Success with Habits of Mind: Three Important Lessons

 

By James Anderson

 

What have I learnt over the past 20 years working with Habits of Mind?

In the early days, as I worked with hundreds of schools around Australia, it became clear that although schools could easily see the potential of the Habits of Mind, not all of them could translate and implement their potential into effective school change.

Many schools jumped on board the Habits of Mind bandwagon, only to leave it behind a few years later. The only evidence of the Habits ever being part of the school were a few posters on the walls, and perhaps a few advocates bravely waving the Habits of Mind flag as the school moved on to its next initiative.

However, a few schools did see profound changes in their culture. Academic results improved. The lives of students, teachers and, in many cases, the whole school community were profoundly and positively impacted by the Habits of Mind.

In these schools, there was never a sense of the Habits of Mind becoming “last year’s initiative”. The Habits were woven into the very fabric of the school’s culture and identity. In fact, the commitment to the Habits of Mind increased with time. This commitment endured and grew through changes in principals, government and educational priorities.

The Institute for Habits of Mind recognised many of these schools as Learning Communities of Excellence. Waikiki Elementary, which has flown the Habits of Mind flag for almost 20 years, is one such school. Schools I have worked with, including Kirwan State High School, Nudgee College, Mathew Flinders Anglican College and Westbourne Park Primary School, have also sustained their work in powerful ways for
more than 10 years.

So, why is it that so many schools fail with Habits of Mind while others achieve such great success?

As I reflect on my own Habits of Mind journey, I attribute the difference to three key lessons:

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