Thinking Skills to Thinking Schools: Ways to Develop Children's Thinking and Learning

  • Published on
    09-Feb-2017

  • View
    217

  • Download
    4

Transcript

  • This article was downloaded by: [The University of Manchester Library]On: 09 October 2014, At: 10:14Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Early Child Development and CarePublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/gecd20

    Thinking Skills to Thinking Schools:Ways to Develop Children'sThinking and LearningRobert Fisher aa Brunei UniversityPublished online: 07 Jul 2006.

    To cite this article: Robert Fisher (1999) Thinking Skills to Thinking Schools: Ways to DevelopChildren's Thinking and Learning, Early Child Development and Care, 153:1, 51-63, DOI:10.1080/0300443991530104

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0300443991530104

    PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE

    Taylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information(the Content) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor& Francis, our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warrantieswhatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of theContent. Any opinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions andviews of the authors, and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor & Francis. Theaccuracy of the Content should not be relied upon and should be independentlyverified with primary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liablefor any losses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages,and other liabilities whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly inconnection with, in relation to or arising out of the use of the Content.

    This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes.Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expresslyforbidden. Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

    http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/gecd20http://www.tandfonline.com/action/showCitFormats?doi=10.1080/0300443991530104http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0300443991530104http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

  • Early Child Development and Care, 1999, Vol. 153, pp. 51-63 1999 OPA (Overseas Publishers Association) N.V.Reprints available directly from the publisher Published by license underPhotocopying permitted by license only the Gordon and Breach Publishers imprint.

    Printed in Singapore.

    Thinking Skills to Thinking Schools: Waysto Develop Children's Thinking and Learning

    ROBERT FISHER

    Brunei University

    (Received 20 May 1999)

    This article explores the core concepts of thinking skills and learning. It argues thatto raise children's achievement in thinking and learning we need to move from the ideaof developing the thinking child to the idea of creating powerful learning environments,thinking classrooms, thinking schools and communities. Approaches to developingthinking skills are discussed, including structured programmes and infusion approachesto teaching thinking. The article draws on research and development projects whichaim at raising achievement through teaching thinking in London and elsewhere. It showshow teachers can integrate thinking skills into their teaching and interaction withchildren, and how the findings of research might translate into practice in schools andother learning environments.

    Key words: Thinking skills, learning, schools

    INTRODUCTION

    The English would rather die than think, and very often they do. Bertrand Russell

    Thinking is what we are here for. We can all think if given the chance. Kirandeep,aged 8.

    Over the last twenty years we have seen the beginnings of a major new 'thinkingskills' movement in the UK, aimed at promoting children's intellectual develop-ment. Part of the aim of this movement is to create a 'thinking curriculum', placingintellectual and cognitive development at the heart of the educational process byemphasising that raising educational standards and preparing children for lifelonglearning is best achieved through focusing on improving the quality of their think-ing. As McGuiness says in her recent review of research: 'Raising standards requiresthat attention is directed not only on what is learned but on how children learnand how teachers intervene to achieve this' (McGuiness, 1999, p.l).

    The purpose of this paper is to analyse what is meant by 'thinking skills' and theirrole in children's learning. It will explore the notion of teaching thinking withyoung children and consider some current models for delivering a thinking skills

    51

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    The

    Uni

    vers

    ity o

    f M

    anch

    este

    r L

    ibra

    ry]

    at 1

    0:14

    09

    Oct

    ober

    201

    4

  • 52 R. FISHER

    curriculum. The discussion will be seen to reflect a shift in current approaches fromthinking skills to the creation of thinking classrooms and schools as communitiesof thinking and learning.

    The basic premise of a 'thinking skills' approach to education is that the qualityof our lives and of our learning depends in large part on the quality of our thinking.If we can systematically cultivate excellence in thinking, it is argued, then we shouldsurely do so (Fisher, 1990, 1998). If thinking is making sense of experience thenbeing helped to think better should help children to learn more from what theysee, say and do. Part of the perceived need to teach thinking skills has come froma growing awareness that society has changed and skills appropriate a generationago may no longer prepare students for the world beyond school. The rate of changewithin society is accelerating so rapidly that it is difficult to assess what factualknowledge will be needed in the future, and this means that schools should be lessfocused on imparting information than on teaching children to learn and thinkfor themselves. To prepare students for the future in an unpredictable world theywill need to gain the skills which will give them the greatest control over their livesand learning, and for this they must be encouraged to think critically, creativelyand imaginatively at the highest possible levels. They need to 'learn how to think'and to 'think how to learn'. If they are to become self-directed learners, to learnfor themselves, to think flexibly and to make reasoned judgements then they mustbe taught explicitly how to do it, and it is never too early to begin this process.

