Habits of Mind for Success in Postsecondary Writing

The following excerpt was published in Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing, which was developed by the Council of Writing Program Administrators, the National Council of Teachers of English, and the National Writing Project in 2011.
Habits of Mind

Curiosity – the desire to know more about the world. Curiosity is fostered when writers are encouraged to

  • use inquiry as a process to develop questions relevant for authentic audiences withing a variety of disciplines;
  • seek relevant authoritative information and recognize the meaning and value of that information
  • conduct research using methods for investigating questions appropriate to the discipline; and
  • communicate their findings in writing to multiple audiences inside and outside school using discipline-appropriate conventions.

Openness – the willingness to consider new wasy of being and thinking in the world.  Openness is fostered when writers are encouraged to

  • examine their own perspectives to find connections with perspectives of others;
  • practice different ways of gathering, investigating, developing, and presenting information; and
  • listen to and reflect on the ideas and responses of others–both peers and instructors–to their writing.


Engagement – a sense of investment and involvement in learning. Engagement is fostered when writers are encouraged to

  • make connections between their own ideas and those of others;
  • find meanings new to them or build on existing meanings as a result of new connections; and
  • act upon the new knowledge that they have discovered.


Creativity – the ability to use novel approaches for generating, investigating, and representing ideas. Creativity is fostered when writers are encouraged to

  • take risks by exploring questions, topics, and ideas that are new to them;
  • use methods that are new to them to investigate questions, topics, and ideas;
  • represent what they have learned in a variety of ways; and
  • evaluate effects or consequences of their creative choices.


Persistence – the ability to sustain interest in and attention to short- and long-term projects. Persistence is fostered when writers are encouraged to

  • commit to exploring, in writing, a topic, idea, or demanding task;
  • grapple with challenging ideas, texts, processes, or projects;
  • follow through, over time, to complete tasks, processes, or projects, and
  • consistently take advantage of in-class (peer and instructor responses) and out-of-class (writing or learning center support) opportunities to improve and refine their work.


Responsibility – the ability to take ownership of one’s actions and understand the consequences of those actions for oneself and others. Responsibility is fostered when writers are encouraged to

  • recognize their own role in learning;
  • act on the understanding that learning is shared among the writer and others–students, instructors, and the institution as well as those engaged in the questions and/or fields in which the writer is interested; and
  • engage and incorporate the ideas of others, giving credit to those ideas by using appropriate attribution.


Flexibility – the ability to adapt to situations, expectations, or demands. Flexibility is fostered when writers are encouraged to

  • approach writing assignments in multiple ways, depending on the task and the writer’s purpose and audience
  • recognize that conventions (such as formal and informal rules of content, organization, style, evidence, citations, mechanics, usage, register, and dialect) are dependent on discipline and context; and
  • reflect on the choices they make in light of context, purpose, and audience.


Metacognition – the ability to reflect on one’s own thinking as well as on the individual and cultural processes and systems used to structure knowledge. Metacognition is fostered when writers are encouraged to

  • examine processes they use to think and write in a variety of disciplines and contexts;
  • reflect on the texts that they have produced in a variety of contexts;
  • connect choices they have made in texts to audiences and purposes for which texts are intended; and
  • use what they learn from reflections on one writing project to improve writing on subsequent projects.


About npiasecki

Instructor of Composition and Rhetoric at the University of Colorado Denver, specializing in 21st century skills, research, and creative nonfiction. Director of the Denver Writing Project, a local site of the National Writing Project's professional network for K through College educators.
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