Habit Development Program
In the era of lifelong learning, consciously developing good habits is a necessary ability for talent in the future. Good habits can increase the likelihood of “success” and improve one’s sense of self-efficacy through cumulative achievement records (e.g., keep running for 100 days).
Due to the lack of a supportive educational environment, EWB students commonly have habit problems, such as often being late to class and not taking notes despite repeated reminders from the teacher. More notably, a frustrating childhood leaves many children in the predicament of learned helplessness.
In order to improve children’s learning habits and enhance their self-confidence, the EWB Academic Training Team developed a set of teacher-student habit co-construction curricula (also known as the Habit Development Education program) based on comprehensive research on EWB children’s learning situations and behavior patterns in which seven volunteer teachers are involved. Furthermore, the curricula are developed according to the habit principles proposed by the famous behavior science expert James Clear. As concerns students’ cognitive and psychological characteristics, the curricula adopt many scenario-based and gamified designs, which teachers and students acclaim.
The program is designed for students of all ages. They can grasp the habit principles and develop one or two good habits scientifically and efficiently through the program.
Habit Development Education Program was inspired by a volunteer survey back to March, 2021. The results of the survey stated that, over 70% of EWB students have problem with learning habits. For example, they won’t “take notes during class”, “ask questions when don’t understand”, or “finish homework after class” and so on.
During an interview, some volunteer teachers reported that they have also realized the issue with their students’ learning habbit and have tried to guide them. However, the efforts were far from effective, especially when it comes to online education. “It is a once per week online class after all. Making sure they stick to the habbit is quite hard.” “I surely told my students how important taking notes is and that it is better to take notes in a notebook. The next time, though, they were likely to have lost their notebooks again.” How to improve students’ learning habbit is definately a pain in the neck for our front-line teachers.
Facing the tough issue, should we tackle it head-on?
The answer is, YES!
If we take a person’s growth as a tree, then the habbits are the trunk. And students’ performance in Chinese, Maths, Arts and others are the fruits. If the trunk is thriving, fruits would not be a worry. As an eduction
Furthermore, habits are a gas station for self-efficacy. Good habits are especially important when a person is at a low point. Qiu Tong, the program founder, once fell into self-denial because of consecutive failures, but fortunately, she has the habit of running 5 kilometers a day. Even in the darkest of times, she persisted in this habit. After every run, she always cheered herself up silently: “At least I can keep running every day.” Through running, she gradually gained a sense of control over her life, and finally got out of this gloomy period. For EWB students, their upbringing process is full of frustrations. Maybe some habits to hold on to could also be a key to their recovery?
Thus, the Habit Development Education began.
Yao’s story: the power of persistance
Yao is a very sensible child. She listens carefully in class and finishes her homework on time after class. When I first became her English teacher, I tried to invite her to participate in the Habit Development Education Program.
The first stage of the program is more about the learning some theories about habits. Yao maintainsed her usual way of listening to the lectures. But as the course progresses, Yao, who was usually quiet, became more and more active. Not only did answer questions, she also took the initiative to ask questions and share her own opinions. She sometimes played the role of a young lady, encouraging and helping the little girls who were in the same class together.
After the first stage, Yao and I decided to work together to develop a habit. “Is there any habit that will be good for you in the long run?” Faced with my question, Yao suggested that she want to stick to the habit of reading. In order to urge the child to keep the habit, I decided to fill out the punch-in card together to develop my own good habits.
In the daily punch-in session, Yao became a little role model for everyone. Except for the New Year’s holiday, she punched in in the group every day. Sometimes even I forgot to do it, but upon seeing Yao’s persistence, I would remember and made it up feeling a bit ashamed.
In just a few months into the program, Yao became more confident and willing to express, and also a little teacher and a little role model, inspiring everyone to make progress together. Although the first stagtage of the Habit Development Education ended, and there were no material rewards for points or prizes, YaoYao still punches in in the group from time to time to share her reading notes.
