Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Habits of Mind and Instruction

Integrating Habits of Mind into Instruction
 by Ashanti Matthew Lee
The ability to use one’s mind and incorporate useful thinking skills is not static. We are capable of developing intellectual behaviors that cause our minds to grow and to produce efficacious actions. Educators can apply strategies in their instruction that assist the development of Habits of Mind; a set of 16 problem solving characteristics of what intelligent people do when they are confronted with problems, the resolutions to which are not immediately apparent (Costa and Kallick, 2008). The following is an application of a lesson that integrates habits of mind, as well as, teaching processes, grouping structures, and an assessment that indicates learning.
Background information:
This is a class of 15 High School junior EFL students in South Korea. Students will engage in an interdisciplinary (English Language Arts) lesson in which they will read an excerpt from the book, The Alchemist. The standard is from Standard 1 of the DoDEA Language Learning Standards: English language learners communicate information, ideas, and concepts necessary for academic success in the area of language arts.
Essential Question:
What is the key to happiness?
Habits of Mind focused on:
1.     Thinking and Communicating with accuracy and precision
2.     Checking for Accuracy
3.     Thinking Flexibly
4.     Thinking about thinking (metacognition)
5.     Thinking interdependently
6.     Managing Impulsivity
7.     Listening with understanding and empathy
8.     Remaining open to continuous learning
Grouping Structure:
Based on the previous essential question there will be three positions represented by  task groups consisting of 5 students: There is no key to happiness, there is a key to happiness, and a third group will write down sentences that hypothesize what the secrets of happiness could be. They will first compile a list of reasons pertaining to the position they will focus on, and then whittle it down to 7-8 of their best ideas of which will be shared with groups from the other positions. 
Interdependent thinking:
To promote interdependent thinking I will prompt students to think flexibly and listen with understanding and empathy by considering all possibilities and listening to their partner’s ideas with an open-mind. Furthermore, I will promote the idea that collaborative people realize that all of us together are more powerful, intellectually or physically, than any one individual (Costa and Kallick, 2008). Therefore, in order to come up with the best and most complete ideas, it is better to work collaboratively and utilize other group members’ ideas and strengths.
Lesson Steps:
1.     Begin the lesson by showing a 20 second video in which the presenter proclaims: ”Ain’t no key to happiness, the door is open” (to view video click here).
2.     Check for understanding
3.     Ask students to consider what he means by the phrase “Ain’t no key to happiness, the door is open?”
a.     Give time to reflect and talk to a partner
b.     Utilize intentional questioning.
c.     Discuss
4.     Take the books out and open to page 32
5.     Have the students read out loud, pay special emphasis to this statement, “The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world…”
6.     Asks students to analyze what it means, and give time to reflect. Ask them to talk to each other and share ideas, then discuss with the class.
a.     Utilize intentional questioning throughout the process
b.     Discuss
7.      Connect the previous video’s sentence to the book sentence
8.     As a class, have students compare this statement to the statement of “There is no key to happiness”.
9.     Have students get into cooperative groups
10.  Students will take three positions: There is no key to happiness, there is a key to happiness, and a third group will write down sentences that hypothesize what the secrets of happiness could be.
11.  Students will get into cooperative groups based on the stance the position they want to adopt. They will formulate a list of their opinions, then discuss with each other and select the best 7 or 8 ideas.
a.     They will be able to use smartphones and computers (internet) to find language that helps them express their ideas.
12.  The lists will be passed around the room to the other groups. Each group will consider each reason and judge them in terms of agreeability: they will respond, in writing on whether or not they agree or disagree and explain why.
13.  The lists will be returned back to the original groups.
14.  They will read the lists and take time to reflect upon and understand.
15.  Next, the class will conduct a discussion in which we discuss the ‘key to happiness’
16.  Finally, we will vote on the whether or not there is a key to happiness using
17.  Synthesis: For homework students will consider this question: “What is the key to happiness?”
a.     Write whether or not they agree
b.     And give an explanation(s)
The assessment will be through observation and by checklist that observe the instances where students effectively express their ideas, information and concepts. These assessment forms are non-invasive and allow the class to flow freely while simultaneously measuring if the learning objectives are being met; therefore, observation and a checklist that I can reflect upon are the most conducive in meeting this goal.
Throughout the lesson, it will be important to make sure to use questions that reinforce Habits of Mind. Good questioning not only helps students succeed in the specific assigned cognitive task, but also helps them learn how to cultivate the dispositions they will need to persist and succeed in all subject areas (Costa and Kallick,2015). Therefore it is essential to consider how to question with the intention of establishing habits of mind. Questions, such as “What was going on inside your head while you were doing the task?”, “How did you check for accuracy and precision to produce your writing?’, and “What might be some alternative ways to think about the idea?” will be used.
It has been noted that positioning habits of mind as assignment outcomes makes ephemeral habits visible in a product, and effective habits should be reflected in strong products (Johnson, 2013). However, I have to be careful with the language that I use while stressing habits of mind: English is not the students’ first language; therefore, it is best to use language that is based around their levels of proficiency. This condition must be considered when designing instruction with the explicit introductions of the principles of the habits of mind. However, if students are to internalize habits of mind, they must encounter them again and again (Costa and Kallick, 2008). Therefore, with the consideration of students’ English comprehension level, and the language consisting within the contexts of habits of mind, I have decided to gradually introduce the principles; first through activities that incorporate specific habits of mind, and then introduce specific principles through classroom reflection, after the activity.
Placing students in cooperative groups affords more opportunities to stress the values of interdependent thinking, thinking flexibly, listening with empathy, metacognition, checking for accuracy and managing impulsivity. Through  engaging  in  group  discussions,  these  habits of mind are  prominently utilized  as  students collaborate to construct their lists responses. Throughout the process they can continue to change their ideas in the light of good reasons and evidence as they think interdependently and remain open to continuous learning (Bee, Seng and Jusoff, 2013).
They will be able to examine and analyze meaning through the confounding sentences: “Ain’t no key to happiness, the door is open.” and “The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world…” These statements can mean different things to each person; therefore, through discussion the teacher will model how students can consider multiple perspectives and arrive at the conclusion that there may not be one correct answer; many answers may have equal validity. The students can then apply this principle in their cooperative groups. The question, “What is the key to happiness” is a question that many people consider in their lifetime. Costa and Kallick (2015), suggest that these types of questions foster the realization that the puzzles and mysteries of life remain open to continual learning. The sentences combined with the activity and the overarching essential question, combine to reinforce higher-order thinking skills congruent with habits of mind. In addition, they cause students to be creative and critical thinkers. The application of these activities, augmented by the use of technology which will help be self-directed and acquire new language, will establish a creative environment which fosters these conditions.
 Treffinger (2008), notes that teachers must empower students to become creative thinkers, critical thinkers and problem solvers who are continually learning and can apply their new knowledge to complex and novel open-ended challenges. By incorporating habits of mind in their classroom through explicit and implicit instruction teachers cause students to become increasingly more efficient at utilizing these abilities. Furthermore, as teachers continually apply these thinking skills in their lessons, they afford students the opportunities to better cultivate openness and responsibility as they continue on their journey to become productive members of society.

