Beliefs and Attitudes in the Classroom
Although few teachers would argue with the premise that there are particular character and personality traits that are more likely to produce good thinking than others, teaching these attitudes is an even bigger challenge than teaching the skills that support them. There are, however, things that teachers can do to help learners acquire the attitudes and beliefs that will make them good thinkers.
- Model attitudes such as curiosity and open-mindedness in a variety of contexts and subject areas.
- Reward the unsolicited demonstration of the attitude. Point out characteristics of good thinking. When learners use humour to keep working on a difficult project, mention it to the rest of the class.
- Create a school and classroom culture in which good thinking is valued and the attitudes and beliefs that contribute to good thinking are prized.
Tishman and Perkins (1992) describe a method for explicit facilitation of thinking dispositions.
- Provide examples of the disposition in a variety of contexts.
- Design learner-to-learner and learner-to-teacher interactions that require the development of the disposition.
- Directly teach the disposition, providing appropriate language cues, such as “Am I being open- or closed-minded?” or “Should I take a risk here?”
We know that learners are likely to learn when they are assessed. But how can a belief or attitude be assessed? At first thought, this seems like an impossible task, assessing a learner’s flexibility of thinking, empathy, or desire to look for good reasons. However, most teachers have no problem with assessing other kinds of attitudes, such as respect for authority or honesty. There is no reason why we can’t add some or all of these attitudes and beliefs for thinking to those that we normally assess, either through observation or some other method.
Learners can use portfolios or journals to demonstrate their Habits of Mind, to show that they are being mindful. Of course, you can’t give learners a C- in curiosity, but you can certainly comment on the fact that it isn’t evident. And these kinds of comments reflect the value that you place on those attitudes that are critical for good thinking.
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