Creativity – the challenge of defining, developing and assessing it


Thanks to Education Week‘s blog for drawing my attention to this work on Creativity.

Creativity is defined as one of the four 4Cs of  Learning and Innovation in 21st Century learning. This OECD Creativity working paper is an interesting start in working out how we can define, develop and assess this wide ranging ‘skill’ we call Creativity. On display in the image above is a protype assessment tool developed from much research as outlined in the working paper.

It aims to break down Creativity into 5 main dispositions and then divides these dispositions into 3 sub-habits ( following is an excerpt from the working paper that briefly outlines these :

The Five Creative Dispositions Model

The five dispositions on which we decided to focus were arrived at after careful weighing up of the pros and cons of existing lists of creative dispositions in the light of our criteria. Our model explored the following five core dispositions of the creative mind:

1. Inquisitive. Clearly creative individuals are good at uncovering and pursing interesting and worthwhile questions in their creative domain.

−  Wondering and questioning – beyond simply being curious about things, the questioning individual poses concrete questions about things. This enables him, and others, to think things through and develop new ideas.

−  Exploring and investigating – questioning things alone does not lead to creativity. The creative individual acts out his curiosity through exploration, and the investigating individual follows up on her questions by actively going out, seeking, and finding out more.

−  Challenging assumptions – a degree of appropriate scepticism is an important trait of the creative individual. This means not taking things at face value without critical examination.

2. Persistent. In line with Thomas Edison’s remark above, this section has been repeatedly emphasized.
−  Sticking with difficulty – persistence in the form of tenacity is an important habit of mind enabling an individual to get beyond familiar ideas and come up with new ones.
−  Daring to be different – creativity demands a certain level of self-confidence as a pre- requisite for sensible risk-taking as well as toleration of uncertainty.
−  Tolerating uncertainty – being able to tolerate uncertainty is important if an individual is going to move ‘off of the starting blocks’ on a project or task where actions or even goals are not fully set out.
3. Imaginative. At the heart of a wide range of analyses of the creative personality is the ability to come up with imaginative solutions and possibilities.
−  Playing with possibilities – developing an idea involves manipulating it, trying it out, improving it.
−  Making connections – this process of synthesising brings together a new amalgam of disparate things.
−  Using intuition – the use of intuition allows individuals to make new connections and arise at thoughts and ideas that would not necessarily materialise given analytical thinking alone.
4. Collaborative. Many current approaches to creativity, such as that of John-Steiner (2006), stress the social and collaborative nature of the creative process.
−  Sharing the product – this is about the creative output itself impacting beyond its creator.
−  Giving and receiving feedback – this is the propensity to want to contribute to the ideas of others, and to hear how one’s own ideas might be improved.
−  Cooperating appropriately – the creative individual co-operates appropriately with others. This means working collaboratively as needed, not necessarily all the time.
5. Disciplined. As a counterbalance to the ‘dreamy’, imaginative side of creativity, there is a need for knowledge and craft in shaping the creative product and in developing expertise.
−  Developing techniques – skills may be established or novel but the creative individual will practise in order to improve. This is about devoting time to a creative endeavour.
−  Reflecting critically – once ideas have been generated, evaluation is important. We could call this ‘converging’. It requires decision-making skills.
−  Crafting and improving – this relates to a sense of taking pride in one’s work. The individual pays attention to detail, corrects errors, and makes sure the finished article works perfectly, as it should.
On first glance, I didn’t get the tool but then I found this part of the paper, which explains the purpose of the segments. Read the paper for more detail.


Here is a Scribd version of the paper in full for you to view in its entirety. I’m not commenting on it here until I have read it fully but am interested in your opinions about defining, teaching and assessing Creativity, either your own ideas or a response to this  effort from the OECD.

OECD Creativity Working Paper

Getting into the right mindset for better learning


Thanks to Educational Technology and Mobile Learning for drawing my attention to this infographic. I hadn’t heard of this learning theory and finding this drew me into performing a couple of quick searches to get a bit of background information on the Fixed v Growth Mindset research. Originating from Stanford University psychologist/researcher Carol Dweck , its premise (from my initial reflection) is that as learners, we can either improve our intelligence through hard work or that we are born with a skill set and intelligence level that we are stuck with.

What makes this powerful to consider as teachers ( and parents) is that we need to reflect on how much impact we can have on the learning and lives of our children. If we resign ourselves, which I have done often in my 25 years as a teacher so I’m not ‘absolving myself from sin’, that there is not much we can do for some students because they are “just like the rest of their family”, we are not doing our job. If we look at underachievers and their test scores and accept that they will forever be underachievers – or if we allow them to accept their position in life without making the effort – we have failed in our duties.

