Katz on Dispositions

Lilian Katz was one of the early scholars to discuss and define dispositions. As we look into research about learning and becoming, we have thought that one related term is dispositions.  I read a couple of articles by Katz; one (1993) reviewed possible definitions of dispositions before positing her own.  She offers this definition:

A disposition is a pattern of behavior exhibited frequently and in the absence of coercion and constituting a habit of mind under some conscious and voluntary control, and that is intentional and oriented to broad goals. (Katz, 1993, p. 16; bold mine)

Katz (1988) also discusses four categories of learning:

  1. knowledge: facts, concepts, stories. Learned by having someone explain or tell us something. Knowledge is strengthened through studying and repetition.
  2. skills: relatively small units of action that can be fairly easily observed. Learned from instruction, directions, a coach. Skills get better with practice and drill.
  3. dispositions: “can be thought of as habits of the mind, tendencies to respond to situations in certain ways” (1988, p. 30).  “Another requirement for learning particular dispositions is to have the opportunity to behave that way, so that the behavior can be acknowledge and responded to. By acknowledging and appreciating a disposition, you strengthen it” (1988, p. 31).
  4. feelings: subjective emotional states, some innate, some learned.

She does not focus as much time on developing dispositions, which would help our thinking about learning.  However, she does have a few interesting things to say:

…[D]ispositions are not likely to be acquired through didactic processes, but are more likely modeled by young children as they experience being around people who exhibit them. (Katz, 1993, p. 19)

Dispositions …are not learned through instruction or drill or lectures or workbooks…. Dispositions are probably learned primarily from being around people who have them and who exhibit them. (Katz, 1988, p. 30)

Both quotations suggest the importance of human interaction to gaining dispositions (becoming). This is critical as we think about blended learning.


Katz, L.G. (1988). What Should Young Children Be Doing? American Educator: The Professional Journal of the American Federation of Teachers: 29-45. http://eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/recordDetail?accno=EJ375727.

Katz, L. (1993). Dispositions: Definitions and implications for early childhood practices. ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education. http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&btnG=Search&q=intitle:Dispositions:+Definitions+and+Implications+for+Early+Childhood+Practices#0.


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