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Habits of Mind

Habits of Mind is knowing how to behave intelligently when you DON’T know the answer. It means having a disposition toward behaving intelligently when confronted with problems, the answers to which are not immediately known.

Developed by Art Costa and Bena Kallick, employing Habits of Mind require drawing forth certain patterns of intellectual behaviour that produce powerful results. At St Joseph’s we believe that the Habits of Mind are the learning dispositions necessary to make meaning of the curriculum and enrich the lives of individuals.

The 16 Habits of Mind identified by Costa and Kallick include:

  • Persisting
  • Thinking and communicating with clarity and precision
  • Managing impulsivity
  • Gathering data through all senses
  • Listening with understanding and empathy
  • Creating, imagining, innovating
  • Thinking flexibly
  • Responding with wonderment and awe
  • Thinking about your thinking (metacognition)
  • Taking responsible risks
  • Striving for accuracy
  • Finding humour
  • Questioning and posing problems
  • Thinking interdependently
  • Applying past knowledge to new situations
  • Remaining open to continuous learning

One could ask, “well if the Habits of Mind are so good, why doesn’t everybody know about them and why aren’t they taught in all schools?”

Luckily we are all different but if you were to look closely at the values based education that the government promotes and the ethos of Catholic Education, you would soon identify qualities of the Habits of Mind. Most parents want the type of qualities or dispositions for their children that the Habits of Mind offer. The trouble is that the Habits of Mind are not known and articulated by everyone. When the Habits of Mind are coached positively and aesthetically into the everyday curriculum structures of a school, then one really appreciates the value of the Habits of Mind.

In 2006, members of the St Joseph’s staff had the privilege of visiting several schools in New Zealand where we came across College St Normal School in Palmerston North under the leadership of Ross Kennedy and Trudy Francis. We saw a dynamic place that made a huge impression. The Habits of Mind were really lived by the staff and students. You could feel the essence of learning in everything they did. The Habits of Mind were visible and you could hear the language in every classroom. We had never seen learning more purposeful than what we saw at College St.

We were convinced from that visit that we wanted to try and emulate the efforts of Ross in our own school. We fell in love with the Habits of Mind and it just made total sense to be teaching children these dispositions of how to think and learn.

It is our responsibility to teach children HOW to learn as well as WHAT to learn. We are proud that the staff at St Joseph’s have committed themselves to employing and understanding the Habits of Mind. Our parent community is also committed to the Habits of Mind as a way of reinforcing the thinking framework that occurs at school.

We presented our learning journey with the Habits of Mind at the Mindful by Design Conference in Sydney in November 2009, and we have done the same at the Habits of Mind Expo in Adelaide in 2011. St Joseph’s was a host school for the Mindful by Design School Tour in 2011. In 2014, one of our staff presented a workshop on Practical Uses of the Habit of Mind in the Classroom at the Spectrum Education workshop in Sydney. Also our Kinder to Year 2 students in 2014 have been trialing and providing feedback on videos and lessons which have been created by Bena Kallick and Art Costa before they are released to schools around the world.


For further information about the Habits of Mind, please access the following links:

The Institute for Habits of Mind - A blog of resources and thoughts on the Habits of Mind

VIDEO: Hear Art Costa describe the Habits of Mind below.