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2000 Robyn Boswell: Future Problem Solving - NZ kids foot it

2000 Alan Cooper: Thinking to learn

2000 Gwen Gawith: Information literacy in action at SCONZ

2000 Gwen Gawith: Blooming questions

1999 Art Costa: An interview with Art Costa

1999 Robyn Boswell: International Future Problem Solving success

1999 Gwen Gawith: The survival of the book: Co-existing with Gog and Magog

1999 Gwen Gawith: Lost the plot: Reading for what?

1999 Gwen Gawith: Rushkoff and visual literacy

1999 Gwen Gawith: KFL: Knowledge Free learning?

1998 Gwen Gawith: Ban projects: Teach information literacy

1998 Gwen Gawith: The cry for deep learning…

1998 Gwen Gawith: The Mercury model of information literacy

1998 David Hyerle: Thinking literacy in an age of ICT

1998 Pauline Donaldson: A virtual classroom with 3500 students

1997 Jeff Bruce and Gwen Gawith: information literacy and Infolink

1997 Gwen Gawith: How to ? or not to?: That is the ?

1997 Gwen Gawith: Unlocking learning: Key words

1996 Gwen Gawith: Epistemic fluency or the cognitive trots!

1995 Gwen Gawith: A serious look at self-efficacy: waking beeping Slooty!

1993 Gwen Gawith: The National Curriculum and the information process

information literacy:
learning & thinking

An interview with Art Costa: In search of superglue.

This article was published in Good Teacher term 4, 1999

Gwen Gawith

Art Costa has become a regular visitor to New Zealand. Anyone who has attended his interesting, practical courses would understand this one-line introduction:

'Meet Mr He Who Operationalises Metacognition for Classroom Teachers'!

Our curriculum expands and creaks at the seams. The busier we get, the more everything seems frantic and fragmented. Instinctively we reach for something to glue the plot together again - to make the story coherent and meaningful.

To say that learning is the core business, the glue of education, should be a truism. In the chaotic kaleidoscopic reality of our school days, both for us and for our students, it might FEEL true, but truth often becomes lost in coping with day-to-day reality! The recent Report of the Literacy Taskforce makes a number of suggestions for 'reading for success'. No one would challenge the need for students to become effective readers, but another key ingredient in literacy is 'thinking for success'.

What should hold the school together is LEARNING; what should give our teaching efforts a sense of coherence is learning, We certainly do our best to provide students with safe, comfortable, warm, friendly and supportive environments for learning, good learning resources and technologies, and good programmes. But the conditions for learning are just that.... conditions for learning.

Learning to learn requires more than that. On the part of the learner it requires both SKILL and WILL, and on the part of the teacher it requires the conscious building in of opportunities for students to try out, practise and develop confidence in using a repertoire of cognitive skills with increasing independence.

This is where Art comes in. His particular skill is in taking the notion of HABITS OF MIND - signs of intelligent behaviour like persistence, checking for accuracy, metacognition - and exploring how teachers can use these same habits of mind to shape a learning dialogue with students. Modelling, with activities and active questioning focused on particular habits of mind, allows teachers to share, describe and assess thinking outcomes precisely with students.

It allows students and teachers to work together to decide which criteria are valid, and to self- monitor and self-evaluate. In short, thought must be taught.

Art Costa's recent two-day course at West Auckland Education Centre offered the opportunity to talk to him about these habits of mind and education in general. Gwen Gawith (Ed).

Q: Art, how exactly do you define habits of mind?

Art: It means having a disposition toward behaving inteIligently when confronted with problems, the answers to which are not immediately known. Habits of mind require composites of many skills, attitudes, experiences... It implies choice-making about which pattern of thinking should be employed.

It's about producing knowledge, not just reproducing it.

Q: You mentioned persistence. What are the other habits of mind?

Art: They include managing impusivity; listening with understanding and empathy; flexibility in thinking; metacognition or awareness of our own thinking; checking accuracy and precision; questioning and problem posing; drawing on past knowledge and applying it to new situations; precision of language and thought; using all the senses; creativity, curiosity and problem solving - and there are others.

As educators we are responsible for instilling these intelligent behaviours in our students, and we must provide the conditions for the behaviours of intelligence to be practised and demonstrated.

I see the habits of mind as a map which guides us to 're-language' the classroom.

Q: How do we reconcile the fact that, while we say we value habits of mind like tteaching for thinking and learning, we don't actually assess these skills and habits of mind?

Art: Some people might not agree with my premise. Some still believe we have to hold kids responsible for recall of facts and data. I think we need to raise our sights. Information is important but it's inadequate.

Knowledge alone is not enough. We have a saying - 'what is inspected = what is expected!' Changing your curriculum means changing your mind - your basic patterns of interacting, of assessment, your goals, your rewards, communication with parents, and parents' expectations. It requires a deep-seated shift in values. Being specific in how you describe the attitudes of mind you expect from your students, and modelling them specifically, in turn helps students to shape their expectations of what is thoughtful learning behaviour, and shape the criteria against rich they can self-monitor and self- evaluate.

Q: I can hear many teachers suggesting that this is fine but that they are meeting so many different expectations and kicking balls toward so many diverse goal posts that reconciling the expectations is a challenge! Any comment?

Art: Yes, education can become a bureaucratic and political football going whichever way the wind blows. But this is contrary to what we know about good learning, what we know about meaning is made, and what we know about how cultures of knowledge develop over time.

There are no easy answers, but there is a constant need for re-empowering, for a sense of agency and professional control.

Principals can provide the leadership to develop a school culture which makes it possible for teachers to be self-organising, self-evaluating and self-monitoring.

Q: How would you describe this culture?

Art: It's a culture which both values individuality and shows an appreciation for diversity, and which provides time for interaction.

Schools are frenetic places. Teachers need time br reflection, planning, interaction, dialogue. We are the only profession that performs our beautiful creative act in isolation. It is easy to 'escape'. It is the deep privatisation of the teaching act.

We've all got to be responsible for elevating the complexity of our outcomes. As we raise our levels, we have to change our assessment processes. Habits of mind require yet another level of assessment.

We've got to aim towards helping students lecome managers of their own learning behaviour, using the precise vocabulary we have modelled with them to negotiate their own criteria and self-assess. We've spent too much time evaluating students and robbing them of the opportunities to evaluate themselves.

Q: Could you expand on that?

Art: If you look at Bloom's Taxonomy, his highest level inking is self-evaluation where someone is able to generate criteria, hold them in the head, apply them and assess their learning. We can use the Habits of Mind as the basis for generating rubrics which allow students to negotiate criteria with the teacher, or work out their own.

Q: So the student really needs to 'own' quite specific criteria?

Art: Yes. And they need to understand why... assessment shouId provide feedback for purposes of self-evaluation. As teachers we need to see growth across content areas and grade levels - a long range approach to assessment.

Q: Do we expect enough of students?

Art: Traditional approaches to assessment increase students' dependency. Learning is a constantly reflective modifying role udents as well as teachers - setting goals, planning, acting, gathering data, reflecting and modifying. With that feedback spiral, both students and teachers are open to continuous learning and self-modification. So I see the Habits of Mind as a map. They help to 're-language' the classroom.