Habits of Mind

  • silhouette with thought bubbles saying CES, Habits of Mind, Growth Mindset and 10 common principles

    We lean on the benchmarks of the Coalition of Essential Schools (see bottom of page) as we continue to improve our school culture and practices, including the Habits of Mind. Habits of Mind (and heart) are ways to articulate the type of thinking and emotional dispositions that help students develop their social-emotional intelligence and succeed in school and life. 

    As explained by expert Arthur L. Costa, "Educational outcomes in traditional settings focus on how many answers a student knows. When we teach for the Habits of Mind, we are interested also in how students behave when they don't know an answer."

    He asks: What behaviors indicate an efficient, effective thinker? What do human beings do when they behave intelligently? Vast research suggests that effective thinkers and peak performers have identifiable characteristics, referred to as the Habits of Mind, which can be taught, cultivated, observed and assessed. We want students to learn how to develop a critical stance with their work: inquiring, editing, thinking flexibly and learning from another person's perspective.

    The Habits of Mind are performed in response to questions and problems, the answers to which are not immediately known. Each Habit of Mind is a pattern of intellectual behaviors that leads to productive actions. In essence, a composite of many skills, attitudes, cues, past experiences and proclivities that help determine how best to react to a particular situation with which one is faced.

    To learn more about developing the Habits of Mind and a Growth Mindset, consider reading “Mindset” by Carol Dweck and “Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind” by Arthur L. Costa and Benna Kallick.



  •  illustration of the habit of mind questioning and posing problems

    Habits of Mind: Questioning and posing problems

    One of the distinguishing characteristics of humans is our inclination and ability to find problems to solve. Effective problem solvers know how to ask questions to fill in the gaps between what they know and what they don't know. Learn more about this habit.

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  •  illustration of the habit of mind Metacognition, thinking about your thinking

    Habits of Mind: Metacognition (Thinking about thinking)

    Metacognition is our ability to know what we know and what we don't know. It is our ability to plan a strategy for producing the information that is needed, to be conscious of our own steps and strategies during the act of problem solving, and to reflect on and evaluate the productiveness of our own thinking. Learn more about this habit.

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  •  Applying past knowledge to new situations

    Habits of Mind: Applying past knowledge to new situations

    What does this look like? When confronted with a new and perplexing problem, people who have honed this habit will draw forth experiences from their past. Learn more about this habit.

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  •  thought bubbles with concepts of growth mindset, habits of mind, coalition of essential schools

    Growth vs. Fixed Mindset

    A recent blog post by Growth Mindset Trainer James Anderson really boils it down in a way we think will be meaningful for you. The basic gist? A Growth Mindset “is not growth itself. It’s an invitation to grow. It’s an understanding that growth is possible.” And this, he says, has an enormous impact on our motivations and actions.

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  •  Illustration of the habit of mind "thinking flexibly"

    Habits of Mind: Thinking Flexibly

    Thinking flexibly means acting with forethought and deliberation. Flexible people have the capacity to change their minds as they receive additional data. Learn more about this habit.

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  •  Illustration of the Habit of Mind gathering data through all senses

    Habits of Mind: Gathering data through all senses

    November marks our first month-long habit: Gathering data through all senses. Most linguistic, cultural and physical learning is derived from the environment by observing or taking it in through the five senses. The more regions of the brain that store data about a subject, the more interconnection there is. Learn more about this habit.

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  •  Illustration of the habit of mind creating, imagining and innovating

    Habits of Mind: Creating, imagining and innovating

    Creating brings new ideas, concepts or ways that could solve a problem. Innovating allows students to invent a tool, equipment or a method that can solve an existing situation or problem. Imagining gives students the permission to form their own idea or picture of something within their thoughts. Learn more about this habit.

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  • Illustration of the Habit of Mind responding with wonderment and awe

    Habits of Mind: Responding with wonderment and awe

    Students who exhibit this habit see things in a different way, take the time to appreciate how incredible the world and everything in it is, and are open to the mysteries of life and the amazing things that nature and man have created. Learn more about this habit.

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  •  Illustration of the Habit of Mind taking responsible risks

    Habits of Mind: Taking responsible risks

    Responsible risk takers take educated risks, drawing on past knowledge, having a well-trained sense of what is appropriate and thinking about consequences. By holding back from taking risks, students miss opportunities. Learn more about this habit.

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  •  Illustration of the Habit of Mind finding humor

    Habits of Mind: Finding humor

    Scientists have found that laughing has positive effects on both physiological and psychological functions. Additionally, laughter releases creativity and provokes higher-level thinking skills, such as anticipating, finding novel relationships, visual imaging and making analogies. Learn more about this habit.

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Coalition of Essential Schools

  • An 'Essential' School

    As a member of the Coalition of Essential Schools (CES), the teaching philosophy at Riverdale School District is guided by 10 Common Principles: 

    1. Learning to use one's mind well
    2. Less is more: Depth over coverage
    3. Goals apply to all students
    4. Personalization
    5. Student-as-worker, teacher-as-coach
    6. Demonstration of mastery
    7. A tone of decency and trust
    8. Commitment to the entire school
    9. Resources dedicated to teaching and learning
    10. Democracy and equity


    Read more about each principle.