Two months on and it was time for Day 2 of British Council’s Connecting Classrooms through Global Learning (CCGL) ‘critical thinking and problem solving’ training. I was looking forward to seeing and chatting to all delegates again, albeit virtually, and hearing about their experimenting in the classroom in the interim.
Whilst waiting for everyone to log in to the meeting, I asked individuals to write a three or four bullet summary of their planning/ implementation of critical thinking ready for our speed dating activity later on.
After formally welcoming everyone, I outlined the structure of the session, namely:
- To reflect upon the model of critical thinking.
- To review planning/implementation of critical thinking from sessions 1 and 2.
- To investigate more practical strategies to support critical thinking in the classroom.
- To discuss the final phase planning and implementation of the practical strategies.
We began with a virtual take on speed dating. Individuals were each given one minute to feedback to all about their planning/ implementation of the critical thinking techniques that they have used. It was fascinating to hear about their successes in the classroom. A list of their ‘mini projects’ can be found below:
- Developing questioning skills in geography.
- Encouraging children to think critically and be confident enough to share their opinions.
- Improving the questioning children use in geography to help them think more deeply about a focused unit of work.
- Developing extended writing in Key Stage 3 French.
- To assess home learning via critical thinking practices.
- Developing pupils’ questioning in history and geography.
- Encouraging higher-order questioning in geography.
- Developing pupils’ questioning skills in history.
- Developing enquiry skills in Upper Key Stage 2 history.
Later, we discussed how speed dating might be used in the classroom.
Next, I referred to the ‘model of critical thinking’ that we had encountered during Day 1’s training. We then explored and trialled, either individually, in break out rooms or as a whole group, a few more critical thinking activities, such as ‘odd one out’, ‘development compass rose’ (alongside an image of a large bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk), ‘so what chains’ and ‘layers of inference’ (accompanied by an image extracted from a local newspaper report). Teachers were very willing to participate and had some great contributions to offer. When this happens, it makes my job so much easier and means that they gain plenty from the session too.
A coffee break called before we resumed to consider attendees’ planning/implementation of critical thinking in their practice and curriculum in some depth. We revisited the school-based project form together. Delegates were then given until lunch-time to complete it as comprehensively as they could and encouraged to incorporate audio and annotated visual evidence if at all possible (‘a picture can say a thousand words’). Individuals shared what they had done with me and I advised them how they may improve their reports further. Each teacher was then encouraged to reflect upon their school project; how successful had it been; what might they change if they were to repeat the exercise, etc. Some of their thoughts can be viewed below:
‘It was very successful. The children found the lesson fun and interactive.’
‘It went well especially considering the children had been out of school for so long. It was a really good way of getting the children to think more deeply and take ownership of their own learning.’
‘My project developed the questioning of the pupils in my class. It deepened their understanding of the topics and gave them opportunities to work collaboratively in order to reason and justify their answers.’
‘Some of the outcomes were quite surprising – my higher ability pupils found the collaboration element really hard – it showed me areas that we need to focus on with them to make them more rounded learners.’
‘We would use a scribe next time and look forward to using the techniques throughout the curriculum.’
‘Will ask them to think of questions or discuss using the same stimulus before introducing the ‘question generator’ to compare the difference.’
‘Made me realise I talk at the children too much and don’t let them think enough for themselves.’
After a short break, we reconvened to think about how we might integrate some of the techniques introduced earlier and considered the ‘bigger picture’ of the entire curriculum. We discussed the following question: ‘Where else could these practices be applied?’ and I was very impressed by the array of ideas provided by participants. I would love to hear about some of these as they come to fruition.
‘My Year 6 team are looking at tweaking our planning to incorporate higher level thinking activities.’
‘I think that some of the tasks are similar to activities that I have done in the past, but which have fallen by the wayside – it has been really good to refresh these and to look at some other task types.’
‘Definitely will be tweaking planning to incorporate these skills- especially as we are due OFSTED.’
‘The techniques are really easy to implement into schemes of work and I hope that we will get away from starting each lesson with a PPT!!!’
‘My practice has been developed massively by this course. I am including reasoning and collaborative tasks which deepen and develop pupils’ understanding of the topics. I am confident with how to coach teachers on deepening the understanding of topics in Foundation Subjects – which we seem to have mastered in the core subjects, but needs a lot of development in geography.’
‘These tasks will be really useful as we are going to be developing cross-curricular skills next academic year, particularly incorporating both collaboration and critical thinking.’
‘I will definitely use many of these strategies in different subjects. I can see a big difference in the higher order thinking skills and I’m looking forward to putting more of the techniques into my planning.’
‘I also think its good for colleagues who are less confident in teaching history/geography.’
‘I’m excited to do a staff meeting to show others how easy it is to incorporate into any subject.’
Many thanks to all for their ‘caring and sharing’. Judging by the feedback given, I think they enjoyed the course and gained a lot from the two days:
‘This was a really useful course and the trainer was approachable and went beyond her remit to support individual colleagues with their projects and in moving this forward in their schools.’
‘I really enjoyed this course. I cannot wait to try out all of the activities!’
‘It was really useful, thank you, and I will definitely be taking lots of interesting ideas away from this course.’
‘Really useful course. Thank you to Emma for delivering it. Lots of very useful information.’
‘A useful course, thank you.’
‘Thank you for running the critical thinking course. We’ve found is so useful and are looking forward to using all of the activities.’
‘Thank you so much for the sessions – they have been very useful!’
‘Thank you for a brilliant course!’
‘Thank you very much. It has been really helpful.’
‘Thank you for your help with writing the report. The course was really useful.’