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Seven intellectual habits of learners[1]

People who are good learners possess a set of habits of thought and behavior that make them active rather than passive learners. An active learner participates in the process of learning at all stages, including listening, reading, taking notes, talking and writing. Their minds are always engaged, asking questions, demanding or supplying evidence, making connections, creating theories, finding solutions. This list tries to articulate the set of habits you should acquire over the course of this semester. If you acquire these habits now, you will find that you will use them in every aspect of your life: other college classes, consumer choices, your job and even personal relationships.

  • Critical thinking:
    1. Question everything
      • Asking why?
      • Why is it this way?
      • How did it get that way?
      • Does it have to be that way?
      • Cause and effect (what led to it and what else happened)
      • Hypothesizing (what if, supposing that)
    2. Recognize underlying warrants
      • Who said it and why?
      • What is their internal logic?
      • The essence of respecting someone else's opinion is assuming that there is some internal logic so that you don't dismiss them as stupid or crazy.
    3. Offer and demand evidence
      • How do you know that?
      • Emphasis on offering specific and concrete examples to demonstrate your points
      • Does your evidence come from an authoritative source?
  • Making Connections:
    1. Make connections
      • What else does this relate to?
      • How is this similar to or opposite from related ideas?
    2. Seek engagement
      • Figure out why you should take an interest.
      • We learn best when we are convinced it matters. Sometimes it is your responsibility to figure out how and why it matters.
  • Problem-solving:
    1. Discover resources
      • Think broadly and creatively about what resources are available.
    2. Determine agency
      • How can I have an impact?
      • If I don't like it, how can I change it?
      • How can I benefit from it if it is good?
      • How can I benefit from it even if it isn't good?

[1]Based on Five Major Intellectual Habits from Central Park East Secondary School in Harlem, cited in Graff, Gerald. Clueless in Academe: How Schooling Obscures the Life of the Mind. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.