By Katie Mthethwa
“It’s like thinking about your thinking,” said Liam (Grade 7), in a moment of realisation that he was thinking matacognitively. This was a giant leap for him . . . and I knew then that we were beginning to see real thinking taking place in our school.
How do we prepare our children adequately for the jobs of the future? Dr Tony Wagner, Co-Director of the Change Leadership Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has distilled the thoughts of many experts in addressing this dilemma.
He contends that the critical survival skills for careers, learning and citizenship are:
- critical thinking and problem-solving
- collaboration: accessing networks and leading by influence
- agility and adaptability
- initiative and entrepreneurship
- effective communication
- analysing information
- curiosity and imagination
Teachers equipped with tools St Peter’s College believes that good thinking is a critical common component of all the above skills. Ever since Edward de Bono visited St Peter’s College in 1999, Thinking Skills have been part of the curriculum, with a weekly lesson dedicated to the subject area.
Many of our teachers have been trained in a variety of tools or programmes, from De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats to Feuerstein’s Instrumental Enrichment. These tools have enabled our students to develop their ability to think more effectively. January 2011 saw St Peter’s relaunch our Thinking Skills curriculum. All staff members were tasked with applying De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats and Dr Toni Noble’s HITS and HOTS more consistently. My invitation to present at the International Association of Cognitive Education in South Africa (IACESA) Conference in Cape Town in February was a great privilege.
Speakers from around the globe inspired all delegates to take the whole-school approach. The message was: there must be a thinking language in effective schools that everyone, regardless of grade, subject or post, can understand and use effectively. While in Cape Town, I had the opportunity to train to become a coach using David Hyerle’s Thinking Maps system. Following the conference, I was tasked with passing on this knowledge to my colleagues back at school. Thinking represented visually As I write, our pupils are using these maps as a means of visually representing their thinking. As you walk around St Peter’s, you will hear, “Put on your green hat” or “Which map would help you to think about this?”, “I think he was wearing his yellow hat”, “I think I should use the double-bubble map to compare and contrast…” Our students and teachers are developing a language for thinking.
The IACESA Conference also saw the birth of Thinking Schools South Africa (TSSA) in partnership with Thinking Schools International (TSI). St Peter’s hosted TSSA’s first Thinking Skills Coordinators’ Training Course. Twelve delegates were taken through the TSI guide for developing a Thinking School. This will enable us to work towards the Thinking Schools Accreditation, offered by the University of Exeter in the UK. In July, a colleague and I were able to attend the National Thinking Schools Conference in the UK.
Many of the workshops were conducted by accredited Thinking Schools educators, who shared examples and ideas of how to use Thinking Tools to enable children to become independent thinkers and learners. We visited two accredited schools where children were able to articulate their thinking; metacognition was evident and we were visibly impressed. As members of the Thinking Schools Network, St Peter’s has ongoing access to these schools and those who are working towards accreditation. Sharing ideas and good practice enables us to provide the best thinking-based education we can. Thinking Skills are one of the most important areas of the curriculum, yet they are inadequately implemented. St Peter’s aspires to developing a new generation of thinkers.
Katy Mthethwa is HoD, Thinking Skills, at St Peter’s School, Johannesburg.
Category: Summer 2011