We often think that thinking comes naturally. It does to a certain level but we need to practice and learn how to think critically and creatively. As teachers and facilitators, we often wonder if we can do something to help our students become better thinkers. Can we teach them these skills? In science especially, we push our students to observe, analyse and question what they learn. Thinking should become a habit. What we should aim to achieve, is that students should have a repertoire of thinking tools.
Learners should be close observers, organise their ideas, reason carefully and reflect on how they are making sense of things. They should be asking thought provoking questions, making connections, coming up with explanations, challenging those explanations and exploring alternative perspectives. One of the thinking routines we use is called SEE THINK WONDER. (See – what do you notice, Think- what do you suppose is going on, Wonder- does it make you want to know more). The Project Zero group at Harvard has extensively researched this tool.
As a science teacher, I often get students to do experiments. When students are involved in ‘doing’ and ‘observing’ they learn and retain information much better. When students learned about micro-organisms, we did many experiments, such as observing yeast grow, making yogurt, observing mould (fungi) growing on bread in different conditions and watching bacteria growing in petri dishes. Students were observing (SEE) this and were asking questions. They were THINKING and WONDERING how organisms, which can only be seen under a microscope, can be seen in a petri dish. They wondered how many bacteria were in the petri dish. They extended their learning by researching further. They learned how many are there on the pointed tip of a pin and extrapolate to how many could be in a colony. They also connected with what they saw around and wrote poems on microbes.