Cultivating Thinking Dispositions in Middle School Learning Disabled Students: A Unit Plan

Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Peter Taylor


Thinking dispositions are defined as “inclinations and habits of the mind that benefit productive thinking” (Tishman, Perkins, and Jay 1995, 37). As a special needs teacher for 13 years, I have observed that learning disabled students who have not acquired certain thinking dispositions often encounter great difficulty learning skills and strategies that aid them in successful task completion. I believe that time should be allotted in the curriculum to specifically teach and cultivate thinking dispositions in these students. These “habits of mind” will be the building blocks that help learning disabled students become ready, willing and able to acquire and apply specific study skills or cognitive strategies to content areas in school. I present a unit I have created, titled “Cultivating Thinking Dispositions” that, using content from their regular education curriculum, will allow learning disabled students to practice integrating nine specific thinking dispositions into various academic and social situations. The dispositions are critical listening, good questioning, wondering, perseverance, controlling impulsivity, perspective taking, reflective thinking, goal setting, and decision making. I highlight specific research that supports the need for cultivating thinking dispositions in learning disabled students, including research on metacognition, transfer, and Vygotsky’s Theory of Proximal Development. I also recommend that when implementing this unit teachers use techniques of reciprocal teaching and scaffolded instruction, and strive for a classroom culture that integrates thinking dispositions into all aspects of the curriculum. As Oxman-Michelli states, "dispositions will develop as they are welcomed, encouraged, supported, and rewarded during the course of mindful activities" (Oxman-Michelli 1992, 3). Cultivating thinking dispositions within the learning disabled population at the middle school level is well worth the time and investment given by both the teachers and students.


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