To teach thinking, you have to model good thinking.
- It’s not a secret.
Effective training to improve thinking must start with the teacher.
Students learn from what teachers do as much, if not more, than from what they say. The most successful teacher will be the one who is able to both nurture and challenge thinking.
- Teaching for thinking requires a passionate disposition toward thinking and the explicit and reflective use of thinking skills to form reasoned judgments.
- Educators must demonstrate thinking in multiple contexts including those that are rich in subject matter content and problem-complexity.
- The more a teacher is able to extend participants’ thinking into new domains of learning and inquiry, demanding solid content knowledge and the correct application of standards and methods appropriate to the domain, the stronger students’ thinking will become. It is a matter of active engagement, thoughtful reflection and reasonable reformulations of judgments.
If we expect to help students improve their thinking, educators must intensively practice the critical thinking skills and comment on the habits of mind of those being taught.
This is a surprisingly easy task when educators have trained their own habits of mind toward a standard of externalizing their reasons and evidence for judgments made, and of modeling the habits of mind that are expected from students. Speaking aloud the reasons and evidence for one’s judgments typically results in improved evaluation of one’s own thinking (the critical thinking skill of self-regulation).
As teachers model the characteristics of a strong thinkers, they can employ techniques to engage students and trainees in successful thinking skills development such as:
- Being sure you know what success would really look like before you set about making things right. Too often we, and our students, do things just to be doing something, without knowing what the problem really is, why we are doing it, or how we will know when to declare victory.
- Setting clear performance expectations for thinking—and include assessment to measure improvement.
- Discussing actual examples of successful and unsuccessful decision-making and problem-solving. Case studies are excellent tools.
- Modelling “Step-Back” and be sure that you understand the problem before you try to solve it.
- Teaching groups and individuals to reflect upon and critically analyze their problem solving and decision-making processes by asking themselves systematic and tough questions about their own assumptions, methodologies, standards, and theoretical frames of references.
- Exploring the role mindset attributes play in the application of thinking skills.
In school and in the workplace, thinking and problem solving gains define the success of training programs and their trainers. Everyone can learn to think better. Training someone to focus on their own thinking process, and teaching them about how they evaluate information, draw inferences, and avoid thinking errors, is a lifelong gift.
Whether your goal is improving the thinking skills of students or employees, a good program always incorporates objective assessment. Contact Insight Assessment to discuss how to integrate the development of thinking skills into your professional development or learning outcomes evaluation programs.
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