    The 'Back to basics' underway in many countries, including Britain, USA andAustralia, emphasise the core skills of literacy and numeracy. But many would arguethat the three 'Rs' of reading, writing and 'rithmetic need to be supplemented bya 'Fourth R', namely Reasoning. This view argues that teaching thinking andreasoning is central to raising standards even in the most basic skills of the curricu-lum. This view is of course not new, but what is new is the growing body of researchinto practice which shows that the hope of teaching thinking can be turned intoreality. There is a clear shift in this research from earlier laboratory studies of thechild as thinker to the view that knowledge is actively created in social contexts andthrough change in mental structures and frameworks that is socially mediated.There has been a move from child as individual learner towards realising theimportance of social and cultural contexts for learning. This has also meant a focustowards research more directly relevant to school learning and classroom teaching(Chipman et al, 1985; Costa, 1991; Swartz & Parks, 1994; Perkins & Grotzer, 1997;McGuiness, 1999). It is a view that has gained some official recognition in Englandwith the DfEE's (Department for Education and Employment) new initative to raiseawareness of the contribution thinking skills can make to the raising of educationalstandards, through their sponsorship of national conferences, research reports(McGuiness, 1999) and website resources (DfEE, 1999).

    WHAT ARE THINKING SKULLS?

    As there is not yet common agreement or definitive explanation of the processesinvolved in thinking it is perhaps not surprising then that there are many conflicts

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    The

    Uni

    vers

    ity o

    f M

    anch

    este

    r L

    ibra

    ry]

    at 1

    0:14

    09

    Oct

    ober

    201

    4

  • THINKING SKILLS TO THINKING SCHOOLS 53

    of opinion about the nature of reasoning and intelligence, and that many remainsceptical about the idea of teaching thinking. Some writers have challenged thenotion of 'thinking-as-a-skill' (Hart, 1993). They argue that thinking is a holisticactivity, or as D.H. Lawrence put it thought is the 'wholeness' of a person, 'whollyattending' (Lawrence, 1964). Other terms to describe thinking include thinkingstrategies, higher order thinking, habits of mind, and thinking dispositions. Theo-retical distinctions can of course be drawn between each of these terms. The ideaof 'thinking skills' however continues to have widespread use. It has a theoreticaland instructional use in focusing attention on 'knowing how' rather than 'knowingthat' in the long standing philosophical discussion on ways of knowing (Ryle, 1949).

    Much of what we know of skill learning in other contexts can be applied tothinking, for example the importance of learning by observation and modelling,the need for practice and feedback to internalise responses, the value of beingexplicit about the processes of a skill, the importance of transfer of learning to awide range of relevant contexts. Thinking skills are consistent with the apprentice-ship model of learning. They express a metaphor for the mind as something thatis made up of many capacities. These capacities can be developed through expe-rience, education and training, or they can remain undeveloped. Talk of thinkingskills emphasises that the mind is not just an empty vessel to be filled, but is a setof living processes that need to be exercised and developed if they are to thrive,and that this is as true for the three year old as it is for the elderly.

    Even among experts who talk of thinking skills, definitions of what these skillsare vary greatly. Some authors have created long taxonomies of thinking skills,sometimes running to dozens of items (eg Swartz & Parks, 1994). Matthew Lipman,creator of the Philosophy for Children programme, has pointed out the difficultiesin defining thinking skills. Such a list would be endless, he suggests 'because itconsists of nothing less than an inventory of the intellectual powers of mankind'(Lipman, 1988). However certain common elements can be distinguished such asinformation-processing eg sorting, classifying, sequencing, comparing and contrasting,and analysing part/whole relationships; critical thinkingor reasoningeg giving reasonsfor beliefs, distinguishing between true/false and fact/opinion, and assessing re-liability of evidence; creative thinkingeg brainstorming, generating ideas and hypotheses(Fisher, 1990); problem solving eg posing and defining problems, planning investi-gations, testing solutions and evaluating outcomes (Fisher, 1987); and metacognitioneg developing self awareness, self monitoring and self regulation (Fisher, 1998).

