The
Habits
of Mind

A collectively designed resource to support teachers having deeper conversations in their classrooms.

Introducing the

Habits
of Mind

As we progress in our careers, teachers eventually come to realize something essential about our education system, and the way it is often at odds with “what school is.” We move children from silo to silo, engaging them with content that is unconnected with how they spend the rest of their day, and hope that this system will somehow create students that are able to learn what it means to be human through some strange form of osmosis.

What we also know, with the preponderance of machine learning, and the rise of increasingly complex AI, is that students will specifically need skills that differentiate themselves from computers, not simply in order to find work, but to live awake and meaningful lives in general.

Very rarely, if ever, do we explicitly or formally teach these “soft skills.” The students we have polled identify being taught these skills in traditionally non-academic situations within the school: clubs, art classes, or sports teams.

Content is a pathway.

This is especially frustrating because we know that the essence of good instruction is rooted in the idea that the content is simply a pathway to these underlying and necessary skills. Most of us, hopefully, came into education to make the world a better place through developing young minds that are thoughtful and self-actualized. Teaching literature and writing has always been for me, a vehicle to get to the broader skills of thinking and communicating effectively.

Unfortunately, in a climate of testing and questionable data collecting in a bid to appease problematic algorithms of success, we have defaulted to the content as king. Furthermore, as numbers continue to become the only sanctified form of data, we have to find a way to shift the focus from measurement to meaningful communication with our students. The language and priorities used in providing feedback to students often emphasizes linear growth at the expense of deepening, or even broadening students’ mindful habits– the most enduring skills that education should facilitate.

How do we get back to teaching students the fundamental skills they will need to succeed outside of a school setting, if there is no time (or freedom) for this type of instruction?

For the past 3 years, we have been developing and field testing a resource for teachers to begin having these deeper conversations in their classrooms. We have shown this document to countless students and teachers, parents and administrators, as well as educational designers and consultants.

The result is what we call the “Habits of Mind.”

The Habits can be used in a variety of ways. Teachers can use the document as a way to embed skills in their lessons, and have conversations with students about why they are included. The Habits can be used to create rubrics that measure these skills explicitly, and provide valuable feedback on a continuum over the course of the year. Students can use the document to assess their progress, or drive conversations and conferences with both their peers and teachers.

Much like the Socratic Oath we developed previously, the Habits of Mind are a living document. Dig into it, and ask questions. Challenge what we have prioritized. Add skills that you think are missing. Scrutinize the lines we drew between similar concepts. All of your feedback is welcomed.

There will always be free copies here on the site for you to print and share with other like-minded educators you know.

Additionally, if you do find a use for the document, let us know how you are using it on social media with the hashtag #APThabits . We’d love to see how the Habits are working in your classroom or school.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and we hope you will find some value in the APT Habits of Mind.

-Craig, John, and Matt
The Academy of Professional Teachers
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Habits of Mind

Attitudes

The attitudes listed below tend to be more cognitive and value-based, and represent the way we approach tasks or problems.

A thought process that takes into consideration the feelings and motivations of others regardless of whether or not you agree with that person.

The consideration of beliefs, values, perspectives, and actions that may not only be different than your own, but completely opposite without prejudgement.

An awareness of self that includes a thorough understanding of your motivations, actions, reactions, behaviors, and beliefs.

A cyclical thought process used to rationally and logically look back at decisions and actions in order to find alternate or improved ways of dealing with future situations.

An understanding of your own motivations, taking into consideration the possible repercussions and outcomes for both yourself and others, and eventually acting on them.

The recognition and humbling feeling of appreciation that comes when you realize something outside yourself has aided in your personal growth or discoveries.

Faith in our existing capabilities, and bringing that knowledge into relevant areas to innovate, problem solve and collaborate effectively.

An understanding that there are things we don’t know yet, and that we can learn these things from others.

Actions

The actions listed below are the behaviors we exhibit during the task itself, for good or bad.

The ability to modify preconceived notions as information and situations change.

The ability to transfer ideas and beliefs to a variety of situations without compromising fundamental aspects of the original idea.

The ability to appropriately and intentionally take on tasks and complete them.

The ability to take ownership of the successes and failures of an action.

The ability to recognize available tools and information that may help you to achieve a goal.

The ability to have confidence in one’s own powers or judgment, and act without needing to rely on others.

The ability to wonder about something without the presence of extrinsic rewards or punishments.

The ability to pursue tasks without the presence of extrinsic rewards or punishments.

The ability to attempt things that may take you out of your comfort zone.

The ability to  continue in a desired course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.

The ability to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.

The ability to respond to your environment in an appropriate manner.

Both sets of Characteristics inform each other, and allow us to better approach our lives and our work.

Share your insight.

The Habits of Mind is a living document. Dig into it, and ask questions. Challenge what we have prioritized. Add skills that you think are missing. Scrutinize the lines we drew between similar concepts. All of your feedback is welcomed!

Some of our key questions:

  • Do you agree with the delineation of the two sections into "Attitudes and Actions"?
  • How can you use this to design better educational experiences?

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