Promoting a Culture of Thinking

We were very fortunate to welcome Mr. Ryan Gill to AISHK to work with our Secondary staff on our Staff Professional Learning Day on 8 October.

Ryan is currently Head of Teaching and Learning at Masada College in Sydney and is a leading authority on pedagogies and practices of teaching and learning which actively promote collective and individual thinking. As an accredited Harvard Project Zero Coach, Ryan leads professional education courses that are both research-based and grounded in day-to-day teaching.

The focus of Ryan’s work with our teaching staff was on creating a culture of thinking where schools develop students’ inclination to think as well as an awareness of occasions for thinking. Ryan emphasised that good thinking utilizes a variety of resources and is facilitated by the use of external tools to ‘download’ or ‘distribute’ one’s thinking. This includes the use of logs, computers, conversations and various means of recording and keeping track of ideas and thoughts which free up the mind to engage in new and deeper thinking.

Ryan also spoke of the importance of making thinking ‘visible’. Under normal conditions, a student’s thinking is invisible to other students, the teacher and even to himself/herself. By using structures, routines, probing questions and documentation we can make students’ thinking more visible and foster better thinking and learning.

As educators, we are acutely aware of the importance of the part we play in leading our students to become curious, engaged and self-directed learners. For classrooms to be cultures of thinking for students, schools must be cultures of thinking for teachers. Ryan’s work with our staff highlighted the importance of developing a professional learning community in which deep and rich discussions of teaching, learning and thinking are valued as a fundamental part of teachers’ ongoing experience.

Our staff ended the day feeling energised and inspired by Ryan’s work and left feeling equipped with a range of practical routines suitable for immediate use with our students. We hope to be able to welcome Ryan back to AISHK at a future time as a means of building our AISHK culture of thinking.

 Further information on cultures of thinking can be found at: pz.harvard.edu/projects/cultures-of-thinking

Chris McCorkell | Dean of Studies, Secondary