    For most of the 20th century the dominant theory of intelligence was that born with intelligence was a fixed capacity which determined our capacity to thinkand learn for life. Many children too form the belief that 'either you've got it oryou haven't got it' and there's not much you can do about it if you were not bornintelligent. It is a limiting belief, and one that does not reflect reality. It is true thatthere is a limit to the information-processing capacities of intelligence, but for anychild we do not know what that limit is. The prevailing view is that 'intelligenceis not fixed' and that 'we all have a much greater potential for learning than iscommonly recognised' (Scottish CCC, 1996). Children who come to believe thatwith effort you can always do better at thinking and learning will tend to do betterat school than those who think their intelligence is fixed.

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    The

    Uni

    vers

    ity o

    f M

    anch

    este

    r L

    ibra

    ry]

    at 1

    0:14

    09

    Oct

    ober

    201

    4

  • 54 R. FISHER

    Another aspect of the traditional model of intelligence has been challenged overrecent years is the idea that we have a single form of general intelligence. This viewhas been largely superseded by multiple intelligence theory which argues that a child'sintelligence takes many forms (Gardner, 1993). One of the gains from this view isthat it gives substance to the notion that education should be about 'the wholechild'. It shows that the child 'as thinker' is a multi-faceted person, and that someaspects of intelligence, such as 'emotional intelligence' (Goleman, 1996) whichinvolves personal and social thinking may be just as important for cognitive reasonsas learning literacy or mathematics. Thinking skills, on this view, need to be appliedto all forms of intelligence, including linguistic, mathematical, scientific, visual,musical, physical, personal, social and philosophical intelligence (Fisher, 1999).

    Although high quality, or 'higher order', thinking may be difficult to define, asa major US research study argues its characteristics are quite easy to see in practice(Resnick, 1987). The following are some of the signs of critical, creative andimaginative thinking that would be in evidence, no matter what age the child orcontext of learning, whether in responding to reading, writing a story, solving aproblem in maths, investigating science, interpreting historical evidence, or appre-ciating art. In the diagram below elements characteristic of high quality or higherorder thinking (adapted from Resnick, 1987) are contrasted with the characteristicsof routine teaching:

    Higher order thinking Routine teaching

    Not routine/not fully known in advanceComplexYields multiple solutions/viewpointsInvolves uncertaintyInvolves process of making meaningIs effortful, requires mental work

    Routine/outcome planned in advanceClear purpose and goalYields converging outcomesSeeks certaintyInvolves process of doingIs judged by outcome rather than effort

    High quality thinking is not the necessary outcome of routine teaching. Routineteaching may be necessary for the development of many early skills, such as gettingto know phonic sounds or learning number facts, but powerful learning environ-ments which develop thinking are created only when young children are given timeand opportunity to discuss their thinking processes. Too often in school they havethe experience but miss the meaning. A 'thinking skills' approach helps them tomake meaning from their experience, it gives them the 'tools' for thinking, to beconscious of their own thinking and of the thinking of others.

    Vygotsky was one of the first to realise that conscious reflective control anddeliberate mastery were essential factors in school learning. He suggested twofactors in the development of knowledge, first its automatic unconscious acquisitionfollowed by a gradual increase in active conscious control over that knowledge,which was essentially a separation between cognitive and metacognitive aspects ofperformance (Vygotsky, 1978). If we can bring the process of thinking and learningto a conscious level, and help our children to become more reflective, then we canhelp them to gain control or mastery over the organisation of their learning. Onthis view effective learning is not just the manipulation of information so that it

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    The

    Uni

    vers

    ity o

    f M

    anch

    este

    r L

    ibra

    ry]

    at 1

    0:14

    09

    Oct

    ober

    201

    4

  • THINKING SKILLS TO THINKING SCHOOLS 55

    is integrated into an existing knowledge base, but also involves directing one'sattention to what has been assimilated, understanding the relationship between thenew information and what is already known, understanding the processes whichfacilitated this, and being aware when something new has actually been learned.It involves not only thinking, but a metacognitive process: thinking about thinking(Fisher, 1998).

    Teaching thinking cannot be simply a matter of imparting certain skills, for ifskills are not used they are redundant. All the finely honed thinking skills in theworld will be for naught if they are not actually used. If teaching thinking is tobe successful we must consider what will motivate and strengthen the will to think.We must teach children not only the skills of thinking but also encourage thedisposition to enquire, the attitude of commitment to enquiry, and encouragethem to believe that their thinking is possible, permitted and productive. Ourskills do not say much about who we are because they make no reference to ourdispositions, or to our needs and values. It is by virtue of these that we are personsof one sort or another.

