I recently made an awesome discovery: “Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind” edited by Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick.
The most amazing thing about this book is the way that it takes something so important and makes you feel like you should have seen it all along… like it was right in front of your face and you just didn’t see it.
I am an extremely firm believer in the concept that intelligence is not fixed. In other words, students can get “smarter.” Intelligence is not an innate trait that we either do or do not have. In fact, I tell my students all the time that as they learn something new, they are actually getting smarter because their brain is changing to adapt to this new information.
Costa and Callick make this argument very eloquently right off the bat in Chapter 1:
When people view their intelligence as a fixed and unchangeable entity, they strive to obtain positive evaluations of their ability and to avoid displaying evidence of inadequate ability. They believe their intelligence is demonstrated in task performance: they either have or lack ability. This negative self-concept influences effort. Effort and ability are negatively related in determining achievement, and having to expend great effort with a task is taken as a sign of low ability.
We have all seen this exact phenomenon in our classrooms with students at all developmental levels and all levels of achievement. The point is that we need to convince our students that their intelligence can change, both positively and negatively. As teachers, school personnel, coaches, parents, etc., we must view ourselves as intelligence mentors.
We need to develop learning goals that reflect the belief that ability is a continuously expandable repertoire of skills, and that through a person’s efforts, intelligence grows incrementally.
What happens when we help students and children to make this shift?
When people think of their intelligence as something that grows incrementally, they are more likely to invest the energy to learn something new or to increase their understanding and mastery of tasks.
How do we do it?
Children develop cognitive strategies and effort based beliefs about their intelligence – the habits of mind associated with higher-order learning – when they continually are pressed to raise questions, accept challenges, find solutions that are not immediately apparent, explain concepts, justify their reasonings, and seek information. When we hold children accountable for this kind of intelligent behavior, they take it as a signal that we think they are smart, and they come to accept this judgment.
The beauty of the Habits of Mind is that they work across all curricular areas and at all grade levels. This is not content specific, nor is it specific to one type of instruction. I personally see a very strong fit between the Habits and Project Based Learning but that is partly due to my own personal bias. All teachers in all schools in all contexts can help their students to become more intelligent by explicitly teaching them how intelligent people think.
How can you integrate the Habits of Mind into your school, classroom, home, or curriculum?