Thinking children are the future? – Cooperative Learning & (Higher Level) Thinking

Participating in Educating Future Philosophers and Encountering Beliefs () at the University of East Anglia, followed by delivering a tailored version of the Skills & Mastery course to a Muslim Supplementary School in London, has prompted this short think piece.

Very interestingly, Senior lecturers of Philosophy, RE teachers and Muslim faith school context teachers would be shocked at how much they could benefit from sitting down with each other. (Perhaps something for the next Healing Fractures?)

Tower Hamlets, London
Tower Hamlets, London: How do we get children to appreciate traditional values in a modern educational ethos?
UEA Encountering Belief
University of East Anglia, Norfolk: How do we get children to appreciate traditional values in a modern educational ethos?

Independent, critical and creative thinking and the ability to solve problems is central to Cooperative Learning, by the very nature of the case. In Denmark and other Scandinavian countries these skills have long had a high priority and are considered fundamental to citizenship in a democratic society. More to the point, unreflecting citizens render democracy null and void; being effective engineers did not really help Germans in the 30s.

We have previously discussed 21st Century skills in some detail, but suffice to say that the rate of change and the amount of new information produced every second is reason enough for schools to invest time in teaching thinking skills on par with maths and English.

The more developed pupils’ ability to sort, contrast, analyse, prioritise, combine, evaluate, form and test hypotheses, to reason, argue, draw conclusions and create and develop new ideas and alternative strategies, the more able they will be to cope with that unforeseeable future which will be their present.

We have already outlined the relationship between businesses and the drive for student-centred learning in multiple posts, but this goes far beyond the banalities of “knowledge workers” temping for governments and nebulous transnational corporations. Rather these are tools which means said governments and corporations might be run in ways we have not even thought of today, or possibly entirely dismantled because they are, in fact, redundant.

Future citizens will need to think out of the box, allowing them to be leaders instead of followers, to create and spot opportunities and, most importantly, operationalise them. Show me any teacher who is happy for his or her pupils to be passive consumers of spoon-fed entertainment packages in the form of television series or (political) game shows.

Cooperative Learning and Thinking skills

Participants of a tailored course such as 21st Century British Muslim, has seen these skills amply demonstrated, as many modules were geared for this purpose alone, such as using Think-Pair-Share in connection with Venn diagramming (more).

But more interesting, even the Skills & Mastery CL course tailored to promote “hard” learning,  seamlessly integrate much of what we have described above. It is difficult to pinpoint all the reasons this is the case, but I shall try to name a few:

By being forced to continually explain their thinking to other pupils, often within set time frames, they need to structure it and plan effective ways of getting a it across to others.

Leveraging classroom diversity, heterogeneous teams means pupils often work with peers thinking in entirely different ways, and referring to other contexts. This both inspires and challenges their thinking.

The ongoing dialogue means pupils combine their thinking, finding similarities and differences, constructing synthesis at higher levels than would be possible alone.

The safety of working in small home teams affords space to risk making mistakes, daring to be creative and experimenting. This again underlines the positive feedback effect of social skills integrated in Cooperative Learning.

In ensuing posts I should like to explore in some detail the different categories of thinking skills and their specific relation to Cooperative Learning.

Some related posts:

P4C? No, P4U! *

Facts vs. Free Thinking? A CL perspective

Collaboration is officially the future paradigm of education

Hunt or be hunted; The (UKIP) Boy in the Bush

* This post is entirely unrelated to the brilliant session by Philosophy4Children at the Educating Future Philosophers event. I have shamelessly copied their strapline for the title of this post, and told my youngest daughter the story about the boy and the tree as a good night story. Thank you to Dot Lenton and Barbara Videon for this.

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