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What Are The 16 Habits Of Mind?

Young asian girl wearing a green coat with hood catches a bubble in her hands with her arms stretched out in front of her. The background is a park with green grass and green trees.

What Are The 16 Habits Of Mind?

By Paul Haluszczak

The Habits of Mind describe 16 mental disciplines that are needed to navigate the question: “What is the most intelligent thing I can do right now?” Developed by Dr. Bena Kallick and Dr. Art Costa through decades of curated research and real-world application, the Habits of Mind serve as a starting point to more deeply understand the habits we need to handle the complexity of the world around us.


Being a beginner at anything is always a challenge. Everything is new and every question takes a significant amount of time to answer. If a particular skill is involved, it can create immediate feelings of inadequacy.

Learners who have a strong habit of persisting stick to the tasks before them until they have reached an acceptable level of completeness. Giving up is a last resort. If the first attempt fails, they go back to the drawing board and create the next game plan.

Managing Impulsivity

We live in a world full of shiny objects. Everywhere we look, from our screens to retail shelves to billboards adorning our highways, calls for our attention are constant. If we don’t feel like being intentional with our choices, the world is often ready to make those choices for us.

Learners who are able to build this habit of managing impulsivity are able to remain attentive to the challenge or opportunity they chose to engage with. When new choices arise, they are able to take a step back, weight their options, and make a confident decision.

Listening With Understanding and Empathy

The capacity to understand and meaningfully connect with others almost seems like it would be a prerequisite to consider oneself an active, contributing member of society. 55% of our interactions are spent listening to the person or people we’re in conversation with. Yet, at what age were you taught how to understand and empathize with others?

Developing this habit results in a natural way of thinking that considers how potential solutions will impact primary, secondary, and tertiary audiences. It empowers learners who carry this habit to connect deeply, build trust, and express positive leadership abilities.

Thinking Flexibly

Our brains our remarkable. The neurons that fired off when you smelt coffee this morning will be a completely different group of neurons one month from now (a concept known as representational drift). Although this group of neurons is always changing, the smell of coffee remains the same. Our minds are naturally flexible.

To strengthen this natural behavior, learners should be encouraged to assess and reassess the information available to them throughout a problem solving process. As circumstances change, they must build the habit of taking in new information and applying it appropriately.

Thinking About Your Thinking

Metacognition is a wonder of evolution. The ability to think about our own thinking gives us the confidence to step into the unknown, build the plane while it’s flying, take action before the whole picture is clear.

Strengthening metacognition occurs within learning opportunities that demand strategy, action, and reflection. The opportunity to think through different possibilities, test them out, reflect, and test again, is the universal path toward progress.

Striving for Accuracy and Precision

The standardized education system has often prioritized efficiency over all else. The learner who finishes their test first is seen as smart, the speed reader gets the most stars on the reading tracker, and the learner who picks up on things quickly is labeled “gifted.”

The world has shown many examples where the need for speed has resulted in catastrophic results—from oil spills (e.g. sloppy safety checks) to financial collapses (e.g. trying to accelerate wealth). Learners who are supported in striving for accuracy and precision over how fast something is completed, develop pride in and commitment to their work.

Questioning and Posing Problems

Theoretical physicist, Richard Feynam, spent his days interacting with the world with his 12 favorite problems top of mind at all times. With everything he consumed, he looked for ways to connect this new information to those 12 problems.

Feynam’s practice led to an exceptional ability to ask questions and pose problems nobody had ever thought of before. This habit made him an expert learner and teacher alike. The ability to ask meaningful questions and pose important problems is a habit worth strengthening.

Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations

When a challenge arises, we have the opportunity to explore in what ways we’ve experienced a challenge like this before. By reaching into our past, we can pull forward the relevant knowledge and skills that can be applied to this new situation.

To practice developing this habit, we simply must ask what’s familiar and what’s unfamiliar with the current situation. Then, we can take the unfamiliar and begin utilizing the habit to ask meaningful questions and pose the problems that need to be solved.

Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision

If “location, location, location” is the guiding principle in real estate, “communication, communication, communication,” might take the cake in the 21st-century workplace. Being able to think and communicate that thinking with clarity and precision is consistently at the top of hiring managers’ wish list in prospective candidates.

Thinking and communicating can happen through multiple media—through writing, video, and audio for starters. To provide opportunities for learners to become comfortable and confident with their thinking and communicating that thinking will reap immeasurable rewards today and far into the future.

Gathering Data Through All Senses

Did you know that scientists often suggest we have nine (not five) sense? Beyond the usual line-up of sight, smell, taste, sound, and touch, our internal senses look for hunger, thirst, pain, and balance.