    Being a person means having a sense of oneself, including self as thinker andlearner, and a sense of others and of interaction with them. A broad view of thepurposes of education would include developing such intellectual virtues and dis-positions as to attend, concentrate, cooperate, organise, reason, imagine and enquire.We need to develop the virtues of affiliation to truth, honesty of expression anda respect for others (Iipman, 1988; Fisher, 1998).

    APPROACHES TO DEVELOPING THINKING SKILLS

    If we want children to become better thinkers teachers need to know ways ofintervening to achieve this. Most attempts to teach thinking are based on an analysisof children's thinking, and all, despite the variations in terminology used, seek todevelop children's thinking to a qualitatively higher level, moving from a literal toa conceptual level, or in Adey and Shayer's phrase 'to change thinking into a highergear' (Adey & Shayer, 1994).

    During the 1980s the main work in the field came from the USA (Chipmanet al,, 1985; Costa, 1991). In recent years there has been growing interest andresearch in developing thinking skills in schools in Europe (Hamers & Van Luit,1997) and in the UK (McGuiness, 1999). Research shows that although teachersin the UK are often good at identifying the problems and deficits in the thinkingof children (for example in concepts of time and place) they show less understand-ing of the cognitive interventions needed to develop specific aspects of children'sthinking (McGuiness, 1999). Many teachers lack a systematic 'thinking' frameworkto help structure their cognitive coaching of children. What then are the pro-grammes and approaches that might help them in developing children's thinking,and help them in creating thinking classrooms and thinking schools?

    The following is a brief review of the three main approaches being researchedand developed for developing thinking with young children in the UK.

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    The

    Uni

    vers

    ity o

    f M

    anch

    este

    r L

    ibra

    ry]

    at 1

    0:14

    09

    Oct

    ober

    201

    4

  • 56 R. FISHER

    Instrumental Enrichment

    Feuerstein's Instrumental Enrichment (IE) is one of the best known thinking skillsprogramme in the world. Originally intended as a remedial programme for cultur-ally-disadvantaged, low-achieving adolescents it is now used across wide age groups.The best known adaptation of IE for use with young children is Bright Start, intendedfor 3-6 year olds, which aims to 'broaden a child's thinking processes through thedevelopment of concepts and problem-solving strategies' (Haywood et al, 1992).The programme consists of units on self-regulation, number concepts, comparison,role-taking, classification, sequence and pattern and letter-shape concepts. Theessential part of Bright Start, as in all successful 'thinking skills' approach, is theinteraction or mediation between teacher and child. It is through mediation, orhigh quality teacher-child interaction, that children see the process rather than justthe content or activity of their learning. Examples of mediation include:

    discussing evidence of thinking with children asking questions about the process the child is using rather than the solution challenging children to justify and explain processes asking children to formulate rules and conclusions from examples, objects or

    events building confidence in children as thinkers relating the thinking process in each lesson to a practical application

    This last point relates to 'bridging', an important concept in IE and other thinkingskills approaches (cf Adey & Shayer, 1994). Bridging is making connections (in thechild's mind) between the learning in each lesson and the way it is applied in othersituations and at other times. It is through discussing, explaining to others andnaming (using appropriate terminology to describe their thinking activity) and thentrying it out in other contexts that transfer of learning is best achieved. All effectivedunking programmes incorporate this principle. Not only do children need to knowabout the kinds of thinking processes needed to interpret information, solve prob-lems and learn something they need to see how this process can apply to othersituations. Feuerstein's slogan: 'Stop and think' means giving children the chanceto think about thinking by talking with a teacher or parent about thinking (Feuerstein,1980).

    One aspect of mediation is the effective use of teacher questioning. The followingare some of the teacher questions advocated in Bright Start but also characteristicof cognitive education in what I call 'thinking classrooms':

    Tell me how you did that?What do you need to do next?What do you think would happen if...?That's right, but how did you know it was right?When is another time you need to...?What do you think the problem is?

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    The

    Uni

    vers

    ity o

    f M

    anch

    este

    r L

    ibra

    ry]

    at 1

    0:14

    09

    Oct

    ober

    201

    4

  • THINKING SKILLS TO THINKING SCHOOLS 57

    Can we make a plan so we don't forget anything? Can you think of another way to do this? How is this similar to/different from...? How can you find out?

    Mostly the programme has been used with children with learning difficulties inlow socio-economic groups. Some studies of Bright Start are underway in the UK,but evidence of its benefits here, as elsewhere, is not yet to hand (for furtherdiscussion of this and other IE-inspired approaches such as COGNET and PBI seeAshman & Conway, 1997).

