Develop students’ intellectual humility through concept mapping

3-2-1 Bridge

Students will reflect on their initial knowledge of a topic and the understanding they gained after instruction by drawing connections between the two.

Level: PreK/Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School, High School, College
Duration: ≤ 15 minutes
My Notes: Add/Edit Notes

Planning For It

When You Might Use This Practice

  • When students are developing understanding of a new concept
  • To encourage the practice of intellectual humility while learning


Time Required

  • ≤ 10 minutes (2 times)



  • Paper
  • Pencil/pen


Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Reflect on and openly share how their understanding changes over time
  • Listen to one another


Additional Supports


Character Strengths

  • Humility
  • Growth Mindset
  • Open-Mindedness


SEL Competencies

  • Self-Awareness


Mindfulness Components

  • Open Awareness
  • Non-Judgment

How To Do It

Reflection Before the Practice

Take a moment to reflect on a topic you recently learned more about. What thoughts did you have prior to obtaining more information? What questions did you have? In what ways did the knowledge you gained change your thinking? What new questions do you have?


Intellectual humility requires that students acknowledge the limits of their own understanding. The following exercise helps students practice recognizing and acknowledging such limits.

  • Announce the topic that students will learn about in the current lesson or over the course of several lessons.
  • Ask students to write down 3 thoughts/ideas that come to mind, along with 2 questions they have, and 1 metaphor/simile about the topic.
    • For instance, if the topic is “democracy,” then students should write down 3 thoughts, 2 questions, and 1 metaphor.
    • Let students know that it is okay if they do not know much about the topic. They should simply focus on what comes to mind, and not worry about whether it is right or wrong.
  • Have students complete the same 3‐2‐1 writing exercise after finishing the lesson or series of lessons on the topic.
    • For example, students might read an article, watch a video, or engage in an activity having to do with democracy. Note that provocative experiences that push students’ thinking in new directions are best.
    • After the experience, students complete the second 3-2-1 exercise.
  • Next, ask students to form pairs–taking turns to share their initial thoughts as well as their new thoughts. Have students bridge their first response with the second by discussing how and why their thinking shifted.
  • Remind students that their initial thinking is not right or wrong, it is just a starting point. New experiences take our thinking in new directions.



The 3-2-1 Bridge thinking routine was developed by Project Zero, a research center at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Reflection After the Practice

  • Did you notice any changes in how students approached new material?
  • How did students respond to acknowledging their initial thoughts?
  • How might continuing this practice help shape the learning environment?

The Research Behind It

Evidence That It Works

Research suggests that humble children spend more time noticing and reflecting on errors made, which can help them understand the areas where they need to grow.


Why Does It Matter?

Intellectually humble individuals are not afraid to acknowledge when they do not know something. Instead, they ask questions when they do not understand. Further, intellectual humility is related to a greater willingness to hear others’ perspectives on a topic.

Intellectual humility allows students to engage more deeply with material and with each other. Instead of trying to pretend they know everything or refusing to listen to each others’ perspectives, students with intellectual humility help create a safe space for learning and to challenging alternative perspectives in a respectful manner.

“We need to enter the conversation willing to be wrong, willing to admit the limits of our own knowledge, willing to reconsider our evidence, sources, and premises.”
–Patricia Roberts-Miller
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