Costa, A. L., & Kallick, B. (2015). Five Strategies for Questioning with Intention. Educational Leadership, 73(1), 66-69. Retrieved from
Bee, M. H., Seng, G. H., & Jusoff, K. (2013). Habits of Mind in the ESL Classroom. English Language Teaching, 6(11), 130-138. Retrieved from
Johnson, K. (2013). Beyond Standards: Disciplinary and National Perspectives on Habits of Mind. College Composition And Communication, 64(3), 517-541. Retrieved from

Treffinger, D. J. (2008). Preparing creative and critical thinkers. Retrieved from

Costa, A. L., & Kallick, B. (Eds.). (2008). Learning and leading with habits of mind: 16 essential characteristics for success. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Creating Rubrics for an EFL/ESL class.

Rubrics: A scoring rubric is an attempt to communicate expectations of quality around a task.  

Creating Rubrics can be tough because it can be difficult to discern what kind of criteria you want to specifically evaluate; however, you may just want to ask yourself what it is you would like the student to learn and information you would like them to synthesize, regarding the learning objectives.
Below I talk about this project more specifically as it pertains to my classroom setting

Creating a Rubric and Reflecting on Habits of Mind
by Ashanti Matthew Lee

The effective use of feedback can show students where they are in terms of learning goals. Educators have a variety of ways to apply feedback to help inform students. One comprehensive form of feedback is the use of rubrics. They are used to facilitate learning by directing students’ attention to specific areas, guiding them to make dependable judgments about the quality of their work, and assisting them to revise their work so that they can target a higher level (Huang and Gui, 2015).  The following will describe the application of a rubric for feedback to students in an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) lesson.
Lesson Description and Objectives:
This is an EFL lesson in which students are to be introduced to a video created by Prince EA in which he explains, “There ain’t no key to happiness, the door is open…( Prince,2015).” In addition, they are to read a passage from the book, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, which reads, “The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world (Coelho, and Clarke, 2002).”  The students are to engage in whole-class discussions to examine what these two statements mean, compare and contrast. Then get into task groups in which they are to work interdependently to produce lists of opinions in response to the following three considerations: there is no key to happiness; there is a key to happiness; and a third group will write down sentences that hypothesize what the secrets of happiness could be.
Each group will focus on a different consideration, then they will discuss their lists with each other in an effort to cut them down to 7-8 of what they believe are the most effective opinions. Next, the lists will be passed around the room to the other groups. Each group will consider each reason and judge them in terms of agreeability: they will respond, in writing on whether or not they agree or disagree and explain why. The list of opinions will be passed back to the original groups and they will have time to reflect and understand the new information from the other groups. Finally, we will engage in a whole-class discussion about the keys to happiness, and then vote on whether or not students believe there is a key using


