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What are the habits needed for academic excellence?

For both parents and students, the beginning of the year is always filled with excitement and yet, also with a bit of anxiety. Excitement for it marks the start of another academic journey; anxiety for as parents and even students start to think how best to prepare themselves to achieve the most.

As an educator, my focus is to help students acquire core knowledge that prepares them to become skillful thinkers. However, it’s important for us to ask ourselves whether that’s all students need to succeed in school, in careers, and in life.

There are certain habits of the mind which students can all develop which will be of good help as they progress in life.

Habits of Mind
1. Successful students persist. They focus on the task and complete it successfully. They know how to proceed when they get stuck.

  1. Successful students manage impulsivity. They control themselves and act thoughtfully and deliberately in any situation.
  2. Successful students listen with understanding and empathy. They devote their mental attention to others and are able to build rapport easily and quickly. They can identify with another’s point of view while keeping their own.
  3. Successful students think flexibly. They are able to view a situation from many perspectives, and their minds are open to change. Such open-mindedness helps them deal with the novelty and ambiguity often encountered in the study of new material.
  4. Successful students control and execute metacognitive processes, such as problem solving and decision making. They are able to make a mental plan, monitor their thinking, evaluate and modify their processes, determine new ways to proceed, and learn from the experience.
  5. Successful students ask questions and pose problems. They are curious and know how to search for problems to solve. They seek evidence rather than simply accepting any assertion. They analyze conflicting descriptions of an event or issue. They develop and apply multiple strategies to solving both routine and complex problems.
  6. Successful students think and communicate with clarity and precision, both orally and in writing. They are specific in their communications, and they avoid generalizing, dismissing, and distorting ideas.
  7. Successful students create, imagine, and innovate. They look for different ideas and are able to generate original ideas of their own.
  8. Successful students think interdependently. They participate successfully in study groups, know how to work together collegially, and seek opportunities to work with others.
  9. Successful students remain open to continual learning and they apply knowledge to new situations. They can detect patterns and make connections, and they are able to transfer knowledge from one context to another. They admit that they do not know something and are eager to find out. They are continually growing and learning.

Interestingly research by Scott Behrens at Adrian College in Adrian, Michigan, found a significant positive correlation between these habits of mind and college grade (junior college) point average. In fact the habits that were the strongest predictors of academic success in college (junior college) were managing impulsivity, persistence, and metacognition.