A Note to the Teacher: Atomic Habits in Science Education

It is essential that we build atomic habits in the classroom – especially in science education. James Clear sets this tone in his New York Times best-seller, Atomic Habits.

What are Atomic Habits?

Author of Atomic Habits, James Clear, discusses why habits are the “compound interest” of self-improvement on CBS This Morning.

Atomic habits are tiny changes in behavior that lead to remarkable results. In science education, atomic habits can be used to drive the classroom. When focusing on how to implement these habits, we must design our approach so that it is compatible with our classroom. No two classrooms will be driven by the same atomic habits – each will be unique and molded to fit the needs of the class. So, where should you begin?

“The primary reason the brain remembers the past is to better predict what will work in the future.”

– James Clear
  • First, you must understand the power of tiny habits. The change you desire to see will not occur overnight and you must be patient with the process. James Clear mentions that our struggling to build or break habits could be a result of not crossing the “Plateau of Latent Potential” yet. In the classroom, this could be the period of time where we see no behavioral change after implementing a behavioral plan right before we start seeing results.
  • You must also understand that habits are observed similar to that of compound interest. James Clear suggests that getting 1% better every day will lead to immense success over time. In the classroom, this could start with writing the daily agenda on the board every day and progress to successfully completing all your tasks.

How do your habits shape your identity?

The habits you complete everyday shape who you are – both good and bad. Now to dive deeper into evaluating behavior change…

  • Identity– this is what you believe.
  • Processes – this is what you do.
  • Outcomes – this is what you get.
  • In the classroom, your identity would be that you believe inquiry-based classes are key to academic achievement for students. The process would be making lessons inquiry-based. The outcome would be a successful class.
  • Behavior change should be modeled by the teacher.

What is the best way to start a new habit?

The best way to start a new habit is by habit stacking. Habit stacking begins with finding a habit you already do every day and then adding your new behavior on top of it.

  • Each habit is broken into cue, craving, response, and reward.
  • The reward of one habit should lead to the cue of the next. This process should repeat until your desired habit is achieved.
  • In the classroom, your current habit could be that you empty the turn-in tray every day. To stack on a new habit you could place your filing folders in the cabinet directly below the turn-in tray so that when you go to empty the turn-in tray you can immediately file your students’ work for future grading.
  • Habit stacking can be used in numerous ways in the classroom.

But how can I infuse the book, Atomic Habits, into my classroom?

Atomic habits can and will change the way your classroom flows! This is the first book in my collection of future classroom reading materials and I encourage you to have it on your shelf as well.


  1. Brooklyn,
    I loved how many charts you used from the book to really show the ideas talked about in it on your blog! Which chart/diagram do you think is most important for your students to have a grasp of? What about fellow teachers?

    • Evan, Thank you for taking the time to read and review my blog post! The chart/diagram that I think is most important for my students is The Plateau of Latent Potential because we must recognize that our success is not a straight line and that we must first go through the valley of disappointment before seeing results. As far as fellow teachers, I believe the 1% Better Every Day chart/diagram is most important because we need to understand that we do not need to improve immensely overnight and that improvement takes time. Bettering your classroom by just 1% every day will have an immense change by the end of the year!

  2. Hi Brooklyn,
    Really nice post about atomic habits in the classroom! I like that you highlighted the plateau of latent potential, identity, and habit stacking since these topics are especially applicable to both teachers and students – there is real value in applying these concepts and ideas into your future classroom. Out of the many ways we can implement atomic habits in our everyday lives, what is one that you plan to implement personally as a teacher?

    • Lauren, Thank you for taking the time to review my blog post! One way that I plan on implementing atomic habits in my future career as a teacher is by preparing my bags and everything I will need for class the following day the night before. I think as teachers we need to be prepared!

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