Thinking Pathways

Unpacking thinking pathways

To develop understanding of a topic or subject area, one has to experience and engage in Authentic Intellectual Activity. That means solving problems, making decisions, and developing new understanding using methods and tools (Ritchhart, Church & Morrison, 2011). Exploring a range of Thinking Pathways allows teachers and students to move beyond surface learning that focuses on the memorisation of knowledge and facts, to more deep and reflective learning that is focused on developing understanding through more active and constructive processes.

This can be achieved by exploring a range of learning pathways, such as:

  • The use of Thinking Routines
  • Creating a Culture of Thinking for both students and teachers within the school community
  • Engaging in Inquiry-based Learning.

Exploring and engaging with a range of Thinking Pathways serves a broader educational goal as well. When we demystify the thinking and learning process, we provide models for students of what it means to engage with ideas, to think and to learn. As educators we need to ask ourselves some key questions:

  • Why is it we want students to think?
  • When is thinking useful?
  • What purpose does it serve?
  • What kinds of thinking do you value and want to promote in your classroom?
  • What kinds of thinking does this lesson/ task/ activity/ question force students to do?

Building understanding

What kinds of thinking is essential in aiding our understanding?

As educators we can create opportunities for the kinds of thinking we value and want to make an expectation in our classrooms. Being clear about the thinking students need to do to develop understanding or to solve problems effectively allows us to target and promote those kinds of thinking in our questioning and interaction with students. There are a number of thinking moves that are integral to developing understanding:

  1. Observing closely and describing what's there
  2. Building explanations and interpretations
  3. Reasoning with evidence
  4. Making Connections
  5. Considering different viewpoints and perspectives
  6. Capturing the heart and forming conclusions
  7. Wondering and asking questions
  8. Uncovering complexity and going below the surface of things

(Ritchhart, Church & Morrison, 2011)

How can we make thinking visible?

  1. QUESTIONING: Teachers can ask questions that model our interest in the ideas being explored; help students to construct understanding; and facilitate the illuminations of students' own thinking to themselves. Good questions, that is, questions that drive learning, don't come from some prescribed list or set of guidelines; they arise in response to students' contributions.
  2. LISTENING: Listening conveys a sense of respect for and interest in learner's contributions. Good questions arise in response to students' contributions - "It is one thing to ask good questions, but one also has to listen for the answers." As teachers, our listening to students provides a model for our students of what it means to listen.
  3. DOCUMENTING: Trying to capture the conversations, events, questions, acts; as a basis for reflecting on one's learning and considering as an object for discussion. The process of documenting must serve to Advance Learning (over time) not just capture it. When teacher's capture students'ideas, they are signalling that those ideas and thoughts have value and are worthy of continued exploration and examination.

Go to Thinking Routines

Acknowledgement of Sources: