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Life long abilities, behaviors and attitudes

What was once educationally significant, but difficult to measure, has been replaced by what is insignificant and easy to measure. So now we test how well we have taught what we do not value. ~Art Costa (via Lisa Linn's e-mail sig)

Call them what you will - dispositions, habits of mind, conceptual skills, life-long learning behaviors, high EQ traits - the educational spotlight is turning to abilities that are incredibly important and very tough to quantify. You can hardly turn around without bumping into a set of these things:

Daniel Pink's "Conceptual Skills" in A Whole New Mind...

1. Not just function, but also DESIGN
2. Not just argument, but also STORY.
3. Not just focus, but also SYMPHONY.
4. Not just logic, but also EMPATHY.
5. Not just seriousness, but also PLAY.
6. Not just accumulation, but also MEANING.

Costa and Kallick's Habits of Mind... (These are my personal favorites.)

  • Persisting
  • Thinking and communicating with clarity and precision
  • Managing impulsivity
  • Gathering data through all senses
  • Listening with understanding and empathy
  • Creating, imagining, innovating
  • Thinking flexibly
  • Responding with wonderment and awe
  • Thinking about thinking (metacognition)
  • Taking responsible risks
  • Striving for accuracy
  • Finding humor
  • Questioning and posing problems
  • Thinking interdependently
  • Applying past knowledge to new situations
  • Remaining open to continuous learning


Partnership for 21st Century Skills's Life and Career Skills

  • Flexibility & Adaptability
    • Adapting to varied roles and responsibilities
    • Working effectively in a climate of ambiguity and changing priorities
  • Initiative & Self-Direction
    • Monitoring one’s own understanding and learning needs
    • Going beyond basic mastery of skills and/or curriculum to explore and expand one’s own learning and opportunities to gain expertise
    • Demonstrating initiative to advance skill levels towards a professional level
    • Defining, prioritizing and completing tasks without direct oversight
    • Utilizing time efficiently and managing workload
    • Demonstrating commitment to learning as a lifelong process
  • Social & Cross-Cultural Skills
    • Working appropriately and productively with others
    • Leveraging the collective intelligence of groups when appropriate
    • Bridging cultural differences and using differing perspectives to increase innovation and the quality of work
  • Productivity & Accountability
    • Setting and meeting high standards and goals for delivering quality work on time
    • Demonstrating diligence and a positive work ethic (e.g., being punctual and reliable)
  • Leadership & Responsibility
    • Using interpersonal and problem-solving skills to influence and guide others toward a goal
    • Leveraging strengths of others to accomplish a common goal
    • Demonstrating integrity and ethical behavior
    • Acting responsibly with the interests of the larger community in mind

AASL's Standards for the 21st Century Learner has long sets of:

    • Dispositions
    • Responsibilities
    • Self-Assessment Strategies

 The new NETS standards call for students who, among other things,

  • create original works as a means of personal or group expression.
  • identify trends and forecast possibilities
  • develop cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with learners of other cultures
  • plan and manage activities to develop a solution or complete a project
  • use multiple processes and diverse perspectives to explore alternative solutions
  • exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and
  • demonstrate personal responsibility for lifelong learning.
  • exhibit leadership for digital citizenship. 

 I don't think E.D. Hirsch and his cultural literacy fans would approve of any of this.

Gail Dickinson writes in the AASL Blog: (Read the whole post. It is really good.)

The [new AASL] standards are different. Yes, they are, and are meant to be. They reflect the future, not the past. They also more completely cover the work that school librarians do in schools, not just a narrowly focused information skills approach but are a more global direction....

And goes on to speculate about implementation... 

First, implementation has to start with beliefs.We need to talk deeply about our beliefs, why we have them, what they look like in action and who else in the school community shares those beliefs.

Second, we need to wipe the slate clean of old references and begin to delve into curriculum again, both to write the learning curriculum for the school, and to integrate standards into the curriculum from other subject areas.

Third, then, we need to re-think our instruction, both in the sense of formal teaching opportunities, informal instruction, and in the way that we teach indirectly, such as our arrangement of the library, our establishment of policies and procedures, and our work in our many roles as school librarians.

Fourth, we need to assess what we do. This includes making use of the range of assessments and indicators that prove our value in the education of each student, and it also means having a logistically feasible and instructionally sound way of informing each student and parent of learning progress.

Whoa! Go, Gail!

Gail's observations apply not just to librarians, of course, but to every educator who thinks these life-long behaviors, attitudes and abilities - these post HOTS - are important. Isn't this a fascinating time to be in education? Just how do we teach and evaluate an attitude?

Whenever I see the Habits of Mind list, I can't help up ask myself how many of these "habits" I personally have. How many I use. How many the educators I work with display.

And are we expecting students to have abilities the adults in their lives do not have themselves? Perhaps we are still evolving as a species. One can hope.

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Reader Comments (2)

I know I have filled out assessments wondering what on earth some of the questions even meant. Of course, my own teachers never had to consider such measures. Either you could do something or you couldn't. When I first started teaching math, it was all about computation. Then it became more about problem solving. I remember one boy who was a whiz at computation but had trouble reading and understanding word problems. The new testing made him think he wasn't good at anything. It was sad. He went from being a confident young man to one who considered himself a failure.

February 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBetty

Hi Betty,

This is interesting. In my case, I never was good at computation, but give me a calculator and I can solve about any word problem. I flunked algebra and aced statistics. I guess we all have different strengths. But many of these attributes are ones, it seems, everyone needs!

All the best,


February 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

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