Helping Workplace Supervisors Coach Habits of Mind

Students at Central Park East Secondary School use five “Habits of Mind” as a framework for class discussions, assignments, exhibitions, group activities, and community inquiry. Now Anne Purdy, who coordinates the weekly community service all students undertake, has drafted a guide that shares those habits with workplace supervisors so they can use them with students on the job. Some excerpts follow, condensed from her original:

1. Connections can make all the difference between doing something in isolation and seeing its relevance to the “big picture.” If you need help updating a donor mailing list, for example, let the student know what computer program you are using, the need for donors, the types of benefactors you have, and how the list will be used. Or ask them for ideas for increasing your donor pool. Note: Always ask how what they are doing relates to what they are learning in school.

2. Perspective. We teach students to search out stories that do not get told, and to consider the viewpoint from which someone approaches a situation. Our older students may be asked to view your organization through the prism of your mission statement, then observe how you might more closely adhere to it.

3. Evidence. Our students are constantly asked how they know what they know. In your conversations, encourage them to expand their thoughts and support their ideas. Don’t be satisfied with one-word responses. And don’t be startled if they ask you for your evidence as well.

4. Speculation. We ask students to consider how else things might be different ways of organization, managing a place, spending time efficiently. When you speak with them, ask them for their ideas. They need to know that there is more than one way to accomplish a task and that their feedback matters. If a student says she is bored, for example, ask what other responsibilities she wishes she could have. Ask for her ideas about other things to do.

5. Significance. Students need to see why the projects they work on are important, whether it is a young child’s learning, a nonprofit’s fundraiser, or a business project. It makes a great impact on a student if his or her effort has contributed to your organization’s success.

For Discussion: Where in the world of work do people routinely use the skills and content you teach students in your current courses? How might you connect your students better with those workplace contexts?