The Habits of Mind Strengths Map at Mason City Schools


By Aaron Roberts

This school year, Mason City Schools has been exploring Personalized Learning. We’re growing our approach using a team of Learning Experience Designers working directly with teachers. Our design team spent time studying different thoughts on the matter, we knew that we didn’t want our PL approach to be about computers and adaptive technology. We want a Personalized Learning model that focuses squarely on the child as a human and all that comes with their humanity.

Because of our whole child-centered approach, we knew that we had to look beyond simply academic or content skills. For that reason, we view the Habits of Mind as being an integral part of personalizing the learning experience for each child. Though there are many systems out there for cross-curricular skills, Art Costa’s and Bena Kallick’s Habits of Mind spoke to us as an approach best suited to achieve our main overarching goal when considering personalized learning approaches: growing self-navigating learners who are ready for whatever life throws at them in the future.

Consider this quote from the World Economic Forum:

“With the Fourth Industrial Revolution advancing, employers are demanding a greater mix of skills. As technologies like automation and algorithms create new high-quality jobs and wipe out others, demand for such competencies is only likely to increase.”

The Habits of Mind, we believe, can help all learners – adults and children alike – grow that mix of skills.

We have begun working on Habits of Mind with teachers this year. The work is focused on a fairly casual introduction of the terms and linking them to our “why” behind personalized learning as explained above. To help our adult learners better understand the Habits, we asked them to reflect on each Habit through a strengths map.

In this activity, participants were asked to create a line from habit to habit in order to create a map that compares their relative strengths. The result is a spider-web that shows that all learners have things they can work on and things they are very strong with.

Here is an example of a completed strengths map.

The fact is, your strengths on these Habits are conditional and situational. I’m sure we can all think of a time when our skills for Managing Impulsivity have waxed and waned based on the situation. Bena Kallick and Allison Zmuda made an argument for shifting the way that students and teachers work together by connecting their attitudes toward work to the Habits of Mind. “Relevance” is a psycho-social attribute that ties well to the Habit of remaining open to continuous learning. As we can imagine, as the relevance of a task changes, we may or may not be as open to continuous learning.

Thus, our Strengths Map activity only indicates one’s own proclivities toward the Habits. I, myself, find that some of my relative strengths change each time I take the assessment! So, one should only see this as a tool for a conversation starter about an ever-changing indicator. It’s also a language-builder for any team looking to use the Habits of Mind in their work.


by Aaron Roberts, Learning Experience Designer
The Collaboratory @Mason High School


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