How can we help students to become engaged and independent learners? Ritchhart, Church and Morrison contend we can help them by Making Thinking Visible.
Students develop understanding, engagement and independence when they are taught well but what does teaching well look like. We, the teachers, can first think about the work which students are doing in our classrooms. What kinds of actions do the students in our classes spend most of their time doing? Now think about the actions which are authentic to the discipline of study which the students are engaged in, that is, what writers, artists, or scientists, for instance, actually do when they are engaged in their work. Comparing the actions your students are doing to the actions authentic practitioners do will help you determine whether students are learning about the subject or doing the subject. This is a key aspect in creating good learning environments with engaged and independent learners.
Some ways of thinking are helpful across subjects and disciplines. Ritchhart et al, give a list of eight ways of thinking which are important to develop for independent learners:
1) Observe and describe
2) Explain and interpret
3) Reason using evidence
4) Make connections
5) Consider a variety of viewpoints or perspectives
6) Find the main idea and form conclusions
7) Ask questions and wonder
8) Get below the surface
This list reminds me of the main strategies for reading comprehension which have been a focus of mountains of PD in the past few years.
(Find the main idea, synthesize, infer, connect, conclude, question). Good thinking and good thinking about reading are not different. Cool.