Intelligent Thinking Through Habits of Mind

How does your child behave when facing difficulties?

Does he or she throw a tantrum and cry, simply give up, or look for ways to overcome the challenge?

As you observe your little ones work their way through everyday situations, you may start noticing distinctive patterns of behaviour. A child’s formative years are exceptionally important as it is the period when they learn appropriate behaviours, boundaries and social skills that will remain with them for life. Especially when the world is becoming increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous, these ways of coping with problems are budding indicators of how they would perform in future.

Parents would already know that education is more than just learning about facts and knowledge, but the process of learning, such as the intricacies of posing questions, perseverance, thinking flexibly, and thirst for knowledge that are even more crucial for success. Learning these soft skills can take several lengthy processes of trial and error, and one may not even eventually succeed in cultivating these proficiencies.

But what if we tell you that there is a structured way of knowing how to behave intelligently and respond effectively to uncertainty or dilemmas that will better prepare your child for the future?

What is Habits of MindTM?

Habits of MindTM is about knowing how to behave intelligently and respond effectively to uncertainty or dilemmas. Developed by Dr Arthur Costa, Emeritus Professor of Education at California State University, Sacramento, and Co-Director of the Institute for Intelligent Behavior in El Dorado Hills, California, this framework provides children of all ages a set of intelligent thinking dispositions for autonomous learning, critical thinking and effective inquiry.

Just as how influential people like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg demonstrates positive traits like persistence and innovation, we too want our children to draw upon these positive ways of thinking that help them be more confident when confronted with difficulties. They will be able to ask good questions and become skilled at interacting with diverse groups of people. These habits also instill positive personality traits and behaviour in children to cultivate essential skills like strategic reasoning, insightfulness, perseverance and creativity, applying what they have learnt to an ever-expanding array of challenges not only in academic subjects but also in their lives, communities, and the world.

While the Habits of MindTM framework has long been adopted by Singapore’s Ministry of Education to groom the top 1% of students under its Gifted Education Programme, Mulberry Learning is the first and only preschool network globally certified by the Institute for Habits of MindTM.

How Do We Incorporate Habits of MindTM in Our Curriculum?

Formal Teaching

Every month, teachers at Mulberry Learning formally introduce a new habit during specially-designed lessons. Children will have opportunities to explore the meaning of the habit through engaging activities and emulate positive actions in accordance to the habit. Catchy slogans, which are suitable for preschoolers, are also used to help students remember!

Reinforcements

Habits need to be reinforced repeatedly. Mulberry Learning teachers do so by consistently revisiting the habit throughout the term. When teachers chance upon teachable moments in lessons, playtime, mealtime, or during wash-up, they reiterate the specially-designed slogans.

Parental Involvement

We work closely with parents to provide them with updates on their child’s progress in exemplifying Habits of MindTM in their day-to-day activities, alongside regular developmental updates. Special parenting workshops are also held from time to time to equip parents with knowledge, skills and activities that help them reinforce these habits at home.

Environment

Habits of Mind posters abound in every Mulberry Learning preschool as we meticulously craft the environment for successful planting of the Habits of MindTM seeds. While teachers themselves are role models for children, we also select monthly HoM Little Ambassadors in every preschool to recognise and celebrate the child’s success in displaying positive dispositions both in school and at home.

Our Award-Winning Curriculum

Of the 16 habits, we have specially curated 12 habits that are mindfully infused into our curriculum, utilising teachable moments and daily routines.

Find out how you can guide your little ones to cultivate good lifelong habits:

Creating, Imagining, Innovating

“I can’t draw.” “I can’t sing!” Some people think that creativity is innate and they can never gain that artistic flair. Yet, research has increasingly shown that children have the ability to produce original, novel, intelligent solutions and strategies if that capacity is nurtured. Through the plethora of STEAM enrichment programmes offered at Mulberry Learning, we provide opportunities to cultivate creative, imaginative, and innovative learners.

Persisting

When posed with challenges, efficient problem solvers persevere even when a solution is not immediately apparent because they employ a wide variety of problem-solving strategies. Children often give up saying, “It’s too hard!” or “I can’t do this!” when faced with a problem. At Mulberry Learning, instead of providing all the answers, we encourage students to persist and work out problems on their own.

