How well can your student adapt their learning? Can they reason, research and paraphrase beyond the internet? My work in education over the past two decades reveals that students from elementary through college levels would greatly benefit from thinking strategies. By thinking strategies, I’m referring to metacognition. Can the student determine if their thoughts are on the right track, are they addressing the discussion at hand or remaining in shallow waters? Is the student proficient or developing their reasoning, researching, and paraphrasing skills? Are they developing skills to solve math problems or asking questions that build  dimension in learning? Of course, maturation plays a part in this, but guiding every student towards quality, adaptive thinking is key for higher level intelligence and fulfilling long-term goals. 

Recently an elementary student used the word “compilation” in the correct context during a class discussion. I applauded the student for their brilliant answer; however, upon further investigation we discussed the meaning.  I was stunned when the student admitted that they had learned the word from a video game but had no idea of its meaning.  This brilliant student, like many of his peers have become part of a generation well versed in mimicking, cutting and pasting from google yet dearth in the art thinking.

Education, and practicing quality thinking is a progressive process. It takes time and intentionality. Dr. Reuven Feuerstein notes that thinking and learning are like allowing a child to play in a beautiful garden with all sorts of yellow and purple tulips, red roses, vegetation of grape vines, blackberries, tomatoes, rabbits and birds. The child will naturally explore and taste multiple things, but the keen eye and hands of a mother or father will guide the child’s eyes and give meaning to the robin taking a bird bath, the squirrel eating a nut, the bee’s pollination dance or the correct berries to taste. 

Erich Fromm notes that education is the ability to help a child release his potentialities. That being said, I am always challenged in my teaching practices and cognitive sessions to ensure that potential is being released in every person.  Optimism is key. Educators have the ability to positively charge the atmosphere and teach, more important, demonstrate how to learn. We are aware of the limitations of our students today, yet, will we allow all of the distractors of social media, technology, social emotional behaviors and the twenty-first century family to predict a future of low level thinkers?  

No, there must be an attempt to move students beyond the status quo!  This active educational approach verses a passive educational approach requires optimistic, relationship and intense rigor.  My question to you is, do you believe and are you willing to charge the learning environment to bring about potential change in yourself and others?

Educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom designed the following tools of learning to promote higher level thinking beyond rote and factual learning in 1956. These six categories of Bloom’s Taxonomy are sometimes used in (AP) advanced placement classes. Students are challenged to address narratives and create questions with this format: knowledge-remembering, comprehension- understanding, application-applying concepts, analysis-analyzing information gathered, synthesis-creating new ideas and evaluating whether the information is valid or noteworthy.  To practice using these, I create weekly, “thinking days.”  A thinking day is a day were an object or topic is presented to students, as they navigate through Bloom’s six categories. For example, our school and cognitive practice acquired enormous red blocks from a hardware store display area. Students would be asked to address simple to complex questions about this block and to name various uses for it to spark creative and intelligent thinking, writing and test questioning skills.  What is the color, size, shape, materials, perimeter, and potential uses of this box?

Another thinking exercise used during mathematics is to demonstrate calculations, illustration with colorful drawings and practice explaining the process used to another student or family member. What does one-fourth of sixty apples really look like to give as gifts? This is an amazing exercise because both hemispheres of the brain are engaged. The left hemisphere which is presently known for analyzing, organization, sequencing letters and numbers for reading, or mathematic equations is engaged.  The right hemisphere presently known for creativity, social equality, liberty, and artistic expressions engages in a greater measure of intercommunication with the left hemisphere resulting in higher level thinking. 

 In part two of this article we will address other thinking practices such as strategies of paraphrasing and how a student can maneuver through the thinking phases of; input, elaboration and output. Namely how does one gather information at the input phase, compare items at the elaboration phase or effectively communicate skills during the output phase. 

The art of thinking is a wonderful gift; to meditate, resolve ideas in the mind, to conclude, be settled in opinions and to presume; what a great pleasure for you and me. 



Dr. Kinchlow is the founder of Bridges Academy and Bridges Cognitive Learning Center in Portsmouth, VA, for more information and resources contact her at [email protected] .

Article Written by: Heather Kinchlow, Ed. D.

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