Thinking Schools

At The Northumberland Church of England Academy we are in the process of gaining accreditation to become a ‘Thinking School’. This is all about developing effective, independent and creative learners who will approach their learning and problem solving with positive and helpful dispositions. The learners and staff are using a range of thinking tools to promote effective learning throughout NCEA. We are developing a common language for learning and thinking which will be introduced during the Early Years and Foundation stages and develop through the different Key Stages and phases.

Isn’t every school a thinking school?

Education should be about encouraging children to engage thoughtfully with all aspects of the curriculum and with the world around them. However, simply exhorting learners to ‘think’ is not always helpful. What kind of thinking are we asking them to do – remember, understand, sequence, make connections, imagine, analyse, deconstruct, empathise or evaluate? There are many very different ways of thinking which involve as many different strategies. A Thinking School teaches these strategies of thinking as well as providing a supportive environment for thinking and helping students to learn about their own thinking processes.

There are five main strands being developed.

Cognition – We use a range of tools and models to define and organise a range of thinking skills such as comparing, sequencing and reasoning. We are developing different ways of encouraging learners to move towards higher order thinking. Learning is not just about remembering facts, but about being able to apply, analyse and evaluate those facts and to use them creatively to produce new knowledge, skills and ideas.

Enquiry – Many of our teachers are trained in Philosophy for Children which encourages learners to develop their own questions and independent enquiries. We have a strong focus on questioning skills to engage learners in thinking about what they know and how they know it. We also encourage everyone to think about their own thinking and learning (metacognition) which has been shown to be one of the most successful ways of making progress.

Dispositions – It is important for our learners to have the appropriate attitudes and to have emotional support for their learning and thinking. We would like all of our learners to show persistence, open-mindedness, flexibility, precision and empathy. These are intellectual behaviours that we usually expect to develop with maturity, but the Thinking School approach tries to teach them and show the learners how to apply them in different contexts so that these characteristics become habits. Our ethos of Let Your Light Shine is essential to developing these habits and contributes to encouraging a Growth Mindset; which is the belief that ability and intelligence is something that can grow and change.

Visual Mapping – To help learners to remember the different skills and strategies we make use of helpful visual tools. These are ways of representing different types of thinking (classification, comparing and contrasting, analysing, defining and describing qualities etc.) which literally draw out the thinking so that it can be seen, shared and developed.

Creativity – Problem solving is becoming an increasingly valuable skill in all walks of life and as a result we are introducing a range of strategies to help our learners develop creative solutions. This is not just about producing original and novel ideas by ‘thinking outside the box’, but also to know when, how and why to apply the good ideas that are already ‘inside the box’.

All of this is part of a wider effort to create a ‘Thinking Community’ in which children and adults within NCEA, as well as parents and other stakeholders, can participate and collaborate in the development of effective thinking.

Lead Teacher:  Dr Ewan Porter