Creating Cultures of Thinking
The teaching and learning professional development focus for John Wollaston’s secondary teachers has shifted recently to create a culture of thinking based on the work and research of Ron Ritchhart, from Harvard University’s Project Zero. Teachers have been exploring the eight cultural forces that define successful classroom practice. Head of Senior School, Anne Harris, said ‘Culture is a powerful force that will define the type of learning and teaching in a school. We need to be conscious of this and make sure we are working together to build a culture that promotes thinking for independent learning’.
Teachers were asked to begin by reflecting on the language of thinking to expand students’ vocabulary for learning. Anne said, ‘The word ‘think’ is very overused and means different things to different students. One activity we did as a staff was to come up with as many words that could replace ‘think’ as we could generate. It was surprising just how many words there were!’.
Teachers were then challenged to find ways to promote visible thinking in the physical environment of the classroom. English teacher, Zoe Lourenco, turned her classroom into a zone of vibrant and energetic thinking. Zoe found, ‘using this pedagogy has created a culture of learning for the students and a deliberate reflection on alternative ways of engaging students in the English curriculum. All within an environment where every individual’s thinking is valued’.
By displaying the process of thinking and the development of ideas, thoughtful student interactions are promoted. Year 7 student, Eesha Gowda, said using thinking routines is helpful because ‘we can see and listen to other peoples’ ideas as well as our own’.
The language and processes displayed in the classroom link strongly to the School’s Positive Education and growth mindset programs.
Head of Year 7, Jaqueline Fisher, has been exploring the force of routine and is now challenged ‘to find a routine that best suits the learning area and how we can manipulate, adapt, implement and gauge student learning to get the best ‘thinking’ from our students. As we include the language and routines regularly, the students are identifying the purpose of the routine and using them effectively to improve their learning’.