So, teachers, do you have good or bad Habits of Mind? Pt 4 – Exact, Understanding and Silly


This is my final reflection on the 16 Habits of Mind. Next week, I return to school after Australian Summer School holidays and we’ll be moving straight into discussions about how to incorporate Habits of Mind into the curriculum. I hope after these reflections I’ll be returning prepared!

So, teachers, do you have good or bad Habits of Mind? Pt 1 – Control

So, teachers, do you have good or bad Habits of Mind?? Pt 2 – Cognitive

So, teachers, do you have good or bad Habits of Mind? Pt 3 – Supple/Sensorial

Striving for accuracy

As a Learner…

          • Do you check the validity of information in research and look for multiple sources of information?
          • Do you meticulously edit your work individually AND seek out the advice of others?
          • Do you constantly investigate ways to improve your skills and abilities?
          • Are you proud of your achievements and efforts?


          • Do you just find the first half decent reference related to a topic regardless of its source and use that support your work?
          • Do you strive more to FINISH work rather than produce quality?

As a Teacher…

            • Do you enforce achievable high expectations on your students and instil a sense of pride in them to always produce their best?
            • Do you have routines in place that support students in ensuring accurate editing of content and structure?
            • Do you allow sufficient time for students to be accurate?
            • Do you model quality writing, research, editing, etc?
            • Do you monitor the accuracy and comprehension of student reading?
            • Do you have processes in place to check the validity of student research?
            • Do you expect students to precisely organise their working out of problems in Mathematics?


            • Do you put more emphasis on completing a quantity of work as data to assess rather than quality that represents the true ability of the student?
            • Do you prefer students to finish rather than show understanding?
            • Do you take more notice of the presentation of work rather than the accuracy of information?
Thinking and communicating with clarity and precision

As a Learner…

                  • Do you revise your texts to ensure your message is getting across in the most efficient and effective way
                  • Do you seek out a test audience to check whether your message is understood?
                  • Do you stick to facts and clearly differentiate between fact and opinion?
                  • Do you check that your opinions and ideas are supported by verifiable evidence?
                  • Do you plan and rehearse your oral presentations to ensure you succeed in communicating effectively with your audience?

OR…. Do you quickly write down your thoughts at the last minute, neglect the need for your audience to understand your message, say or write anything that will achieve the outcome of making your  deadline, generalise, exaggerate and omit important information due to a lack of effort?

As a Teacher…

            • Do you carefully plan your lessons so that your objectives are met, ensuring you know the strategies you’ll need to address different abilities and are in clear in your mind what the specific skills and concepts are being addressed?
            • Do you have structures like rubrics and checklists in place so students know they are expected to communicate with clarity and precision?

OR…. Do you enter some lessons with a general, sometimes vague understanding of what you hope to achieve and without the resources to address potential roadblocks to student success? Are your students unsure of expectations on them?

 Listening with understanding and empathy


As a Learner…

                  • Do you respect the rights of other students/colleagues to put forward their point of view and reflect on the life experience their opinions are based on?
                  • Do you ask questions as you listen to show the speaker you’re interested and want to understand, even if you show your disagreement?
                  • Do you put forward your point of view and encourage and expect a reaction from others to promote discussion?

OR…. Do you just switch off because you think you know what the speaker is going to say and you disagree, make no effort to involve yourself in the discussion or cut off other people or disregard them when they disagree with you?

As a Teacher…

            • Do you allow students to finish expressing their viewpoint before you respond?
            • Do you model/teach how to listen and also how to respond when you agree AND disagree?
            • DO you have routines in place for discussions in your classroom?

OR…. do you cut your students off when you disagree, foster an environment that emphasises your viewpoint as sacrosanct to the detriment of open discussion, allow students to talk over the top of others or respond negatively without justification?

 Thinking interdependently

Work together! Being able to work in and learn from others in reciprocal situations. Team work.

As a Learner…

                  • Do you seek out opportunities to collaborate, share your work with others and encourage feedback?
                  • Do you offer advice and support while also seeking it for yourself when needed?
                  • Do you share the workload and plan effectively with others to ensure deadlines are met?

OR…. Do you prefer to do everything by yourself, demonstrate a lack of commitment or reliability when forced to work with others and never trust others enough to share ideas?

As a Teacher…

            • Do you foster a classroom environment that relies on collaboration, discussion and teamwork which includes you as a member of the group, not an outsider in charge of everything?
            • Do your students have to justify their answers, strategies, theories and discoveries through shared discussions?
            • DO your students support each other, sharing their skills, deficiencies, challenges and successes?

OR…. is the majority of class time spent with children doing ONLY individual work which they only share with you as the expert?

 Finding Humour

Laugh a little! Finding the whimsical, incongruous and unexpected. Being able to laugh at oneself.

As a Learner…

                  • Are you able see the funny side to your mistakes and not stress out about criticisms?
                  • Do you try to learn from humorous presentations of information like satire, political cartoons and parodies and can separate the facts from the joke?
                  • Do you relieve the stress of learning occasionally by looking for humour in your day?
                  • Do you try to add a bit of levity to your presentations to engage the audience or lighten the mood?

OR…. do you take yourself too seriously, respond badly to a bit of gentle ribbing, go through the day without a bit of a laugh and only seek out serious, purely educational sources of information?

As a Teacher…

            • Are you able to laugh at your mistakes in class and reveal that you are human to your students?
            • Do you use humourous sources of information to engage your students and generate discussion in a fun atmosphere?
            • Do you use humour ( not to be confused with sarcasm) to defuse conflict?
            • Can you handle your students using humour in your grade, even occasionally at your expense?

