Habits of Mind: An enduring part of a changing world

The Habits of Mind were my first passion in education. This passion has endured for 20 years. I’ve spent countless hours developing Habits of Mind resources and delivering professional learning to teachers around the world.

What originally drew me so strongly to the Habits of Mind was the fact they weren’t simply dreamt up by Art Costa and Bena Kallick. They weren’t merely “good ideas”.

Edward de Bono’s work is a good idea. Much of Harvard University’s Visible Thinking Routines are good ideas. Practically every graphic organiser is a good idea. While these ideas may be powerful, practical and useful, they aren’t real. They are tools created to help us think and learn.

Like Mindsets and Virtuous Practice, the Habits of Mind weren’t created – they were identified. What Costa and Kallick did was recognise and describe the learning dispositions of expert learners – those who had reached the top of their fields. Of course, others had done similar before, but Costa and Kallick’s work was more elegant, comprehensive and accessible, especially to educators. We rushed to adopt the Habits of Mind in our schools and classrooms.

The Habits of Mind are a real part of the world. The beauty of this is that they endure. They are as relevant today as they were 50 or even 500 years ago, and they’ll be just as relevant in the future. We hear a lot about the students of today having to face a rapidly changing world. But no matter how the world changes, our students will need to engage in the Habits of Mind to be successful. As author Nassim Nicholas Taleb says: “We can’t predict the future, but we can prepare for it.” Developing powerful Habits of Mind is an essential part of preparing students for an unknowable future.

In the ‘90s and early ‘00s, the hype surrounding Habits of Mind was like the hype that surrounds Mindsets today. The Habits were the “next big thing” and many schools were quick to adopt them. Unfortunately, the combination of our inexperience and the adoption of some less-than-rigorous approaches to their implementation often led the Habits of Mind becoming “last year’s initiative”. (See [1]“How Growth Mindsets become ‘last year’s initiative’ – A cautionary tale”).

Fortunately, we’ve learnt a lot about how to succeed with Habits of Mind since then. We know how to make them stick in our schools and we know how to make a real difference to student learning outcomes. To find out more about what we’ve learnt, download my free e-book Success with Habits of Mind.

Because the Habits of Mind are real, they have endured. You can’t escape the importance of these 16 dispositions. And with time, we’ve learnt more about how they connect to other ideas, such as Growth Mindsets and Virtuous Practice, and how to bring them to life in the classroom.

In my upcoming Learning Agility workshops, we spend a lot of time on the Habits of Mind. We explore how to work with them in your classroom and how to ensure success with them across your school. If you’ve been looking for professional learning to boost your work with the Habits of Mind, this Learning Agility workshop is where you’ll find it.

To find out more about how to implement Habits of Mind in your classroom and make a real difference, register for the Learning Agility workshop nearest you.

The Growth Mindset Teacher

Dates and locations:

Brisbane: Wednesday, 14th March
Adelaide: Wednesday, 21st March
Canberra: Wednesday, 28th March
Sydney: Thursday, 5th April
Newcastle: Monday, 9th April
Cairns: Tuesday, 17th April
Mackay: Wednesday, 18th April
Rockhampton: Thursday, 19th April
Melbourne: Tuesday, 1st May
Grafton: Tuesday, 24th July
Port Macquarie: Wednesday, 25th July

The Agile Learner

Dates and locations:

Brisbane: Thursday, 15th March
Adelaide: Thursday, 22nd March
Sydney: Friday, 6th April
Melbourne: Wednesday, 2nd May


Other Habits of Mind resources by James Anderson:



  1. Anderson, J., 2017, How Growth Mindsets become “last year’s initiative” – A cautionary tale, mindfulbydesign.com, accessed 14th November 2017, www.mindfulbydesign.com/growth-mindsets-become-last-years-initiative-cautionary-tale/




James Anderson is a speaker, author and educator who is passionate about helping fellow educators develop students as better learners. James’ work combines Growth Mindset with Habits of Mind and Practice to create Learning Agility. He puts the growth back into Growth Mindset. And through creating and describing the Mindset Continuum, he provides the cornerstone for effective Growth Mindset interventions.

James is a Certified Speaking Professional and speaks regularly at conferences around the world. He has published several books including Succeeding with Habits of Mind, The Agile Learner, The Mindset Continuum and The Learning Landscape.

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