Thursday, February 23, 2017

Creating a Culture of Thinking

Ryan's teacher sent me this pic!
My three year old son is currently attending an amazing Mother's Day Out program. I love that he comes home from school asking so many questions. The whys, the what ifs, the I wonders... his little school is helping him become a better questioner, a thinker. 

This week his school held their annual Rodeo Day. Ryan was SO excited. As we chatted about rodeo day that evening, he proudly showed off his stick horse and went on and on about the animals he learned about during school. He asked to read rodeo books before bed and since our home library was a bit limited in rodeo books (here I come Amazon!), I pulled up some pictures and videos of the animals he was curious about online. He had what felt like a million questions about horses. Everything from what they eat to how someone might learn to ride a horse. The exciting, playful activities from his day at school prompted him to be inquisitive and eager to learn. Why is it that our youngest students seem so full of wonder, so creative, while our older students sometimes seem to lose this?

I've been reading the book Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church, & Karin Morrison. The focus of the book is on creating environments where learning is viewed not in test scores or grades but in the development of individuals who can question, think, plan, create, and engage as learners. The book outlines several research-based thinking routines teachers can put in place in their classrooms to create a culture of thinking as opposed to a classroom focused on grades, memorization and recall of information. 

When I was a student going through school, I was really good at playing the "game of school"... I wasn't necessarily focused on the learning and thinking. I didn't have the wonder and curiosity my son demonstrates. I wanted that "A" and I was going to do whatever it took to get it. I'm not sure if it was a message from my teachers, my need to please (compliance), or my competitive nature but when I think back on it, it's a shame my focus was on grades and not on my own thinking/learning. There's no step-by-step program for creating a culture of thinking, but I do know a focus on grades/standardized tests can definitely kill the love the learning and in turn limit deep thinking.

What can we do to create a culture of thinking... an environment in which our student's collective as well as individual thinking is valued, visible and actively promoted? I think it starts with looking closely at what we are doing as professionals. How do we as teachers value thinking? Do we value the thinking & learning process over grades/recall of information? How are we communicating that belief to students? Change has to start with us. In order for our students to become deep thinkers, we must first view ourselves as life-long learners with a growth mindset. When this is modeled, students will follow suit. One of the main ways my thinking is pushed forward is by collaborating with others (even if it's via Twitter with someone I've never met in person!). Having the opportunity to work closely with so many amazing educators whom I admire has truly helped me to become a more reflective and creative thinker. This quote from educator Robert John Meehan really resonates with me, "The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration our growth is limited to our own perspectives." I believe this collaboration is key- if we harness the power of the collective group and create a culture of thinking as professionals we can better see how to develop this culture of thinking within the classroom. 

1 comment:

  1. This post is such a perfect fit within your "iWonder" blog :) I had similar experiences that you shared with your personal school assignments more often required the "right answer" instead of the opportunity to question, present alternative thought processes, etc.

    What I LOVE about teaching today is that instructional topics include ideas like growth mindset, thinking routines, student choice, authentic engagement...the conversation and the actions have started. That is so encouraging and exciting...perfect example is Ryan being given an "opportunity"...a simple one really...that led to so much inquiry and wonder :)

    You know my feelings on Twitter :) I so agree with you! It has provided me opportunity to explore thoughts, interact with like minded mind is often filled with a flutter of Twitter goodness that I worry I don't always have a place for and am fearful I will lose it!

    I'm getting ready to go into my own "iWonder" tangent...I hope you don't mind...

    This week during our #nisdedchat, we were presented with the following question...
    "We all experience a “knowing-doing gap” regarding an education philosophy. What is one “knowing-doing gap” you have observed in your our educational philosophy that you would like to close?"

    The next day I read an article that included this idea...
    "The limitations of Twitter, however, are much like the limitations of the sit-and-get workshops of traditional professional development. They both emphasize the gathering of ideas, but fail to support us in taking action.

    If we are talking about replacing irrelevant sit-and-get workshops with Twitter, then it is a promising trade—but neither of these is going to lead to the shifts in instruction that impact students. Like the professional learning binders that accumulate on teachers’ shelves, favorite tweets fall to the background as we teach. We keep gathering new ideas, but how many change what we do in our schools?"

    I don't want to just gather information! I want to make sure that I am creating opportunities for MYSELF to value the thinking process.

    Just one example of what I want to work on personally when it comes to my own thinking and questioning...and ultimately being an active part of a thinking culture :)

    Great post, Elizabeth!


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