    CASE

    Cognitive Acceleration through Science Education (CASE) is a cognitive interven-tion programme designed to advance pupils' thinking to what Piaget called the'formal operational thinking' level through the context of science. Research showsthat the CASE programme leads to accelerated progress not only in Science, butalso in Maths and English, over time (Adey & Shayer, 1994). The initial programmewas designed for 12-14 year olds, but the programme is being extended to includemaths teaching (CAME) and in science to the early years curriculum with 5/7 yearolds (in Years 1 and 2) using the CASE methodology to accelerate thinking andlearning.

    As with IE the curriculum materials themselves do not constitute CASE. Thematerials present the 'concrete preparation' for the instruction methods used bythe teacher aimed at developing the thinking skills of the children. CASE worksfrom the traditional concrete materials of science investigation involving materials,experiments and investigations to abstract generalisation, including developing avocabulary for talking and thinking about what the children have experienced.CASE makes extensive use of metacognitive discussion which encourage the chil-dren to reflect on, explain and evaluate their problem solving strategies.

    The aim of a CASE lesson is to maximise cognitive conflict, that is to createexperiences which are puzzling and defy children's current levels of understanding.The cognitive conflict is resolved through investigation and discussion. The wholeclass share results and experiences, and the teacher facilitates metacognition througha conscious summary of the strategies successfully applied and a naming of thethinking skills used. Another important skill of the CASE teacher is, as in IE, thatof bridging to link ideas and experiences to other areas of learning and to expe-rience of the child's experience outside the classroom.

    A key feature of CASE, as in IE and other thinking skills approaches is that ofteacher training. Teachers need help in building cognitive aims into their lessonactivities and in developing awareness of children's thinking and ways to providepositive cognitive interventions. Current research in London schools in applyingthe CASE methodology to teaching science with young children holds out thepromise of a significant contribution to the pedagogy of early years' education.

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    The

    Uni

    vers

    ity o

    f M

    anch

    este

    r L

    ibra

    ry]

    at 1

    0:14

    09

    Oct

    ober

    201

    4

  • 58 R. FISHER

    Philosophy for Children

    Along standing world-wide programme for teaching thinking, also being developedand adapted in this country for use with young children is that of philosophy forchildren (Iipman, 1988, 1991; Fisher, 1998). Young children are natural philoso-phers if they are given the chance to ask question and have someone to discusstheir ideas, or with whom to argue a point of view or try out ideas to see if theymake sense. They are not philosophers in the sense of coming to know all theanswers, but will begin to be philosophical when they wonder about the world andask the sorts of questions which have puzzled philosophers for centuries. WhenJenny, aged four, asked: 'What does 'love' mean?' her question was philosophicalif it was about our idea or concept of love. When Carl, aged six asked: Why didGod let grandad die?' his question was philosophical if it was asking about God andthe reasons for death. Or Tom aged five who asked; 'Where does time go whenit is over?' (quoted in Fisher, 1999).

    Most of the time young children's questions are not philosophical. What usuallyconcerns them is 'What's next?' It is easy even for teachers and carers to be likethat with children, forever hurrying them on to the next thing. As a mother saidto her child in a supermarket: 'Don't ask clever questions, we've got shopping todo.' Philosophy begins when we stop to ask 'Why?' The more we allow children tostop and wonder why the more chance there is for their philosophical intelligenceto develop.

    Children bring with them into the world an elastic mind capable of being stretchedin all sorts of directions and an ability to ask not only important everyday questionslike 'Where's my food?' but also deep and challenging questions like the followingquestions from four year olds: 'Why do people die?' 'Why do chickens lay eggs?'and 'How does an oak tree fit into an acorn?' This curiosity is early evidence ofphilosophical intelligence. But a child's questioning spirit can wither. This maypartly be to do with the effects of school and ageing. As a child once said to me:'I like school. You don't have to think. The teacher does it for you.' What a childlacks is experience, not the capacity to think about and discuss things. Childrenneed very litde experience of the world to be able to discuss some of the importantissues of life, for example: 'What is right?' 'What is real?' 'What is true?' 'What isbeautiful?' 'What is puzzling?' and so on, all questions that thinking people haveasked since the time of the ancient Greeks. Teachers can help develop children'sthinking by becoming philosophically sensitive and able to engage children inphilosophical discussion the more will children develop what I have called elsewheretheir 'philosophical intelligence' (Fisher, 1999).