After finding this research last week, I just happened to watch “Coach Carter”, thanks to my son’s choice for our weekly family movie night. Based on a true story, either Carter or the scriptwriters were big supporters of Dweck’s theory. Yes, there is no doubt a bit of Hollywood Hyperbole is involved here, just like in ‘Stand and Deliver’, but it really resonated with me as I watched it from the teacher’s point of view.

For those unfamiliar with the film, Coach Carter takes over a basketball team from a low achieving high school and demands the players meet academic expectations to stay on the team. After the obligatory instant success as a basketball team, Carter finds his players are failing and slacking off and he locks the gym and cancels games until they reach the academic goal. Parents, some teachers and the local community ( as an Australian, I am forever amazed by the importance of school basketball to you Americans!) protest and force the reopening of the gym, to the dismay of Carter who laments the lack of priorities toward education.  In the end, the players themselves, with the support of some teachers realise that their education is more important and impose their own bans until they succeed in school.

I particularly like this clip, in which Carter (Samuel L Jackson) explains to the boys why he is so committed to their educational success.

This scene and the movie overall encapsulates all that the infographic summarises about Growth Mindset –

  • Developing a desire to learn
  • Embracing challenges
  • Persisting in the face of setbacks
  • See EFFORT as the path to Mastery
  • Learn from criticism
I reflect on the students I have taught over the years and I can see “the Fixeds” and “the Growths” and I wish I had pushed some of “the Fixed” more. From the teacher pleasers who made teaching easy but were never challenged ( and when I checked their VCE results in Year 12, didn’t do as well as I hoped). To that ‘too cool for school’ boy I often quote to colleagues in jest who, in response to me challenging him during a lesson, remarked, ” I didn’t know I had to remember this stuff!!” But also the success stories – the newly arrived Sudanese girl who worked her butt off to go from 4/50 on a start of year Maths assessment to 36/50 by year’s end. That ‘labelled underachiever’ I had a few years ago, whom I encouraged enough to join the ‘advanced maths’ kids in our class and pushed and pushed himself until he felt he belonged with them. And then there are those stereotyped Indian and Chinese students in our grades. Are they all gifted with great intelligence or have their parents just developed in them a great work ethic based on the Growth Mindset model?
So where do we sit as teachers? It’s a tough job teaching, and it’s getting harder and harder with all the bureaucratic requirements. Regardless, though, are we willing to accept the Fixed Mindset in our students? Or in ourselves?
OR are we going to embrace the Growth Mindset model and strive to get every one of our students to improve through our and their hard work?
Reflect for a moment on the five categories within the Infographic’s take on Mindsets.
CHALLENGES: Do we avoid challenging our students/ourselves for fear they/we will struggle?
Do we embrace the potential benefits of the struggle and grow as a result?
OBSTACLES: Do we allow our children/ourselves to give up when learning becomes too difficult and stay in a growth- limiting ‘comfort zone’?
Do we expect our childen/ourselves to persist until we overcome those obstacles and celebrate the achievement of success against all odds?
EFFORT: Do we resign ourselves to a predetermined level of achievement and accept that trying is fruitless and improvement is impossible?
Do we realise that sustained effort is the  path to real learning FOR ANYONE?
CRITICISM: Do we avoid/ignore/complain about justifiable criticism because we are more worried about self-esteem than improvement?
Do we actively seek out critical feedback for our students and ourselves to improve learning?
SUCCESS OF OTHERS: Do we avoid helping and working with others, seeking advice from others because we are threatened by being seen as inferior or worried we are making others look better than you (applies to students and us)?
Do we actively seek out help, get inspired by others’ work, learn from their successes and improve ourselves as a result of trying to match them?
I don’t mean to sound like I’m pontificating. This is, as always, a personal reflection, like many non -iPad Mr G Online posts. I was very much a Fixed Mindset person during most of my school life. A teacher pleasing, straight A ( except PE!) student who only answered when he knew he was right. I cruised through school without being challenged or challenging myself beyond collecting unlimited trivia facts to impress my fans. As a teacher, I have embraced both mindsets for myself and my students and still do today…because the Growth Mindset is hard. So I’m in no way putting myself on a pedestal. I’m calling on myself AND you to reflect on your mindsets to improve the learning of all our students. Yes, it’s a lot harder to do than what can be achieved in 120 minutes of Hollywood Sports Movies but we have to try to inspire kids to want to be great. Great is not nerdy. Great is cool.