Why can Yao persist? I think it is the process of habit formation that brings self-confidence to the child and makes her see the value of sticking to the habit. And the power brought by this habit can take her to a higher and broader platform in the future.
Dandan’s story: habit makes change happen
Facing Dandan, the teachers encountered the same problem: she gets distracted too much. Playing with erasers, drinking water, running in and out… Gentle or harsh methods such as reminders, demands and criticisms were tried, but none of them worked well.
Maths teacher Xia Xue, facing these problems, invited Dandan to join the program.
The same problem persisted when the program first started: Dandan was getting distracted in class playing with dolls and sending random emojis, etc.. Compared to the other kids, Danny always seemed to be in trouble. While Xia Xue felt frustrated and worried about whether the program was really useful to children, some changes were quietly happening.
In a maths class, as Xia Xue was starting the class by reviewing the last lesson of mathematical knowledge as usual, she casually asked Dandan if she remembered the content of the habit class. Surprisingly and delightfully, the child not only remembered it, but also expressed it coherently and clearly. This gave Xia Xue great encouragement. This shows that children can really understand and be interested in the principles of habit formation through the Habit Development Education Program.
The effects of habits continued long after the program ended. When the teacher asked Dandan about the three rules she should follow before class, she could answer them quickly: “eyes to the screen, buttocks glued to the stool, listen carefully.” When confronted with problems, Dandan learned to raise her hand. Behaviours such as playing with erasers was also rare.
With the hope that children can gain more strength in learning, Xia Xue and Dandan joined the program. And the program has in turn realised their hopes.
Today, in Dandan and her teachers’ classrooms, the Habit Development Education Program’s impact is still being felt. The three rules before class can be quickly answered by the children, once the teacher mentioned : “eyes to the screen, buttocks glued to the stool, listen carefully”. Encountering problems, children learned to raise their hands; behaviours such as getting distracted via playing with erasers were also rarely seen. With the hope that children can gain more strength in learning, Xia Xue and Jia Hui joined the Habit Development Education Program. Now, they have realized their hopes and self actualisation through this program.
Xiaxue: Can I ask how Jiahui felt after yesterday’s habit class? For instance, was it pleasant? Is she looking forward to more classes? Wondering what will be in the next class?
Jiahui’s mom: I feel like Jiahui liked it a lot, she said she still wants to take yesterday night’s class
Xiaxue: Great~The child’s interest is half of the success
Jiahui’s mom: Jiahui drew this today, saying it is for Ms Marshmallow, don’t know which teacher that is haha. Jiahui likes giving teachers nicknames
Shuyao: That is Ms Xia
Qiutong: Aww that is so nice!
Zhuyue: Calling @Xiaxue
Jiahui’s mom: These are some drawings Jiahui did lately, the eighth painting is for Ms Xiaxue
Xiaxue: I like it so much!
Xiaxue: Thank you Jiahui! You are doing better and better
Xiaxue: Here is the giraffe she drew last time, come check out how great it is!
(In the project, Xia Xue received multiple paintings Dandan drew for her)
Junjie’s story: the magic worked
Junjie is a shy boy in junior high school. When he asks questions in class, he always pauses for a few seconds before answering them slowly. But he caught on so quickly to the principle of habit that he got the idea behind it in a few sentences.
After the discussion of principles, it’s time to co-create habits.
“Junjie, what habits are you going to develop?” I asked him.
“Reciting English words and taking reading notes.” Junjie said without thinking.
“What’s the use of having these habits?” I continued.
He hesitated for a moment and said, “It can improve my academic performance.”
“What’s the point of improving your grades? Junjie, what do you want to be in the future?” I asked again.
“Well…” He lowered his head and, after a long silence, whispered, “I… I don’t know.”
“It doesn’t matter, when I was at your age, I also didn’t know what I wanted to do in the future. But it’s important to find your future goals, so you can work toward them now and you’ll get there someday. “I reassured.
