'Every class I teach is a research expedition into student thinking'

5th February 2015 at 12:40

Cameron Paterson, mentor of learning and teaching at Shore School in Sydney and nominee for the $1 million Varkey Gems Foundation Global Teacher Prize, writes:  

If “children grow into the intellectual life around them” (Vygotsky, 1978), then what kind of intellectual life are we presenting to the students in our classrooms?

Teachers all over the world have had to accept the compromise of focusing more on delivering the prescribed curriculum than developing understanding – test-taking rather than learning.

We have what the authors of Making Thinking Visible describe as “a distorted view of teaching that is self-reinforcing and divorced from what we know about effective learning”(Ritchhart, Church, & Morrison, 2011). 

A culture of thinking is one in which a group’s collective and individual thinking is visible and cherished. In a classroom with a culture of visible thinking, students have opportunities to articulate their ideas and to think things through for themselves, and their awareness of thinking strategies increases.

When students are encouraged to ask questions, consider prior knowledge, probe their own ideas, and reveal key relationships, it deepens their learning and develops their thinking dispositions. Making these tangled and interconnecting relationships visible helps students form authentic knowledge instead of just remembering disparate facts.

When teachers start thinking about thinking, they tend to think about teaching differently. They become more student-centred and the classroom culture becomes more oriented to learning rather than work completion. The teacher’s role “shifts from the delivery of information to fostering students’ engagement with ideas”(Ritchhart, et al., 2011).

My classroom is now more focused on learning and less focused on getting through the work. Every class I teach is a research expedition into student thinking. It is hugely rewarding to hear students begin to incorporate the language of thinking into their own conversations by making connections, puzzling aloud, and explaining how their thinking has changed.

Mr Paterson will also be speaking at researchED Sydney on February 21. Click here for details. 

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