    An important feature of the Philosophy for Children approach is that of discus-sion as the foundation of thinking skills. It builds on Vygotsky's notion that whatchildren learn to do together they will later be able to do on their own (Vygotsky,1978) and on the idea of 'distributed intelligence', that is the way that discussioncan be used to maximise the intellectual resources of any group (Fisher, 1996). Whatother people think may be as important as what we think. Knowing what othersthink gives children not only models of thinking in action but also more choices

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    The

    Uni

    vers

    ity o

    f M

    anch

    este

    r L

    ibra

    ry]

    at 1

    0:14

    09

    Oct

    ober

    201

    4

  • THINKING SKILLS TO THINKING SCHOOLS 59

    about what to think. Philosophy for children aims at developing not only thecognitive but also the social and moral aspects of thinking. Thinking skills are atthe heart of education for democracy and citizenship for children are aware of otherviews their choices become better informed. As Jamie, aged six said: You shouldlisten to other people because sometimes they have good ideas'.

    Philosophy for children provides a well-researched methodology for developingthe skills of critical, creative and collaborative thinking through discussion. Class-room materials have been developed adapting the American philosophy for childrenapproach to the use of picture books (Murris, 1992), stories (Fisher, 1996, and inpress), and poems (Fisher, 1997, and in press) which are common in Britishclassrooms. Evidence shows that philosophy for children can help accelerate literacydevelopment in young children (Davies, 1994; Fisher, 1998). A distinctive featureof philosophy for children is the emphasis placed on the development of teacherand pupil questioning, something which has long been identified in inspectionreports as a weakness in classrooms.

    Evidence for school inspection reports shows that philosophy for children con-tributes not only to good pupil questioning but also to the development of acommunity of learners in the classroom:

    'In philosophy lessons, pupils respond readily with comments and probingquestions. The emphasis placed on pupils' thinking and speaking for themselvesat all times, but particularly through philosophy sessions, enables them to makegood progress in speaking and listening.' (OFSTED Report, Tuckswood FirstSchool, February, 1998)."The inclusion of philosophy in the curriculum directly impacts on the devel-opment of pupils' moral and social development as well as enhancing theircapacity to become independent learners. It also contributes to the develop-ment of pupils' positive attitudes to themselves and others.' (OFSTED Report,Wapping First School, March, 1997).

    THINKING SCHOOLS: SOME WAYS AHEAD

    All which the school can or need do for pupils, so far as their minds are concerned isto develop their ability to think. John Dewey (1916)

    The theme of this paper is that earlier 'bolt-on' thinking skills approaches are beingreplaced by successful teaching methodologies that aim to embed thinking skillsacross the curriculum to create powerful learning environments. A number of earlyeducation programmes are the subject of ongoing research in the UK, includingthe High Scope pre-school curriculum (Hohman & Weikart, 1995), the 'Fundamen-tals' Accelerated Learning programme (Dryden & Rose, 1995), and programmesto develop metacognition (Watson, 1996; Fisher, in press).

    Thinking classrooms are characterised by intellectually challenging teaching whichmake high cognitive demand on children. Such classrooms exhibit some commonpedagogical features, including a focus on thinking time, questioning, planning,

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    The

    Uni

    vers

    ity o

    f M

    anch

    este

    r L

    ibra

    ry]

    at 1

    0:14

    09

    Oct

    ober

    201

    4

  • 60 R. FISHER

    discussion about thinking, collaborative learning and making thinking skills explicitin curriculum content (Fisher, 1995).

    Here are some kinds of questions that have proved effective in challenging thethinking of young children:

    Focusing: What do you think? What is it that puzzles you? What is theproblem?

    Asking for reasons: Why do you say that? Can you give a reason?Explainng meaning: What do you mean by that? Can you explain it?Testing for truth: How do you know? Can you prove it? Do you have any evi-

    dence?Thinking new ideas: What else..? What if? What more?

    The best questions may be those that a child comes up with. Encouraging thechild to interrogate the world, and to set the agenda for discussion and researchis fundamental to philosophy for children. Children's questions provide a goodstimulus for discussion because they are the ones that are of immediate interestto your child. When their questions are written up for public display or in classThinking or Questions Books these provide some tangible evidence of an enquiringclassroom where questioning, thinking and enquiry skills are valued.

    Teachers involved in the Philosophy in Primary Schools Project (Fisher, 1998)formulated the following philosophical questions to stimulate philosophicaldiscussion:

    How do you know you are not dreaming at this moment' How do you know when something is true or not true? Is an apple dead or alive? Is it right to eat animals? What is the difference between pretending and lying? What is the difference between a real person and a robot? Is there a difference between your mind and your brain? Can animals think? Is it ever right to tell lies? What are the most valuable things in your life?

