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Designing a Thinking Curriculum

by Susan Wilks(ed.)
Designing a Thinking Curriculum by Susan Wilks
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Today we are challenged to not just be knowledgeable but to address deeper questions through critical analysis. We are told we need to be able to innovate, problem solve and consider issues from multiple perspectives. But how do we teach these skills as well as a tolerance for diversity and the understanding of complex ethical issues, while at the same time encouraging optimal use of new technologies? How do we achieve all this and keep our students engaged in their learning? Rapidly expanding thinking curriculum theories and middle years’ research are offering appropriate ways of improving programs and maintaining student engagement. This text is intended to provide primary and secondary teachers, curriculum coordinators and administrators with an interesting background to, and practical activities for, the implementation of a thinking curriculum in their schools. It contains teachers’ discussions of issues connected with reforming education today. Curricula designed by teachers who have already managed to build higher order thinking into their programs are featured. Their innovative curriculum content has been designed as a response to the problems of the middle years and the education of adolescents and beyond. Each teacher has based his or her curriculum on the needs of their student cohort. This includes: • the need to develop a positive self-concept and sense of identity, • the importance of examining personal and social values, and • the ability to respond constructively to the world around them. They have also considered the students’ need to be engaged in, and challenged by, their education and to experience social acceptance and affection among peers and adults. In order to sustain the engagement of their students, the teachers have sought approaches, opportunities and experiences that are grounded in the students’ social context and that involve them in ‘big ideas’, through ‘rich tasks’ and ‘authentic assessment’1 while also challenging their cognitive capacities. Each writer describes their personal philosophy and the theories, strategies and tools of the theorists who have influenced their curriculum design. The importance of developing a classroom environment that supports the students as critical thinkers is a common theme in this text. The teacher’s role is viewed in most instances as the promoter of thinking and learning. The writers have tried to ensure there are opportunities for students to use their preferred learning styles and dispositions to promote engagement and effective communication of ideas and information. Recognising the needs of adolescents, they have created opportunities for individual and collaborative and negotiated learning and assessment tasks. The teachers demonstrate how higher order thinking is encouraged through the use of scaffolding and appropriate strategies and thinking tools. Many have modelled their curricula around ideas and issues generated by the students. They demonstrate how they have linked real problems to curriculum content. They have sought ways of ensuring that students achieve deep knowledge and understanding. Many emphasise the importance of problem-based curricula and demonstrate how Bloom’s and Gardner’s theories have assisted their planning structure. Some demonstrate how they fostered higher order thinking through the use of technology, creative thinking, the visual arts and mathematical and scientific ideas. The teaching and learning strategies they have commonly employed are: • philosophical inquiry with its emphasis on reflection and metacognition, • using students’ questions as the basis of inquiry, • developing respect for others’ ideas, and • teacher questioning which probes the underlying structure of thinking and assists the making of reasonable judgments.
Australian Council for Educational Research; Read online
Title: Designing a Thinking Curriculum
Author: Susan Wilks

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