Our approach to thinking techniques falls into three broad categories: temporal, constructive and critical.
STOP! THINK! How often have you said that, or had it said to you? At Got-A-Head®?, we can't stress enough how important it is. We can teach as many techniques as we like, but if a learner/user 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 people, both children and adults, into the habit of saying, “Do I need to think about this?” and, crucially, as time passes, to recognise the times when they really do need to think. They need to be consciously aware that this is a time when they need to put their brain into gear, not just leave it idling. We believe passionately in the need to develop reflective learners, and people in the workplace who use reflection to enhance all they do.
"Thinking: the talking of the soul within itself."
The go-to tool to start this process is REaLLY? It encourages you to consider the question or task right from the beginning, breaking it down into:
what exactly you need to do (Requirements)
key terms that will help the thinking process or find the answer(s) (Essential Language)
any physical parameters of what you are doing or where you will find the answer (Location)
checkpoints at certain stages to ensure you know what you’re doing, that what you have devised will meet the requirements or criteria being used, and that your work is of the highest standard possible (Y stage)
Planning (?) – not the fine detail of the plans, but stressing the need for them, and getting you to consider which tools will be most useful in this specific context.
Okay, your brain is in gear. Now is the time to think about what – and how – to think to get the best results. You need to think about where you want to go and how to get there. When it comes to constructive thinking, we focus on creativity. How can we solve problems? How can we innovate? How can we create novel and interesting approaches to things? In order to do that, we devised a range of tools, techniques and strategies that collectively we call our Thinking Toolkit. We drew inspiration for it from techniques both ancient and modern, from Aristotle to Edward De Bono.
Central to so much of what we advocate is our staged thinking technique, which we have called QWERTY®. 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. It’s blue-sky thinking without a cloud of doubt to be seen.
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, and ways to combine them, 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/User 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 approach is constructed. They can be used one after another or can appear within parent tasks. We talk about the QWERTY® Hub when there is a central task to be undertaken that might have multiple elements to it e.g. design and content.
In addition to QWERTY®, you will find Forget-Me-Nots in our Thinking Toolkit. They are a range of extra tools, techniques and strategies to help you focus on particular elements of a task to help enhance the final outcome. Flexible and straightforward, they can be used on their own or in combination, to improve everything from a basic task to one of mind-blowing complexity. Their sophistication develops the more you use them.
Our Thinking Toolkit is there to help you race ahead. Your imagination will be as high-powered and aerodynamic as an F1 masterpiece, full to the brim with high-octane fuel provided by memory and observation. It puts you in the driving seat of creative and innovative thinking, while at the same time helping you be your own rally-style navigator to establish practical solutions that will overcome any bends in the road.
Critical thinking follows on from constructive thinking. In the constructive case, you are the one being creative. In critical thinking, you are considering someone else's creation or argument (or even a previous one of your own).
The starting point is our 6th stage (YaY!), where you evaluate and review, using tools such as REF and Gave it a WhiRL! With the Thinking Toolbox at your disposal, you can then go back and use all the QWERTY® stages to interrogate rather than create. Did the author have a good range of ideas – are there any obvious omissions? Were things left unused that might have helped? Could things have been combined to construct a new solution, or a basic idea enhanced in some way? Are there problems that could have been solved? Would other solutions have worked better? Was the execution all that it could have been (think GULL!)?
In addition, we introduce techniques based on logic and identifying fallacies to help you 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 we are prepared for it.