    A variety of terms can be used to characterise a 'thinking skills' approach cognitive education, cognitive coaching, cognitive instruction, cognitive interven-tion and so on. By whatever label it is given a focus on thinking skills in the classroomis important both for children and for teachers. An explicit focus on thinking duringa lesson supports the active cognitive processing of lesson content which makes forbetter learning. Benefits to pupils will include equipping them to question andsearch for meaning in what they do, to deal systematically yet flexibly with problems,and to communicate effectively using the appropriate language of thinking andlearning. Getting children to simply do things in the classroom is not enough toensure deep learning is taking place, as Gary, aged five said to me after completing

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    The

    Uni

    vers

    ity o

    f M

    anch

    este

    r L

    ibra

    ry]

    at 1

    0:14

    09

    Oct

    ober

    201

    4

  • THINKING SKILLS TO THINKING SCHOOLS 61

    a task his teacher set him, 'I've done it, so what?' Standards in learning will be raisedwhen children's attention is directed not only on the content or activity of theirlearning but on how they learn, and how they are able to reflect on and translatetheir learning into words.

    The second benefit to focus on thinking skills in the classroom is that it alertsteachers to the need to build in cognitive as well as curriculum aims in theirteaching. It equips them with an awareness of the importance of the processes oflearning, and the need to share the underlying aims of activities in the classroomand to help children review not only what they have done but also what they havelearnt. A thinking skills approach provides teachers with the means to achieveintellectually challenging teaching. Research shows that one of the greatest benefitsof training teachers to implement a thinking skills approach is in enhancing pro-fessional development and motivation (Blagg, 1991).

    Thinking Schools

    Research is beginning to map the characteristics of a thinking classroom, that isa classroom where a 'thinking skills' approach is being successfully implemented.What then are the factors necessary to create a thinking school, that is a schoolcommitted to developing a thinking skills policy or programme? Research showscertain factors to be common to those schools where there is commitment ofteachers to a thinking skills programme, most importantly support of the headteacher,and a shared vision between the head and class teacher involved, and the presenceof at least one other teacher committed to the innovation (Adey, quoted in McGuiness,1999).

    Teachers need not only training but also support in delivering the curriculumin the classroom. It is increasingly recognised that developing pupils' thinking skillsin thinking classrooms requires not only teacher development and teacher thinkingbut also developing the ethos of the school as a learning community (Boyd, 1997).How is this achieved?

    The following are some of the characteristics of schools whose aim is to raiseachievement through developing the thinking and learning of all involved in theschool community.

    Evidence that a school is a Thinking School might include:

    reference to developing pupils as effective thinkers and learners in the school'smission or mission statement

    reference to teaching thinking as part of a school's teaching and learning policyand in curriculum policy documents

    a range of teaching strategies that include teaching pupils thinking and learningskills

    written and creative work showing high quality thinking and learning high quality teachenpupil interaction, including use of questioning to foster

    higher order thinking in classrooms

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    The

    Uni

    vers

    ity o

    f M

    anch

    este

    r L

    ibra

    ry]

    at 1

    0:14

    09

    Oct

    ober

    201

    4

  • 62 R. FISHER

    classroom-based staff taking part in INSET or other training towards developingthe quality of thinking and learning in the school

    The development of thinking children in thinking classrooms in thinking schoolsoffers the exciting prospect of raising standards of achievement in school. But asone head of a 'thinking' infant school reminds us we must also remember the GreatCommunity outside. Her vision is of pupils who would be the 'disciples learningabout values through thinking inside the classroom' then 'reach out' into thecommunity, communicate the ideas and the growth of values or invite members ofthe wider community in to hear and take part.' (Johnson, 1998). In teaching thethinking citizens of the future we may be doing more than creating thinkingchildren in schools we are also helping to improve a wider community, the GreatCommunity outside.

    References

    Adey, P. and Shayer, M. (1994). Really raising standards: cognitive intervention and academic achievement.London: Routledge.

