We define “Cultures of Thinking” (CoT) as places where a group’s collective as well as individual thinking is valued, visible, and actively promoted as part of the regular, day-to-day experience of all group members. Drawing on previous research by Ron Ritchhart (2002), the CoT project focuses teachers’ attention on the eight cultural forces present in every group learning situation, which act as shapers of the group’s cultural dynamic and consist of language, time, environment, opportunities, routines, modeling, interactions, and expectations. As teachers strive to create cultures of thinking in their classrooms, they can use a variety of methods, including making time for thinking, developing and using a language of thinking, making the classroom environment rich with the documents of thinking processes, and making their own thinking visible, to name a few. In 2005, we began our work at Bialik College by working intensively with two focus groups of eight teachers from various K-12 grade levels and subjects to create a rich professional culture of thinking for teachers. In order to better understand changes in teachers’ and students’ attitudes and practices as thinking becomes more visible in the school and classroom environments, we developed measures of school and classroom thoughtfulness to capture these changes, conducted case studies of teachers, and looked at how students’ understanding of the area of thinking developed. Our research to date has shown that students recognize CoT classrooms as being more focused on thinking, learning, and understanding, and more likely to be collaborative in nature than those of teachers not in the project.
The 6 Principles of the Cultures of Thinking Project. These principles underpin the work of the Cultures of Thinking initiative. They represent the core ideas about thinking and learning, drawn from research, that we are trying to enact in schools.
The 8 Cultural Forces. These cultural forces, derived from research in classrooms where a culture of thinking was evident, form the basis for much of my work. Each cultural force provides a leverage point for teachers to use in creating classrooms where thinking is more than an add-on activity or part of a single lesson.
Definition of Thinking Routines. In the COT and Visible Thinking work, we make extensive use of thinking routines. These strategies are often where teachers start.
The Looking at Students’ Thinking (LAST) Protocol. This protocol is used to help focus teachers attention on student thinking. It is a useful tool for teachers as they begin to work with thinking routines.
The Ladder of Feedback. This is an adapted form of Daniel Wilson’s protocol for giving feedback. I have adapted it for use in debriefing classroom observations.
Assessing Powerful Learning Opportunities. 4 criteria identifying qualities of assignments that help learner’s to build understanding. These criteria can be used in assessing the kinds of opportunities we provide for our students in Culture of Thinking classrooms
A Typology of Classroom Questions.5 categories of teacher questions we have identified in our research into classroom discourse. While most classrooms are dominated by “review” and “procedural” questions, COT classrooms make more use of “Generative, Constructive, and Facilitative” questions. Our current research is showing that this trend is consistent across grade levels and subject areas.
The Planning Frame. A visual and metaphorical framework to guide planning for understanding using ideas of the Teaching for Understanding Framework. The Re-Focusing instruction example of how a typical unit can be “re-focused” to be more about understanding. This is an example of how Teaching for Understanding is different than traditional teaching of skills objectives. “Re-focusing” questions can be used to help you move a unit more toward understanding.
Student Survey of classroom perceptions. This is a brief survey of student perceptions of a single classroom. The constructs being surveyed are: Teacher Goals (Work vs. Learning), Academic Press for Thinking, Learning as Collaboration, Building a Community of Learners, and Academic Efficacy. Each of these and the questions which are comprise each concept can be found on the Student Survey Breakdown. In our research we have found that students view COT classrooms as more about Learning, Collaboration, Community, and Thinking than classrooms where teachers are actively embracing the idea of making thinking valued, visible, and actively promoted. If you are wishing to use these surveys, students’ mean response for each cluster can be computed to give you a general feel of students perceptions. True comparative analysis for research purposes requires a more thorough statistical analysis.
The Leaderless Discussion Routine is a discourse/thinking routine. In Intellectual Character I wrote about Heather Woodcock’s use of this routine in her 7th grade class. I had never getting around to writing it up formally as a routine that other teachers could use to promote discourse and foster understanding in their classroom until now. A key part of the routine is developing questions that will help to foster the groups understanding of the text. To help students do this, I generated a list of question starts. These are probably most appropriate for secondary students though they might work with upper elementary as well. If you make adaptions for younger children, I’d love to hear how it plays out.
Thinking Routines: Creating the Spaces and Structures for Thinking. CHAPTER 5 from Intellectual Character.
The Creating Cultures of Thinking project at Melbourne Grammar School consists of two Professional Action Groups that meet regularly. PAG 1 is focused on looking at the discourse, language, and questioning in the classroom. PAG 2 is addressing the question of who our students are becoming as thinkers and learners. To facilitate our discussions, we have used a number of protocols, some original and some adapted to fit our needs. These include: Opportunities Protocol Number 1.pdf , Opportunities Protocol Number 2.pdf , microlabs.pdf , and MGS Observation Protocol.doc