Artifact 9-November 15th

Charles Duhigg's The Power of Habit and It's Takeaways for Education

In order for students to be successful in their studies, it is expected that they develop a series of habits to support their learning. In The Ontario Curriculum for example, students are assessed on their learning skills and work habits which include self-regulation, initiative, organization, independent work, collaboration, and responsibillity. Generally speaking, there is a positive correlation between a students strong learning skills and work habits and their academic achievement.

But how do students foster these skills? What is our role as educators in aiding students in developing positive habits and behaviours? What is the master formula for these habits needed for success?

Charles Dugghig’s book The Power of Habit explores the concept of habits and how they evolve. The book is designed into chapters that outline a different reason habits form as well as provides strategies to change negative habits and formulate new ones.

Key Takeaways for Education:

The Habit Loop

Habits are broken into a 3 part loop defines as the habit loop which includes:

  1. A Cue

  2. A Routine

  3. A Reward

As you can see in my graphic I created on Canva



In the habit loop, the Routine is the behaviour you want to change or develop. In the case of breaking bad habits, the cue is what triggers you to continue your bad habit. Cues are generally emotional, time based, or situation based in nature. In the case of students, perhaps they struggle to stay on task when they are working on an assignment in class. The cue is they start to feel bored. As a result their routine is they skip to another website with the reward being feeling entertained.

Training Willpower

According to Charlies Duhigg, willpower is more like a muscle than anything else. This means if you encounter frequent hardship or difficulty, your willpower, when tested, will get lower. This is due to the fact that just like a muscle, your willpower has a finite capacity. This demonstrates a case for the need for kindness in the classroom when aiding your students to build willpower. If students are treated with disdain or obvious frustration, their willpower will be diminished, leaving more opportunities for students to seek distraction and unacademic rewards.

In order to help students develop their willpower, teachers can approach students with a positive and encouraging attitude and help them “plan for pain”. This means having students reflect on their cues for their negative behaviours, such as being cued by feeling anxious about a test and having a routine of watching tv instead of studying. They should write down how their habits negatively impact them as well as write down strategies they can employ to create positive routines when encountering their cues that lead to bad habits.

Though willpower is a finite entity, by creating positive routines and habits, responses become more automatic and as a result there is less willpower exercised in completing tasks. Duhigg explains once we develop willpower in one thing it will positively impact other areas of our lives as well and translate into a snowball effect of positive new habits.


Building positive habits is particularly relevant for an online learning environment. As more individual motivation and responsibility are required, it is important that students have a strong foundation of positive habits in order to be successful in an online learning environment.