Supporting professional learning

We refer to our approach to professional learning as the 'comet' model. Initial workshops and presentations, like the head of a comet, create interest and shed some light on a topic. Although they may be exciting, typically their effects are short-lived. Sustained intensive follow-up is like the tail of the comet. After an initial workshop, ongoing professional learning activities and resources continue to support educators in deepening their understanding and enriching their teaching of critical thinking.

Effective professional learning involves a variety of learning activities, opportunities for practice, feedback, coaching and access to quality professional and student resources. Our integrated approach for sustained and transformative professional learning is to work over time with educational leaders in planning and implementing programs that offer coherent, comprehensive and continuous support for teachers.

Promoting thinking

Introduction to the TC² conception of critical thinking

The Critical Thinking Consortium has developed a highly successful approach to thinking that engages students and enhances learning across the curriculum. Our aim is to create classrooms dedicated to thinking where students learn to think and think to learn. Many approaches emphasize thinking solely as a goal of learning. We believe that this goal is not achievable as an isolated endeavour—thinking must permeate everything that students do in school. In other words, thinking to learn should be a pervasive pedagogical method. The power of this approach is twofold: students actually learn to think and they develop richer understanding of and competence in all other aspects of the curriculum.

"C3" thinking: Critical, creative and collaborative

TC² initially focused exclusively on critical thinking, but the focus has evolved to “C3” thinking—critical, creative and collaborative thinking. This evolution grew out of the realization that individuals cannot be good “critical” thinkers if they have little or no imagination and creativity. Similarly no one will get very far as a good critical thinker without engaging with the ideas of others. In other words, effective or quality thinking is invariably critical, creative and collaborative in nature.

Implementing a thinking classroom

Our framework for developing a thinking classroom focuses on four facets:

Shape the climate to support thinking

TC² supports teachers with practical guidelines for promoting a classroom culture where thinking is nurtured and valued. Classrooms come alive with rich thinking when students work together:

  • within a physical environment conducive to thinking
  • with clear expectations for thinking
  • when established routines support thinking
  • if personal interactions consistently nurture thinking
  • where teachers model the traits of a good thinker

With the TC² approach, social aspects of learning are reinforced. Students contribute to, and benefit from, a vibrant community where thinking is a regular part of daily classroom life.

Create opportunities for thinking

TC² helps teachers frame “critical challenges” to engage their students in making reasoned decisions about puzzling or problematic situations embedded in the curriculum content that teachers want their students to learn. Teachers discover that students have an enhanced sense of purpose and renewed excitement about learning when they are invited to think for themselves as they consider plausible alternatives and make meaningful choices based on clear criteria.

TC² print resources and our online Critical Challenges collection contain fully-developed lesson plans in many subject areas. As well, our workshops help prepare teachers to create their own challenges tailored to specific curriculum expectations and student needs.

Build capacity to think

The TC² approach seeks to increase all students competence as thinkers by explicitly teaching powerful “tools” required to effectively think through the challenges they confront in school and beyond. We support teachers in fostering students’ independent use of five kinds of thinking tools:

  • acquiring necessary background information
  • using criteria for judgment
  • understanding thinking vocabulary
  • applying thinking strategies
  • embracing effective habits of mind

TC² resources, such as the online Tools for Thought collection, provide ready-to-use materials to support student thinking and learning by developing their capacity with a wide range of thinking tools.

Provide guidance to inform thinking

TC² values the thinking behind student work as much as we value their final product. For this reason, we support teachers in providing powerful guidance about student performance and thinking using varied approaches:

  • helping students find significant value in assessment
  • creating timely teacher-student exchanges
  • broadening the use of self- and peer-assessment
  • helping students learn to benefit from feedback
  • ensuring that teacher comments advance student learning

Students need to demonstrate their thinking in a variety of ways. With prepared rubrics and curriculum-embedded guidelines, TC² helps teachers use assessment to enhance, not interrupt, student development of competencies and subject matter understanding.