July 1, 2015Using Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People in EducationA review of academic literature on the principles taught in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and how theseprinciples apply in the education setting.The Leader in Me is a whole school transformation process that was developed in conjunction withPrincipal Muriel Summers of A.B. Combs Leadership Magnet Elementary School as a means to turn around afailing school by teaching 21st Century leadership and other life skills to students in an academic setting. Thegenesis of the program was to build these 21st Century social and emotional skills to help improve the overallsuccess of students. Principal Summers and the other teachers at A.B. Combs discovered that essential tobuilding these 21st Century skills is teaching students The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and practicingthese habits within and outside their school. The purpose of this paper is to highlight the role The 7 Habits ofHighly Effective People has in an educational context by aligning each habit with established scholarly researchon education success.An examination of the available 7 Habits documents and artifacts have resulted in two primary bodiesof literature used in this review: 1) research on systemic education reform; and, 2) research on social andemotional learning. Each paragraph in this report begins with a description of the specific 7 Habit principle,including the beliefs informing the principle, and the key design and content components. The subsequentparagraphs provide a sampling of classic and contemporary research, practices, and programs that align with therelevant habit. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People are:1. Be proactive2. Begin with the end in mind3. Put first things first4. Think win-win5. Seek first to understand, then be understood6. Synergize7. Sharpen the saw FranklinCoveyCo.AllRightsReserved.
Habit 1 - Be proactiveCovey’s first habit, “be proactive,” encourages students to take responsibility for their learning and thedirection of their lives through personal choice and initiative. Students are taught to set the direction of theirlives regardless of individual circumstance and condition through proactive, responsible choices. Beingsuccessful in Habit 1 is largely about choosing a proactive rather than a reactive mindset. For a proactiveperson, Covey explains that our behavior is a product of personal choice, independent of environment, while areactive person allows personal environment to dictate behavior (Covey, 2013).Dr. Carol Dweck, a renowned psychologist from Stanford University, has spent the last twenty yearsresearching intelligence and motivation. Dr. Dweck’s work about mindset runs parallel with many of Dr.Covey’s principles about being proactive. In Dr. Dweck’s work, which is centered on the differences betweenfixed mindsets and growth mindsets, she explains how our perception of intelligence can impact our success inlife. Dr. Dweck describes that an individual with a fixed mindset believes that because of condition, onesqualities are unchangeable, while someone with a growth mindset believes that personal qualities can becultivated independent of condition. Dr. Dweck explains that while all of us differ, through personal applicationand experience, we can all improve our talents, aptitudes, interests, and temperaments (Carol S. Dweck, 2006).Being proactive and having a growth mindset are even more alike concepts than they may appear. Areview of the supporting literature about each concept reveals that proactivity and a growth mindset require asimilar frame of mind that motivates individuals to take greater responsibility for personal progress.In 2007, Dr. Dweck co-authored a study published in the Child Development journal titled “Theories ofIntelligence Predict Achievement Across an Adolescent Transition: A Longitudinal Study and an Intervention.”The researchers looked at 373 students over a two-year period as they made the transition to junior high school.The study measured students’ mindsets to determine if they believed in reactive or proactive theories ofpersonal intelligence. Students were asked questions about intelligence, goals, beliefs about effort, andresponses to failure. The study found that students with a fixed, reactive mindset experienced an almostimmediate decline in grades, and slowly did worse and worse over the two-year period. The students with aproactive mindset, however, exhibited an increase in grades and overall academic achievement. The researchconfirms that students who endorse theories of malleable intelligence hold positive beliefs about initiative andproactivity, which, in turn, boosts academic achievement.Additionally, author Bob Sullo added that educators need to move away from traditional fear, coercion,and reward and reinforcement to motivate students and instead move to a mindset where students “are internallymotivated.” When students are internally motivated, Sullo says, students are much more successful; they are2 FranklinCoveyCo.AllRightsReserved.
able to make learning fun and they are much more likely to continue with their education in college. This isdirectly related to Dr. Dweck’s philosophy where having a growth mindset means one is internally motivated.Being proactive connotes internal motivation as a student approaches his or her learning in a proactive versusretroactive manner (Sullo, 2009).Contemporary researchers agree with the concept of encouraging young students to take personalinitiative in learning. A 2011 study published by MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciencesinvestigated traditional methods of teaching and its impact on children’s exploration and discovery. In thestudy, groups of children were individually presented a toy that could reflect images, play music, squeak andflash lights. One group – using a traditional method – was given detailed instruction from the experimenter onhow to operate the toy. A second group was simply presented with the toy and encouraged to proactivelyinvestigate it for themselves. The differences were significant. Researchers found the group who receiveddetailed instruction played with the toy for significantly less time and discovered fewer of its functions than theproactive group. The researchers concluded that “[students’] tendency to explore and discover new properties[is] limited in pedagogical settings,” and that strict instruction limits the range of hypotheses children consider(Bonawitz, Shafto, Gweon, Goodman, Spelke, & Schulz, 2011). The study suggests that young students who aretaught principals in personal responsibility and proactive behavior can be better suited to explore and discoverthe world around them.Habit 2 - Begin with the end in mind“Begin with the end in mind” focuses on teaching students to think about an end result. Students areencouraged to visualize what they want to be and do so by developing personal mission statements. Missionstatements are described by Covey as a personal creed, philosophy, or constitution that can help students gain asense of self-worth and direction through clearly stated values, goals, and beliefs (Covey, 2014). Students aretaught that the realization of their personal vision is dependent upon the ability to plan ahead and set meaningfulgoals.Volumes of research support the benefit of teaching students principles in planning and setting goals.For example, a study published in The Journal of Experimental Education investigated the effects thatindividual lessons in goal-setting had on a student’s academic performance. The study examined two groups ofstudents: the first received weekly, individual goal-setting instruction while the second received none. Theresults of the study indicate that students who have been educated in goal-setting principles show significantlyhigher classroom achievement (Gaa, 1973).3 FranklinCoveyCo.AllRightsReserved.
