Friday, July 18, 2014

Thinking-Based Learning

How do you teach children to think? One intermediate school in New Zealand believes they've found the golden key. We found their thinking-based approach to learning so compelling, we hasten to share it with our clients.

Here's what the school website says: "Here at Birkdale Intermediate School we have developed a thinking-based learning approach in social science, science, technology and The Arts. We give our students ‘real world’ problems to solve with no one right answer. Their work is judged on the quality of their argument. Each unit has a particular thinking focus where the thinking skill is explicitly taught.

To support this learning we are developing units of work we call Quests. A Quest for new insights and understandings. A major Quest lasts for about six weeks. The Quests come with a teachers guide and a multimedia CD ROM or iPad App of specially chosen resources. We are happy to share these with other schools."

Here are some of the examples of their awesome quests:
  • "Titanic – When something tragic happens people are often quick to guess at the cause. This can be very dangerous. If we are to protect ourselves from further harm we must be very certain of the cause. It is vital that we are skilled at causal explanation. In 1912 Captain Smith was on the bridge of the largest man made moving object on the planet. The R.M.S. Titanic was near the leading edge of technological development and was thought to be virtually unsinkable. We all know it hit an iceberg and sank, but knowing what happened will not protect us from another disaster. Knowing why it happened is the key. Using skillful causal explanation and the original documents from 1912 can you work out why the Titanic hit the iceberg?"
  • "Filemoni’s Dilemma - Filemoni is a 13 year old Samoan student. He is the eldest of five children. He lives in a village on the island of Upolu with his mother, father and siblings. His parents are thinking about emigrating to New Zealand under the belief that the children will be able to have a better life there. They would be able to stay with extended family members in Auckland. However, Filemoni is very confused and has called upon his friend (you) in New Zealand to help him through this time. Using skillful ‘compare and contrast’ what would you say to Filemoni? Should he come or should he stay?"
  • Lest We Forget – On hundreds of War Memorials all around New Zealand you will find the words ‘Lest We Forget’ engraved in stone, etched into glass or cast in bronze. These monuments are designed to last many centuries. People have gone to a great deal of trouble and expense to get this message to everyone who stops and reads the words. Make a well-founded judgement. What should we remember about War?

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