Atomic Habits in the Science Classroom

What are “Atomic Habits”?

Atomic habits are the small scale wins that people consistently engage in, through a life-long process or on a journey. This journey is NOT constructed for someone to eventually become who they want to be, but it is about actively being that type of person through tiny, incremental, and do-able changes. These tiny changes compound over time, delivering self-improvement via a process-oriented mindset.

How can teachers use atomic habits to inform & transform their teaching?

  1. With ourselves – It is normal for new teachers to get bogged down when navigating the planning processes for a whole semester, year, or course. It can be an intimidating process for many teachers, especially first-timers. We can use Clear’s advice by taking action instead of spending too much time in the motion (planning, brainstorming) phase. It is important to not let preparations for our class to turn into procrastinating. We need to come to terms with the fact that our first year will not be perfect, and that is okay.

2. With our students – We can have discussions and have our students reflect on the process, meaning, and outcomes of k-12 school. Why are we here? Why are we learning these things? Are we here for grades? Or are we here to engage in the process of life-long learning? With this new knowledge of atomic habits, we can work to transform how students view school and their own learning processes.

3. With our colleagues – Say a fellow teacher-friend comes to you, asking for advice on how to get more student motivation with engaging in the content. We could talk and have a fellow discussion with our co-worker about maybe seeing if students feel bored (tasks may not be challenging or engaging enough), or if they feel like they are set up for failure because they don’t understand the content fully or what is being asked of them. Balance is key.

Atomic Habits in our every day life: loving ourself and others… (:

How to Infuse Atomic habits in the Classroom



2. Another way we can bring atomic habits into the classroom~ Priming the environment for success!

  • Posters/signs that enhance an environment your trying to create (inviting, inclusive, class mantras, ways of thinking, habits of mind, etc.) The list could go on!
  • Take into account the structure of the classroom- how desks are arranged, the location of the teacher’s desk, etc.
  • Adding ‘planimals’ to foster an environment and culture of curiosity and questioning
  • Teachers are also a very important aspect of the physical environment. Students look up to us and embody what we model. Watch the video below by, Ming Shelby to discover how teachers can bolster courage to prime the environment for student success:

3. Incorporate accountability partners into long-term projects / extensive assignments – Having students regularly check-in with one another to monitor one another’s progress during a multi-week project or a large-scale research investigation, etc. would serve as wonderful peer monitoring system. As Clear discusses, it is human nature to care about how others view us. If students know that they need to update one another on each other’s progress and findings along the way, students are more than likely going to be more inclined to stay up to date and progressing through the tasks. This can be coupled with written contracts that students sign, signaling their commitment to their peers navigating the process of extensive projects and investigations.


  1. Hey Riley, nice blog post! I really enjoyed you idea about giving students accountability buddies when working on larger projects. I think it’s a great way to create community but I can see it having some issues. I would be worried of students being upset with their accountability buddy because they might have higher standards than their peers. There’s also a possibility that the students will try to skip their work by not holding each other to the proper standards. Do you have any ideas on how you can avoid these issues?

    • Tommy,
      Thanks for taking the time to read through my blog post. I really appreciate your thoughts and points. To avoid the issue you presented with, I would also implement a study contract. This contract would contain the student’s project goals and the processes they plan/ are taking to stay up to speed on their project. I was thinking about doing this with individual projects so it would serve as a student check-in system where the accountability partners have to be made aware of their partner’s individual progress. Doing it with individual projects as opposed to team projects would also avoid these issues you bring up. Thank you for your ideas.

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