    Ashman, AA. and Conway, R.N.F. (1997). An Introduction to Cognitive Education, London: Routledge.Blagg, N. (1991). Can We Teach Intelligence ? A Comprehensive Evaluation of Feuerstein 's Instrumental Enrich-

    ment Program, Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Boyd, B. (1997). Creating an Ethos of Achievement: A Staff Development Pack for Schools, The Scottish Office

    Education and Industry Department, Glasgow: St. Andrew's College.Chipman, S.F., Segal, J.W. and Glaser, R. (eds) (1985). Thinking and Learning Skills, Vols 1 & 2, Hillsdale,

    NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Costa, A.L. (ed.) (1991). Developing Minds: A Resource Book for Teaching Thinking. Alexandra, Virginia:

    ASCD.Davies, S. (1994). Improving Reading Standards in Primary Schools Project Report, Dyfed Local Education

    Authority.DfEE (1999). Thinking skills website: www.standards.dfee.gov.uk/guidance/thinkingDewey, J. (1916). How We Think, New York.Dryden, G. and Rose, C. (1995). Fundamentals guidebook: The building blocks to raise a brighter happier child,

    Aylesbury: Accelerated Learning.Feuerstein, R., Rand, Y, Hoffman, M.B. and Miller, R. (1980). Instrumental Enrichment: An intervention

    for cognitive modifiability, Baltimore, MD: University Park Press.Fisher, R. (ed.) (1987). Problem solving in Primary Schools, Oxford: Blackwell.Fisher, R. (1990). Teaching Children to Think, Cheltenham: Stanley Thornes.Fisher, R. (1995). Teaching Children to Learn, Cheltenham: Stanley Thornes.Fisher, R. (1996). Stories for Thinking, Oxford: Nash Pollock.Fisher, R. (1997). Games for Thinking, Oxford: Nash Pollock.Fisher, R. (1997). Poems for Thinking, Oxford: Nash Pollock.Fisher, R. (1998). Teaching Thinking: Philosophical Enquiry in the Classroom, London: Cassell.Fisher, R. (1998). Thinking about Thinking: Developing Metacognition in Children, Early Child Devel-

    opment and Care, 141, 1-13.Fisher, R. (1999). Head Start: How to Develop Your Child's Mind, Souvenir Press.Fisher, R. (in press). First Stories for Thinking, Oxford: Nash Pollock.Fisher, R. (in press). First Poems for Thinking, Oxford: Nash Pollock.Gardner, H. (1993). Multiple intelligences: the theory in practice. New York: Basic Books.Goleman, D. (1996). Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. London: Bloomsbury.Hamers, J.H.M. and Van Luit, J.E.H. (eds.) (1997). Teaching Thinking in Europe. Inventory of European

    Programmes, Utrecht: Sardes.

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    The

    Uni

    vers

    ity o

    f M

    anch

    este

    r L

    ibra

    ry]

    at 1

    0:14

    09

    Oct

    ober

    201

    4

  • THINKING SKILLS TO THINKING SCHOOLS 63

    Hart, W A (1993). Against Skills, reprinted in I ipman M. (ed) (1993). Thinking Children and Education,Iowa: Kendal/Hunt, pp.632-645.

    Hayward, H.C., Brooks P. and Bums, S. (1992). Bright Start: Cognitive Curriculum for Young Children,Watertown, Mass: Charlesbridge Publishing.

    Hohmann, M. and Weikart, D. (1995). Educating Young Children, High Scope Education ResearchFoundation, Ypsilanti: High Scope Press.

    Johnson, C. (1998). Building values through developing thinking skills in the school community, MA dissertation,University of Wolverhampton (unpublished).

    Lawrence, D.H. (1964). 'Thought' from Complete Poems of D.H Lawrence, London; Heinemann.Lipman, M. (1988). Philosophy Goes to School, Philadelphia, Temple University Press.Lipman, M. (1991). Thinking in education, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.McGuiness, C. (1999). From Thinking Skills to Thinking Classrooms: a review and evaluation of

    approaches for developing pupils' thinking, Research Report No 115, Department for Education andEmployment.

    Murris, K. (1992). Teaching Philosophy with Picture Books, London: Infonet Publications.Perkins, D.N. and Grotzer TA. (1997). Teaching Intelligence. American Psychologist, 52, 9100, 1125-1133.Resnick, L.B. (1987). Education and Learning to Think. Washington: National Academic Press.Ryle. G. (1949). The Concept of Mini, London: HutchinsonScottish CCC (1996). Teaching for Effective Learning. Dundee: Scottish Consultative Council on the

    Curriculum.Swartz, R. and Parks, S. (1994). Infusing the teaching of critical and creative thinking into content instruction;

    a lesson design handbook for elementary grades. California: Critical Thinking Press and Software.Watson, J. (1996). Reflection through Interaction: The classroom experience of children with learning difficulties,

    London: Falmer Press.Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in Society, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    The

    Uni

    vers

    ity o

    f M

    anch

    este

    r L

    ibra

    ry]

    at 1

    0:14

    09

    Oct

    ober

    201

    4

Recommended

View more >