" academic subject after they weren't required to in high school or college. Many people perceive thinking as hard work, and they recoil from situations that demand too much of it.

We want students to be curious, to commune with the world around them, to reflect on the changing formations of a cloud, to feel charmed by the opening of a bud, to sense the logical simplicity of mathematical order. Intelligent people find beauty in a sunset, intrigue in the geometric shapes of a spider web, and exhilaration in the iridescence of a hummingbird's wings. They marvel at the congruity and intricacies in the derivation of a mathematical formula, recognize the orderliness and adroitness of a chemical change, and commune with the serenity of a distant constellation. We want students to feel compelled, enthusiastic, and passionate about learning, inquiring, and mastering (Costa, 2007).

 Taking Responsible Risks

There has been a calculated risk in every stage of American development—the pioneers who were not afraid of the wilderness, businessmen who were not afraid of failure, dreamers who were not afraid of action.

Brooks Atkinson

Risk takers seem to have an almost uncontrollable urge to go beyond established limits. They are uneasy about comfort; they live on the edge of their competence. They seem compelled to place themselves in situations in which they do not know what the outcome will be. They accept confusion, uncertainty, and the higher risks of failure as part of the normal process, and they learn to view setbacks as interesting, challenging, and growth producing. However, responsible risk takers do not behave impulsively. Their risks are educated. They draw on past knowledge, are thoughtful about consequences, and have a well-trained sense of what is appropriate. They know that all risks are not worth taking.

Risk takers can be considered in two categories: those who see the risk as a venture and those who see it as adventure. The venture part of risk taking might be described in terms of what a venture capitalist does. When a person is approached to take the risk of investing in a new business, she will look at the markets, see how well organized the ideas are, and study the economic projections. If she finally decides to take the risk, it is a well-considered one.

The adventure part of risk taking might be described by the experiences from Project Adventure. In this situation, there is a spontaneity, a willingness to take a chance in the moment. Once again, a person will take the chance only if experiences suggest that the action will not be life threatening or if he believes that group support will protect him from harm (e.g., checking out the dimensions of weight, distance, and strength of a bungee cord before agreeing to the exhilaration of a drop). Ultimately, people learn from such high-risk experiences that they are far more able to take actions than they previously believed. Risk taking becomes educated only through repeated experiences. It often is a cross between intuition, drawing on past knowledge, striving for precision and accuracy, and a sense of meeting new challenges.

Bobby Jindal, then executive director of the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare, stated, "The only way to succeed is to be brave enough to risk failure" (Briggs, 1999, p. 2A). When people hold back from taking risks, they miss opportunities. Some students seem reluctant to take risks. They hold back from games, new learning, and new friendships because their fear of failure is far greater than their desire for venture or adventure. They are reinforced by the mental voice that says, "If you don't try it, you won't be wrong," or "If you try it and you are wrong, you will look stupid." The other voice that might say, "If you don't try it, you will never know," is trapped by fear and mistrust. These students are more interested in knowing whether their answer is correct or not than in being challenged by the process of finding the answer. They are unable to sustain a process of problem solving and finding the answer over time, and therefore they avoid ambiguous situations. They have a need for certainty rather than an inclination for doubt.

We hope that students will learn how to take intellectual as well as physical risks. Students who are capable of being different, going against the grain of common thinking, and thinking of new ideas (testing them with peers and teachers) are more likely to be successful in an age of innovation and uncertainty.

 Finding Humor

You can increase your brain power three to fivefold simply by laughing and having fun before working on a problem.

Doug Hall

Why we laugh, no one really knows. Laughing is an instinct that can be traced to chimps, and it may reinforce our social status (Hubert, 2007). Humor is a human form of mutual playfulness. Beyond the fact that laughing is enjoyable, it may have medicinal value as well. Laughing, scientists have discovered, has positive effects on physiological functions: blood vessels relax, stress hormones disperse, and the immune system gets a boost, including a drop in the pulse rate. Laughter produces secretion of endorphins and increased oxygen in the blood. Humor has been found to have psychological benefits as well. It liberates creativity and provokes such higher-level thinking skills as anticipating, finding novel relationships, visual imaging, and making analogies. People who engage in the mystery of humor have the ability to perceive situations from an original and often interesting vantage point. They tend to initiate humor more often, to place greater value on having a sense of humor, to appreciate and understand others' humor, and to be verbally playful when interacting with others. Having a whimsical frame of mind, they thrive on finding incongruity; perceiving absurdities, ironies, and satire; finding discontinuities; and being able to laugh at situations and themselves.

Some students find humor in all the wrong places—human differences, ineptitude, injurious behavior, vulgarity, violence, and profanity. They employ laughter to humiliate others. They laugh at others yet are unable to laugh at themselves. We want students to acquire the habit of finding humor in a positive sense so they can distinguish between those situations of human frailty and fallibility that require compassion and those that truly are funny (Dyer, 1997).

 Thinking Interdependently

Take care of each other. Share your energies with the group. No one must feel alone, cut off, for that is when you do not make it.

Willie Unsoeld, mountain climber

Humans are social beings. We congregate in groups, find it therapeutic to be listened to, draw energy from one another, and seek reciprocity. In groups we contribute our time and energy to tasks that we would quickly tire of when working alone. In fact, solitary confinement is one of the cruelest forms of punishment that can be inflicted on an individual.

Collaborative humans realize that all of us together are more powerful, intellectually or physically, than any one individual. Probably the foremost disposition in our global society is the heightened ability to think in concert with others, to find ourselves increasingly more interdependent and sensitive to the needs of others. Problem solving has become so complex that no one person can go it alone. No one has access to all the data needed to make critical decisions; no one person can consider as many alternatives as several people.

