Month: July 2014

The Thinking Classroom Part III: Thinking Dispositions

Tishman, Perkins, and Jay (1995) outline 5 dispositions that foster good thinking.

  1. Like our Mount Vernon Norm, “Start with Questions,” they include the disposition to be curious and question. This encourages a spirit of inquiry and wonder, challenging students to pose problems, probe further, and look beyond what is given.
  2. Like our Mount Vernon Norm, “Fail Up!” the second disposition is to think broadly and adventurously. Students should be in environments that encourage exploration, open-mindedness, flexibility, and play.
  3. The third disposition is to reason clearly and carefully. Learners should seek clarity, gain understanding, and be precise.
  4. The fourth disposition is to organize one’s thinking to be orderly and logical, and to think ahead.
  5. The final disposition is to give thinking time. Thinking does not always happen quickly. It takes time and effort to pull thoughts together and to generate original ideas.

If we value thinking, we must provide the time and space for students to engage in all five thinking dispositions. We must teach thinking routines, allow students to try it, to wrestle with it, and to reflect upon it.



The Thinking Classroom Part I

Shari Tishman, David Perkins, and Eileen Jay are all researchers at Harvard Graduate School of Education. The work they have done with Project Zero has influenced the way I see the classroom experience since 2006 when I first attended Project Zero.

I recently read (long overdue) their book The Thinking Classroom Learning and Teaching in a Culture of Thinking and used many of the ideas as I developed the New Teacher Orientation and Onboarding course for our 2014-2015 new hires.

Tishman, Perkins, and Jay remind us that schools are places of culture. Each member should feel a sense of community and common entreprise. The word enterprise surprised me in this context, but it really challenged me to think about our school’s purpose. How do our students and teachers interact? What expectations do we set for each? Are they different, and if so, why? What common language do we share? What do we value?

The book focuses on creating a culture of thinking the classroom and shares many real-world classroom examples. of this type of culture. The six dimensions of a culture of thinking outlined are:

  1. a language of thinking – words we use to describe thinking
  2. thinking dispositions – attitudes and habits of mind
  3. mental management – metacognition
  4. the strategic spirit – use of thinking strategies
  5. higher order knowledge  – ways of solving problems, using evidence, and using inquiry as a discipline
  6. transfer – applying knowledge and strategies from one context to another

In Lower School at Mount Vernon, we have tried to be intentional about creating a culture of thinking through visible thinking routines, asking children to show, prove, and explain their thoughts, celebrating original ideas over “right” ideas, and displaying authentic student work everywhere. Digging deeper into these six dimensions this year will help support this work.