Building a rich culture of thinking in our classrooms and schools is a long, complex, thrilling and challenging process (Ritchhart, 2015). Like children themselves, a culture of thinking needs constant care and attention if it is to flourish.
Something interesting for us all to think about is not so much what we do as teachers in a culture of thinking, but how we are. What do we look and sound like as teachers who characteristically attend to children’s thinking? What entrenched behavioural patterns do we exhibit? What are the habits of practice for the Cultures of Thinking teacher?
This is a complex question, and one that might be analysed at length, beyond the scope of this short article. However, as a starting point for further discussion, here are ten habits of practice that we might see exhibited by Cultures of Thinking teachers. They’re not the only habits, by any means, but something to get us all thinking:
1. Listening and probing: I ensure that I listen for learners’ thinking, showing them that they are heard, and probe their thinking further to help them develop deeper understandings.
2. Modelling thinking: I create opportunities to provide a cognitive apprenticeship, bringing to the surface my own thinking, so that learners might observe, take on and practise these thinking moves for themselves.
3. Allowing think time: I create space for learners to think in many different ways, carving out chunks of time for purposeful individual and group thinking.
4. Making thinking visible: I ensure that learners’ thinking is made visible whenever possible, showing them that it is valued, and creating opportunities for reflection in the future.
5. Allowing for reflection: I ensure that ongoing opportunities for reflection are woven into the fabric of the learning experience, not just reserved for the end.
6. Promoting slow looking: I create opportunities for learners to notice more than first meets the eye, and encourage them to defer interpretation, so that when it comes, it is built on the foundation of detailed observation.
7. Pressing for wondering: I press for curiosity, encouraging learners to wonder, to feel intrigue, and to wrestle with much of the content they learn in the form of challenging puzzles which they feel motivated to explore and unpack.
8. Pressing for learning over work: I focus my attention on learning as the priority, positioning the work as a means to an end, not an end in itself: “What are you learning by doing this?”
9. Encouraging diverse ideas: I deploy conditional more than absolute language to foster a classroom culture where theorising and speculation is valued, and press for multiple interpretations, methods and representations of ideas whenever possible.
10. Pressing for rich peer-to-peer interactions: I seek to build a culture where learners listen to one another and build on each other’s thinking, so that ideas jump like sparks from student to student.
When we think about habits like these, we begin to dig much deeper into the complexities and nuance of building cultures of thinking, beyond simply the ‘activities’ we have them do.
So, to conclude this article, here are some probing questions for us all to consider, making use of the thinking routine Connect Extend Challenge:
What connections do you make to this list of ten? How do you think these core behaviours already play out in your classroom?
What feels new for you here? How does this list broaden your existing thinking?
What seems challenging in this list of ten? Is there anything that you’d like to challenge? Anything that feels like it might be challenging in practice? How might you discover the extent to which students notice these habits playing out when you teach? Which habits would you like to bump up in your practice? How might you do this?
N.B. This article was written and first published for colleagues at Brisbane Girls' Grammar School, QLD Australia.