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A conscious understanding of the thought process can help learners build knowledge through their own experiences

Habits of the mind build knowledge. Making learners understand their mental states and cognitive processes is key to developing thinking.

In project and problem-based learning environments, there are generally three elements: learning goals and objectives are drawn from given standards, some instruction is given, and learning outcomes are assessed. These assessments provide data that inform the direction of further learning.

Unfortunately, the habits of the mind are missing in this clinical sequence that often defines the learner’s success or failure in mastering the subject matter. It is these personal habits rather than the standards or assessment where success or failure in the classroom begins.

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So, what are the habits of the mind for teachers?

These are carefully and deliberately employed by characteristically smart, successful individuals when facing challenges. These habits are not new at all. Significant effort has been made to demystify these thinking habits.

However, the 21st-century learning environment, typically flooded with information, connectivity, and stimulation, is a newfound context for their application.

Habits of the mind curriculum

Developed by Arthur Costa and Bena Kallick, these 16 Habits of Mind do not merely represent sherds of practice that you can add to your already doing. Rather, they are new ways to think about how modern students are learning.

1. Share thoughts

The more your learners publish and share their thinking, the more opportunities they will have for cognitive interdependence. Therefore, encourage your students to learn from their peers in reciprocal situations and hold on to their decisions.

2. Revisit learned concepts

Encourage your students to intermittently revisit old concepts, writing, and projects to potential areas that need revision, improvement, or development. This is especially important in digital domains where content is constantly changing.

In light of the overwhelming evidence, learning experts acknowledge that the learner’s success cannot be measured by milestones like Passing geometry in high school or Learnt Chinese in sixth grade but by how they process information.

3. Inspire patience

Inspire a culture of patience in your classroom, including wait time during group discussions or adopting helpful sentence stems that reflect intentional choices. The idea here is to encourage your students to explore various scenarios and think before speaking.

4. Attributes of persistence

Have your learners identify attributes of persistence manifested by individuals in well-known incidents, or imagine what might have happened if characters showed more or less persistence in a given situation. The goal is to get your learners to appreciate the importance of sticking with a problem, even if it is difficult and seems hopeless.

5. Empathetic listening

Highlight the most common listening set-asides in class discussions so learners can identify common errors people make in everyday communication. These errors may include judging, comparing, giving strong opinions, or placating rather than taking time to listen and understand the message.

The key point here is to pay attention rather than dismiss other people’s feelings, thoughts, and ideas.

6. Learned understanding

During class discussions, ask questions like: Have you ever seen something like this before? What do you remember about this? Whether you are operating on prior knowledge or simply trying to get learners more comfortable and in tune with what they already know, it can significantly boost learning. The idea is to factor in the student’s prior knowledge and experience.

7. Keep an eye on errors

This has to do with keeping an eye on errors. Encourage your students to check, and cross-check, their assignments before handing them in for a correction.

8. Open to questions

As a teacher, try to create a “parking lot” area within the classroom environment where learners can submit questions that may otherwise not fit into the format or pace of the class. Then periodically highlight the better questions, or use them as starting points for lesson planning or class discussions. The idea here is to develop a questioning culture and attitude.

9. Transmit clarity

Consistently remind your learners to avoid abstraction and vagueness during conversations. Most importantly, let them know why they should avoid using abstract or vague words. The goal is to ensure clarity in written and spoken communication.

10. Allow passions to exist

Do not just allow your learners to choose topics, formats, or learning pathways … insist on them. Avoid the temptation to move the class forward before they can bring their passions into the learning process.

11. Safe risk-taking

Consider introducing your learners to new but safe concepts. Do not let the fear of failure stand in your way. Instead, create a learning environment where failure is analyzed and corrected rather than punished or ridiculed.

12. Gathered resources

In a relaxed environment, encourage your learners to cite traditional textual and sensory data sources. Also, encourage learners to include gathered resources in their assignments for assessment.

13. Other perspectives

Using Role, Audience, Format, Topic, or RAFT assignments, learners get to assess a situation, speech, poem, or letter from a perspective different from their own or that of the original authors. The point here is to train your learners to consider other group members’ input.

14. Meta-thinking (thinking about thinking)

Ask your learners to try and map out their thinking processes. This can be done by diagramming the relationship between needs and wants or gestures and the need to gesture. Then, try to make it a little complex by getting the class to map how characters in a book arrived at a certain starting or stopping point.

The idea is to think about the impact of choices on the self and others.

15. Pursue perfection

Provide your learners’ with consistent sources of inspiring designs, thoughts, or multimedia through discussion points, writing prompts, or simply as a routine class closure. Besides inspiring creativity, this motivates learners to pursue perfection while broadening their skills. The key here is to think about how certain things might be done differently from the norm.

16. The quest for humor

Humor is well-recognized as the antidote for everything from disagreements to stress and tension, all the way to sorrow and unhappiness. As a teacher, do not hesitate to point out humor even when it is not very apparent. This will help establish the relativity of things, encourage open discussions, and support accurate analysis. Humor has a unique way of making everything better.

The habits of the mind for teachers’ takeaway?

One curated list of mental skills that have become an educational buzz over the years is Arthur Costa and Bena Kallick’s list of 16 Habits of the Mind. Every teacher must figure out how to integrate these habits into their classrooms.