Kingsmead College Junior School officially a Thinking School

| November 10, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Hayley Pienaar

Kingsmead Junior School in Melrose, Johannesburg, Gauteng, has been awarded international Thinking School status through the United Kingdom’s University of Exeter’s Cognitive Education Unit.1

This indicates that Kingsmead, an 81-year-old independent girls’ school and ISASA member, is one of the first two schools in South Africa (the other is St Peter’s Schools in Gauteng) to be acknowledged officially as being part of this global Thinking approach to education. “This is the culmination of four years of rigorous work in developing our school as one that is focused on a whole-school approach to the explicit teaching of thinking skills,” says Ingrid Beekhuizen, head of Thinking at Kingsmead Junior School. “We have, and will continue to engage in extensive staff training, as the teaching of thinking is now an integral part of who and what we are as a school.”

Covering content creatively

Patron of Thinking Schools South Africa, Professor Jonathan Jansen, is quoted as saying: “Far too much emphasis in South African education is on coverage of content and too little on the underlying thinking skills crucial for understanding complex scholarly and social problems.”2 “At Kingsmead,” says Beekhuizen, “we strive to develop independent learners and deliberately integrate our thinking skills with the content that needs to be covered, as we prepare our learners to face the challenges of the future, with skilful thinking and decisionmaking.” This approach has been articulated by the late Professor Robert Burden of the University of Exeter, who said: “To become a Thinking School requires shared vision, skilful in-service training and a great deal of hard work.”

Kingsmead’s Junior School head, Sue MacEwan, was delighted by the announcement: “This is a very exciting development that the staff has worked extremely hard towards.”

Parents part of the process

A portfolio from Kingsmead was submitted and approved initially by Professor Lena Green of the University of the Western Cape, and then by Professor Rupert Wegerif, head of the Cognitive Education Unit at the University of Exeter. Green, herself an Old Kingsmeadian and an assessor under the auspices of the University of Exeter, visited Kingsmead in July 2014 as part of the final accreditation process. She also visited Kingsmead in May 2014 for a pre-accreditation visit, and guided the school in submitting its portfolio to the University of Exeter.

Kingsmead’s growth as a mindful school community (also involving the council and parents) has been based on a multidimensional approach. The school was guided by Art Costa and Bena Kallick’s 16 Habits of Mind,3 focused on dispositions towards learning; David Hyerle’s ‘Thinking Maps’,4 composed of eight visual organisers; and Anderson’s Taxonomy,5 which is a cognitive dimension of thinking skills, empowering learners with mindful attitudes and tools for lifelong learning. “Our founder, D.V. Thompson, would have been proud of this accomplishment,” says Kingsmead College executive head, Lisa Kaplan.

References:
1. See, for example: http://www.thinkingschoolsinternational.com/tsicommunity/international-community/uk/.
2. See, for example: http://www.thinkingschoolssa.co.za.
3. See, for example: http://www.habitsofmindinstitute.org/; and Costa, A.L. and Kallick, B. (eds) (2008) Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind: 16
Essential Characteristics for Success. Vermont: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.
4. See, for example: http://www.thinkingfoundation.org/about/hyerle.html.
5. See, for example: http://thesecondprinciple.com/teaching-essentials/beyondbloom-cognitive-taxonomy-revised/.

Category: Summer 2014

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