Redefining Relevance… Redefining THINKING!

AASSA Educators’ Conference – São Paulo, Brazil: Visible Thinking… What is it?



This weekend, I had the privilege of presenting at the AASSA Educators’ Conference. Participants in my visible thinking workshop were asked to consider what thinking exactly entails:

“When you tell someone you are thinking, what kind of things might actually be going on in your head?”

In order to value thinking, we must unpack what it involves in different teaching and learning situations. In doing so, a culture of thinking is created that not only values individual thinking, but the group’s collective thinking as well. By sharing each others’ ideas, connections, predictions and perspectives, our thinking is made visible. Greater understanding takes place that drives further inquiry and enables the learner to connect new ideas to his or her learning (Ron Ritchhart)…

Participants engaging in a discussion about thinking

Participants engaging in a discussion about thinking


Who am I as a LEARNER?

Using the thinking routineCSI (Color-Symbol-Image), participants were asked to describe themselves as learners and share their thinking with their group. Each participant choose a color, symbol and image unique to their thinking and wrote a brief explanation as to what made them say that. In true collaborative fashion, a culture of thinking was created and reinforced throughout the workshop.

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What is THINKING now? From the teacher perspective…

John Zorovich, Grade 6, Graded School
In what ways have student’s thinking shown growth in their understanding of a topic, concept, idea, etc.?
  • I’ve only really started using visible thinking since returning from the break. It’s still not a consistent routine in my classroom, but I’m working towards using it more frequently. I’ve focused mainly on using the routine for introducing and exploring ideas. One of the routines involved students doing a See-Think-Wonder about a political cartoon related to Apartheid and poverty. In activities like these, I’ve seen student engagement increase as they work together to develop possible interpretations around a concept. The variety of possible interpretations also further increases our collective understanding a a class.
In what ways have the use of thinking routines help shift your thinking about teaching and learning for understanding?
  • One of the sections that stood out for me in the book [Making Thinking Visible] was on page 9 about the teacher who considered himself successful because he we was skilled at delivering content to his students. What I’ve come to realize is that the transmission of knowledge isn’t at the heart of good teaching. Requiring students to really wrestle with ideas and giving them a more active role in making meaning is the key to true understanding
What further wonderings do you have about thinking routines?
  • What would it be like if these routines were common practice across a school? Since the routines are transferable across subjects, I think both teachers and students would benefit from incorporating them into their lessons and thinking. I think it would be great to be able to have a common dialogue around their practice.
How has your thinking shifted about THINKING?
  • I used to think thinking occurred if students could deliver the right answers, but now I think thinking is about how students interact, reflect, revise, transfer and grow their ideas.

Below are examples of participants’ shift in thinking…

David Jorgensen, Grade 7, Graded School
  • I used to think that thinking was a natural extension of unit activities, but I now realize that it is a culture of the classroom with a specific language and built in routines…and I plan to add this important dimension right away!
Natalia Vergara, Grade 2, Graded School
  • I used to think that cultivating my students’ thinking was important, but I wasn’t sure what the best ways to go about it might be. Now I think it’s even more important than I thought before AND there are tools out there to help make it happen.
Silvia Tolisano, MS Technology Coordinator, Graded School
  • I used to think that I was odd, when I felt the need to create visuals (and waste time) to explain my own thinking to others, now I think that I was on the right track and making my thinking visible is a critical component of my own learning.

What do students have to say about THINKING?

Sofia, Grade 10, Graded School
  • I used to think thinking was reflecting about something, but now I think thinking is looking at every possible aspect of something and try to really understand it. It’s also trying to apply to other things you know.
Daniel, Grade 10, Graded School
  • I used to think thinking was just thinking of the facts about something, but now I think thinking is completely analyzing a topic and trying to change your way of thinking by seeing different perspectives.

I wonder, how could visible thinking impact your view as a learner, teacher or parent?

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2 thoughts on “Redefining Relevance… Redefining THINKING!

  1. Your workshop was a great reminder of how behaviors and learning are influenced by the culture that we create as teachers, both in our classrooms and in the school itself. Visible thinking routines tie directly to a growth mindset, which we need to instill on students, teachers and in the institution itself. Thanks for giving me more tools to use to help promote a culture of thinking at Graded

  2. Pingback: Thinking Routines | Ms. Arcenas' Physical Education Hub

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