Our brains are gathering data from all of these senses all the time, but to become aware of that data and to use it appropriately requires conscious habit development. To be consciously aware of each of these senses opens up a world of possibility.

Creating, Imagining, and Innovating

Humans have been around for thousands of years yet scores of new inventions and discoveries pop-up every day. The world truly is what we make it. Activating our creative muscles is one of the most fruitful workouts we can provide our minds.

The most important hurdle to jump over when it comes to creative expression is the fear of judgement. We must create a safe and trusting space for learners to create freely, applying improv’s “yes, and” principle in every moment.

Responding with Wonderment and Awe

Have you ever come across an adult with a child-like spirit where they experience the world with an inexhaustible sense of wonder and awe? Do you find yourself naturally attracted to this trait, sensing your own inner child waking up to play?

Creating a disposition of wonder and awe invites us to be endlessly curious about the world around us. To look at something as simple as a light turn on and ask “how does that work?” can lead to the discovery of Thomas Edison, photons and electrons, light waves, and so much more. To cultivate this habit in learners, encourage them to see rabbit holes and opportunities rather than distractions.

Taking Responsible Risks

Adventure doesn’t have to equate to carelessness. We can go on unexpected journeys while weighing the pros and cons of each decision along the way—understanding the difference between discomfort and danger.

Learning how to take responsible risks gives learners the courage to explore beyond their comfort zones and enter the Zone of Proximal Development where new learning thrives. Everyone has a different level of risk aversion, so we must meet them where they are and build their confidence over time.

Finding Humor

The gray line between humor and harm can be a thick one, but for young people who are navigating the social norms of society, it’s incredibly important for them to define this line as best as possible.

People who are able to find humor are known to be creative problem solvers, find novelty in the most ordinary things, improve their health and well-being, and attract good relationships. When we can bring humor into our environments along with an invitation to explore why something is humorous, we can cultivate a great habit for young people.

Thinking Interdependently

There’s no “I” in team is a cliché with scientific backing. The ability to collaborate with others and use multiple perspectives when approaching a problem increases the odds of coming up with solutions that are helpful and help more people.

Thinking interdependently is a habit that takes time and doesn’t have to solely involve synchronous, spoken communication. Shy and social learners alike can engage in developing this habit while maintaining a sense of safety by utilizing multiple media for communication.

Remaining Open to Continuous Learning

Learning is a natural phenomenon. If you’re alive and breathing, you’re learning. Therefore, the question isn’t “are you learning?” Rather, it’s “do you enjoy learning?” To build a habit where learners are open to continuous learning, they need an environment where learning is connected with joy and fulfillment.

The 16 Habits of Mind, although extensive, only touch the surface of the overlapping habits that, when intentionally integrated into learning experiences, can unleash the genius in every child.

To learn more about the Habits of Mind, join our live webinar this Thursday with Dr. Bena Kallick and Dr. Art Costa—co-founders of the Institute for Habits of Mind. For a complete summary of each habit, head over to the Institute for Habits of Mind’s website.

How To Safely Introduce Equity Conversations In Your Classroom

How To Safely Introduce Equity Conversations In Your Classroom

By Paul Haluszczak

This week, superintendents from across the country will be gathering in Nashville for AASA’s national conference. The theme? Leading for student-centered, equity-focused education.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a steady drumbeat of revelations by those who are in positions of power to accelerate meaningful change. When formal education couldn’t be siloed inside a single school building, the inequities children face in their everyday lives were illuminated brighter than ever before.

Before the pandemic began, 42% of households had limited technology access. By fall of 2020, that number was reduced to 31%—an improvement no doubt, but still an unacceptable figure if we are interested in ensuring every learner, no matter their background or circumstances, is provided a high-quality education experience.

Of course, inequitable access to technology isn’t the only challenge we have been called to quickly resolve.

Many have spoken about the past two years as a “twin pandemic”—one related to COVID-19 and the other related to racial injustice.

The very same day a national emergency was declared by then President Donald Trump for COVID-19, Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by police officers issuing a no-knock warrant. Two months later, the world witnessed the murder of George Floyd. Less than one month later came Rayshard Brooks. Two months after that, Jacob Blake.

As the majority of the country worked and learned from home, we were able to easily turn our attention to the latest news story—bringing renewed energy to a fight for racial justice that has been filling history books for centuries.

What these highly publicized events made abundantly clear is that what happens out in our communities impacts how our young people show up and engage in our classrooms. That impact deserves to be acknowledged and given space for discussion and reflection.

On February 7th, in partnership with Dr. Eddie Moore, Founder of The Privilege Institute, Thrively released the first-of-its-kind 21-Day Equity Challenge for young learners.

Start Your 21-Day Equity Challenge Today

In just 10 minutes per day, K-12 teachers can engage learners in honest and safe conversations about justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. Best of all, it meets everyone where they are.

