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