A Thinking School
Young people in education today face unique challenges in a rapidly evolving world. Our goals and outlooks are no longer concrete, with future jobs and positions largely unknown. We need to nurture the adults of tomorrow by delivering an education which is not only broad and balanced but deepens empathy, awareness and communication. Dialogue and conversation are skills we need to enhance in this digital world. Bringing together the six nurture principles, Thinkers Toolbox and good dispositions and attitudes using Habits of Mind we can develop an approach which aims to address these 21st century challenges and prepare the youth of today for an unknown tomorrow.
We explored these skills as a way of encouraging increased resilience, independence and to raise standards. We can vouch for their positive impact and lifelong pertinence. As such we would be proud to offer sessions to encourage more schools to have thinking at the core of their curriculum.
Thinking is not an optional extra in learning. Some people seem to consider thinking as a luxury bonus, ie something that they will ‘cover’ after they’ve managed to teach everything else they need to do. Wrong approach.
Thinking is a core skill. Thinking will boost the quality of all learning. A student’s thinking will determine his/her deep residual embedding of the learning that is taking place. Given that this embedding is one of the critical drivers for quality learning, we can hardly refer to thinking as a luxury. It’s a necessity.
You’re always thinking. If you’re not, then you must be dead. The critical issue is the quality of thinking that is taking place at any one time. And that’s why these strategies have been developed – to boost thinking in everyday learning at all times.
Thinking can be explicitly taught. Don’t expect it to occur via osmosis. It doesn’t just magically happen overnight. These strategies will still require direct instruction. What matters, though, is that this instruction occurs in the context of the learning.
Thinkers keys as developed by Tony Ryan are an excellent way of exploring thinking about things in different ways. They can be used at home as mental warm up or early work. They are an effective tool to introduce different ways of higher-order thinking to students.
They can be easily included in contract activities, homework tasks, journal writing activities, extension tasks and as part of a Bloom's and Multiple Intelligence approach to teaching and learning. They are designed to engage and motivate students in divergent thinking activities and provide a framework for teachers when developing units of work. The Thinkers Keys are a range of question or task starters are presented as keys to unlocking the analytical, critical and creative thinking abilities of learners. The Thinkers Keys are twenty powerful strategies for generating intellectual thoroughness in everyday learning in all settings.
1. The Reverse- Challenges Children to think of the never, cannot
2. The What If- A what if question, come up with solutions
3. The Disadvantages- List disadvantages and Improvements
4. The Combination- List attributes of both, then combine
5. The Alphabet- Come up with something for each letter of the Alphabet
6. The B A R- Bigger, Add, Replace acronym. Come up with a solution for each
7. The Variations- How many ways can you…
8. The Picture- Draw a picture/diagram
9. The Prediction- Make a prediction
10. The Different Uses- Find 10 different uses for…
11. The Ridiculous- Try to justify a ridiculous statement
12. The Commonality- Find common points between…
13. The Question- Come up with 5 questions for…
14. The Brainstorming- Brainstorm solutions for…
15. The Inventions- Design a …
16. The Brick Wall- Consider alternatives to…
17. The Construction- Construct a… Materials…
18. The Forced Relationships- Come up with a solution to a problem involving two dissimilar objects
19. The Alternative- Work out 3 ways to…
20. The Interpretations- Give 3 possible explanations for…
The Thinking Maps by David Hyerle consists of eight maps that correspond with fundamental thinking processes. The Circle Map is used for defining in context; the Bubble Map, describing with adjectives; the Flow Map, sequencing and ordering; the Brace Map, identifying part/whole relationships; the Tree Map, classifying/grouping; the Double Bubble Map, comparing and contrasting; the Multi-Flow Map, analyzing causes and effects; and the Bridge Map, seeing analogies. These maps are a "common visual language" for students in all subject areas and form a key area of our approach to learning and recording as a way of enabling all children to share their knowledge and understanding. These maps are a brilliant life tool that can be used effectively throughout our own adult lives. The key benefit is ensuring all learners can present their knowledge in ways that suit them and which enable them to consider the best learning process for the task in hand.
The Six Thinking Hats, developed by Edward DeBono is a time-tested, proven and practical thinking tool. It provides a framework to help learners think clearly and thoroughly by directing their thinking attention in one direction at a time--white hat facts, green hat creativity, yellow hat benefits, black cautions, red hat feelings, and blue hat process.
It's a simple mental metaphor. Hats are easy to put on and to take off. Each hat is a different colour which signals the thinking ingredient. In a group setting each member thinks using the same thinking hat, at the same time, on the same thinking challenge—we call this focused parallel thinking--a tool that facilitates creativity and collaboration. It enables each person's unique point of view to be included and considered. Argument and endless discussion become a thing of the past. Thinking becomes more thorough.
Habits of Mind
The 16 Habits of Mind, developed by Prof Art Costa and Dr Bena Kallick are the characteristics found in independent, self directing learners. They offer a framework for all ages to decide how they can behave intelligently when facing many choices, when stuck, when planning a complex task, when working collaboratively or when needing to tackle a new challenge. They provide a framework for students to refer to when needing to direct the next steps in their learning. They remove over dependency on the teacher and after time become internalised, habituated approaches to taking the lead in one's own learning even when the way forward is not clear or is in unfamiliar territory.
- Managing Impulsivity
- Listening with Empathy and Understanding
- Thinking Flexibly
- Striving For Accuracy
- Questioning and Posing Problems
- Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations
- Creating Imagining and Innovating
- Finding Humour
- Gathering Data Through All Senses
- Remaining Open to Continuous Learning
- Responding with Wonderment and Awe
- Taking Responsible Risks
- Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision
- Thinking Interdependently
‘Bloom researched what really made people think and what didn’t require much of the grey matter to be engaged. These thinking skills were further grouped into two categories, lower order thinking skills and higher order thinking skills. It is important to note that when lower order thinking skills are being used, the learner is usually unaware that they are being used (Unconscious thought), however when higher order thing skills are in operation, the learner is aware that they are thinking (Meta-cognition), this is because it takes a greater cognitive effort to perform higher order thinking; it is more complex. When designing activities to promote thinking skills consider how they can be used for differentiation; rather than making the task ‘harder’, for example, more writing, or larger numbers/values, consider how Bloom’s taxonomy can the task more complex, i.e. moving into higher order thinking.
Community of Enquiry
A Community of Enquiry approach encourages children to engage in the social and intellectual practice of thinking together through a collaborative and reflective approach to discussion. It aims to develop:
- A sense of community through co-operation, care, respect and safety
- A sense of enquiry through a search for deeper understanding, meaning, truth and values supported by reasons
In a Community of Enquiry, the discussion is modelled on a Socratic structure and guided by agreed ground rules. Children are encouraged to reflect on their own experiences, articulate their thinking and play with ideas in a safe environment, and attention is paid to the skills and dispositions of thinking together through:
- Generating and posing questions
- Using the language of dialogue and discussion
- Giving reasons
- Being fair~minded
- Listening carefully to alternative points of view
- Exploring disagreement
- Developing empathy
- Allowing collective wisdom to emerge
Research suggests that children who have learned how to engage in productive dialogue through the Community of Enquiry approach become more effective thinkers and develop socially as well as intellectually. In engaging in discussion about deeper issues such as belonging, family, friendship, freedom, loneliness and love, and probing for the best answers to difficult questions, they become more thoughtful, considerate and reasonable and develop positive concepts, skills and attitudes for lifelong learning.
If any of these tools appeal to you please contact Rose Cope for additional information.
Phone: 01304 373734