Nurturing a community of thinkers

Published: Sep 21, 2017

A new school year is like a fresh sheet of paper – an opportunity to try new things and approach things from a different perspective. As the year begins, it is a wonderful opportunity to take the time to consider how you might best nurture a community of thinkers in your classroom.

How might you encourage students to think both independently and together about important concepts, issues and ideas? In what ways can you instill practices that nurture and support quality thinking as an expectation in your classroom?

We invite you to take a moment as this new academic year begins to consider the following ideas and strategies for nurturing a community of thinkers:

  • create the foundation for students to be doing the thinking in the course or class (the one who is doing the thinking is the one who is doing the learning)
  • highlight the importance of thinking by providing meaningful wait time
  • create the classroom expectations that students are: 1) to make up their minds; 2) to use reasons or examples to support their ideas; and 3) to consider other perspectives or alternative approaches to issues, ideas and tasks
  • create opportunities for students to revisit and revise their work on a consistent basis
  • support student ability to give and receive thoughtful feedback
  • frame tasks and questions in ways that invite deeper thinking
  • provide opportunities for independent, small group and larger group thinking
  • maintain a questioning stance and one of curiosity in your own approach to student thinking

These suggestions are some initial prompts for you to consider as you strive to create a thinking classroom and a shared sense of community where student thinking takes center stage. Inviting student voice to be forefront in the class community can be made more meaningful by the explicit and implicit expectation that our voices be thoughtful, ethical and fueled by curiosity and wonder.

Extend the discussion

Check out our Ten tweaks for your questions tip sheet if you are looking for easy ideas on how to bump up thinking through the kinds of questions you ask.

Looking for a more in-depth exploration and some examples of what creating a community of thinkers might entail? Supporting a Community of Critical Thinkers, written by Dr. Roland Case and Dr. Philip Balcaen, offers more ideas on how you might do this.

This is an excerpt from The Anthology of Social Studies: Issues and Strategies for Secondary Teachers. This book is available for purchase from our Online shop.

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