The Habits of Mind
are "characteristics of what intelligent people do when they are confronted
with problems, the resolutions to which are not immediately apparent." (Costa,
2000, p. 21)
Costa, A., Kallick, B. (2000). Habits of mind:
Discovering and exploring. Virginia; Association for Supervision and Curriculum
Development. All Habits of Mind concepts and material is used on this Web
site with the express permission of Art Costa, and with our gratitude. Click
here to visit Art Costa's Habits of Mind Web site.
People who achieve their goals do not
easily give up. These people: expect barriers and problems, are able to analyze
problems, and can create or select strategies to deal with problems. Persistent
people know when to stop, reassess, and select another strategy. Persisting
means sticking with the problem, being able to sustain focus on the problem,
and organizing strategies for its solution.
Impulsivity in a middle school student can appear in
many ways: blurting out the first answer that comes to mind, starting to work
without fully understanding directions, approaching a problem without a strategy
or plan, making an immediate judgment about something without really understanding
it, or not considering alternatives before acting.
With Understanding and Empathy: "Good listeners (really) try to understand
what other people are saying." (Costa, 2000, p. 24) If they disagree with what
someone says, it is only after truly understanding them. Highly effective and
intelligent people spend quite a bit of time listening… trying to understand
another person's point of view. They listen to more than what the person is
saying, they try to put themselves into the other person's "shoes" (empathy).
Effective listeners hold back on their values, opinions or prejudices. They
can give examples for another person's ideas, and they build on the ideas of
others. Poor listeners are not really listening to what others are saying, but
are just thinking about what they want to say while the other person is talking.
Flexibly Some middle school students
have difficulty seeing different points of view to a problem or situation. Their
way to solve a problem is the only way… their minds are made up before they
consider something else. Flexible thinkers can use several different strategies
for different situations. They can see the obvious consequences of actions,
and the hidden consequences… the ones that may later. Being able to see the
big picture allows flexible thinkers to visualize the future based on what is
going on now. Flexible thinkers understand and can work within regulation or
criteria, but they are always seeking new and novel ways of doing things. They
have a well-developed sense of humor.
about Thinking (Metacognition): It took Thomas Edison several thousand attempts
before he succeeded in inventing the light bulb (He was very persistent). When
things didn't go well, or when they did, he would think about his thinking:
Ø He would reflect: What worked? What didn't work? Why? Ø He would wonder about
new ways of looking at the problem. Ø He would imagine a new approach and rehearse
it in his mind. Ø He would try the new approach, always watching and thinking
about what he was doing and why. Some middle school students do not take the
time to wonder why something worked or didn't work. They need to ask: Ø What
were they thinking here? Ø Why did they do it this way? Ø How did they solve
for Accuracy: Some middle school students: Ø Hand in sloppy, incomplete,
or uncorrected work. Ø Are more interested in "getting rid" of the assignment
than making sure it is complete and accurate. Whether you are a ballerina, a
hockey player, or a horse trainer, taking time to make sure that what you are
doing is accurate, or precise, or flawless is what makes the difference in mastery,
excellence and success. Just as sloppy work is a habit that is developed, striving
for accuracy is a habit that can be developed and used in all parts of life.
Questioning and Posing Problems:
"The formulation of a problem is often more essential
than its solution…" Albert Einstein
Many of our best ideas are a result
of asking the right question at the right time. Many middle school students
are quite natural at being curious and asking questions but are not always
satisfied with the answers. They have not thought about the wording of the
question. The wording has a lot to do with how the question is approached.
Many students will also simply believe what they hear, sometimes not ask questions
that are important to ask, such as: Ø How do you know that's true? Ø How reliable
is that source of data? Ø Who's point of view is this information coming from?
Ø How are these two events related to each other?
Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations
"I've never made a mistake. I've only learned from experience." Thomas Edison
Sometimes, middle school students will approach
a problem or task as if they have never done anything like it ever before,
even if they have done something quite similar or exactly the same. These
students do not think about what they have done before and that could help
them in a new activity. Sometimes, students keep experiences and events separate,
not allowing the lessons from one activity to help them in another. Intelligent
people learn from experience. Some students, after learning how to use tables
for Info Tech, immediately began experimenting with tables for other uses
and in other classes.
and Communicating with Clarity and Precision: Some middle school students
are not clear or specific in the language they are using. They can be heard
using words such as "weird" or "good" to describe something; they may name specific
objects as "stuff" or "thinger"; they may judge something as "its better" or
"it sucks". "Fuzzy language is a result of fuzzy thinking." (Costa, 2000, p.
31) Trying to make language more precise and accurate has the effect of making
Gathering Data Through All Senses:
Intelligent people are open to and absorb the environment
around them through their senses (touch, movement, taste, smell, sound and
sight). Students who use their senses absorb more information from their surroundings,
are more aware of what is going on around them, and have a better understanding
of how their surroundings effect them.
Imagining, Innovating: Some students feel that
they are not born with creativity. "All human beings have the capacity to generate
novel, clever, or ingenious products, solutions, and techniques - if that capacity
is developed." (Costa, 2000, p. 32) People who are creative/imaginative/innovative:
Ø Try to see problems, objects, and events from different points of view, Ø
Imagine what they want, Ø Take risks and push limits (they think "outside the
box") Ø Are open to constructive criticism. Ø Are always trying to improve themselves
and their surroundings.
with Wonderment and Awe: Intelligent and successful people not only have
an "I can" attitude, they also have an "I enjoy" attitude. They enjoy a challenge
and figuring things out. They enjoy learning something new. Some students and
adults avoid "having to think". They may use comments like: "It's boring.",
"Who cares?", "When am I ever going to use this?", or "This is too hard.". Some
middle school students do not see the opportunities that are presented to them.
When provided a project, even if they are given enough choices to make the project
completely fit their interests, these students will approach the project negatively
because it is "work". Other middle school students have developed a curiosity
and wonderment about life. They are willing to lose themselves in the problem
or task they are working on.