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Thinking About Thinking

17 January 2014

The field of research into education has grown dramatically in the last 30 years or so. The analysis of learning and neuroscience has helped teachers to understand the best ways in which students learn and how to adapt their teaching to cater for this.

Within our school, and across all the Nord Anglia Education schools, the best approaches to developing learning are encapsulated within our philosophy of High Performance Learning. The focus is on what is proven to make a difference rather than what people might assume makes a difference.

Some surprising results are that class size makes little difference to the quality of learning and, as we have discussed previously with relation to My Learning, traditional forms of homework have very little effect on progress for younger children.

One area which is very powerful for developing student’s learning is metacognition. In simple terms, this means “thinking about thinking”. In other words, instead of just trying to solve a problem, students should also think about what skills and approaches they are using to try to solve the problem.

There is a very strong element of metacognition within High Performance Learning. We encourage students to assess their thought process which then leads to the development of higher order thinking skills. When helping your child at home, rather than just focussing on obtaining answers I would encourage questions which help students to consider their own thinking:

“What is the best strategy to approach this problem?”

“Why did you decide to do it that way?”

 “If you were going to think about it in another way how might you do it?”

The ultimate aim of this kind of support is that the students will start analysing their thinking by themselves. They will then have a greater understanding of successful learning and in turn they become more successful learners.