What Are The Habits Of Mind?

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What Are The Habits Of Mind?

by TeachThought Staff

Problem-based learning and project-based learning provide a rich opportunity for students to deepen their knowledge, expand their repertoire of technical skills, and enhance their appreciation of thinking tools, processes, and strategies.

It is not enough, however, to understand concepts and principles and to solve that one problem, as challenging as it might be. The essential outcome is to develop and expand the dispositions of skillful problem solvers who can apply their learnings to an ever-expanding array of challenges not only in commonly taught subjects in school, but also in their communities, in their world and in their lives.

While we are interested in how many answers individuals know, we are even more interested in how they behave when they don’t know—when they are confronted with life’s problems the answers to which are not immediately known. The larger goal is for enhanced performance under challenging conditions that demand strategic reasoning, insightfulness, perseverance, creativity, and craftsmanship to resolve complex problems.

Achieving this vision requires the internalization of certain dispositions–propensities or ‘Habits of Mind.’

See also 16 Strategies For Integrating The Habits of Mind In The Classroom

What Are Habits of Mind?

According to Kallick and Costa, the Habits of Mind are less about behavior and more about intent.

A “Habit of Mind” means having a disposition toward behaving intelligently when confronted with problems, the answers to which are not immediately known. When humans experience dichotomies, are confused by dilemmas, or come face to face with uncertainties–our most effective actions require drawing forth certain patterns of intellectual behavior. When we draw upon these intellectual resources, the results that are produced through are more powerful, of higher quality and greater significance than if we fail to employ those patterns of intellectual behaviors.

Habits of Mind are dispositions that are skillfully and mindfully employed by characteristically intelligent, successful people when they are confronted with problems, the solutions to which are not immediately apparent. When we draw upon these mental resources, the results are more powerful, of higher quality, and of greater significance than if we fail to employ those habits.

Employing Habits of Mind requires a composite of many skills, attitudes cues, past experiences, and proclivities. It means that we value one pattern of thinking over another, and therefore it implies choice making about which habit should be employed at which time. It includes sensitivity to the contextual cues in a situation signaling that it is an appropriate time and circumstance to employ this pattern.

It requires a level of skillfulness to carry through the behaviors effectively over time. Finally, it leads individuals to reflect on, evaluate, modify, and carry forth their learnings to future applications. It implies goal setting for improved performance and making a commitment to continued self-modification.

While there may be more, 16 characteristics of effective problem-solvers have been have been derived from studies of efficacious problem-solvers from many walks of life. (Costa and Kallick, 2009). The list of Habits of Mind appears below.

The 16 Habits Of Mind

1. Persisting

2. Managing Impulsivity

3. Listening with Understanding and Empathy

4. Thinking Flexibly

5. Thinking about Thinking

6. Striving for Accuracy

7. Questioning and Posing Problems

8. Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations

9. Thinking and Communicating with Clarity & Precision

10. Gathering Data Through All Senses

11. Creating, Imagining, Innovating

12. Responding with Wonderment and Awe

13. Taking Responsible Risks

14. Finding Humor

15. Thinking Interdependently

16. Remaining Open to Continuous Learning

Image attribution flickr user tulanepublicrelations; Habits of Mind Across the Curriculum

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I am responding with wonderment and awe at the excellence of this article and graphic. The cycle of teaching in our classrooms can regularly include these habits of learning for our students when we are mindful of teachable moments that keep things fresh.

Adewale Ajadi

Truly powerful and helpful totally consistent with best African wisdom codes.

Joel MacDonald

“While we are interested in how many answers individuals know, we are even more interested in how they behave when they don’t know” That’s brilliant! I’ve got to steal (I mean borrow) that.

For me, the biggest challenge for schools is point 11: Creating, Imagining, Innovating. With the left-brain bias of pretty much the entire education system, Sir Ken Robinson’s flow of “Imagine, Create, Innovate” seems far off. If we really want different outcomes to education, we must change the process dramatically. I have adopted a habit from author and podcaster, James Altucher. 10 Ideas. That is, every morning, I have to list 10 solutions to a problem. The problem doesn’t matter: it could be losing weight or reducing carbon emissions. It’s an exercise for the “idea muscle”, your brain. I have found… Read more »

The Habit of Mind is a great article and full of good habits; I think for these habits to be implemented, teachers need help. Teachers are expected to do all the work, however education requires team work. As the old saying goes, “cooperation makes it better.”


Many of these Habits of Mind are principles of critical thinking/logic which should be taught from first grade through high school.

Tracy Fitzwater

I love the Habits of Mind. I need to be deliberate in working with my students – they seem to give up so quickly, and somehow seem resistant to going beyond the basics. Maybe I’m coming off of a long Spirit Week combined with Halloween, but I need to rethink how I approach one of my classes to improve student success and classroom culture. Costa is always a good place to go back to…

Well of course those are good habits; I wish those for myself. I am saddened that schools are so far from intellectually and emotionally safe havens that I get enthused to see those habits listed again. I worry that the take-away is one more time: we need better teachers who need more training and reminders (there is some truth in that). I push a different agenda: first focus on re-structuring schools so that the day-to-day habits of the institution enable most teachers to themselves practice those habits of mind, and to have the time, resources and support to do so… Read more »