Making Thinking Visible

Curious about the great conversations we have inside the AISI Network Community of Inquiry.  Here is an except from a discussion around making thinking visible between Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach (one of the community leaders) and Carolyn Jensen (AISI Coordinator for Parkland School Division).

494603465In Parkland our Cycle 4 was about critical thinking and our Cycle 5 is designed to combine critical thinking and assessment as learning.

My first thought after reading the title of this thread was more about making thinking audible. But really the notion of structuring learning activities to capitalize on sharing multiple thinking perspectives from within the learning community is the key point whether it’s with visual tools, structured conversation, or online collaboration.  It’s a thing of beauty!

We’ve (Parkland) based our work on the model from the Critical Thinking Consortium.  We have found their work to be effective in providing a comprehensive teacher-friendly structure to work within and some good classroom resources.

We’re presenting our Cycle 4 project at the conference on Tuesday morning if you’d like hear more.
~ Carolyn

I’d love to know more and if our sessions do not collide I will come and listen. But I’d love to ask you some questions here first– hope you have time.

You said, ” But really the notion of structuring learning activities to capitalize on sharing multiple thinking perspectives from within the learning community is the key point whether it’s with visual tools, structured conversation, or online collaboration.”

So I am thinking there is an artifact and everyone has a case study, a challenge or a problem to solve with evidence using the collective wisdom of the group and research. Is that correct?

Would you say that the work the kids do is truly collaborative or more like cooperative learning? Also, how do you measure the critical thinking? I know you said the focus is assessment as learning, so do you do it formatively? I am inferring that as the students solve the challenge and collect data they then make inferences around the evidence.  In this way they are indeed thinking critically. So the act and the artifacts become the assessment and proof of mastery. Is that a correct assumption?

Excited to hear more.

494603465Hi Sheryl –

You’re right on track. Teachers are learning how to ‘problematize’ the curriculum. It might be a mini-challenge like creating a powerful title for a news article or a video clip to a full critical challenge. An example might be students deciding which of three communities would be a most suitable choice for their family to move to rather than just learning the facts behind each community.

Within these challenges students are given thinking strategies to assist them. Learning activities are sequenced to scaffold learning for the students.  I’ve heard the analogy of teacher as choreographer. It’s more than just facilitation or even design. One of our principals, Carolyn Cameron from Greystone Centennial Middle School, wrote a great blog post about this, Just Dance – Changing Role of the Teacher.

A key component of critical thinking is working with criteria. To meet the challenges students need know before they start what the criteria are to be successful in achieving the outcome. Ideally, they are co-creating criteria with their classmates and teacher. The criteria for the challenge becomes the same criteria used for assessment. We are focusing on self-assessment and peer-assessment to merge students’ skills in critical thinking with  assessment. So again your assumption is correct.

You also asked about cooperation vs. collaboration. Students are taught skills to seek the ideas of others while remaining independent minded. A component of the model we work with involves teaching students “Habit of Mind”.  It includes these skills as well as many others. Examples would be being proactive, persistent, curious, etc.

Working with the Critical Thinking Consortium has been most beneficial. Their model focuses on creating a community of thinkers with activities focused around the critical challenges. The next component of the model uses intellectual tools, like Habit of Mind, to support the students in their challenges. Personally, I think it is very well done – comprehensive and practical for the classroom.  Teachers who are embracing this are reporting great success with their students.


This entry was posted in action research, AISINetwork, critical thinking, student engagement and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s