Disaffected students and ill-prepared graduates are two growing areas of concern that are driving the call for 21st century educational reform. In this engaging book, Gini-Newman and Case build a convincing argument for the creation of “thinking classrooms” as a practical approach to 21st century learning. Thinking classrooms, as opposed to didactic or discovery models, are those that provide ongoing opportunities for students to think creatively, collaboratively and critically. Further, a thinking classroom “involves orchestrating a rich sequence of thinking activities for students to undertake, while developing the conditions that enable learners to succeed at these tasks.” (p.41)
The authors suggest a conceptual framework as an approach to implementing a thinking classroom, which they also use to organize key concepts in the book. The framework includes: shaping the climate, creating opportunity, building capacity and providing guidance.
The authors argue we must refocus our goals in order to move from knowledge about a concept toward deep understanding, from skill development toward the development of real-life competency, and from verbal acknowledgments of the importance of 21st century competencies toward genuine commitment. As well, they discuss how teachers can:
- increase student engagement
- provide opportunities for sustained inquiry
- foster self-regulation in learners
- create assessment-rich learning
- enhance learning through digital technologies
As a classroom-based teacher, I most appreciate the authors’ approach to educational change as a renovation rather than a revolution. They suggest that educational practice is not transformed overnight; rather, meaningful change is incremental and long-term. While the title might suggest that this book is meant specifically for educational leaders, all teachers can also benefit from the richness and breadth of the conversation in the book, which includes examples, vignettes, suggested practices and opportunities for leadership throughout.
Creating Thinking Classrooms will likely be reread many times to invigorate daily practices and continually move toward true 21st century learning.
Photo: Dave Donald
First published in Education Canada, March 2016