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  Developing thinking skills with the resource

Image: light bulb signifying an idea...The list of thinking skills in the English National Curriculum includes: information-processing, reasoning, enquiry, creative thinking and evaluation. Many other phrases are associated with thinking skills but in general this list covers most areas. Bloom helps to give a notion of how we might differentiate between different levels of cognitive processing through his taxonomy, which working from the lower levels includes: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation; there remains debate as to whether evaluation should precede synthesis or indeed whether they should be at the same level.

Image: thinking manWith its topicality, abundance of data and opinion, this resource therefore offers a rich environment in which to develop each of Blooms levels, or any of the thinking skills. For the student or teacher however, what is important is how thinking develops or is developed rather than the subject focus itself. This links with constructivist ideas and metacognition. In this respect the resource is not unique but remains a good example because of the breadth of knowledge, the demands on comprehension and particularly for the opportunities for analysis, evaluation and judgements. Some authorities choose to group the higher levels of Blooms taxonomy as higher order thinking as distinct e.g. from rote learning of facts or even methods.

Recent research (Project Zero's Patterns of Thinking Project see link) shows that as well as cognitive ability, a “good thinker” also requires appropriate sensitivity (e.g. being open to alternative perspectives) and positive disposition (enthusiasm, attitude, values). Again the broad compass of the Stern Review provides opportunities, with obvious scope for passionate debate and argument and a link to both creative and critical thinking. Moreover, these findings are consistent with the need for more open-ended study methods, with less direction and more emphasis on the student’s responsibility for their own learning.

In order to specifically aim at developing thinking, however, it is important that the student is party to the objectives, and ideally aware of ideas like those above. Design of more open-ended work does not sit easily with pressured study schedules and heavily prescribed syllabi but the pay-off can be worth it, and the scope for collaborative work between students can be fulfilling, especially given the growth of collaborative ICT/Web 2.0 tools (see resources and activities). Other tools e.g. mind and/or concept mapping can also help and may be useful when sharing understanding with peers.
  Cambridge University Thinking Skills Assessment
Thinking skills, accelerated learning and and teaching methodology
Futurelab report - Literature Review in Thinking Skills, Technology and Learning
Applying Blooms Taxonomy
Higher Order Thinking Skills
Project Zero's Patterns of Thinking Project
Various articles on thinking skills
Various articles on thinking skills
Thinking Skills in English
From thinking skills to thinking classrooms
Concept and/or Mind mapping

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