Review by Jennifer Klosterman-Lando
Director of Student Services - College of Education and Human Ecology
The Ohio State University
As advisors, we often seek ways to improve our practices, increase our knowledge base, and understand our students; mindfulness is a concept that allows us to be more intentional in our work. In short, mindfulness is the process by which a person becomes intentionally aware of his or her own thoughts, actions, and biases in the present moment (Langer, 1989). The school as a home for the mind: Creating mindful curriculum, instruction, and dialogue uses the concept of mindfulness to re-conceptualize the learning environment. While the book is intended primarily for those in the K-12 field, Costa offers a number of useful tools which are transferrable to advisors who are interested in becoming more mindful and adding to their advising techniques.
Chapter three presents sixteen frequent Habits of the Mind, which are ways in which our minds think when we act intelligently. Advisors can use these habits in working with students as an illustration to establish better patterns of behavior in order to achieve success. Costa suggests that identifying problems, mindfully and deliberately, precedes intelligent problem solving; even more broadly, he suggests that “The goal of education, therefore, should be to support others and ourselves in liberating, developing, and habituating these Habits of the Mind more fully” (p. 47). In chapter eleven, Costa also introduces the concepts of coaching and reflection. When employed together, an individual will create an open, nonjudgmental environment which fosters communication and shared meaning with the student. There are several pragmatic techniques discussed which would allow advisors to improve their advising skills; although techniques such as “paraphrasing” sound obvious, mindful paraphrasing by advisors would encourage students to become more reflective and improves their own self-assessment.
In addition to providing practical suggestions for creating mindfulness, the book also outlines ways in which we all can create a culture of mindfulness, based on the following five characteristics of schools that have created active learning communities (Louis, Marks, & Kruse, 1996):
- A sense of shared norms and values that permeates throughout the entire institution; members of the organization celebrate and communicate when they achieve the stated mission, goals, and values;
- There is recognition that a collective focus on student learning is necessary, and activities are designed to encourage thinking analytically, critically, and developmentally;
- Those throughout the institution collaborate to both derive a sense of belonging to the institution and to support one another and their students;
- Work is deprivatized; that is, those within the institution learn from each other; and
- Reflective dialogue exists, in which teachers and advisors can reflect on their practice and become more self-aware, which leads to a fuller understanding about our practice and enables us to develop ways to improve.
Recognizing that creating a culture paradigm shift is not simple, Costa acknowledges stressors in education that can inhibit mindfulness and ways in which educators can overcomes these hurdles.
For advisors, this book may provide new ways of thinking in our approach to how we advise students. Some of the material in the book is geared toward those who work with a much younger population of students, but the overall lessons and concepts are useful to educators at any level. While the goals and concepts may seem lofty at times, this book would be a good resource for advisors interested in creating a culture shift toward inclusiveness in advising practices and student responsibility.
Langer, E.J. (1989). Mindfulness. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books.
Louis, K., Marks, H., & Kruse, S. (1996). Teacher’s professional community in restructuring schools. American Educational Research Journal, 33(4), 757-798.
The school as a home for the mind: Creating mindful curriculum, instruction, and dialogue (2007). Books by Arthur L. Costa. Review by Jennifer Klosterman-Lando. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, 272 pp., $35.95 (paperback), ISBN # 9781412950749