To finish, I’d like to quote an inspirational poem I knew nothing of until, yep, “Coach Carter” – Marianne Williamson’s “Our Deepest Fear”. Let’s not be scared to be the best we can be.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.

And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give
other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

And for a little extra emotional impact, recited by ‘last to get but needed to the most’ Timo Cruz in “Coach Carter”

Link to article ‘Even Geniuses Work Hard”

Leadership Qualities – how close to the mark are you?

Leadership Qualities

Came across this infographic in my Scoop-It feed this morning and I couldn’t resist reflecting on its message. Schools are awash with opportunities for leadership building and modelling at 3 distinct levels – Peer Leadership (School Leadership teams/Curriculum leadership teams or individuals), Teacher-leading-Class and Student Leadership. It is telling to ponder the impact these 8 key leadership qualities can have in improving school environments and, as a result, performances.

 Peer Leadership: The keyword for me here is PROACTIVE. Tough decision making means knowing what may go wrong but being a believer in what can go right. Courageous leadership means not reacting to every bad standardised test result and looking for another solution because Plan A didn’t work straight away. This just leads to one unfinished project after another that never really leads to sustained improvement and consistent achievement. Real change and improvement takes time. Courageous leaders know this and can face the short term criticism that may come their way.

Teacher-leading-Class: We can’t expect one lesson to solve all learning difficulties in one go. Teachers have to have faith in programs that have been proven to be successful elsewhere and not cave in to change because things haven’t gone smoothly straight away. Students get confused with constant change and won’t learn to persist if we don’t.

Student Leadership: To prepare our students for the future, we need to develop courageous decision making skills in them. Good brainstorming  and discussions of positives and negatives are essential in this preparation.

Peer Leadership: Probably my biggest drawback is thinking of myself as the expert who has all the answers, although through blogging, Twitter and Edmodo I have come to accept that others have insight and skills I don’t possess. Other key messages out of the Humility point here is not putting yourself above others and telling colleagues you are leading to do things while contributing little yourself. Less experienced teachers want to contribute and develop; but they also crave advice from leaders. Leaders have to get in and do the hard yards with their teams, not delegate in the name of distributive leadership and take credit without contributing.

Teacher-leading-Class: Recognise the contribution your students can make to the learning in your grade. Share the front of the class with others, whether they be students or other staff who can contribute to the teaching and learning. Give credit to others who contributed if improvement is noticed. MOst likely you didn’t do it alone.

Student Leadership: Don’t over emphasise one group of students over the other. Make sure everyone has a chance to contribute. ‘Catch’ the quiet achievers and the less able succeeding and encourage them to share their learning so that the ‘smart kids’ in the grade realise they aren’t the only ones who know stuff. Give everyone the expectation to lead so that the regular leaders don’t get ahead of themselves.

Peer Leadership: Distributive Leadership should not be used as a way of handing all responsibility over to others so they can take the fall for problems. Everyone is responsible for every result. When survey results show some issues exist, don’t look for excuses why the questions and results could have been misinterpreted. Analyse critically and reflect on what could be the real reasons. If we don’t take the time to find out why and accept these reasons, improvement won’t happen.

Teacher-leading-Class: Sometimes, it is the teacher’s fault. We were not adequately prepared, we didn’t address the learning gaps effectively, we over-reacted and got too emotional, we didn’t stay focused. If we have a hard class, we have to work harder. If we have a dream class, we should still be working hard to extend them. It is easy to lay the blame on the class, and they can contribute to the problem. But if they see a teacher always passing the buck, they will learn to be unaccountable. Sometimes they don’t have good role models in being accountable in their lives; we need to be that role model.

Student Leadership: Our students do need to learn what accountability is about. In group work situations, ownership for results has to be attributed to those responsible, for success and failures. If a child makes poor choices, he need to be made aware of that  and there has to be logical consequences. If students are going to develop leadership skills, they have to learn to be accountable. They can’t rely on parents or teachers to do it all for them.

 Peer Leadership: In the words of Jesus of Nazareth,” Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Also known as “practise what you preach”, Trust isn’t earned by leaders who are inconsistent. Don’t expect hard work if you don’t work hard. Don’t expect others to give if you only take. Don’t play colleagues off against each other. GIve credit where credit’s due and give criticism where criticism’s due. Respond to criticism of yourself honestly, admit fault and be open about how you can improve.

