December 28, 2012 by

Bring Habits of Mind to Life by Modeling Them in Class—Here’s How

Described as essential characteristics for success, the 16 Habits of Mind help educators and learners navigate classroom and life challenges. They range from managing impulsivity to taking responsible risks and remaining open to continuous learning.

Whether this post is your first introduction to the Habits of Mind or a continuation of your journey to make them a part of school culture, the following excerpt from Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind, edited by Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick, explains how to model them for the benefit of students.

Modeling the Habits of Mind

Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means. —Albert Einstein

Children learn best through imitation. Because most dispositional learnings are “caught, not taught,” teachers must “walk the talk.” The Habits of Mind are not just “kid stuff.” Teachers and students together can get better at their Habits of Mind.

Purpose. The purpose of this lesson design is to provide consistent instruction in which the Habits of Mind are modeled by the teacher and integrated into the norms of the classroom and into the instructional strategies. This category is teaching with the Habits of Mind.

Strategies. In this category, the strategies are simply the various behaviors the teacher demonstrates in day-to-day instruction. Here are some examples:

  • Teachers design and pose powerful questions so that students experience, analyze, and compose powerful questions themselves (see Chapter 8).
  • Teachers listen to students with understanding and empathy so that students will experience the feelings and benefits of being listened to with understanding and empathy.
  • Teachers share their thinking and planning so that students will gain insight into the power of metacognition.
  • Teachers manage their impulsivity so that students will develop a vision of what it is like for a mindful adult to feel frustration, to control anger, and to resist temptation.
  • Teachers design activities that cause students to work in groups to promote interdependent thinking.
  • Teachers laugh at themselves and guarantee that no lesson is successful without finding humor.
  • Teachers monitor their own questions, directions, and communications to ensure clarity and precision.
  • Teachers find their subjects awesome, wondrous, and intriguing and express their sense of mystery and their exuberance and delight in the presence of their students.
  • Teachers exhibit the humility of admitting they do not know all there is to know about teaching, learning, and the Habits of Mind, and they develop strategies for continuous learning and improving their own craft of teaching.

Assessment. Although these intangibles are difficult to measure, one would expect that, as a result of modeling over time, students would exhibit greater excitement about school, greater intrigue with problems to solve, stronger bonds with classmates, more self-directedness, and more enthusiasm for continued learning.

Katie Test is a public relations and social media professional on the ASCD Communications team. Katie works on ASCD’s social media accounts, as well as doing media relations on behalf of the associations programs, products and services. Prior to joining the communications team at ASCD, she worked for D.C. Public Schools, Durham Public Schools and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Schools as a communications staffer.