If an open-floor conversation about these hard but necessary topics is too big of a leap (for learners or adults), all reflections can be shared between each individual learner and their teacher without any of their peers entering the conversation.

Similar to how learners can engage in daily well-being check-ins through our Well-Being Index, they can learn how to explore complex and emotional topics one-on-one with their educators before taking the leap to group conversations.

Imagine if these conversations were happening in every classroom in your school and in every school in your district? What impact might that have in developing the empathy, acceptance of difference, and strong sense of community we know every healthy learning environment must have?

Now is the time to move beyond the paralysis that can often hit us when faced with racial equity challenges. When superintendents return from Nashville around February 20th, they will be primed and ready to take action.

What better way to showcase your own leadership by sharing the 21-Day Equity Challenge with them as a way for everyone (adults and young people) to take meaningful action toward creating an equitable learning environment in your community.

The Neuroscience of Learning

The Neuroscience of Learning

By Shankar Rao

A student’s brain in school goes through a series of transformations. The evolution of cognitive abilities is primarily driven by activity that is happening in the classroom—first developing the ability to identify letters or numbers and then learning how to interpret those symbols in written words or math.

That transformation comes about due to new connections being made and strengthened in the brain. Learning is an active process and personalizing the journey expedites the development of neural pathways.

Personalized Learning

To personalize the learning experience for different learners, it is imperative to understand how educational experiences are driving changes in the brain.

The neural network or the wiring diagram of the brain is unique in each person and changes with experiences. There is a profound relationship between the way a person’s brain is organized and how well that person masters abstract intellectual skills.

Thrively’s strength-based, learner-centered approach with its comprehensive suite of assessments enables educators to meet learners where they are in their learning continuum—providing a great platform to start their respective journeys.

Embrace the Challenge

If you think you just don’t have the brain for certain skills, you’re not only deceiving yourself, you’re undermining your ability to learn—whether it’s math, basketball, or playing the saxophone.

Every year, students start school excited about what they’re going to learn, but when they see somebody who seems to be quicker or better at learning, they start doubting themselves.

Students often remember their teachers and parents telling them that only reason they haven’t gone into pathways they wanted to pursue is because they thought they weren’t good enough. Thrively’s approach is asset-based rather than deficit-based and dispels the myths that hold these learners back.

Celebrate Learning. Why?

Young learners and adults often struggle when they’re learning a new skill, which can feel excruciatingly painful. The reality is, if you aren’t struggling, you aren’t really learning. When we’re struggling and making mistakes, those are the very best times for our brains.

When next-generation educators hear students say, “This is so hard,” they should be elated. “That is absolutely fantastic! you are now pushing your brain to do things that are difficult.”

Just like our muscles, the brain also needs challenges or “desirable difficulties.” Embrace struggle. It’s emancipating! It changes how we go about our work. We’re more persistent. We interact with each other differently.

If you live just a single day with this perspective, you’ll feel it—particularly if things go wrong. It changes those moments pretty significantly.

Praising learners to be “smart” can actually be harmful. Is that true?

Why do we need this binary thinking about people being smart or not? Everyone’s on a growth journey. There is no cutoff where one person becomes “gifted” or “smart” and another is not. We were all born with the same amount of neurons.

Most parents and educators make it a point to tell young learners that they are smart. When they make their first mistake, it deflates them and they resign to “hmm, I’m not that smart after all.” What did we achieve? We promoted a culture that did not elevate a strengths-based, learner-centered mindset with the understanding that intelligence can be developed.

Thrively challenges the notion that success is about working with your strengths and giving up on your weaknesses. There are no weaknesses. Period! There are only relative strengths.

Learners today buy into the myth that they do not possess certain strengths because it was drilled into them that they couldn’t. We as educators and parents have to let go of the idea that kids at a certain place are just where they’re going to be.

Rewarding resilience, persistence, and tenacity develops hunger for learning and develops cognition. Learners become unafraid of making mistakes—an important step in their learning journey.

How can parents and teachers help students become more receptive to learning?

Using words that promote a strengths-based, learner-centered culture promotes a mindset of curiosity and discovery. Students start recognizing that intelligence can be developed.

You don’t have to be the expert in the room. You don’t have to pretend to know things you don’t.

There’s a whole host of research that has provided evidence that small changes and interventions can change the way our brain functions. However, the success of the intervention rests upon two central factors:

  1. A different form of Professional Development (PD) served to eradicate the learning myths that have stymied teachers and school administrators; and
  2. Teachers have space for developing strengths-based, learner-centered curriculum in the classrooms to develop learners for life.

Let’s change our mindsets and boost the confidence of our learners.

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