Teacher-leading-Class: All of the above. If your students see you admitting fault, following the advice you dish out to them, acting the way you said you would, they will learn what being trustworthy means. Explain yourself if you change your mind, be consistent towards all students, don’t hold grudges, start each day afresh without any agendas against individuals despite their previous sins. One thing children react to is fairness. They may not always like what we do, but they accept it if it is fair and consistent.

Student Leadership: Be the role model mentioned above so students can learn what being trustworthy is all about. Have high expectations of them and demand consistency and honesty. Expect them to explain their actions and own up to their actions. Demand they co-operate with each other and follow through on work that is expected to be done collaboratively.

Peer Leadership: Keep lines of communication open at all times between meetings so discussions can continue beyond the meeting. Have high expectations that everyone contributes consistently. Be honest. Don’t put your grievances forward in the car park. Be professional. Allow for disagreement. Expect disagreement. Respect disagreement.

Teacher-leading-Class: Don’t dominate the conversation in class. Use technology to allow for everyone to share their opinions. Have high expectations that every child will contribute. Set up an environment that allows this to happen. Allow for disagreement. Expect disagreement. Respect disagreement.

Student Leadership: Don’t allow small pockets of students to dominate the class discussion. Don’t expect silence in class at all times. Teach students HOW to listen and respond. It’s not a simple skill. Give students a forum for discussion of issues. Allow for disagreement. Expect disagreement. Respect disagreement.

Peer Leadership: Passion is the keyword for me in this little grab. You have to be convincing about your plans. Going through the motions to tick off a list of recommendations does not bring about lasting change. Related to Courage earlier, leaders who are convinced about and committed to their vision will be able to battle through the inevitable pitfalls. Allowing plans to fall by the wayside because something else comes up does not bring about lasting change. Leaders need to stay true ot their convictions.

Teacher-leading-Class: Students have very good ‘lack of commitment’ sensors. They know when a teacher is going through the motions and they respond accordingly. Take them on a passionate journey of discovery and even the toughest ones will join you. They will commit to the cause too. But they will jump ship just as quickly if you don’t maintain the rage.

Student Leadership: If we cut students off every time they discover a passion worth pursuing, they will lose the courage of their convictions quite quickly. We need passionate, committed leaders for the future. Too many politicians show students that its OK to change your mind every time a poll doesn’t go your way. We have to develop the quality of conviction in our students as future leaders.

Peer Leadership: Collaborative decision making does not equal universal agreement but it also doesn’t mean contrived discussion on an issue a group of leaders have already made a decision on. Collaboration takes time, communication, honest feedback ( giving and receiving), evidence based opinions and creativity. It doesn’t happen as a result of 2-3 disconnected meetings over a time frame of 6-8 weeks. Leaders today need to embrace the collaborative nature of technology that allows for constant discussions, sharing of new research, arguing points of view without being verbally cut off mid sentence and time for reflection.

Teacher-leading-Class: All of the above. One of the 4 Cs of 21st Learning is Collaboration. We have the tools in our classrooms to embrace this well. Teachers can show how to be collaborative leaders by allowing this technology to take over the day to day running of discussions. Too often, collaboration is mistaken for brainstorming and sharing.

Student Leadership: Ditto. Students have to be taught how to collaborate. Group work is not dividing tasks up and getting the dedicated students to do most of the work.

Peer Leadership: “Moving beyond your own personal agenda” – Love that statement! ( and I’m as guilty as anyone of pushing my own agenda) You can have all of the other qualities listed above but it all falls apart if we are divided. While curriculum teams need their own meeting times, decisions have to be made with all involved present at all times. Last time I looked ,there are still only 24 hours in a day and 5 working days in a school week. If we added up the hours individual curriculum leaders needed to achieve their goals, there would need to be a substantial shift in the nature of the space-time continuum for it to actually occur. Splinter groups can’t solve the issue but committed discussion that involves aligning goals and finding ways to combine goals, targets and agenda can.

Teacher-leading-Class: Not so much with the students but more at planning level, team members need to align their individual passions and challenges to ensure a balanced curriculum for the students.

Student Leadership: Teaching compromise is a starting point here. Granted, it can be hard for children.

I’m under no illusions that I am any great role model for leadership. I choose teaching children over leading schools every year (although I have spent many years on leadership teams by virtue of my skill set and experience). Nevertheless, you don’t have to wear a badge that says Principal or Co-ordinator to understand the qualities and behaviours needed by leaders. Many schools need improving in this world of ours. These Leadership qualities are vital for success.

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.