Sue Shellenbarger, writing for the Gallup poll, spoke of the power of goal-setting in Bruce Junior Highin East Texas. Since instituting a goal-setting program, “test scores and state ratings have risen.” Shellenbargercontinued, expounding on a Gallup poll that found a majority of students lack faith in their ability to achievegoals and a mere 35% believe “they can find ways around obstacles to their goals.” However, as in the exampleof Bruce Junior High, students can gain faith in their ability to achieve goals (Shellenbarger, 2010). Habit 3helps develop this faith by helping students gain the skill of goal-setting early in their lives.A large body of research suggests that schools who promote goal setting in the classroom can play asignificant role in shaping students’ personal goals, motivation, and achievement (Wolters, 2004). Additionally,researchers have found that the environment can play a crucial part in teaching goal-setting habits effectively. In2012, the Review of Educational Research published a meta-study synthesizing published literature concerningclassroom goal structures in middle and secondary schools. Goal structures describe the framework of howclassrooms promote goal-setting in academic situations. Using meta-analytical methods, the study sought toquantitatively investigate the relationship between classroom goal structures and the impact on motivational,academic, and psychological outcomes. The research included 49 studies consisting of 31,409 participantsranging from the 6th through the 12th grade. Several major findings emerged from the review: first, earlyadolescence is a critical period in the relationship between goal-setting and achievement; second, goal structuresare associated with higher levels of students’ competence, self-esteem, and self-efficacy; third, teachers’ socioemotional and instructional support in goal-setting is positively related to students’ academic and personalachievement (Rolland, 2012).In 2009, lead researcher Nancy Hill of Harvard University published a meta-study in the journal ofDevelopmental Psychology where she examined 50 studies of more than 50,000 students over a 26-year period.In trying to understand adult involvement in childhood academic achievement, Dr. Hill concluded that“instilling the value of education and linking school work to future goals is what this age group needs to excelin school” (Hill & Tyson, 2009).Habit 3 – Put first things first“Put first things first” teaches students how to “organize and execute around priorities.” Students aregiven essential tools to help them develop a self-disciplined approach to life and time management. Forexample, students are taught how to set schedules, follow a plan, and to make responsible choices centered onself-discipline and personal priorities. Covey explains that Habit 3 is about managing purpose, values, roles andpriorities (Covey, 2013).4 FranklinCoveyCo.AllRightsReserved.
The theory of self-discipline and prioritization has been well documented through empirical research. Astudy published by the Positive Psychology Center analyzed two groups of eighth grade students and trackedhow self-disciplined versus non self-disciplined students performed academically. The study found that “Highlyself-disciplined adolescents outperformed their more impulsive peers on every academic performance variable,including report-card grades, standardized achievement-test scores, admission to a competitive high school, andattendance” (Duckworth & Seligman, 2005). They further demonstrated that “self-discipline measured in thefall predicted more variance in each of these outcomes than did IQ, and unlike IQ, self-discipline predictedgains in academic performance over the school year” (Duckworth & Seligman, 2005).Thought leaders in education support many of the principles taught in Habit 3. For example, in his bookWhat Works in Schools, Dr. Robert Marzano identifies the need to instill a sense of self-discipline andresponsibility in children. Furthermore, Dr. Marzano outlines a number of educator-identified areas of“successful schools” including: providing students with motivational training; implementing a self-disciplineand responsibility program; student tracking of learning goals; involving students in designing of projectsprograms, and training and supporting parents.Habit 4 - Think win-win:“Think win-win” focuses on teaching students skills in interpersonal relationships and humaninteraction. Students are taught that win-win is a frame of mind which encourages them to constantly seekmutually beneficial solutions in all human interactions. Covey explains that win-win is based on the idea thatone person’s success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of the success of others.” Win-win is aboutfinding agreements and solutions that are mutually beneficial and satisfying (Covey, 2013).Covey’s win-win philosophy is founded on principles similar to Mary Parker Follett’s early work inconflict resolution. Follett is often considered one of the foremost female visionaries in the field oforganizational behavior and is responsible for developing early key concepts in conflict resolution andmanagement theory. Her work in conflict resolution continues to have an impact today. For example, herintegrated approach forms the basis of what is now commonly referred to as “win-win” (Tonn, 2003). Folletttaught that there are three main ways of dealing with conflict: domination, which creates a win-lose scenario;compromise, where both parties settle; and integrated, where a solution has been found in which both desireshave found a place. The first two methods result in a scenario where one party sacrifices something to thebenefit of the other. Follett explains that both are unsatisfactory because “conflict will come up again and again5 FranklinCoveyCo.AllRightsReserved.
in some other form” since “we give up part of our desire” (Graham, 2003). Integrated, on the other hand, likeHabit 4, encourages people to look for win-win solutions that are mutually