Ten reasons to teach thinking

The teaching of thinking is a critical endeavour for teachers and one that brings enhanced learning opportunities for students. Unfortunately thinking is not something that we naturally do well and as a consequence it is a skill we need to learn. Understanding this is the first step towards establishing a culture of thinking in your classroom but encouraging an entire school to get on board with this can be difficult and given our already crowded curriculum anything that seems to add to the load is likely to be resisted. Here then are ten arguments to use with colleagues, parents and most importantly students that might help you convince them of the need to learn how to think.


Normal education does not improve general reasoning - However; In programmes that target reasoning with specific elements, reasoning is improved - David Perkins

The best programmes are integrated with the standard curriculum, they are not an optional extra - Robert Swartz


Teaching students what to do in the world, what to know, how to behave is EBNE - Excellent But Not Enough - Edward De Bono

Students require opportunities for:

    • acquiring and integrating knowledge
    • extending and refining knowledge
    • using learning meaningfully

Robert Marzano


What makes the good creative ideas stand out from the 3000 others, what do the creative people behind the good ideas have that others don’t:

    • Curiosity
    • Problem Solvers - This is the easy part
    • Problem Finders - This is the part that differentiates them as it is finding the right problems (hard) and then solving it (easy) that means you have a chance of changing the world

Pick the right thing to do and then work hard

Ewan McIntosh


Our lessons should always include Content + driven by the students finding the SO WHAT? - Now you know it SO WHAT? or Now you know it what are you going to do with it or about it?

The 'So What?' leads to student initiated inquiry out of the prescribed content and brings the students passions into the classroom and takes their learning into the world.

Guy Claxton & Lane Clark


If nothing has changed in long term memory then nothing has been learned . . .

An instructional recommendation that does not or cannot specify what has been changed in long term memory; or that does not increase the efficiency with which relevant information is stored in, or retrieved from, long term memory is likely to be ineffective. (Sweller, 1988)

Understanding cognitive architecture allows us to better understand how we learn

Lane Clark


Cognitive Load Theory

Three loads to consider in planning for learning:

    • Intrinsic load - inherent intellectual complexity of the task, you can only reduce this so far without the task becoming meaningless
    • Extrinsic load - how material is presented, environmental factors, modes of responding, you can make real differences here
    • Germane load - motivation, interest, task relevance, buy-in. This is all about engagement and learning that matters to the learner - life worthy learning according to David Perkins author of 'Futurewise'

Three questions to ask that enhance learning:

    • How can you decrease intrinsic load?
    • How can you decrease extraneous load?
    • How can you increase germane load?


Cultivating learning habits depends on:

    • How you talk (what you name)
    • What you notice (and ignore)
    • What you display
    • How you design activities
    • How you design space
    • How you assign time

A culture is a ‘nutrient medium’ for nurturing growth

Cultures of thinking are places in which a group’s collective, as well as individual thinking is valued, visible and actively promoted as part of the regular day-today experience of all group members

Guy Claxton


A Metalanguage of Learning

Successful schools create a common language for learning and thinking through a process of collaboration that involves students, teachers, parents and the community and is the foundation for metacognition - A shared language for talking about learning and thinking is an essential step in building a culture of thinking.


Students have impoverished models of what good thinking is like . . . therefore:

    • We need to teach our students to think
    • We need to teach our students how to think
    • We need to teach our students to recognise the need for thinking 
    • We need to empower their thinking with tools, strategies and scaffolds and overtime allow them to select the right tool for their thinking
    • We need to ultimately produce students who can and who do think who have a disposition to quality thinking


Children who have become:

    • resilient - have a growth mindset
    • imaginative
    • curious
    • collegial
    • and enthusiastic readers

fare better in life AND do better on the test

If we teach our children to think then they will do better on the test and they will do better in life.

by Nigel Coutts