What are the Habits of Mind?

Connecticut River Academy trains young minds in a modern way. Do you remember your high school teachers, drilling you with repetition? Testing the number of answers you could memorize? Expecting you to reproduce knowledge on-demand? We now teach differently. At Connecticut River Academy, instead of asking students to deliver memorized information, we focus on forming “Habits of Mind.” This method of thinking helps students process information when they don’t have all the answers. It allows students to gain something positive from their experiences, even when making guesses or mistakes. Through understanding the Habits of Mind, we realize that when a mind is reaching for information and making critical connections to arrive at conclusions, it is truly learning.

The Habits of Mind has been broken down into sixteen attributes by the authors Author L. Costa and Bena Kallick, in the book “Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind.”  According to Costa and Kallick, humans will display these attributes when they conduct themselves intelligently. They offer sixteen methods of coping with difficult situations, confusing dilemmas, and uncertainty.

The Sixteen Habits of Mind are:

  1. Persisting
  2. Managing Impulsivity
  3. Listening with Understanding and Empathy
  4. Thinking Flexibly
  5. Thinking about Thinking (Metacognition)
  6. Striving for Accuracy
  7. Questioning and Posing Problems
  8. Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations
  9. Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and 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

Drawing upon each of these intelligent behaviors, students can learn to make productive actions, and to make intelligent thinking into a life-long pattern. It’s not just getting all of the A’s in Spanish class, or excelling at algebra, but rather learning how to learn. The teaching strategies that exist within the Sixteen Habits of Mind exercise the brain to promote creativity, strategic thinking, insightfulness, perseverance, reasoning, and craftsmanship. A student who sharpens these tools will be well-equipped for successful adulthood.

At Connecticut River Academy, we believe our scholars can contribute to a just and sustainable world by exercising these Habits of Mind and adhering to three specific Magnet Standards and Learning Outcomes:

  1. Demonstrating self and global awareness. 

Students strive to identify their own values, interests, strengths, and challenges. They make sustainable plans that respect the well-being of themselves, others, and the planet. They try to make smart choices for their futures, and improve decisions to best effect the globe.

  1. Demonstrating respect for the importance of diversity in the community of life. 

By following this standard, CTRA students seek diversity, collaborate, make informed decisions, and form an understanding of the effect of diversity on our physical, social, and cultural environments.

  1. Demonstrating the impact of individual and social actions and decisions on the community of life.

With this magnet standard, students understand how choices impact our environments, and they act both individually and collectively to make a positive impact on it.

By demonstrating behavior congruent with these standards, CTRA students learn to think all the way around a question: through inquiry, editing, flexibility, and respect for other perspectives. Through these methods, they become better learners, ask more questions, absorb more knowledge, and learn how to use it. Traditional education might teach that wrong is wrong, but contemporary learning strategies will tell you that failure can sometimes be the path to success. Why is that? Failing causes students to think, adjust, motivate, and experiment—to truly use every tool in the box, and to collaborate with one another as well.

Lastly, history shows that innovation comes from failure. How do you think the world’s greatest engineers and scientists arrived at the best designs for space shuttles and vaccinations? They failed. And they failed again. Failure never feels good, whether you’re a student or a professional, but it offers benefits. As Education Week explains, it opens doors to trying again, adapting, and innovating. This is the kind of repetition that primes students for successful careers—not memorization, but the ability to rebound from life’s biggest problems.

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