Habits of Mind

Developed by longtime educators Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick, Habits of Mind are 16 characteristics that intelligent people use to approach challenges they can’t immediately solve. They are learned tendencies that when practiced until they become habits can make the difference between struggle and success.

  1. Persisting
  2. Thinking and communicating with clarity and precision
  3. Managing impulsivity
  4. Gathering data through all senses
  5. Listening with understanding and empathy
  6. Creating, imagining, innovating
  7. Thinking flexibly
  8. Responding with wonderment and awe
  9. Thinking about thinking (metacognition)
  10. Taking responsible risks
  11. Striving for accuracy
  12. Finding humor
  13. Questioning and posing problems
  14. Thinking interdependently
  15. Applying past knowledge to new situations
  16. Remaining open to continuous learning

Good habits, bad habits – they both develop the same way: repeat an action again and again until it becomes second nature. Once established, you don’t need to think about it anymore. It explains why people can drive a car, carry on a conversation and think about dinner all at the same time. Habits are also notoriously hard to break.

The Howard School harnesses this staying power by integrating Habits of Mind throughout the school day.

Why habits and not rules? Because rules are external and apply to a narrow range of experience, while the Habits serve as an internal compass to guide decisions while problem solving. To roughly quote Aristotle, we are what we do every day; excellence isn’t an act but a habit.