“But…… but…… I really want to be a teacher, but I’m too stupid. I don’t think I can do it. “Junjie lowered his head again.
Hearing that the child had the idea of becoming a teacher, I was perked up. Capturing the spark of children’s interest and then lighting it, isn’t that what us educators do? Afterwards, we talked about specific subjects in the teaching profession. I was surprised to find that Junjie became interested in the history of the Soviet Union because of a game with the Cold War as the story background. When it came to the Soviet Union, words flowed out of him naturally: Lenin, Stalin, The Second World War, weapons, etc.. I followed his ideas, and finally determined our common habit training goal, that is to read the “General History of Russia”. To ensure the validity of reading, I made an agreement with him to read a short section every day and keep a reading log. In order to lighten the load, the log structure is very simple. It simply records the “reading content”, “reading gain” and “reading confusions”.
Generally speaking, the first week sees the most positive response. I did not expect that Junjie had not kept a reading log. So I had a chat with him:
He stammered, “Ms, I can’t write well.”
“What part of the reading log do you find difficult to write? We can simplify things according to the principle of habit.” I consulted with him.
“Teacher, I just can’t write well. When I write, I forget.” Junjie was a little embarrassed.
Knowing Junjie’s difficulty, I suggested that he change the way of keeping logs to recording voice messages every day. Since he is afraid of writing, he should just bypass it.
From the second week, Junjie began to follow through by voice messages, while I still used text. After sending voice messages for three days, perhaps inspired by my texts, Junjie began to journal. At first, he wrote twenty or thirty words a day. Afterwards, he often wrote two or three hundred words. The more he wrote, the more excited he got. His content became even more rich so than his teacher myself. And the reading questions he posed after the journal became more in-depth, such as “If the United States and the Soviet Union were enemies, why did the United States also have communists?” “Does science really know no borders?”. Learning that the Soviet authorities embellished history, Junjie had a deeper understanding of the saying that “all history is contemporary history”. He also noticed that in the Cold War game he had played, developed by an American firm, had a tendency to deliberately discredit the Soviet Union.
As Junjie’s interest in Soviet history grew, he became more active in reading and journaling. Even on the New Year’s eve at 11 pm, he still did not forget to send that day’s reading log.
Reading log on February 7th
Read Chapter 7 (3)
The spring of 1928, the peak of those desperate efforts to buy grain in the Soviet Union, also intensified the rapid advance of industry, which Stalin saw as the leg of steel that held the Soviet Union together. Then he gave a speech highlighting the threat the kulaks posed to the Soviet Union, and relying on them to resolve the crisis. Stalin and Bukharin clashed, Stalin and Bukharin fought, Bukharin lost
Q: Why were there so many food crises in the early Soviet Union?
Reading log on February 8th
Read Chapter 7 (4)
At the end of May 1928, the collectives 1) wiped out rural capitalists, exploited them, and created collective farms, 2) redistributed land among farmers. For every 10,000 hectares of land acquired, 1,000 new farms of landless peasants were built, producing food at an increasing speed, in what Stalin praised as “total collectivization.” Black soil agricultural regions, such as the middle and lower reaches of the Volga river region, the Kuban region, and commercially developed areas, such as the Caucasus region, Siberia, were the places where “fully dense collectivization” progressed fastest. Although the areas developed quickly, there were still a lot of problems, such as superiors only caring about numbers, speed, percentage instead of understanding the problem of “total collectivization”. It is a common phenomenon in the countryside… Farmers, the enemy of the Soviet regime, were criminals. By June 1929, there were 57,000 collective farms throughout the Soviet Union, with many people. On November 3, 1929, Stalin wrote the Year of the Great Transformation.
Question: Was there a shortage of food after the Soviet Union?