Some students may not have learned to work in groups; they have underdeveloped social skills. They feel isolated, and they prefer solitude. They say things like "Leave me alone—I'll do it by myself," "They just don't like me," or "I want to be alone." Some students seem unable to contribute to group work and are job hogs; conversely, other students let all the others in a group do all the work.

Working in groups requires the ability to justify ideas and to test the feasibility of solution strategies on others. It also requires developing a willingness and an openness to accept feedback from a critical friend. Through this interaction, the group and the individual continue to grow. Listening, consensus seeking, giving up an idea to work with someone else's, empathy, compassion, group leadership, knowing how to support group efforts, altruism—all are behaviors indicative of cooperative human beings.

 Remaining Open to Continuous Learning

The greater our knowledge increases the more our ignorance unfolds.

John F. Kennedy

In a world that moves at warp speed, there is more to know today than ever before, and the challenge of knowing more and more in every succeeding day, week, month, and year ahead will only continue to expand exponentially. The quest for meaningful knowledge is critical and never ending.

Intelligent people are in a continuous learning mode. They are invigorated by the quest of lifelong learning. Their confidence, in combination with their inquisitiveness, allows them to constantly search for new and better ways. People with this Habit of Mind are always striving for improvement, growing, learning, and modifying and improving themselves. They seize problems, situations, tensions, conflicts, and circumstances as valuable opportunities to learn (Bateson, 2004).

A great mystery about humans is that many times we confront learning opportunities with fear rather than mystery and wonder. We seem to feel better when we know rather than when we learn. We defend our biases, beliefs, and storehouses of knowledge rather than invite the unknown, the creative, and the inspirational. Being certain and closed gives us comfort, whereas being doubtful and open gives us fear. As G. K. Chesterton so aptly expressed, "There is no such thing on earth as an uninteresting subject; there are only uninterested people."

Because of a curriculum employing fragmentation, competition, and reactiveness, students from an early age are trained to believe that deep learning means figuring out the truth rather than developing capabilities for effective and thoughtful action. They have been taught to value certainty rather than doubt, to give answers rather than to inquire, to know which choice is correct rather than to explore alternatives. Unfortunately, some adults are content with what they already believe and know. Their childlike curiosity has died. They exhibit little humility because they believe they are all knowing. They do not seek out or discover the wisdom of others. They do not know how or when to leverage a love of and lust for learning. As a result, they follow a path of little value and minimal opportunity.

Our wish is for creative students and people who are eager to learn. This Habit of Mind includes the humility of knowing that we don't know, which is the highest form of thinking we will ever learn. Paradoxically, unless we start off with humility, we will never get anywhere. As the first step, we must already have what eventually will be the crowning glory of all learning: to know—and to admit—that we don't know and to not be afraid to find out.

The Right Stuff

The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.

B. B. King

The 16 Habits of Mind just described were drawn from research on human effectiveness, descriptions of remarkable performers, and analyses of the characteristics of efficacious people. These Habits of Mind can serve as mental disciplines. Students, parents, and teachers, when confronted with problematic situations, might habitually use one or more of these Habits of Mind by asking themselves, "What is the most intelligent thing I can do right now?" They also might consider these questions:

  • How can I learn from this? What are my resources? How can I draw on my past successes with problems like this? What do I already know about the problem? What resources do I have available or need to generate?
  • How can I approach this problem flexibly? How might I look at the situation in another way? How can I draw upon my repertoire of problem-solving strategies? How can I look at this problem from a fresh perspective (lateral thinking)?
  • How can I illuminate this problem to make it clearer, more precise? Do I need to check out my data sources? How might I break this problem down into its component parts and develop a strategy for understanding and accomplishing each step?
  • What do I know or not know? What questions do I need to ask? What strategies are in my mind now? What am I aware of in terms of my own beliefs, values, and goals with this problem? What feelings or emotions am I aware of that might be blocking or enhancing my progress?
  • How does this problem affect others? How can we solve it together? What can I learn from others that would help me become a better problem solver?

Community organizer Saul Alinsky coined a very useful slogan: "Don't just do something … stand there!" Taking a reflective stance in the midst of active problem solving is often difficult. For that reason, each of these Habits of Mind is situational and transitory. There is no such thing as perfect realization of any of them. They are utopian states toward which we constantly aspire. Csikszentmihalyi (1993) states, "Although every human brain is able to generate self-reflective consciousness, not everyone seems to use it equally" (p. 23). Few people, notes Kegan (1994), ever fully reach the stage of cognitive complexity, and rarely before middle age.

These Habits of Mind transcend all subject matters commonly taught in school. They are characteristic of peak performers in all places: homes, schools, athletic fields, organizations, the military, governments, churches, or corporations. They are what make marriages successful, learning continual, workplaces productive, and democracies enduring. The goal of education, therefore, should be to support others and ourselves in liberating, developing, and habituating these Habits of Mind more fully. Taken together, they are a force directing us toward increasingly authentic, congruent, and ethical behavior. They are the touchstones of integrity and the tools of disciplined choice making. They are the primary vehicles in the lifelong journey toward integration. They are the "right stuff" that make human beings efficacious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary prepared by Jocias Zamora

Possible other sources

 

  1. Arthur L. Costa. Students at the Center: Personalized Learning with Habits of Mind
  2. Fletcher, Jennifer. Fostering Habits of Mind in Today’s Students: A New Approach to Developmental Education
  3. Bena Kallick and Allison Zmuda. Activating and Engaging Habits of Mind