13 November 2017

A foray into thinking skills

Commencing my teaching this week came with an unusual set of nerves. As the academic year changed in the Senior School, a new timetable was issued and upon it was the subject I had agreed to teach for the first time; thinking skills.

At Scotch, boys in Year 9 and 10 have one lesson of thinking skills each fortnight. The nerves did not resound around teaching, more the nature of teaching about thinking.

It is interesting that as a teacher, who is trained to make students think, should be nervous about teaching students to do just this. Yet, with the removal of content, the vehicle in which I had become accustomed to teach with was gone. What replaced my typical Australian Curriculum of History, clearly laid out for me with details of what to teach, was a subject void of any real content.

So, what do we do in order to teach students to think, without any direction from curriculum in the form of content?

The answer is actually extremely liberating; we choose.

Between Mr Sam Sterrett, Mr Brendan Zani and I, we consider some the International Baccalaureate approaches to learning that students need to develop in order to improve their thinking skills. For example, the Year 10 course will be built on the basis of four units:

  1. Creative Thinking
  2. Arguments and Fallacies
  3. Reasons on Trial
  4. How ought we live

By examining patterns of thinking around creative thinking, divergent thinking, ethics and other ways people engage with knowledge, our aim is to equip the students with a series of thinking strategies that can be applied across their subjects as well as beyond their school life.

Take for example our current Year 10 unit which is explicitly teaching students about creative thinking. By working with students to understand the conditions that need to be present in order to allow for creativity, we are developing strategies for boys that struggle to start an essay in English or come up with a design idea in Design and Technology. A tangible example exists in this week's challenge question:

Is your plan for your personal project creative and unique or is it a good replica of something that you have seen before?

In a society where grades matter and scores drive motivation the challenge is to give relevance to this subject, by connecting the thinking skills we teach explicitly to other subjects and projects the boys are completing they will be able to see the application of what they are learning.

Mr Peter Allen
Director of Teaching and Learning