Reading log on February 9th
Read Chapter 7 (5)
The Soviet Union wiped out a class, leaving only a few rich peasants, who were divided into “quasi-rich peasants” and “ordinary rich peasants”. Collectivization went “overboard”. Stalin also wrote an article for Pravda, which included “Dizzy with Success”. In “Dizzy with Success”, it was hard to discredit Stalin’s work, but collectivization was someone else’s fault. After that, the Soviet Union corrected the “excessive behavior”, the “total collectivization movement” hit a low, many villagers left the collective farms, and the grain began to decrease again! Production strength was no good again!
Question: How could the Soviet Union, which had finally been on its feet after a long time, have problems again? Why did the Soviets do this?
Reading log on February 10
Read Chapter 7 (6)
What disenforces the kulaks is still the subject of wholesale collectivization. The exploitation and elimination of the rich peasants has not stopped. The Soviet Union created special settlements — special migrant villages — for families of rich peasants who had not yet had their property confiscated. The villagers of this special migrant village have been trapped by the Soviet Union…
The four-month program ended in March 2022, but Junjie still kept reading, sharing his reading logs with me from time to time. Later, I asked him what he wanted to do in the future. This time he did not hesitate, looked me in the eye and said, “I do not know what I will do in the future, but at least I can become a history teacher.”
Looking at Junjie’s confident appearance, I could not help but smile. I know the magic of the Habit Development Education Program is working.
Based on our research of theoretical principles of habits, the team considered the current situation of EWB students and integrated gamification, situationalization, heuristic questioning, peer support, and metacognition into the development of a 20-hour habit building course (8-hour seminar and 12-hour practice) and a reward system.
On the first trial session of the habit building program, a total of 7 teachers (also as course developers) were invited to lead 5 EWB students to experience the course of this program. The total class hour sums up to 80 hours.
Although the students’ ages differed, ranging from elementary school to junior high school, they all achieved good learning outcomes. 80% of students fully understood the principles behind habit building through the program, and became able to actively fill in habit punch-in card for more than two months. 50% of students were able to transfer the principles to develop a second habit on their own.
Through classroom records and observations, the program team has sorted out more than 30 course improvement suggestions as the basis for the second generation of course design.
In the first half of 2022, we will focus on upgrading Habit Development Education in three dimensions: course content, evaluation, and productization. First, we will incorporate more challenging gamification elements, adjust the difficulty of the course, optimize the course narrative, and ensure that the course is inspiring and interesting. Secondly, we will design a practical course evaluation plan and guide future adjustments with the evaluation results. Finally, in response to a need to popularize the courses, we will stand from the teachers’ viewpoint and produce a complete course product package (including teacher training resources). Meanwhile, we will simplify course operation and promote course productization.
In the second half of 2022, the upgraded course version will be put into EWB teaching sites’ classrooms. 25-35 students are expected to get involved.
Xue Xia, volunteer teacher in Habit Development Education Program:
Education is a waiting process. In this process, the Habit Development program is not a fertilizer or a catalyst but a more nutrient-rich soil. I believe that on this fertile soil, children can harvest their own fruit, shine with their own self-confidence and find a better life.
Yixuan Chen, volunteer teacher in Habit Development Education Program:
I am impressed by the children’s ability to stick to good habits. After the end of the punch-in system, they are still persevering. In this program, we grew up with the children, and we were often moved by the cuteness and awesomeness of the children. I believe that both parties have gained a lot of intangible yet precious things in each other’s company. Hopefully, Program 2.0 will reach more children.
Qiutong Zhou, founder of the Habit Development Education Program:
Every time I see EWB teachers and students sharing punch-in cards in the online community, a sweetness springs up in my heart. From an idea in March 2021 to the end of the first session, the program team has continued to overcome challenges and finally completed the course design from scratch. EWB is like such a magical soil, where a group of enthusiastic, reliable and powerful geniuses gather from all directions. Nest, the Habit Development Education course will be upgraded to be more gamified and productized. Heavy as the task is, I am full of confidence because of this powerful program team.