In a fast-paced society with never-ending distractions, having the discipline and focus to think deeply is an ability that escapes many people. Having skills and knowledge is not enough. Memorising facts and figures is not enough. Students must learn when to apply them to situations – they must learn to think. This is why it is more important than ever to create a rich thinking culture in schools. A culture of thinking will provide the level of education your child needs to be successful in the 21st century.
What is a culture of thinking?
In 2014, Dr Ron Ritchhart, a Principal Investigator and Senior Research Associate for Project Zero at Harvard Graduate School of Education, conducted a seminar with Scots staff. He brought to life the concept that students' habits of mind are shaped through a culture that is focused on being thinkers and learners. Dr Ritchhart wrote a book called Creating Cultures of Thinking: The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools that delves into the concept of a thinking culture. Cultures of thinking refers to places – our schools, classrooms and organisations – where an individual or group’s collective thinking is valued, visible and actively encouraged and developed.
Why schools need a culture of thinking
In schools, a thinking culture should be central to the lessons we design, the assessment process and built into our everyday instruction. Of course, no school or educator would ever say that they don’t value thinking. However, schools can send very mixed messages about how much they value thinking. Many schools teach to test and encourage memorisation of information – perhaps not intentionally, but this is a common scenario. Schools must allow space for thinking and problem solving rather than spoonfeeding students with the required knowledge.
“Too often students are sent the message that memorization is the only tool necessary for learning and that there isn’t a place to bring in complications, questions, or connections from outside the classroom that might make learning more real.” – Dr Ron Ritchhart
How to cultivate a rich thinking culture in schools
If schools truly value thinking, then they will understand that learning is a consequence of thinking. As a parent, you should look for activities and homework that your child can use to develop their own understanding. Here are types of activities that cultivate a rich thinking culture in schools.
1. Asking questions
Activities and classroom tasks that encourage asking questions, identifying mysteries and puzzles, and encourage children to think deeply about the area of study.
2. Making connections
Making connections, comparisons and contrasts between variables is a great way to actively promote thinking, individually and in groups. This includes making connections and comparisons with real world situations and across subject areas.
3. Building ongoing theories
As knowledge and understanding develops, a great way of promoting thinking is for students to create evolving explanations, interpretations and theories about the area of study.
4. Considering different points of view
Looking at things from different perspectives is a great way to become aware of bias and develop a more balanced take on issues, ideas and events.
5. Practising debating
Debating is another effective way to actively develop a culture of thinking. Students should be encouraged to identify, gather and reason with evidence to justify and support their points, predictions and theories.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of how to cultivate a culture of thinking, but it’s a good starting point. The development of a deep thinking learning mindset at Scots helps to set our students apart and prepare them for a successful future. The College is committed to seeking new ways to extend boys’ minds and successfully equip them to become tomorrow’s leaders.
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