Purdue University Graduate School
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Teachers' Opinions on Habits of Mind for High School Students with Disabilities

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posted on 2023-04-21, 15:37 authored by Kailey Marie RobinsonKailey Marie Robinson



Students with mild disabilities are often taught in an integrated class setting where they are provided additional support and accommodations while remaining in general education classes with their non-disabled peers. These students often have high-incidence disabilities (e.g. learning disabilities, emotional disabilities, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and some other health impairments), and have a unique set of characteristics that create challenges for academic and social growth (Stelitano et al., 2019; Trainor et al., 2016). Recent research has shown that exposure to social emotional learning and the 16 Habits of Mind has been beneficial for students with mild disabilities, however teachers are struggling to implement these ideologies in addition to their traditional responsibilities (Jones et al., 2017; Dyson et al., 2019; Cueso & Harrison, 2012). The 16 Habits of Mind are a set of 16 problem-solving, life-related skills that promote personal growth and success (Costa & Kallick, 2000). 

The present study was conducted as a requirement of a master’s degree in special education. There are two sub projects: administrating an anonymous survey through Qualtrics and developing an instruction manual. The purpose of the study was to determine teachers’ understanding and experience of social emotional learning and the 16 Habits of Mind and to identify obstacles that prevent teachers from implementing such practices in their classrooms. Twenty-eight licensed teachers recruited from a Title I, public, high school answered the 13 survey questions. The analysis of the results addressed three research questions, (1) What understanding and experience do teachers have about social emotional learning for high school students with mild disabilities?, (2) What understanding and experience do teachers have about using the 16 Habits of Mind with high school students with mild disabilities?, and (3) What kinds of supports (e.g. administrative, district-level, building-level, online resources) are in place to help teachers implement social emotional learning for students with mild disabilities? 

Results from the study show that teachers occasionally implemented social emotional learning, and they are confident in their ability to do so, but there were factors that limited regular implementation. Teachers were concerned with the time requirement of social emotional learning, and the support available within their building when navigating sensitive subjects. Many participating teachers had heard of Costa and Kallick’s (2000) 16 Habits of Mind and teach many of the concepts informally through daily practices and routines. A majority of teachers reported teaching three habits formally and often within their classrooms: Striving for Accuracy (50%; N=24), Questioning and Posing Problems (60.87%; N=23), and Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations (54.17%; N=24). When asked to identify which habits were most influential to student success, 20% (N=19) of teachers identified persistence as most important. Teachers’ testimonies showed that using the 16 Habits of Mind as a tool to drive social emotional learning could be beneficial, but, they expressed concerns about being able to blend concepts with existing curriculum without neglecting instruction time.

Using the survey results, a handbook was created to support teachers in implementing the 16 Habits of Mind, as a tool for social emotional learning, into their classroom. The handbook contains the following sections: Students with Mild Disabilities, Social Emotional Learning, The Habits of Mind, Implementation Suggestions, and a detailed outline for each habit. For each of the 16 habits the outline included the following items: Objectives, Relevant Vocabulary, Definition, Application to Learning, Quote, Daily Practices, 1-3 Mini-Lesson Plans, and Journal/Discussion Questions. The hope is that the handbook will provide a resource for teachers, so they feel more comfortable integrating the 16 Habits of Mind into daily curriculum without compromising instruction time. For teachers that would like to go above and beyond, the mini-lesson plans provide activities that can deepen student understanding of the habit and only require 5-15 minutes of class time. In order to develop a handbook that would be most effective for teacher use, it was reviewed by university faculty and licensed special education teachers. After review minor adjustments were made for teacher use and benefit.  


Degree Type

  • Master of Science in Education


  • Educational Studies

Campus location

  • Fort Wayne

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Jeong-il Cho

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

Jane Leatherman

Additional Committee Member 2

Rama Cousik

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