Our thinking techniques' curriculum falls into three broad categories: temporal, constructive and critical.
STOP! THINK! As parents, how often have you said that? We can teach as many techniques as we like, but if the child doesn't stop and say to him or herself: "I need to think about this, how best can I do that?" all our effort is wasted. Our aim is to get children into the habit of saying, “Do I need to think about this?” and, crucially, as time passes, to recognise the times when they really need to think. We are trying to develop reflection in our children. This is one of the reasons the course is pitched at roughly eight years old and upwards as the cognitive development that occurs around then means that the child can more readily engage, and profit from, the techniques.
Our constructive thinking curriculum focuses on creativity. How can we solve problems? How can we innovate? How can we create the new? In order to do that, we use a staged thinking technique called QWERTY®. We drew inspiration for it from techniques both ancient and modern, from Aristotle to Edward De Bono.
We’ve put an outline of QWERTY® below, but we have more detailed blogs on each element, if you want to follow the links.
Q stands for Question. This is where you define what it is you want to achieve. The better defined the question, the better the solution is likely to be.
W is for Wonder. Think about all the things that might provide a solution (or part of one). Consider the wacky as well as the wise, at this stage, as creativity is at its core.
E represents Explore, where you look at all the Wonder items to come up with viable solutions. Some of the Wonder ideas might be practical, but bland. Others could be interesting but impractical. At the Explore stage, the learner looks at ways to assess the ideas to come up with a shortlist of potential solutions.
R is for Rank, where the Learner has to rate the possible solutions to decide on the best one(s).
T stands for Target, the execution of the plan. Now the Learner has a solution, s/he has to implement it.
Y is for YaY! A celebration of a successful conclusion, yes, but more importantly, it is the evaluate and review section. Did the plan work? Could you improve on what you have done? Could a successful solution be used again in the future?
QWERTY®’s 6 steps can make up the whole of a thinking task, but sometimes sub-tasks have to be explored to get the answers we need.
QWERTY® can be applied to both a product and a process, for instance deciding what to do, then use it again to decide on how to do it. These 6 steps are the basic bricks out of which much of our thinking skills programme is constructed. They can be used one after another or can appear within parent tasks. They will also be strongly linked with the other core elements of our programme.
In addition to QWERTY®, we have Forget-me-nots, which are a range of extra techniques to help the Learner focus on particular elements of a task to help enhance the final outcome. These will be introduced to the Learner on a gradual basis as the Got-A-Head®? course progresses, and the child is tasked with more complicated problems or asked to look at a simple problem in a different way.
All of these techniques are about getting the child to use their imagination to think creatively, while at the same time helping them to establish a practical solution.
"Thinking: the talking of the soul within itself."
Our critical thinking curriculum follows on from the constructive thinking one. In the constructive case, the child is the one being creative. In the critical case, the child is thinking about someone else's creation or argument (or even a previous one of their own).
The starting point is our 6th stage (YaY!), where they evaluate and review, combined with the techniques they use in Explore. Were things left unused that might have helped? Would other solutions have worked better? Could things have been combined to construct a new solution, or a basic idea enhanced in some way?
In addition, we introduce techniques based on logic and identifying fallacies to help them decide whether a solution’s selection was valid. If not, was the bad decision deliberate? We live in a sometimes wicked world. It is important that our children are prepared for it.