Habits of Mind: What You Need to Know Before You Start


By James Anderson

In this collection of articles, I outline some of the key ideas related to the Habits of Mind. This is not a manual for introducing the Habits of Mind to your school. Rather, it is an overview of the key understandings you’ll want to have before you embark on your Habits of Mind journey.

The first article, “Habits of Mind: An Enduring Part of a Changing World,” sets the context for the Habits of Mind. It helps us understand why the Habits of Mind are a central and enduring part not just of our curriculum, but also of the world of work – today, in the past and into the future.

It is impossible to talk about the Habits of Mind in isolation. It is not a topic to be “covered.” The power and importance of the Habits of Mind cannot be realised without understanding how they connect to and complement our understanding of Growth Mindset and Practice. In “Three Ideas Every Educator Needs to Understand,” we explore this connection, and introduce the idea of Learning Agility – where Habits of Mind, Growth Mindset and Practice Unite!

The next group of articles unpacks the core idea that needs to be understood so you can make a real difference with the Habits of Mind in your school and classroom.

First, we look at “How to Make Hard Things Easy” and introduce the idea that is central to the Growth Mindset – that we can learn to behave more intelligently. The Habits of Mind become the behaviours we develop to become more intelligent.

The next two articles explain the role the Habits of Mind play in “raising the bar” on student performance. “There Are Only Two Types of Learners” identifies learners as either “above the bar” or “below the bar”, explaining the critical importance of stretching ourselves beyond our current best. “Learning to do Better with Habits of Mind” explains the central role of developing our Habits of Mind to succeed “above the bar.”

The next article, “The Challenge Pit – How Habits of Mind Help Us Succeed,” draws on my book The Learning Landscape. It uses the analogy of a Pit to represent different types of challenges, explaining how we can think of the Habits of Mind as the tools we keep in our climbing backpack to help us climb out of the Pit.

Perhaps the most important article in this series, “Dimensions of Growth,” introduces the reader to what it looks like to get better at the Habits of Mind. There are many curriculum documents that describe what getting better at areas such as language, maths and geography looks like. This helps teachers set appropriate learning goals. However, we’ve lacked an understanding of what getting better at the Habits of Mind looks like. This article helps you recognise and understand these improvements – an understanding that’s essential to teaching students to behave more intelligently.

The final article takes the form a personal reflection. In “Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should,” I emphasise the importance of never getting out of the habit of stretching yourself. We must always strive to develop our Habits of Mind. As adults, we get very busy. However, this is often at the expense of getting better!

Continue reading Habits of Mind: What You Need to Know Before You Start in full here.

Read more from James Anderson.


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If you are already using Habits of Mind as part of your daily practice and are committed to nurturing the growth of the dispositions in others, you can pursue becoming an individual practitioner certified by the Institute for Habits of Mind (IHOM).

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