Live 2 Learn

A few thoughts and ideas

Knowing, understanding and create optimistic futures through the Habits of Mind

This is a short article I wrote for my school magazine. I hope you find it interesting. 
As the needs of our society have changed, so the level of expected intellectual ability required by people to enable them to be successful has risen. Prior to the industrial age it was sufficient to learn a process or job that you would have for whole of your working life. This job was likely to be similar to that done by your parents and grandparents throughout their working life. Later, during the industrial age, the primary concern was production, with workers being selected (and socially ranked into classes) based on their ability to read, memorise and use a large number of recognised facts. As time has gone on, society moved from the industrial to the information age. With this change the ability to learn and remember facts has given way to a much more important need for understanding. So what are the characteristics we now need to develop in our students to ensure they have a good chance at a successful, productive and satisfying life?
Today and into the future Creativity is the key aptitude that will decide the journey that many people take through their working life. It is no longer sufficient for a modern worker to be able to perform useful tasks or processes. A wide range of technologies can now perform even the most arduous or most delicate task, including lifting huge objects or the most precise micro-surgeries. Knowledge of large numbers of facts is limited in its usefulness. The current rate of increase in what we know as ‘facts’ is already at a level that an individual human cannot keep up with, and this rate of increase is itself increasing. Understanding is now essential as it gives the ability to find patterns, make generalisations and perform sophisticated decision-making based on a sound analysis of existing knowledge. Thus we can go beyond our limited range of known facts. However, without the desire to go further than merely understanding our world, the confidence to be able to accept new things and the willingness to take responsible risks to step outside our comfort zone, even understanding is not enough. It is creativity that drives us to bigger, better and more exciting journeys through life.
With our students, some of the things that foster creativity include encouraging them to be persistent, to think flexibly, manage impulsivity, to listen with empathy in order to truly understand, to strive for mastery and accuracy, to be able to think about their thinking, developing their skill to ask questions and pose problems effectively, the ability to use past knowledge in new situations, to communicate and think clearly and precisely, to use all their senses when gathering data, to try different ways and to generate new ideas, to wonder and have the ability to respond with awe, to take responsible risks, to find humour including being able to laugh at themselves, to be able to think interactively with others, and to remain open to learning continuously.
If you count these aspects of successful learning you find that there are sixteen. As a group of dispositions, or ways of thinking, they are called the ‘Habits of Mind’. In compiling research from around the world, Professor Art Costa found that these 16 aspects were found in almost all studies of human success. Some of these ‘habits’ are used more than others. Some are used more in some subjects or activities and less in others. However, it is clear that by developing these 16 Habits of Mind we can assist our students to ready themselves for a successful, interesting and happy life where they seek to understand their world and engage their imagination to optimistically create their futures.
Our College is actively engaging in developing our students’ Habits of Mind. We are doing this by introducing the Habits as a major part of our Teaching and Learning Framework. As the Habits of Mind are such an important part of our program they will be introduced over time. We will keep you informed so that you can be actively involved in helping your children develop the knowledge, understanding and creativity to be successful throughout their lives.

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