In the last few years, theories about thinking skills have led to different methods for actively teaching thinking skills when working with children in Key Stage 1 of the National Curriculum or above.


Instrumental Enrichment (Reuven Feuerstein)
Learning how to learn through discussion and group work, not rote learning and reproduction of the ideas of others. Reuven Feuerstein’s work involved with young immigrants in England after world war two. Because of the traumas these children had suffered they had very low IQs and were labelled ‘uneducable’. Feuerstein worked on discovering what cognitive abilities the young people lacked and then used ‘instrumental enrichment’ techniques based on learning how to learn. This approach helps students to see problems, make connections, motivate themselves and improve their learning.

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Philosophy for Children – Thinking through stories (Matthew Lipman)
Providing children with stories that promote thinking gives them the opportunities and freedom to think for themselves.

Lipman talks about children as born philosophers because of the natural curiosity they have for the world. He believed that education taught facts, people in authority taught opinions, but no one was teaching children to think. His approach was to use stories to provide a starting point for children’s enquiries; these stories promote questioning and discussion and are used in many countries of the world to support the development of reasoning skills.

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Thinking Hats (Edward De Bono)
By learning to understand how emotions affect their thought process, children can develop their creative and logical thinking.

De Bono is well known for his theories on thinking; this method uses colour-coded ‘hats’ for children to wear physically and mentally. There are six hats: white for information gathering, red for feelings, black for negative feelings, yellow for positive points, green for creativity, blue for organisation and planning. Children work in a small group on a problem, and are encouraged to use one ‘hat’ at a time to understand the different ways they can tackle the problem. When they are familiar with the method they can apply it to working alone as well as in group work. This method is generally used with children aged five and over as it is essential to be able to understand their own and other’s feelings while problem solving.

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Thinking Actively in a Social Context (TASC) (Wallace and Adams)
This approach focuses on problem solving, breaking a problem down into pre-assigned stages in order to work through it to a solution.

The stages in the TASC process are: gather and organise what is already known; identify the problem; generate loads of ideas; decide which idea may work best; implement the idea; evaluate the results; decide on the best way to communicate what happened to others. It is a social learning process and involves small groups of children working together.

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Thinking through Primary Teaching (Steve Higgins)
Instigated the notion of developing subject-specific thinking skills so that teachers can integrate them into lessons.

Higgins monitored and evaluated several methods for teaching thinking skills and devised subject-specific skills for teachers to integrate into their lessons.

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