Dear MC,

Our school has been mastery-based for two years now, but we still struggle with habits of work. Right now we have schoolwide outcomes for work habits that account for a small percentage of students’ grade—“Professionalism,” “Communication,” “Leadership,” and “Community Building,” to name a few. These habits of work show up separate from academic habits on our students’ report cards.

We want to make sure we’re using these outcomes in a useful and consistent way, so we gave the whole staff a survey to ask: Which work habits outcomes do you understand? Which work habits outcomes do your students understand, and how do you know? How often do you assess each of the work habits outcomes?

We discovered that most of the staff regularly assess “Professionalism,” but almost no one regularly assesses “Leadership.” During PD we will present these survey results and have the staff tackle each outcome in breakout groups. We’ll use discussion prompts like: How do you explain this outcome to students? How do you use the outcome in your class?

What else should we consider? What are some “best practices” in regards to habits of work?


Working on Work Habits


Dear Working on Work Habits,

Surveying your staff is a great starting point for this conversation—it helps you to meet teachers where they are now, to highlight where staff is already in agreement, and to identify where there’s more need for conversation and sharing. Brava!

We suggest framing this conversation around basic principles of mastery learning—such as transparency, learner metacognition, timely/actionable feedback.

  • Transparency: Learners should know when they're being assessed on what. They should have the rubric, and it should include what each habit looks like, sounds like, feels like. A rubric with criteria for mastery will allow students to work towards independent mastery, and give teachers a grounding for providing actionable feedback. In the rubric, try to avoid "sometimes" "always" "never" language, and instead get more explicit about the look-for indicators of mastery for each habit.

  • Metacognition: Ideally, students are continuously building understanding of each habit, and where that learner is on the path to mastery. Students can reflect on their growth by using a rubric to self-assess and peer-assess their work habits. When teachers assess the habits, learners should be able to see their scores across time and receive feedback and coaching around their progress, perhaps in conferences. This sustained attention to growth allows students to be aware of their own learning process and progress.

  • TImely/actionable feedback: Ensure that all habits are explicitly taught and practiced in class. Unpack the rubric for these skills with students and model what mastery looks like through examples of student work, role play, or fishbowls. Give students timely and actionable feedback on their progress towards mastery so that they can continue to develop their skills. If you assess it, you should teach it!

Keeping transparency and student growth at the center of the staff’s conversation will help you to create a system that feels clear, fair, and helpful to students. Let us know how it goes!