Creating a Thinking School Culture

January 14, 2019 - 4 minutes read

Thinking is arguably the key purpose of schooling.

The ability to generate a wide range of questions and strategize about how to use them effectively is an essential thinking and learning skill.

All students can learn to ask questions and generate better, productive questions with specific skill instruction.

All Ridgeview, teachers teach students to formulate their own questions as part of their regular practice.

For students across the grades questioning has become a familiar way of thinking and learning that produces moments of new discovery and greater ownership by students of their own learning.

In fact, a school wide focus on Inquiry and Thinking Competencies over the past few years at Ridgeview has formalized and strengthened the importance of students asking their own questions.

The importance of asking questions is such a simple thing, but at the same time, opens up many and varied opportunities for students to explore, to think for themselves, to take more ownership of their own learning and think in greater depth, and generally to become more motivated and successful students.

Making Inquiry Visible was the focus of our 2018 Student Learning Showcase. At this event, all classes showcased Inquiry learning. An array of examples was shared with parents and the school community and can be found in the Ridgeview June 2018 Framework For Enhancing Student Learning Capstone Presentation. The range of questions and depth of learning across the grades was evident within the Inquiry Frameworks.

Teaching students to formulate questions, analyze or think deeply about their questions, synthesize or refine them, and then prioritize their use are key steps in teaching thinking.

In order to do all of the above students need three distinct thinking abilities:

Divergent thinking: The ability to generate a wide range of ideas and think broadly and creatively,

Convergent thinking: The ability to analyze and synthesize information and ideas while moving toward an answer or conclusion, and

Megacognition: The ability to think about one’s own thinking and learning.

What happens when students ask their own questions?

Students who learn to produce multiple questions, improve their questions and strategize how to use them will learn to go into more depth in their learning and will extend learning beyond the textbook and beyond the curriculum. Students’ energy, motivation, and perseverance increase noticeably when they ask their own questions.

Helping students to formulate their own questions is the simple most essential skill for learning, and one that should be taught to all students.

Making Thinking Visible is a focus goal for Ridgeview. Staff development opportunities held during staff meetings and professional development days throughout the year are opportunities for staff to stretch understanding in their own thinking abilities and a time for them to adapt thinking experiences for their own students in all subject areas. (A guiding framework for Making Thinking Visible at Ridgeview is outlined in Ridgeview’s Framework for Enhancing Student Learning 2018 – 2019, FESL, document.)

All Ridgeview parents are invited to attend Parent Advisory Council meetings, held monthly in the school library, to learn about school focus goals and in particular to learn more about ways to support your child’s thinking and learning.

“Just when you think you know all you need to know, you ask another question and discover how much more there is to learn.” Grade 6 student