Cultures of Thinking

Inside each classroom at St Martin’s we cultivate cultures of thinking. A theory developed by Ron Ritchhart from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, cultures of thinking recognises that dedicated time for thinking, developing and using a language of thinking, makes the classroom a more effective learning environment where thinking is visible.

Cultures of thinking principles are:

Learning is a consequence of thinking. Students’ understanding of content, and even their memory for content, increases when they think through—and with—the concepts and information they are studying.

Good thinking is a matter of skills and disposition. Open-mindedness, curiosity, attention to evidence, scepticism, and imaginativeness all make for good thinking (Perkins & Ritchhart, 2004; Perkins, Tishman, Ritchhart, Donis, & Andrade, 2000).

The development of thinking is a social endeavour. In classrooms, as in the world, there is a constant interplay between the group and the individual. We learn from those around us and our engagement with them.

Fostering thinking requires making thinking visible. Thinking happens mostly in our heads, invisible to others and even to ourselves. Effective thinkers make their thinking visible, meaning they externalise their thoughts through speaking, writing, drawing and so on.

Classroom culture sets the tone for learning and shapes what is learned. The elements that shape classroom culture are:

  • Classroom routines and structures for learning
  • Language and conversational patterns
  • Implicit and explicit expectations
  • Time allocation
  • Modelling by teachers and others
  • The physical environment
  • Relationships and patterns of interaction
  • The creation of opportunities

Schools must be cultures of thinking for teachers. Professional learning communities—in which rich discussions of teaching, learning, and thinking become a fundamental part of teachers’ experiences—provide the foundation for nurturing thinking and learning in the classroom.