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


Last month I started this series of reflections on Habits of the Mind. I completed Part 1 and 2 quickly….. then Summer Holidays arrived. In the spirit of the Persistence Habit, I’m finally ready to continue with Part 3 – Supple/Sensorial, in preparation for returning to work soon to continue work on Habits as a staff and student community.

Thinking flexibly

 As a Learner…

          • Do you use books, Twitter, blogging, social bookmarking sites or Video sites like Youtube to search for information and advice?
          •  Do you try out new ways of solving mathematical/arithmetical problems and develop a bank of strategies that work efficiently for different situations?
          • Are you an early adopter/trialler of new tools, techniques, strategies?
          • Do you write multiple plans and drafts of texts to test out the best results?
          • Do you seek advice, admit you need help, face the prospect of failure or challenge?
          • Do you take courses in your own time to try out new experiences?


  • Do you steadfastly accept that what you have done and learnt in the past is good enough since it has “got you this far in life quite successfully, thank you very much”?
  • Do you stick with one successful strategy that you are confident in using regardless of whether alternatives are more efficient or can lead to greater understanding of mathematical concepts?
  • Are you afraid to try anything new because you might not find it easy or useful?
  • Do you find excuses to avoid challenge in your life?

As a Teacher…

  • Do you encourage an independent AND interdependent classroom environment in which children make both individual and collaborative decisions?
  •  Do you provide your students opportunities to explore new ways of solving mathematical/arithmetical problems and develop a bank of strategies that work efficiently for different situations?
  • Do you provide a range of options for children to choose and encourage them to use a variety of tools?
  • Do you write multiple plans and drafts of texts to test out the best results?
  • Do you have a classroom where the children seek advice from you, fellow students, other teachers, outside resources ?
  • Do you present open ended problems, project based learning, group and independent inquiry opportunities that require the students to challenge, test, fail and succeed ALL during the same task?


  • Do you steadfastly continue to teach in the same way as you have  in the past since it has “got you and (most) of your students this far in life quite successfully, thank you very much”?
  • Do you stick with teaching the one successful strategy that you are confident in using regardless of whether alternatives are more efficient or can lead to greater understanding of mathematical concepts?
  • Are you afraid to try  new strategies and pedagogy because they might not improve your student learning in the short term or you may be seen to struggle in front of peers or students?
  • Do you find excuses to avoid changing your teaching or classroom management style?
  • Do you TELL your students how to do something so that they never have to think for themselves?

Creating, imagining, and innovating 

 As a Learner… 

          • Do you try a different presentation tool for every project you attempt?
          • Do you spend a lot of time in your day thinking about new ideas, inventing, looking for a way of doing something no one else has done before?
          • Do you write a lot? Do you have a go at stories, songs, poetry, play writing, comedy sketches?
          • Do you try new apps, web tools, software to see if they can enhance your ability to generate original material?
          • Do you have a go at creative pursuits like model making, painting, sewing, carpentry, etc?
          • Do you try to improve other people’s ideas and solve problems that will make something work better?
  • Do you stick to the same tried and true way of presenting information because you have always done it that way?
  • Do you always ask other people to solve your problems?
  • Do you give up as soon as you can’t solve something?
  • Do you just use other people’s ideas because it saves time and effort?

As a Teacher…

  • Do you vary your presentation styles and tools as a model to students to be innovative?
  • Do you provide opportunities for students  in the classroom to  think about new ideas, inventing, looking for a way of doing something no one else has done before?
  • Do you allow a lot of free time for students to write a lot? Do you model a wide range of genres?
  • Do you model how you use new technology to give students inspiration for new ways of creating?
  • Do you plan for enough opportunities for creative arts and construction in your classroom, and not just during specific lesson times?
  • Are your lessons based on question and one answer opportunities, always follow the same structure, involve passive listening and responding and are largely text based with little opportunity for creative expression or individuality?

Responding with wonderment and awe

 As a Learner…

          • Do you get excited when something new is introduced?
          • Do you look forward to challenges, find new information fascinating, actively look for something of interest in every topic?
          • Actively participate at every opportunity and proactively contribute so that your involvement makes things interesting to you?
          • Do you switch off because you assume you will not find something interesting?
          • Do you have a very narrow range of interests and fail to engage in many activities, leading to self inflicted boredom?
          • Are you judgemental and negative towards new ideas or particular people who present new ideas?

