Habits of Mind: Metacognition & Precision

This post is part of a series on sixteen “Habits of Mind” put forth by Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick as being “necessary for success in school, work, and life” (Costa & Kallick, 2010, p. 212).

Thinking about your thinking (metacognition): Know your knowing!  Being aware of one’s own thoughts, strategies, feelings, and actions and their effects on others.

This was one of the primary reasons I started blogging – I wanted a space to reflect on my practice, share what worked and what didn’t, and welcome critique and conversation from my contemporaries around the world.  More recently, choosing to blog about the sixteen habits of mind was a way for me to further focus my self-reflection on the degree to which I engage these strategies in my personal and professional life.  Now, in this paragraph, I appear to be blogging about what I’m blogging about when I blog – is that meta-meta-meta-cognition or just navel-gazing?

At any rate, one way in which I would like to improve in this arena is to formalize time for my CST colleagues and I to debrief and reflect upon our practice and discuss areas for improvement.  I tend to do this more in isolation, but I think that’s at my own peril.  It’s one thing for me to go home and spout off on my blog about whatever, but I think collaborative reflection may hold us all a little more accountable.  It’s something we’ll have to fight to carve time out for, though – the rush of the daily workflow, as well as the little fires that need putting out here and there, conspires against us in this regard.

Striving for accuracy and precision: Check it again!  A desire for exactness, fidelity, craftsmanship, and truthfulness.

In my undergraduate teacher training program, I recall one of my student teaching seminar teachers telling us to proofread, proofread, proofread every last item we created, and to scrap it and start over if we found even a single error.  Thankfully, that isn’t quite as necessary in the computer age, but his point is well-taken – even though we’re all human, nothing ruins an educator’s credibility faster than typos or inaccurate information, especially in writing (and we English teachers are perhaps held to a higher standard than others in that regard!).

It’s a habit that, fortunately, my parents instilled in me long before I got to the end of my college career, almost to a fault.  When it comes to perfectionism, there’s a fine line between the good and bad flavors, and I admit to straying to the wrong side of the perfectionist tracks at times.  In my rapidly advancing age mid-thirties, however, I think that finding that balance is starting to come easier to me, simply through life experience and trial-and-error.

The case manager dimension to my job (which is unique to school psychologists in New Jersey, I believe; feel free to correct me in the comments if I’m wrong) demands attention to detail and precision in order to demonstrate compliance with state and federal law, as well as to provide the best degree of service to students that I can.  This is usually documented in formal paperwork but also through case notes, conversation with colleagues about coordination of services, my administration of psychological and behavioral assessments, formal and informal data collection, and my face time with my students.  My almost-but-not-quite-except-for-sometimes neurotic perfectionism has served me well in this regard, even though I must admit, from time to time – much to my chagrin – to being only human.


Costa, A.L. & Kallick, B.  (2010).  It takes some getting used to: rethinking curriculum for the 21st century.  In H. H. Jacobs (Ed.), Curriculum 21: essential education for a changing world (pp. 210-226).  Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

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