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Habits of Mind

“Habit is a cable, we weave a thread of it each day, and at last we cannot break it.”  ~Horace Mann, American Educator, 1796-1859

A “Habit of Mind” means having a disposition toward behaving intelligently when confronted with situations or problems. 

Habits of Mind are performed in response to questions and problems to which the answers are not immediately known. We teach students how to produce and apply knowledge rather than how they merely reproduce knowledge. The critical attribute of intelligent human beings is not only having information, but also knowing how to act reflectively on a situation and related information. 

What behaviors are indicative of the efficient, effective problem solver? Just what do human beings do when they behave intelligently? Research in intelligent behavior indicates that there are some identifiable characteristics of effective thinkers. These characteristics have been identified in successful people in all walks of life. 

The following are descriptions and an elaboration of sixteen attributes of what human beings do when they behave intelligently. We choose to refer to them as “Habits of Mind”. These habits are seldom performed in isolation.  Rather clusters of such habits are drawn forth and employed in various situations. When listening intently, for example, one employs flexibility, metacognition, precise language and perhaps questioning.   

At Hendricks, we practice these skillful behaviors every day. In our creative, hands-on instruction, opportunities to explore and practice these essential skills are:

Persisting:  Stay with a task until it is done! Focus on your goal and look for ways to overcome obstacles when you’re stuck. Don’t give up.

Managing Impulsivity:  Take your time! Think before you act. Stay calm, thoughtful and act with deliberation. Don’t give up.

Gathering Data Through all Senses:  Use your natural pathways! Pay attention to the world around you. Gather information by hearing, seeing, touching, tasting and smelling.

Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision:  Be clear! Strive to be accurate when speaking and writing. Avoid overgeneralizations, exaggeration and omitting or distorting information.

Listening with Understanding and Empathy:  Understand others! Try to see another person’s point of view.  Listen to how others think and feel, and understand why they behave in certain ways. 

Thinking Flexibly:  Look at it another way! Be able to change your mind, to look for other ways of thinking, to consider alternatives and options.

Responding with Wonderment and Awe:  Take time to notice! Look for what is awesome and mysterious in the world. Be intrigued by phenomena and beauty. Practice being excited.

Creating, Imagining and Innovating:  Try a different look! Look for new, fresh ideas; better ways of solving problems; and original approaches.

Thinking About Your Thinking (Metacognition):  Know you are knowing! Be aware of your own thoughts, strategies, feelings, and actions, and how they affect other people.

Striving for Accuracy:  Check it again! Always do your best. Set high standards for yourself. Check your work and look for ways to improve constantly. 

Finding Humor:  Laugh a little! Find the whimsical, unexpected, incongruous and surprising. See the funny side of things.  Be able to laugh at yourself too. 

Take Responsible Risks:  Venture out! Be adventuresome. Have the confidence to live on the edge of uncertainties.  Be willing to try new things constantly. 

Questioning and Posing Problems:  How do you know? Have a questioning attitude; know what information you need, and develop strategies to find out. Look for problems to solve.

Thinking Interdependently:  Work together! Strive to work with and learn from others in groups. Put the team first. 

Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations:  Use what you learn! Think about what you already know and how you can use it in different ways and new situations. 

Remaining Open to Continuous Learning:  Know there is so much more to learn! Have humility and pride as you seek to know. Resist complacency, and expose your mind to new learning.

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