As a Teacher…

  • Do you prepare learning opportunities in which you are actively involved in the learning, don’t know the answer or where the task will lead to?
  • Do your students see your enthusiasm and excitement in the above learning tasks and get to experience you as a learner, not an all knowing teacher?
  • Is your classroom learning environment one that involves investigation, collaboration, discovery, discussion, challenge, disagreement, freedom of expression?
  • Do you set tasks for your students without any involvement from you as a fellow learner?
  • Is your learning environment passive and controlled?
  • Can people sense a lack of excitement in your day to day teaching?

Remaining open to continuous learning

 As a Learner…

          • Are you constantly investigating and searching for new ideas and opinions?
          • Do you actively seek out people who may have a different perspective to you?
          • Do you take on new challenges that you are not an expert in?


          • Do you think you finished learning years ago, you’re happy staying in your comfort zone and don’t want to be challenged?

As a Teacher…

  • Do you always challenge your students to go one step further in investigations and to accept that being finished 20 minutes early is not an achievement but an opportunity to explore further?
  • Do you actively involve yourself in learning new things IN FRONT OF the students?
  • Do you allow students to pursue their own interests to show them that learning is not confined to the classroom or between 9 -3:30, Monday to Friday?
  • Do you allow your students to demonstrate a superior understanding of something than you?
  • Do you reinforce the idea that finishing work is more important than learning something new or taking time to investigate further?
  • Do you always have to be the Expert in the grade and have the Final Say?
  • Do you set homework that involves practising skills half the class already have, thereby discouraging the opportunity for independent investigations leading to new learning?

Gather data through all senses:
Use your natural pathways! Pay attention to the world around you Gather data through all the senses; taste, touch, smell, hearing and sight.

 As a Learner…

          • Are you a hands on learner, getting physically involved in learning and creating?
          • Do you actively go to museums, explore natural environments, try to be a tourist in your own backyard?
          • Do you like science experiments, documentaries, playing around with gadgets, building things from instructions, cooking, gardening?
          • Do you like to look at pictures and objects and investigate their physical properties?


  • Do you just like reading and listening to oral presentations, find it difficult to analyse pictorial representations ?

As a Teacher…

  • Do you organise hands on experiences at every opportunity?
  • Do you use models, videos, pictures, guest speakers to support or supplement written material?
  • Do you organise regular excursions so that children can experience things first hand?
  • Do you allow for a lot of physical activity in your learning experiences?
  • Do you rely on textbooks, worksheets, instructions on the whiteboard or verbal instructions that cater for a small percentage of your students?
A couple of things I noticed doing this reflection:
  • many of these Habits overlap and I found myself being a bit repetitive; and
  • I have a lot to improve on in these areas.
While I am a creative person, being a singer/songwriter, guitarist, drawer and story teller, some of this has disappeared from my teaching. I used to teach a lot through music. My classrooms used to be filled with my artwork. I was a great story teller. I have to get back to that. I can also be too text reliant. I’m going to challenge myself to be “less wordy” in this blog this year and use more visuals, not to just to ‘decorate’ but to follow the famous saying, ‘ a picture paints a thousand words’.
What about you? What are your challenges? How can you improve your habits? Do you have anything to add to my points? Join the conversation.

COMING UP – Final Habits of Mind Post: Exact/Understanding/Silly

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


Following on from my previous Habits of Mind post on Control Habits, one piece of feedback I received was that you would have to be a paragon of virtue to have all of these Habits of Mind functioning in your life all the time. It was also suggested that it was good for students and teachers to be aware of these Habits. My response was that I was no paragon  but it was not enough to just be aware of the Habits – that just turns them into another content area to learn and unlearn for students – but that we have to aspire to them for successful learning. No, we are not always going to succeed and sometimes we will fall into bad Habits, but Habits of Mind need to be more than a changeable weekly goal that result in us getting a HoM sticker; they are something we should strive to achieve as much as we can.

In this post we move on to the Cognitive Habits, the ones we need for deep thinking and learning to take place.

