Cultures of Thinking

Effective teaching takes more than good planning and instruction. It also requires attention to the culture of the classroom. 

Our teachers strive to create cultures of thinking in their classrooms by using a variety of methods, including making time for thinking, developing and using a language of thinking, making the classroom environment rich with scaffolds for thinking, and making their own thinking visible.

At St Martin’s, we have engaged the services of Ron Ritchhart from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and have been continuously developing a culture of thinking since 2015.

The following principles guide our development of this culture:

  1. 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.
  2. Good thinking is not only a matter of skills, but also a matter of dispositions. Open-mindedness, curiosity, attention to evidence, scepticism, and imaginativeness all make for good thinking (Perkins & Ritchhart, 2004; Perkins, Tishman, Ritchhart, Donis, & Andrade, 2000).
  3. 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.
  4. 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 externalize their thoughts through speaking, writing, drawing, or some other method.
  5. Classroom culture sets the tone for learning and shapes what is learned. We have identified the forces that shape classroom culture:
  • 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

6. 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.