Habits for a Chaotic, Information-rich World

My mother, a well-educated educator, introduced me to an interesting series of book entitled Habits of Mind: A Developmental Series. The authors, Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick, constructed a new type of education framework with a goal to:

"...help educators teach toward these habits of mind which we see as broad, enduring, and essential life-span learnings that are as appropriate for adults as they are for students. Our hope is that by teaching students (and adults) the habits of mind students will be more disposed to draw upon the habits when they are faced with uncertain or challenging situations...and develop [people] who can live productively in an increasingly chaotic, complex, and information-rich world." (From the preface to the series)

Their list of Habits is a wonderful reference (though it violates my consultant sensibility for lists of three to five items):

* Persisting

* Managing impulsivity

* Listening with understanding and empathy

* Thinking flexibly

* Metacognition (thinking about thinking)

* Striving for accuracy

* Questioning and posing problems

* Applying past knowledge to new situations

* Thinking and communicating with precision and clarity

* Gathering data through all senses

* Creating, imagining, innovation

* Responding with wonderment and awe

* Taking responsible risks

* Finding humor

* Thinking interdependently

* Open to continuous learning

(Here is a PDF document with more detail on each of these items.)

I love this list because it...

    Offers a blueprint for recruiting and employee development. The Habits of Mind series is intended to guide the teaching of students. In our case, we don’t have a luxury of waiting until these students grow up. In the meantime, I have a checklist for recruiting. We’d articulated many of these things in our job postings (see our previous post), but never so fully. But how do you develop these skills? How do you tell whether they are catching on? No problem, the Habits series has us covered: the second book offers strategies for teaching these habits; the third book tells you how to evaluate whether the habits are sticking.

    Is Juice-y. I believe the Habits of Mind reflect many of our values as a company, our approach to our work and some of our favorite themes (e.g. "agile" analytics, better presentations, creative problem solving, sharing our knowledge). I don’t think Arthur and Bena set out to validate us...but it still makes me feel good. More importantly, the "increasingly chaotic, complex, and information-rich world" is the landscape faced by our clients every day. We need to bring these habits to our work.

    Gives us an alternative to No Child Left Behind thinking. The habits of mind are fundamental thinking skills that can make children productive citizens and lead to a learning culture and thoughtful community. Unfortunately, a focus on these habits seems to conflict with the primary themes of No Child Left Behind. The Habits emphasize broad, flexible skills over specific knowledge of the facts on a standardized test. They recognize that if you can learn how to learn, all knowledge is at your fingertips.

    Future-proofs those with the Habits. I spent a little time recently thumbing through Thomas Friedman’s well-known book The World Is Flat. The Habits dovetail nicely with Friedman’s thoughts on American education in a Globalization 3.0 world. He asks: "If the jobs of the new middle require you to be a good collaborator, leverager, adapter, explainer, synthesizer, model builder, localizer, or personalizer, and these approaches require you, among other things, to be able to learn how to learn, to bring curiosity and passion to your work, to play well with others, and to nurture your right-brain skills, what does that mean specifically for education?" Friedman even dismisses the theory that we should focus on turning out more engineers and scientists. "Now that foreigners can do left-brain work cheaper, we in the U.S. must do right-brain work better".