It seems strange to say, but sometimes schools and education aren’t always places that encourage thinking. They focus more on information transfer, memorisation
and recall to answer questions in tests or examinations. For many, once the test has passed, this information is forgotten or filed away in the recesses
of their brain and rarely thought of again.
For the last few years, teachers at Covenant have been working to better understand how they can provide more opportunities to make thinking a routine
part of students’ learning in their classrooms in service of students becoming more engaged, thoughtful learners. Learners who consider different
possibilities, provide evidence for their opinions and who consider perspectives of others in order to better understand how they feel and/or are
affected by different decisions. And while doing this, teachers are also exploring how this provides benefit to the student in their ability to
communicate their understanding in tests and examinations.
The following are the first four of ten strategies from Simon Brooks, an education consultant, that parents can use to help support their children to become
more curious, self-directed, critical and creative thinkers who love learning. Hopefully, you will find these strategies helpful in developing these
qualities in your children.
Strategy 1: Get them predicting and justifying
When you are reading a story together, watching a film, baking a cake or playing a sport, try stopping at a key moment and asking the question:
“What do you think will happen next?”
Research shows that children who try to predict ‘what happens next’ based on analysis of the evidence at hand become much more engaged in their learning.
After they have made their prediction, be sure to ask, “What makes you say that?”, so that they are required to cite evidence for their prediction.
Try to hold off sharing actually what happens next for as long as possible. Keep talking at length about why they think what they think in order
to build the suspense! When the time comes to find out, be sure to help them compare what actually happens with what they thought would happen.
Enjoy reflecting together on the differences and similarities.
Strategy 2: Resist the urge to rescue
When your child encounters difficulties, don’t jump in to solve the problem and rescue them. Doing so denies them the important opportunity of working
it out for themselves. Instead, ask questions that will help them to think through the problem and choose a course of action for moving forward.
Make sure they’re doing the thinking, not you.
What’s your plan of action here?
What do you think that question means?
What do you need to find out before you can move forward with this?
Strategy 3 – Support your child in developing a Growth Mindset
A belief that intelligence and ability grow and develop over time – as opposed to something that is fixed or set – encourages greater intellectual
risk taking, collaboration, enjoyment of challenge, long-term development, and continuous achievement in all types of learning endeavours (Dweck,
2006). Develop a growth mindset in your child by focusing your praise on process, learning and effort as opposed to ability. So, avoid too much
of this kind of praise: “You’re so clever.” “Look how smart you are – you did that so fast.” “You’re good at maths.” “You’ve got a lot of talent.”
Rather, praise like this:
“You did a great job of developing a plan and following it through.”
“I can tell that your understanding of fractions is growing all the time”
“I really admire the huge effort you’ve put into your research.”
“I like the way that you’re considering different viewpoints here.”
“That’s an interesting theory you’ve come up with.”
“I can see that you’re working really hard here to think deeply rather than skim over the surface.”
Strategy 4 – Seek first to understand, then to be understood
This is habit 5 of Steven Covey’s ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’. As parents we have a common tendency to try to ‘fix’ things with ‘good’ advice.
However, when we seek first to understand, then to be understood, we listen empathetically to other people’s ideas and feelings. We try to see
things from their viewpoint. We listen to understand, rather than listening to reply. We listen to others without interrupting, and look others
in the eyes when they are talking. When we listen to understand, it is amazing how much we support our children to do the thinking for themselves.
So, rather than trying to fix them, try reflecting back what they are saying:
“You’re feeling confused about where to go next with this.”
“I’m hearing that you’re excited about the possibilities here but worried about how to organise your time.”
“Let me check I’ve heard you right. You don’t understand how to even begin solving this problem. Is that right?”
Mr Jay Trevaskis, Director of Teaching and Learning (K-12)