Creating a Culture of Thinking

I spent the morning in a PD about Creating a Culture of Thinking…which included a focus on making thinking visible and reflecting in order to connect, extend and challenge…in order to make meaningful learning.  I should have written down our exact central idea, but it was something like “Creating a culture of thinking leads to deep inquiry and meaningful learning.”. Which made me think that maybe in order to truly make my learning from this morning meaningful, I should perhaps try again at blogging as an educator.  To make my own thinking visible and meaningful rather than just a day where I got some temporary inspiration that will quickly become lost amidst the paperwork and everyday demands that surround us all.

I chose a culture of thinking because I’ve realized that this is the core of my values and beliefs about learning and something that I feel I have a lot of room to grow in.  I am challenged that somewhere over these past eleven years since university, I have lost a some of the big ideas in my excitement over great activities.  I love great activities and there are so many of them out there, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes I don’t think about their value and purpose.  It pains me a bit to realize that I need to let go of some of them.  But letting go is a theme that I keep coming across – that to truly create a culture of thinking I need to let go of some good things in order to make room for great thinking.

I connected with …

– when we make our thinking visible, it becomes more meaningful.

– sharing in small groups is much more engaging than waiting for individuals to answer in a large group (whether you are adult or child)

– teachers need to model, structure and take time for thinking in order to create a culture of thinkers.

I extended my learning through…

– thinking through what core words mean as an important start to learning – what is ‘culture’, ‘thinking’, ‘deep inquiry’ and ‘meaningful learning’?

– the idea that we can and should take time to reflect throughout learning – its not just an end thing.   Taking some tme to pause throughout the process.

– making sure questions are meaningful to students (rather than just another to-do from the teacher). Having students share their inquiry questions in groups and getting questions/feedback/refinement from their classmates before continuing them.

Things that still challenge me…

– learning more about the thinking routines and how to use them in my classroom – which ones are appropriate for which situations and age (making them meaningful rather than just another activity)

– helping students who love fast, quick, easy problems and the ‘right answer’ transition to and enjoy a culture of thinking that can take time and thought (and doesn’t always leave you with a clear right answer)

I would love to say that I am going to walk in the classroom tomorrow and have an incredible culture of thinking and the perfect classroom now that I am enlightened.  But I know better.  Perhaps one of the most meaningful things I have been learning is that I will never do things perfectly (which frustrates me -I like being right and quick, easy answers) and there will always be something to improve, but that doesn’t mean it’s too hard or too difficult or not worth pursuing because little by little through trial and error I’ll end up closer to my goal than when I started…and become a better thinker and learner myself.  If I’m not willing to try, how can I ask anything of my students?

Categories: Education | Tags: | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Creating a Culture of Thinking

  1. Hi Michelle,
    Really enjoyed your reflection and perceptive self observations! You’re clearly well on the way to grasping the principles of the whole ‘culture of thinking’ thing. I like the way you have used one of the routines to frame your reflections too. Blogging is a very satisfying way of synthesizing your learning … And making your thinking visible. Keep at it 🙂

  2. Hi Michelle,what a lovely surprise to read your reflections first thing this morning. Thinking and learning together is always the best thing to do. Lana found words (more than one) to reflect her shift in leaning,

  3. Mr. Cummings

    Hello from Memphis, USA, Michelle!
    What a great learning opportunity to discuss creating a culture of thinking, deep inquiry, and meaningful learning. Just over a year ago I attended Project Zero at Harvard University and learned first hand about the thinking routines and teaching for understanding. It was a remarkable experience, and I returned home to start the school year with the goal of learning to more about the routines and incorporating them into my teaching. It was a wonderful year. I highly recommend the Making Thinking Visible book–and remember the routines are designed to be adapted–so you can “play” with them as you go. Let me know if I can assist you at all. I’ve written a little about the routines on my blog, but I was new to my school last year so the blogging took a back seat to other things. Keep writing. I look forward to reading about your experience and growth with all of this.
    Best regards-

  4. Lana Fleiszig

    Hi Michelle
    I loved learning with you yesterday and appreciate the tensions you have about letting go – I felt the same way for a LONG time! You are an incredibly reflective person and this natural modelling with your students is one of the best ways to get them to apreciate that learning is messy, frustrating at times, a reflective process which often leads to more questions and frustrations BUT only then can change take place – and this is great! From spending time with you yesterday I know that you are well on your way to cultivating a culture of thinking in your classroom – enjoy the journey!
    Regards Lana

  5. Tanja

    Hi Michelle, what a great reflection! I enjoyed reading it very much, especially since I often have the same thoughts (and hopes) for my teaching and learning, for example not getting carried away by individual activities but keeping the bigger picture in mind, letting go (also of some of the control you have), and taking time to reflect with students and alone. As you said, blogging is a great way of doing this. At the beginning of each new school year, I set myself a goal to make more time for making my thinking visible. I know it helps me so much in sorting out and clarifying my learning – and yet, I usually fail in achieving this goal. I will give it another try – and will look forward to reading more of your reflections. Thanks!

    • Thanks so much for all of your lovely supportive comments! It seems like every year I get about halfway through and wish I could start over…or perhaps rewind the last few years, but then I guess it wouldn’t be the same without the years of trial and error and I have a feeling that they are just going to continue – ah, the cycle of learning (and teaching). I think keeping the bigger picture in mind is definitely key – I feel like I should schedule at least one day a month in my calendar to spend 5-10 minutes remembering it and seeing if I’ve gotten off the track (or maybe even every day!) And maybe posting a big “Let Go” sign in my classroom wouldn’t hurt….
      I am excited to head to Mt Eliza on Aug 28th to spend the day in a Culture of Thinking workshop with Ron Ritchhart – I know it will be a great jump-start to learning more about thinking routines and using them in the classroom.

  6. Great reflective comments. I was struck by your phrase “letting go”. In my many years of teaching, I have observed how reluctant many English teachers are to let go of their lesson plans. They firmly believe certain things work but it is not because the students are necessarily thinking deeply but rather that the teacher has achieved a comfort and mastery level of the lesson. For example, most high school English teachers need to “let go” of the practice of asking questions about literature. Although this may lead to a certain amount of analysis or synthesis on the part of some (and I emphasize that word) students, most questions impose a form of closure. You are telling the student what, where or how to think through the question itself. Questions need to be asked but they should be open-ended or generated by the students with question stems. And teachers need to acquire a comfort level with this style

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