Applying past knowledge to new situations
As a learner…

          • Do you keep records of your past learning and spend time reviewing and reflecting on that learning?
          • Do you keep a journal to keep track of your learning?
          • Do you use digital bookmarking tools like Diigo or Delicious and tag articles, websites, reports under related tags so that you can link information together from both past and present?
          • Do you try to build on previous work done, looking for ways to improve on what you have done in the past but keeping successes intact?
          • Do you share your knowledge from previous years and explain how it is still relevant to what you are doing today?
          • Can you compare and contrast current and historical events and find relevance in the ideas and events of the past in your life today?
OR… Do you constantly start from scratch and waste a lot of time trying to create something new, never record anything and forget most ideas presented to you, never revise or make links between what was learnt in previous meetings, conferences, planning sessions,etc., disregard the experience and ideas of the past in an obsessive drive to change for the sake of change?
As a teacher…
  • Do you provide opportunities for students to record their learning for each day
  • Do you set up routines so that children make links between previous and current learning during the course of a lesson?
  • Do you lessons build upon past learning?
  • Dou you link concepts and key ideas from previous terms, weeks, years?
  • Do you expect your students to make links between previous and current learning
OR… do you rush through the end of lessons without giving time for students to record their learning, plan a series of disjointed lessons using worksheets that have no relationship from day to day, wait entire terms before revising skills and concepts with little chance of recall or connection and never review previous units of work and analyse successful components AND areas of improvement?

Thinking about your thinking (Metacognition)

As a learner….

          • Do you reflect on what you understand and don’t understand and make plans to discover ways to improve
          • Do you recognise when you are challenged, distracted, disenchanted and make the effort to get back on track?
          • Do you have make a concerted effort to reflect on your learning ( or lack of ), trying to identify one benefit from every learning experience you have?
          • Do you set goals and learning outcomes based on the above challenges?
          • Do you take notes as you go along and record questions, possible follow up actions, responses to what you read or listen to/view?
OR…. Do you just go through the motions during presentations, ignore/disregard what you don’t understand, randomly highlight words and phrases without reflecting on them, sit through meetings without challenging your beliefs or the beliefs of the presenters or move on to the next challenge without thinking about your level of understanding or depth of learning?

As a teacher…..

  • Have you set up routines and procedures whereby students reflect on their learning in an organised journal?
  • Do you challenge ALL students in the class to articulate their learning and misunderstandings?
  • Do your students set achieveable goals based on this reflective process?
  • Do you encourage critical thinking by setting tasks that challenge your students?
  • Does your class have collaborative discussions during which they challenge each other’s learning?
OR… do your students move hurriedly from activity to activity without pause for thought, sit silently without having thoughtful conversations with classmates, never get challenged to articulate their level of understanding or never have to use a reflective journal to document their learning?

Questioning and problem posing

As a learner…

          • Do you challenge the ideas presented to you by others and ask for evidence to justify their opinions?
          • Do you pose alternative ideas and solutions and conduct independent research to find out if they are viable?
          • Do you look for you own solutions to problems?
          • Do you dig deeper than the first level of questioning to make sure you have investigated fully?
          • Do you look for a range of resources that have a common answer?
          • Do you persist until you have found the answer?
OR… Do you accept the first idea presented as gospel, stop on the first page of a Google Search, never go beyond the first answer given to a question, lack the initiative or courage to challenge what others say or rely on others to find the answer to what you are looking for?

As a teacher…

  • Do you ask follow up questions to further challenge students to deepen their thinking?
  • Do you teach children the 5Y’s strategy that expects them to go 5 levels deep on questions they pose for research?
  • Do you encourage students to challenge your viewpoints as long as they can back their opposition up with rational thought and alternative evidence?
  • Do you present a range of data for children to analyse?
  • Do you use open ended tasks that encourage students to think about a range of possible outcomes and solutions?
  • Do you provide enough opportunities for problem solving?
OR…. Do you present as an authoritarian who has all the answers the children need, present closed questions that only have one solution, set assignments that don’t allow for independent research and topic choice, don’t allow enough time for children to work out problems before providing the answer or present only one point of view and expect children to accept it as accurate?
How much thinking goes on in your life? How much thinking goes on in your classroom? How good are your cognitive habits?

Next Post: Supple/Sensorial

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


Over the last 3 years, we have been working towards integrating Habits of Mind into our curriculum. We’ve had some successes but it’s been a challenge to maintain the momentum. Is it another layer to add to the curriculum and thus more work to do? Have we embraced its philosophy? Or is it a case of teachers needing to accept to what extent they have good or bad habits themselves? As I’ve posted earlier this year, I am a big believer in teachers being role models in learning. Maybe, as teachers and learners ourselves, we ( and I’m referring to teachers as a whole, not just myself or my colleagues) have to reflect earnestly on how developed our own Habits of Mind are before we can truly embed them into our curriculum. How can we expect our students to develop good Habits if we haven’t ourselves?

With sixteen official Habits of Mind as outlined by their “creator”, Art Costa, this would become an extremely long post, even by my rather wordy standards. I’m going to split my reflections into several posts, using the S.U.C.C.E.S.S categories shown in the image above. Today, I’ll focus on the “Control” Habits.


