Problem-based learning and project-based learning provide a rich opportunity for students to deepen their knowledge, expand their repertoire of technical skills, and enhance their appreciation of thinking tools, processes and strategies.
It is not enough, however, to understand concepts and principles and to solve that one problem, as challenging as it might be. The essential outcome is to develop and expand the dispositions of skillful problem solvers who can apply their learnings to an ever-expanding array of challenges not only in commonly taught subjects in school, but also in their communities, in their world and in their lives.
While we are interested in how many answers individuals know, we are even more interested in how they behave when they don’t know—when they are confronted with life’s problems the answers to which are not immediately known. The larger goal is for enhanced performance under challenging conditions that demand strategic reasoning, insightfulness, perseverance, creativity, and craftsmanship to resolve complex problems. Achieving this vision requires the internalization of certain dispositions, propensities or Habits of Mind.
What Are Habits of Mind?
Habits of Mind are dispositions that are skillfully and mindfully employed by characteristically intelligent, successful people when they are confronted with problems, the solutions to which are not immediately apparent. When we draw upon these mental resources, the results are more powerful, of higher quality, and of greater significance than if we fail to employ those habits.
Employing Habits of Mind requires a composite of many skills, attitudes cues, past experiences, and proclivities. It means that we value one pattern of thinking over another, and therefore it implies choice making about which habit should be employed at which time. It includes sensitivity to the contextual cues in a situation signaling that it is an appropriate time and circumstance to employ this pattern.
It requires a level of skillfulness to carry through the behaviors effectively over time. Finally, it leads individuals to reflect on, evaluate, modify, and carry forth their learnings to future applications. It implies goal setting for improved performance and making a commitment to continued self-modification.
While there may be more, 16 characteristics of effective problem-solvers have been have been derived from studies of efficacious problem-solvers from many walks of life. (Costa and Kallick, 2009).
The list of Habits of Mind appears below.
2. Managing Impulsivity
3. Listening with Understanding and Empathy
4. Thinking Flexibly
5. Thinking about Thinking
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
Image attribution flickr user tulanepublicrelations; Habits of Mind Across the Curriculum, ASCD 2009.