Saturday, February 27, 2016

Habits of Mind

The education sector is characterized by an endless parade of Game Changing Innovations (GCI), each of which eclipses the previous GCI, which was never given enough of a chance to work. Then there is the obsession with ever-lengthening and ever-more complex lists of "standards" each student is supposed to meet, for example as we see with the Common Core. One innovation that stands the test of time, and is simple to boot, is the learning construct called the Habits of Mind, introduced by Deborah Meier and others with the Coalition of Essential Schools some 25 years ago now. This is something a student can really grasp and internalize, I believe. And teachers can easily work them into assignments. This is how they are presented at the Mission Hill K-8 School (of Boston) website:
Habits of Mind

The Mission Hill Habits of Mind are an approach to both the traditional academic disciplines (math, science, literature and history) and the interdisciplinary stuff of ordinary life. They are what lead us to ask good questions and seek solid answers. They are the school’s definition of a well-educated person.

Evidence: How do we know what’s true and false? What evidence counts? How sure can we be? What makes it credible to us? This includes using the scientific method, and more.
Viewpoint: How else might this look like if we stepped into other shoes? If we were looking at it from a different direction? If we had a different history or expectation? This requires the exercise of informed “empathy” and imagination. It requires flexibility of mind.
Connections/Cause and Effect: Is there a pattern? Have we seen something like this before? What are the possible consequences?
Conjecture: Could it have been otherwise? Supposing that? What if…? This habit requires use of the imagination as well as knowledge of alternative possibilities. It includes the habits described above.
Relevance: Does it matter? Who cares?
None of these five habits stand separately, and the way we use such habits differ if we are studying a mathematical proof, a scientific hypothesis, an historical dispute, a debate over economics, the appreciation of a piece of art, a critique of a novel, the telling of a myth or narrative, or the settling of a playground dispute.

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