As a learner;– do you consciously make an effort to stay on task during meetings, PD sessions etc, when the content is dry, irrelevant or “boring” so that you are still focused when something enlightening, useful or interesting is shared?  OR… do you just tune out like that frustrating student in your class who never listens to you?
– do you recognize your struggle in understanding a new pedagogy, concept, educational framework and look for alternative methods of learning until you have developed a level of comprehension you are satisfied with? OR… do you just claim you’ve never been good at that subject and never will be so avoid it like that student in your class you always complain doesn’t try hard enough?

As a teacher;– do you allow your students enough opportunities to re-submit work until they have shown they have grasped the understanding both you and them were aim for? OR… do you reinforce the idea that assessment is a ‘sink or swim’, one chance or you fail opportunity to prove you learnt something?

– do you provide enough time for students to struggle, problem solve, collaborate on solutions, challenge conjectures and answers? OR… do you jump in with the answer so you can move on to your next planned lesson, thereby teaching them that you are the source of all knowledge so its not worth persisting?

– do your students see you working on problems you don’t have the answer to, trying a variety of methods to achieve success, tackling complex problems over a number of days OR… do they only see you present the answers to everything?

Managing impulsivity

As a learner;
Do you…

          • prepare and follow a plan for completing the set task?
          • take in all information?
          • listen to all points of view?
          • weigh up all the evidence (both pros and cons)?
          • reflect on your emotional and logical response to what has been presented?
          • re read, listen to or review notes (written or audio)?
          • ask clarifying questions?
          • investigate/consult alternative sources of information or opinions?
          • And then act
OR… Do you react negatively to the first statement you disagree with and ignore everything else said regardless of its worth, accept the first source of information as accurate fact, adopt every new idea without investigating background information (pros and cons), rush through tasks with the goal of completion rather than achievement. let your emotional state affect your ability to participate meaningfully or rush headlong into a task without any thought of what it will achieve and how you are going to achieve it?

As a teacher; Do you have a set of procedures to follow that allow you to manage challenging behaviour in the classroom rationally and consistently OR… do you react inconsistently to inappropriate behaviour thereby giving students mixed messages about expectations in the classroom?

Do you rehearse possible answers to possible scenarios/questions that may arise during challenging/controversial discussions/lesson sequences OR… do you just react insitinctively to students’ questions without knowing the consequences of your answers and so modelling to the children that its acceptable to say anything?

Do you have a culture of “wait time” in the room so children are comfortable with taking time to record ideas or collaborate with others  before they respond to questions OR… is it a competition to be the first to answer a question or  do you jump in to answer the question before any student gets a chance to?

Taking responsible risks

As a learner;
Do you –

          • Investigate new apps and programs without help, discovering functions by experimenting with menu options and icons?
          • Trial all possible strategies in Mathematics over a long period of time to find out which strategies work best in different situations?
          • Experiment with new skills and activities you have never attempted to see if you can master them at a level you are comfortable with?
OR….. do you just keep doing the same activities and stick with the same interests you have always done and stay within your comfort zone, go running for help from the “expert” so he/she can show you how a software program works, stick with one method or strategy even if it isn’t always efficient or successful?

As a teacher;

Do you –

  • expose yourself as a learner who needs to find out how to do something in front of the class?
  • make mistakes in front of the students and look for solutions on the spot rather than making sure everything is perfect in your lesson?
  • Provide opportunities for students to engage in problem solving that requires testing out multiple possibilities?
  • Encourage students to try out many strategies even when they are not competent or comfortable with them so they can become more accomplished at using them?
  • Experiment with newly advertised pedagogies over an extended period of time to give them time to show evidence of improved learning?
OR… Do you use a one size fits all strategy for all students, stick with the one pedagogy that you believe has worked in the past, only present tools you are an ‘expert’ user of so there is no risk of students seeing you struggle, only present problems you know the answers to or make sure you know everything about what you are about to present and don’t allow any divergence away from your plan for fear of being lead away from your comfort zone?

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m no perfect role model either. While I am persistent and like to experiment, I don’t necessarily go outside my comfort zone much ( although it is a wide ranging zone in most mainstream classroom – in my extension programs, my students see me struggle) and I still have my days when I don’t follow a consistent management plan.  the point of this reflection is to challenge the teaching community to analyse their own “habits of mind’ before expecting children to just develop them. Practise what you preach. The Habits aren’t just some content to learn about. They have to become part of your being. We have to make sure they’re part of OUR being.

Next Post: Part Two – Cognitive (past knowledge/metacognition/questioning and problem solving