Ron Ritchhart, in his book Intellectual Character, talks about teaching children to think and the importance of creating a culture of thinking in the classroom. His work with David Perkins, Howard Gardner and others at Harvard University on Project Zero and Visible Thinking is well worth exploring.
He describes eight ‘cultural forces’ that define a thinking classroom. These forces foster thinking, and hence deeper understanding and more meaningful learning:
Time for thinking
Expectations for thinking and learning
Opportunities for engaging in thinking
Routines & Structures that scaffold thinking and learning
Language & Conversations that name, notice, and highlight thinking
Modeling of thinking
Interactions & Relationships that show respect for students’ thinking
Physical Environment in which the process of thinking is made visible
I’ll start with the easiest one. Time for thinking. It’s easy to talk about.. not always so easy to ensure in the classroom.
How often do teachers ask a question, then rephrase it if no-one answers in the first few seconds?
It’s easy to call on the same child who always raises his hand, yet again, if no-one else volunteers.
Do you ever answer the question yourself if no-one else seems ready to?
Sometimes it’s difficult to allow waiting time, if there’s no response right away, but we need to allow time for thinking if we want our students to think! One possibility is to give students time to think and to write down their thoughts, before calling on anyone to respond. That way, everyone has enough time to formulate thoughtful responses and there is much greater participation. Another is to allow time for students to share their thinking in pairs or groups, before calling on individuals to answer.
Time for thinking’ also implies time for in depth exploration of topics. The PYP encourages higher order thinking and engagement with conceptual ideas through units of inquiry. We have definitely seen a difference in the way our students think, since our school introduced the PYP a few years ago!
Cultural forces in a thinking classroom: Part 1: Time