Teaching and Learning How to Think

09 November, 2020
Traditional education has run out of resources to face everyday societal challenges. As of today, there's so much information out there that we must learn to identify trustworthy sources and use them to gain knowledge.

Traditional education is based on a systematic and mechanical learning process where the main goal is to memorize.  Currently, many studies advocate for different ways of teaching and learning. One of the main goals of this educational revolution is learning to think, and it’s safe to say that we’re all witnessing it little by little. The main goal here is to provide students with tools to seek information by themselves and assimilate it in a critical way.

It’s important to change the processes and prepare students so that they’re able to make good analyses, solve problems effectively, and make good decisions in the future. For this reason, when it comes to teaching and learning how to think, it’s important to remember that all our actions are based on our thoughts. This will help individuals, from a very young age, to become good thinkers and not only dedicate themselves to memorizing.

The significance of teaching and learning how to think

In most schools, no educational model teaches students how to think. Traditional schools continue to use conventional tools, methods, and short-term techniques. Teachers spend almost all their time teaching students to solve equations and memorize texts that they probably won’t remember in the span of a few days at most.

However, many other education professionals are betting on methodologies based on understanding, the value of questions instead of answers, and creating new ways of solving problems using thought. To achieve this, it’s also necessary to renew procedures and tools.

A boy in class thinking.

What does Thinking-Based Learning (TBL) consist of?

As of now, many educational institutions have taken a step forward. In a way, they’ve recognized that traditional methodology focuses on repetition with very little intrinsic meaning. Basically, this teaching model is ineffective because critical and reflective thinking isn’t put into practice.

Thinking-based learning (TBL) provides more conscious and in-depth learning. In fact, it’s capable of changing the way in which the learner deals with new information. Robert Swartz, one of the most influential personalities in the education field and creator of this method, defines it as a methodology that teaches how to think creatively and critically.

Moreover, Robert Swartz explains that this methodology arose when he attended a history class in Boston. The teacher offered his students two different stories to think about and asked them to ponder which one they should believe. At that moment, Swartz realized that those children were learning to decide whether what they were reading was something they should accept as truthful and reliable. In conclusion, he found that one could apply this perspective to everything.

This active methodology goes beyond content. For one, it ensures that students learn to think and have the opportunity to solve real-world problems. Secondly, it encourages students to think outside the box and do their own research on different topics. This way, the learning process doesn’t depend on memorization but on the internalization of content.

Collaborative thinking in the classroom

In order to learn to think, the professor must act as a facilitator. They must guide the students to solve problems, cases, and projects. With this, they encourage them to remain active during the lesson.

Teaching and learning to think requires group work. After all, all thinking works best when it’s collaborative. Sharing your thoughts and ideas with those around you encourages teamwork which, in turn, helps to reflect and share all kinds of learning.

Kids in class.

Teaching and learning how to think: the importance of making questions

Dialogue is an essential resource for getting knowledge. Already the 5th century BC, Socrates realized its usefulness and designed a whole method: maieutics. The Socratic method considers questions a way to develop thinking. That being said, the questions asked in the classroom act as a stimulus for the students to try to answer and/or pose new questions.

Furthermore, questions are useful for increasing a student’s ability to structure their ideas, synthesize their responses, and defend them through reasoning. Consequently, there’s an increase in their autonomy. All of a sudden, they feel confident enough to explore unknown fields. In this sense, a good teacher knows which questions are the most appropriate for each situation.

Six Thinking Hats

Edward De Bono created the Six Thinking Hats technique to facilitate problem analysis or resolution from different points of view. It serves to stimulate lateral and creative thinking and encourage parallel thinking, and is an alternative to traditional reasoning.

The six hats represent six ways of thinking. Each one of them has a different color, which represents the directions of thought that one can use when facing a problem. In this technique, each participant imagines putting on and taking off a hat to point out the type of thinking they’re using.