British Council: Connecting Classrooms through Global Learning (CCGL) – ‘Critical thinking and problem solving’ (Day 2)


Nearly 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 pupils’ questioning skills in maths (Key Stage 2, Year 6).
  • To encourage deeper thinking and greater collaborative learning skills in history (Key Stage 1, Year 2).
  • Developing critical thinking through flat chat and fish bone diagrams (Key Stage 4, Year 10).
  • Developing vocabulary skills in literacy (Key Stage 2, Year 5).
  • To improve children’s understanding of moral, social and ethical issues through a cross curricular study of World War 2, focusing on persecution and the Holocaust and using critical thinking techniques (Key Stage 2, Year 6).
  • To develop deeper thinking and independent learning through continuum lines and flat chat in primary geography (Key Stage 2, Year 4).
  • Encouraging higher-order questioning in humanities (Key Stage 3, Year 8).
  • To develop questioning skills through the use of ‘True for who?’ and the ‘question generator’ in order to explore the ethical issues around space (Key Stage 4, Year 11).
  • To improve geographical questioning about our local area using ‘question generator’ and ‘flat chat’ in a mixed ability class (Key Stage 2, Year 3).
  • Enquiry skills for exploring sustainability (Key Stage 2, Year 6).

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 seen below:

  • ‘Children were engaged.’
  • ‘Some great pieces of work were produced.’
  • ‘Discussion around the true for who and questions from the question generator.’
  • ‘Great use of vocabulary.’
  • ‘Moved away from being didactic – supported children to draw their own conclusions.’
  • ‘All the children were able to create a range of quality questions based on the source I provided them with.’
  • ‘The development of oracy and tier 3 language.’
  • ‘Engagement and focus of the children.’
  • ‘I was really pleased that in the flat chat the children really responded to one another’s thoughts.’
  • ‘Pushed more passive learners to engage; tied in well with our school oracy focus.’
  • ‘More students were engaged in the learning. I saw more students contribute than would normally do so in class discussions; the range and quality of questions and some showed better enquiry skills as they then wanted to find out the answers to the questions they had generated.’
  • ‘I would include the layers of inference.’
  • ‘I had followed up the flat chat activity with a further activity, such as the question generator, or used the layers of inference to ensure questions are deeper than surface level.’
  • ‘Use a few more pictures or start with a different question.’
  • ‘Have more whole class feedback from the question generator.’
  • ‘Ideally, I would have liked to have had mixed ability groups, but that is not currently possible. Hopefully soon!’
  • ‘Consider what these skills would look like across the school – progression of skills.’
  • ‘Layers of inference alongside a flat chat.’
  • ‘Needs a little practice as I am normally the person who asks the most questions in the lesson. Some felt out of their comfort zone and, therefore, had more surface level questions.  I would like to try the odd one out task based on today’s session.’
  • ‘I would definitely use odd one out in the future.’
  • ‘If the techniques are used across a range of subjects.’

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.

I brought the day to a close by asking delegates to sum up the training in five words or a sentence or two.  Some of their ‘concluding comments’ can be viewed below:

  • ‘I like the new strategies.’
  • ‘Very helpful. Have learnt more new concepts and been good for feedback on report.’
  • ‘Excellent examples of activities to support children in thinking critically.’
  • ‘Useful ideas for the classroom.’
  • ‘Useful ideas and reflection time.’
  • ‘New strategies ready to use.’
  • ‘Gained lots of ideas and evaluated my own practice. Enjoyed hearing what works well with different units/topics.’
  • ‘Sharing project ideas was useful.’
  • ‘Reflective; useful; evaluative.’
  • ‘Evaluate the impact and develop the structures for enquiry.’


  • ‘Revisiting and developing my pedagogical skills.’
  • ‘I enjoyed getting new ideas that I can use straight away and employ across a range of different subjects.’
  • ‘New concepts; meeting people to share good practice.’
  • ‘Implementing my learning to have impact – seeing the impact in the classroom.’
  • ‘Practical ideas to use in the classroom.’
  • ‘Hearing how others implemented techniques that I had not thought of doing.’
  • ‘Hearing about the same structures from Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 4.’
  • ‘Discussion with other practitioners in my phase in other parts of the country.’
  • ‘Useful ideas to take away.  Particularly layers of inference, question generator and true for who.  Chance to talk through how we could use ideas.’
  • ‘I thought the presentation of information was very clear and concise, which meant that the strategies introduced could be applied directly to the classroom, with ease.’


  • ‘Do we get a copy of all the resources to use as a soft copy?’


  • ‘Many thanks for running the course, I really enjoyed it.’
  • ‘Thanks, Emma, nice to ‘meet’ everyone.’
  • ‘Thank you, Emma.  It was lovely to share ideas with everyone.’
  • ‘Really useful, thank you!  Good to meet everyone.’
  • ‘Thank you very much.  It has been great.’
  • ‘Thank you very much.  It has been really great!’
  • ‘Thank you so much.  All the very best everyone!’
  • ‘Thanks.  Lovely meeting everyone.  Take care.’
  • ‘Thank you for so many good ideas.  I’ll definitely be putting them into practise again in the future.’
  • ‘Many thanks again for the training.  I really enjoyed the two days and they provided me with lots of food for thought and great strategies to promote thinking and interaction.   Years ago, before I got into my current role, I “specialised”, if that’s the right term, in thinking/enquiry-based approaches to learning and I just love returning to this type of teaching periodically.’

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