OR…. are you forever the serious, hard taskmaster who takes your job too seriously and sucks the joy out of life in your classroom?

Phew! That’s my take on the 16 Habits of Mind. A LOT to think about…..and not all in one day! When I started this reflection, I got a bit of pushback from a member of my PLN that I was expecting too much of everyone. I don’t. They’re Habits, not rules. No one can be expected to meet them all on every day. Certainly not me. ( Seriously, the OR… parts are just as much a reflection on my 25 year teaching career as anyone else I know in the business) But when I say they’re not rules, I’m also stressing that we can’t expect them to magically grow in students just by putting them up on posters and ‘teaching’ a habit a week. Habits are part of our lives, whether they are bad ( like smoking or making strange noises by grinding your tongue with your teeth – sorry personal reference there!) or good ( like regular morning exercise and night time reading). So too, the Habits of Mind. They have to be part of our DAILY lives, not just classroom time. Let’s recognise what we do well and what we struggle with. Be open about it and do something real about addressing our deficiencies as well as celebrating our successes. Then, maybe, they will become real Habits, not just another educational theory we’re trying to implement and tick off on the education system’s To do list.

Wikipedia – what are we afraid of?


I’m one of the 23% who don’t ban Wikipedia.

I don’t understand the concept of banning an information resource. I get the criticism of Wikipedia. I understand the limitations of Wikipedia. For the life of me, though, I don’t understand banning its use. Why are we in the Educational World so fearful of this Wikipedia thing that 73% of teachers according to this infographic still prevent its use?

We all want our students to be good researchers. Part of this desire, I assume, has led us to develop programs in our classrooms that help to improve our students’ Web Search skills. I mention that because perhaps one of our problems with children and Wikipedia is that 99% of its articles end up on the first page of any Google Search. Are we banning Google Search? No. Well then, instead of banning Wikipedia, let’s look at whether we are educating our students in how to disseminate accurate information from the garbage. Why? – because the other 9 sites sharing the Top 10 Search page are just as likely to be as potentially unreliable as a source of information as the Wikipedia article, sometimes more so. So let’s work out how to support our students in learning good research skills through accessing the tool, instead of avoiding it.

Wikipedia references its sources of information.

Go to any article of useful length on Wikipedia and you will find linked references or quoted text sources. WIkipedia is often a summative recount of all those sources of information. It’s why students go there. It does a lot of the hard work for them. Now, if you want them to do the work, require them to seek out some of those sources and check the accuracy of that information. What is the reliability of the source site? What bias might this source have? What type of website is it? ( you can discuss the merit of .com v .org. v .edu or newspaper articles vs blogs or discussions) If we use textbooks instead of Wikipedia, isn’t this what we would be doing – comparing and cross-referencing for accuracy? Surely it is an easier learning task to check out 10 sources online than trying to flick between 10 different books and random pages within it? Technology isn’t about making it easier so that we don’t have to think. It’s about making it more effective so we do the job more quickly while still learning the same amount or possibly more. If we teach effective use of Wikipedia, this should be the result.

Wikipedia is no more or less biased than any other source of information.

One of the big bugbears with Wikipedia is that it can be contributed to by anyone. This can definitely result in biased, unsubstantiated garbage that needs to be filtered out. Any Obama/Bush/Gillard/Abbott/Lady Gaga/David Beckham/Charlie Sheen (etc, etc) hater can freely post hate speech on a wiki article. Eventually, though, it is found by Wiki editors and removed, but yes, by then it has already spread to the ill informed. But guess what?  This same overheated, one way stream of half truths can be spread by every other form of media from both sides of the political, ideological or religious spectra. We don’t ban our Left wing or Right Wing shock jocks from spouting their diatribes of exaggeration on a daily basis. So why ban Wikipedia? Again, let’s use it along with the extreme views of other media sources to educate our students about fact and opinion, checking out both sides of the debate, fact checking your information. This is of far more educational value than banning a resource that has much to offer, despite its limitations.

Wikipedia is about as accurate as any other resource. Check the stats.

Look at the above infographic. We’re quibbling over 0.94 mistakes per article when comparing Britannica to Wikipedia; 2% accuracy differential when comparing textbooks to Wikipedia. Are those numbers a reason to brand it unreliable and ban it? When any school library would be full of books about the Solar System that still list Pluto as a planet and have atlases without East Timor on the map as a nation? There is no such thing as 100% accuracy. All surveys come with that +/-2% disclaimer. In the 21st Century Curriculum, in which critical thinking is one of the key skills, we should be embracing resources that encourage challenging their reliability and allowing us to edit for accuracy.

Make the students part of the solution, not restricted from the problem

Wikipedia is open source. If we find mistakes, we can fix it. An error in a textbook stays there. A misquote in a news program remains said. If we want to engage our students in truly useful research, then get them involved in editing Wikipedia. Make them check their sources. Get them to be the information creators, not the takers(plagiarisers). That’s real learning. And it’s far more useful than banning.

Throughout history, banning has never worked. Cigarettes and Drugs are still around. Inappropriate websites find ways to be accessed. Hey, Nazis and KKK members are still out there in numbers. Banning the use of Wikipedia is not going to stop us from using it. Just look at the stats above. So let’s get serious in Education and embrace this information provider, using it as a teaching tool for critical thinking. That’s my take. What about you? Does your school ban Wikipedia? Do you agree or disagree? How do you encourage good research in your students? Join in the conversation.