Assumptions: Dangerous habits of mind.

A common phrase in Project Based Learning (PBL) is the idea of creating classroom routines such that they develop “habits of mind”. Nominally, this is regarded as practices and behaviours.

Habermas (1981) said that problem solving and learning may be instrumental—learning to manipulate or control the environment or other people to enhance efficacy in improving performance; impressionistic—learning to enhance one’s impression on others, to present one-self; normative—learning oriented to common values and a normative sense of entitlement (members of the group are entitled to expect certain behavior); or communicative—learning to understand the meaning of what is being communicated.

So habits of mind – as a routine is linked to human ‘point of view’. Habits of mind are more durable than points of view. Points of view are subject to continuing change as we reflect on either the content or process by which we solve problems and identify the need to modify assumptions.

When I began learning about PBL, I assumed habits of mind related to behavioural routines. Things like working on a digital diary, responding to things I posted online and so on. I didn’t take the time (as I didn’t read enough) to consider the student’s point of view – which today I think was some variation of instrumentalism.

Over-time, and especially with an interest in gaming, ‘habits of mind’ have become purposes, values, beliefs, and feelings. These are less amenable to empirical testing of course.

Critical reflection is the ‘thing’ presented via the teacher-networks as the 21st Century imperative (crap detection and so on). What I think, take it or leave it, has become the essential habit of mind for anyone using online-media is this.

Technology should be used in PBL not to make ‘things’ but to predominantly demonstrate how students are testing assumptions upon which their interpretations, beliefs, and habits of mind or points of view are based.

There’s no reason that ‘content’ heavy curriculum should not attempt to test students assumptions as not doing it, appears to me, to impose our belief about ‘their’ point of view and what new habits of mind they need. I know I blundered into this at the time – but it seems worth pointing out.

Testing assumptions is the habit of mind. I think games do this rather well.

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