Listening with Understanding and Empathy

Many people assume that because they can comprehend words and their meaning, they can be a good listener. Yet sometimes, the loudest conversations are often the silent ones. Successful individuals spend an extravagant amount of time and energy to listen. They strive to relate to other people’s point of view. Since studies have found that up to 80% of our communication with others are non-verbal, we need to be observant and identify non-verbal cues to listen well. Listening with understanding and empathy requires us uncover the real message.

Questioning and Posing Problems

At Mulberry Learning, children are encouraged to ask questions, pose problems, and figure out the answers, with the help of their teachers! Inquiry-based learning (link to Inquiry Project) provides a rich opportunity for kids to widen and deepen their understanding and strengthen their appreciation of new knowledge. Students are able to act as little scientists, finding answers to their own questions through engaging in research, conducting mini-experiments, analysing their findings, and presenting their observations to their peers and parents.

Managing Impulsivity

Often, kids may shout out answers and act without thinking when interacting with their peers. They often react before considering the feelings of others. Yet, effective problem solvers take deliberate steps to think before they act. They seek to clarify and understand instructions, develop a possible plan when approaching a problem, and suspend judgement about a problem until they fully understand it.

Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations

Very often, our young ones approach tasks as if they were doing it for the first time. They are unable to find the links between past experiences and their current problems. Teachers and parents can help nudge kids in the correct direction by asking them questions like, “Have you seen this problem before?” or reminding them about similar experiences they faced in the past.

Gathering Data through All Senses

Children learn better and form stronger memory connections when they engage with more senses in their learning process. Through the various carefully-crafted learning spaces in our preschools, we encourage open, acute and alert sensory environments, allowing the little ones to absorb and retain much more information.

Striving for Accuracy

As much as we provide a safe space for children to make mistakes, Mulberry Learning also encourages kids to strive for accuracy and take pride in their work. This could be done by asking students follow-up questions when we notice an error in their work. Sometimes, a check-list could also help them to ensure accuracy in their tasks.

Thinking Flexibly

Children who think that their way is the only way to solve a problem would not be open to challenges and often avoid ambiguity. Yet, the world today is ambiguous and requires flexible thinking for success. Flexible thinkers have the ability to change their views about things when they acquire new information. They draw upon a range of problem-solving strategies to reach their goals and is important for success in future.

Thinking About Your Thinking (Metacognition)

Adolescents are often oblivious of their own thinking while they are thinking. They seldom plan, reflect, or evaluate the quality of their thoughts. When asked how they solve a problem, they may reply, “I don’t know!” and are not able to reiterate the sequences and steps they utilise during the entire process. At Mulberry Learning, our unique pedagogy designed by qualified and experienced educators make use of thinking words to encourage kids to start thinking about their own thinking.

Finding Humour

Laughter transcends all ages and it has positive effects on children’s psychological functions. When lessons are fun, kids are more creative and are able to employ higher order thinking skills. Children who engage in finding humour are also able to perceive circumstances from a novel and often intriguing vantage point.

Thinking Interdependently

“Leave me alone, I want to do it on my own!” Some children have underdeveloped social skills and do not work well in social situations. They prefer being on their own and are unable to cooperate with others. Even though having “me-time” is beneficial at times, kids need to learn how to work together and think interdependently with others to succeed in life.

Our Signature Programmes

Besides the Habits of MindTM framework, find out more about our proprietary curriculum model which promises a fun and engaging learning experience like no other. Every child will receive a comprehensive and holistic education that helps them excel in the future world.

How can we assess if our children exemplify the Habits of MindTM?

Introducing THOMAS – The Habits of MindTM Assessment Scale

Since employing Habits of MindTM requires a combination of multiple competencies, a comprehensive and structured method is required to observe and chart a child’s development of these habits. The Habits of MindTM Assessment Tool (THOMAS), a psychometric tool to assess the thinking dispositions of young children was then developed by Dr. Henry Toi, our Research and Curriculum Dean, and an affiliate of The Institute for Habits of MindTM.

Teachers, with the help of parents, will complete the THOMAS questionnaire based on observations both at school and at home. The findings will provide a more accurate insight into the child’s growth in these intelligent habits and help our research and development team improve the quality of curriculum.

Our Bilingual and Chinese Preschools

Established in 2006, Mulberry Learning is an award-winning Reggio-inspired preschool and its curriculum has been voted as “Singapore’s Best Holistic Learning Programme” for 3 years running by leading parenting publications. With 11 locations around Singapore, including our first Chinese Preschool at Fusionopolis, there’s definitely a preschool near you!

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