In the know - Board a train of thought

31st October 2008 at 00:00

To what extent do we teach reasoning and logical, critical and creative thinking? Do we rely on it being "caught" during the delivery of our lessons? Is it implicit or explicit in our teaching?

From my experience, it's more the former than the latter, but if we are going to make this intellectual process inclusive for all children, and not just the domain of those who are clever enough to make sense of it, then we need to be more explicit and teach them strategies.

These processes of reasoning and thinking pervade all subjects. From scientific inquiry to using and applying mathematics; speaking and listening to historical inquiry and interpretation.

Intelligence is the sum of the application of those intellectual processes and all children can learn these processes to a greater or lesser degree and become more intelligent.

The logic of this argument would lead us to the conclusion that if we taught these processes it would have an impact on all subjects. This would seem to be a more efficient approach to improve teaching and learning than solely relying on specific remedies for each subject. We need to teach the reasoning and thinking and show that it is the same general principle across the curriculum.

How do we do this?

- Illustrate and model your thinking and get pupils to do the same.

- Create a classroom ethos where children can feel confident to explain their thinking and more importantly their confusions. (Praise and thank them whatever the result.)

- Break down the thought process into small steps leading to the conclusion.

- Reinforce the same process in each subject and show how it is embedded in all intellectual activity.

If we are to equip our children for the 21st century, then a "more of the same" approach will not do. We need to try something different.

Alan Haigh is the author of The Art of Teaching: Big Ideas, Simple Rules (Pearson).

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