Forming positive habits
Habits we develop shape who we are and who we will become. Habits are simply patterns of thought and action. When specific habits develop, neural pathways are simultaneously established in our brains, reflecting daily patterns and shaping the future. Since ancient times, educators have explored habits when working to support students’ academic and talent development. Arthur Costa and Bena Kallick’s research has identified sixteen Habits of Mind that significantly impact upon achievement. These sixteen Habits of Mind can be placed into categories that allow us to look at groups of habits that promote achievement.
These are related to valuing and choosing to think and communicate with clarity, precision and flexibly. When we develop the habit of thinking interdependently, we contribute and draw energy from activities that we might tire of if we were to work alone. Students who collaborate and study in groups may benefit from thinking interdependently. Metacognition, or the ability to think about one’s thinking and to modify thinking when required, is an important thinking habit.
Information Processing Habits
The habits associated with how we perceive and process information shape our view of the world around us and our achievement orientation. Costa and Kallick have identified that we should gather data through all our senses; question as well as posing problems while striving for accuracy in gathering, thinking and communicating information. Reviewing past experiences, learning from this knowledge and developing the habit of applying this to new situations can create an achievement orientation. Students who submit drafts, review assignments and exams to learn for the future establish new habits of thought and actions to improve future performance.
A focus on continuous learning and being open to new opportunities for learning are seen as important habits of mind. A willingness to take responsible risks, to try new ways of doing things and being flexible in how one approaches a task, all contribute to achievement. Importantly, those who learn to manage impulsivity and persist until they complete tasks, develop habits that positively impact upon achievement.
How we approach tasks and habits is important, so active listening with understanding and empathy for others has been identified among the list of crucial habits. The ability to imagine, create and innovate builds towards achievement, as does the habit of appreciating others’ creativity by “responding with wonderment and awe”. Being able to find and share humour is a habit that allows us to have some perspective in difficult times and builds achievement as well as resilience and well-being.
Aristotle said “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” By knowing the habits that contribute towards achievement, we are able to focus on building these positive Habits of Mind.
© Michele Juratowitch