How Writing Works supports development of “Habits of Mind,” which were collaboratively developed by the National Council of Teachers of English(NCTE), The National Writing Project (NWP), and the Council of Writing Program Administrators (CWPA). As the CWPA explains on their website, “Habits of mind refers to ways of approaching learning that are both intellectual and practical and that will support students’ success in a variety of fields and disciplines. The Framework identifies eight habits of mind essential for success in college writing” (

Below is a list of the eight habits of mind alongside an explanation of how How Writing Works specifically encourages these habits. (In the Instructor’s Manual, there is further detail about how each chapter of How Writing Works integrates with the “Habits of Mind.”)

WPA “Habit of Mind”

How Writing Works


Curiosity – the desire to know more about the world
By using a problem-solving approach, we encourage students (1) to discover new genres and learn how they work; (2) to discover how disciplines form; (3) to learn how genres and disciplines work together to create knowledge in the world.
Chapters 1-4 outline a Genre Toolkit that develops curiosity. Rather than presenting guidelines first, How Writing Works presents problems or questions, encouraging students to develop their own strategies for understanding genres and rhetorical situations.
Openness – the willingness to consider new ways of being and thinking in the world
Our research chapters stress the importance of identifying a conversation and researching an issue before staking a claim. By staying open to what others are saying about a topic, students can develop stronger arguments and exercise critical thinking about their existing opinions. How Writing Works also stresses the value of collaboration in all stages of the writing process, including listening to the advice and opinions of others.
Part 3 models one student’s writing process, including multiple writing strategies and attempts at solving problems. Part 4 models how one student worked through a research project, trying out multiple research strategies and weight different expert opinions before making his own claims.
Engagement – a sense of investment and involvement in learning
How Writing Works shows students how written genres are used in different disciplines to make connections and build new knowledge. The research chapters, especially, show students how to extend existing research, rather than simply summarizing it.
Part 3 shows how one student joined a scholarly conversation by researching and writing an article for a scholarly journal in law. Part 4 shows how one student wrote a rhetorical analysis for a class in rhetoric and writing studies by extending claims made in a journal article he found in an undergraduate research journal.
Creativity – the ability to use novel approaches for generating, investigating, and representing ideas
How Writing Works introduces students to a variety of research and composing methods, from interviews and field work to traditional library research. It also offers students multiple ways of presenting their ideas, orally and visually, as well as in traditional print
Part 5 shows how one student reworked his research paper into a factsheet, drawing on strategies of layout, design, and visual rhetoric.
Persistence – the ability to sustain interest in and attention to short- and long-term projects
By modeling student writing projects from start to finish, each project chapter in How Writing Works demonstrates how persistence with a topic, genre, and task pays off.
In Chapters 4-15, students see how individual students worked through each writing project. Parts 3 and 4 model two student writing projects in greater detail, showing how two students worked through a complex writing task, taking advantage of peer and instructor responses, multiple writing techniques, and library
Responsibility – the ability to take ownership of one’s actions and understand the consequences of those actions for oneself and others
How Writing Works encourages responsibility by positioning students as active learners of new genres, equipping them with the skills they need to solve problems on their own and with the help of others. Furthermore, the teamwork assignments encourage responsibility for others.
Each project chapter (Chapter 5-14) models how one student used problem-solving skills to tackle an assignment. Each project chapter also includes at least one team-based assignment. Part 3 of How Writing Works emphasizes research as a matter of joining a community, which includes crediting others with appropriate attribution.
Flexibility – the ability to adapt to situations, expectations, or demands
How Writing Works provides a set of tools or skills that can be applied to different genres, disciplines, and writing situations, helping students to recognize how conventions differ based on the context.
Part 1 offers a flexible Toolkit for understanding any genre and any writing situation, and for identifying the differences between them. Parts 2, 3, and 4 model multiple writing processes for different assignments and situations.
Metacognition – the ability to reflect on one’s own thinking as well as on the individual and cultural processes used to structure knowledge
How Writing Works builds metacognition skills by encouraging students to think about writing at an abstract level, and then to apply abstract concepts to their own writing experiences and to new written genres. Students learn awareness of genre, discourse communities, and rhetorical situations that they can use to reflect on past writing experiences and apply to new situations.
Part 1 develops a set of metacognitive skills in the form of the Genre Toolkit. Parts 2, 3, 4, and 5 extend that toolkit, offering extended examples and additional tools students can use to understand genres, discourse communities, and rhetorical situations, and to learn how writing produces knowledge in those contexts.