Rubric Alchemist lesson: key to happiness

Levels of Mastery
Expression of ideas

Can speak, but most people cannot understand what you are trying to say.
Able to express idea; however, not clearly. May need to clarification from outside sources to get the idea across
Able to clearly express ideas in a way that is understandable to most English Users. No use of outside sources.

Grammar and Vocabulary

Poor use or range of vocabulary and grammar. Many errors

Good use of vocabulary and grammar. A few errors.

An excellent use of spelling and grammar. Very few errors


                                                                   List was incomplete:
Information was missing, not needed or unrelated to the specified topic.
List was completed well.
Most of the information was needed and related to the specified topic
List was completed very well.

All of the information was needed and related to the specified topic.


How to effectively apply rubrics is often one of my main concerns during their utilization in an EFL class because much of what is judged is subjective. Furthermore, rubrics should be used to help clarify what a student needs to do to reach a specific goal and where they are in relation to each goal. In order to educate and improve student’s performance, all tasks, criteria and standards must be transparent to both students and teachers (as cited Jonsson, 2014). Therefore, especially in an ESL setting, not only should the descriptors be observable, but the terms should be understandable.  Kallick (1996), notes that if we don't keep them observable and describable we're really not able to give feedback that helps us to improve work (Laureate Education).There was much consideration into what vocabulary students could understand in order to better be able to where they are in terms of the learning goals, which would help them self-manage themselves and know what they need to modify or improve upon.
According to Roscoe (2014), students often cannot accurately monitor their progress toward learning goals and consequently overestimate their mastery of content, leading to overconfidence and, subsequently, poor academic performance.  Rubrics can help students self-monitor themselves and help them identify what areas they need to address and monitor their progress.  With a shift away from the specific analyzation of the mechanical use of language (i.e., how they use grammar, word order, etc.) ,much of what is to be evaluated seems to be subjective and based on how the educator interprets what the student is trying to say. However, the mechanical aspect is still inherent in the overall delivery of language; if there are too many mistakes in grammar, word usage, vocabulary, etc., no one would be able to understand what the student is trying to express in written or oral form. Therefore, even though there is less focus on specific language usage details, they are still important for comprehension; thus, they still need to be looked at and addressed through feedback which can help students monitor their progress. Hence, a part of the rubric was dedicated to address this condition.
Additionally, the main focus of the EFL class in this school in South Korea is conversation and how students can express their thoughts; therefore, the rubric addresses this focus in terms of how the idea a student is trying to express is understandable to a native English speaker. Of course, everyone’s mind is different and they interpret what they hear in different ways; however, this is in a more general sense.  This is where I have to take a more holistic approach to the rubric; however, combined with other criteria in the rubric, students can see the specific areas they need to work on.
The last part of the rubric reinforces the cooperative task and puts an emphasis on working together effectively and staying on task. The combined proficiencies of those in the group can help address any weaknesses an individual student may have and allow for the peers to assist each other which could enhance learning and fortify the idea that they should think interdependently.
When rubrics are successfully applied by educators they help students identify where they are in terms of the learning goals. They are an advantageous form of feedback that enable students to better self-monitor, self-manage and self-modify. Rubrics help teachers by focusing on what students should learn regarding the learning goals. Educators can use them as a beneficial form of feedback that helps students become successful self-directed learners.

Coelho, P., & Clarke, A. (2002). The alchemist. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.
Prince E. (2015, October) Could it Be This Simple? Are You willing to abandon your ideas and thoughts about happiness to fully be happy? [Video File] Retrieved from
Jonsson, A. (2014). Rubrics as a Way of Providing Transparency in Assessment. Assessment & Evaluation In Higher Education, 39(7), 840-852. Retrieved from
Laureate Education. (Producer). (1996l). Rubrics [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author. Retrieved from
Huang, Y., & Gui, M. (2015). Articulating Teachers' Expectations afore: Impact of Rubrics on Chinese EFL Learners' Self-Assessment and Speaking Ability. Journal Of Education And Training Studies, 3(3), 126-132. Retrieved from