Developing creative thinking across the curriculum
The aim of this project was to develop, through peer mentoring, opportunities that enabled children to think creatively in all learning situations. The project was carried out by a group of 6 teachers in years 4, 5 and 6.
The project objectives:
Focus on a particular thinking strategy – de Bono’s six thinking hats – and develop ways of incorporating this strategy into existing planning.
Target a group of children and monitor the impact on learning.
Use peer coaching as a means to support professional development and to focus on the quality of children’s learning.
t was envisaged that the project be used to gain some understanding of the underachievement of girls within the school, to see if the use of thinking skills would provide a learning environment where risk taking was acceptable and impact on the variety, depth and sophistication of pupil responses across the curriculum. Further the team of teachers undertaking the project were, and are, relatively inexperienced, 4 out of the 6 with less than 3 years teaching experience, so the project would be used to support professional development and team building.
The project took place over the course of the autumn and spring terms, with the autumn term spent becoming familiar with thinking hats and finding ways to use this strategy within planning. As the project developed, time was spent setting up a Peer Mentoring strategy within the team, so that the first round of mentoring could take place before Christmas. In the spring term the second round of peer mentoring was undertaken and the project evaluated.
Evaluation and monitoring
This was done through:
Individual class teacher’s evaluation of the strategy within their own classroom practise.
Peer pairs evaluation of children’s learning.
Phase 2 summative evaluations of peer mentoring and thinking Hat strategy.
Team leader summative evaluation of impact of the project on the whole team.
Impact Many teachers reported the ease at which children accessed the thinking strategy and found the coloured hats a useful way to categorise different types of thinking. The strategy has been used successfully in Literacy lessons. In particular Year 4, where children where asked to evaluate their work using the Black and Yellow hat thinking, children focused on the good aspects of their work and then areas that needed improving. In observing the lesson it was clear that the children had a vehicle with which to organise their comments, thus avoiding ‘it was good’ responses. The black and yellow hats were also used successfully to evaluate other areas of work, for example in PE where children performed and discuss sequences of movements.
Year 6 tended to use the Green hat as a tool for generating ideas and this developed work in both DT and Art. The teacher wanted to encourage children to think more widely about possibilities for their work. In DT the children took a fairground ride and generated lots of possibilities for how it could be changed. Initially the ideas where slow in coming, because the children wanted to rush on and make their own ride, but persistence paid off and at the end of the lesson the children were genuinely pleased and surprised by the number of ideas they had created. The principle of considering a range of possibilities has been transferred into art lessons, so that children are beginning to develop the ability to think more widely about their work.
In discussing the impact of the strategy with teachers many felt that using Thinking Hats enabled children to take more risks. It is too early yet to measure the impact the project has had on girl’s lack of self confidence. However what the project has highlighted and focused attention on, is the need to develop children as independent learners and give them the confidence to generate ideas and ask questions. The team felt that the work carried out was beginning to tackle the reluctance of children to go further with their work and that very early steps are being made into tackling the attitude that ‘once work is done it is done’
his project has had significant impact on the professional development of individual teachers, laying the foundations of a team, who are willing to take risks to develop good practise. The most valuable part of this was the decision taken by the team about the type of professional atmosphere that would be created in-order for Peer Mentoring to take place. Subsequently the use of peer mentoring has opened a dialogue between individual teachers within the team, which is impacting the level of discussion during and outside of team meetings - there is a greater desire to share practise and reflect on children’s learning. Teachers have walked into each others classrooms to talk about what has happened in a lesson and begun discussing ideas in the staff room at lunchtime or the end of the day.
Within the scope of the project peer mentoring had a specific focus. In evaluating the process many felt that having another pair of non- threatening eyes in the classroom, gave them useful feedback. Focused observation on specific children help provide a detailed insight into how specific children behaved in the classroom, for example one girl who in a group task took on the role of secretary and waited to be told by others in her group what to do and one group who completely dismissed the suggestions of one particular boy, even though the ideas were valid and sensible. These observations often confirmed or extended the classroom teachers suspicions. The debrief session then provided an opportunity to develop strategies for supporting these and other children’s learning. All teachers felt that peer mentoring was worthwhile and would in future decide on their own focus. This is in essence the root of peer mentoring and perhaps it’s slightly directed use was unwise, but it was felt that employing this strategy would provide a model to build on. The school will in future allow staff the option of requesting peer mentoring as an alternative to attending a course.
One methods used to track children’s progress was a questionnaire which was targeted at a specific group of children. On reflection aspects of the questionnaire were problematic. As a team we could not be sure how honest the responses were from some of the children – girls in particular. Concern was voiced that some girls they gave the answers that they thought was expected of them or were afraid to give an honest answer and so proved a point that school has highlighted relating to girls. In future in might be better to discuss learning with the children in small groups and/or give out questionnaires to the whole class
One member of the team, a year 5 teacher, was asked to attend the Philosophy for Children Day and returned to school so transformed by the experience that both year 5 classes started immediately to try the strategy out within their own classroom. A phase 2 meeting quickly followed with the enthusiasm generated by both teachers infecting others within the team. All teachers are in agreement that there is a need to develop children’s independent learning and set a question – How do we create a community of enquiry?
Over recent weeks teachers have tried out ideas within their own classroom and shared their practise. The team have generated a series of questions, which over the course of the next six months we hope to answer.
In what areas of the curriculum would this work?
In a weeks timetable how often should there be lessons like this?
How would you measure success/ children’s achievement?
How would you record/ assess children’s progress?
How do we measure impact?
Does this style appeal to all children?
Year 5 have completely reorganised their classroom, in order that children can talk to each other. They have also created a questionnaire, asking the children for their opinions about the new changes in the learning environment and want to see if children’s attitudes change by the end of the year. Year 4 allowed children to generate question at the start of a history topic and are now questioning what to do with this - QCA says one thing, but the children are enthusiastic about something else! Suddenly the pace at which questions are being asked and difficulties faced has increased, however these are questions that are being asked by teachers as they reflect on their own practise and seek to develop children’s learning. There is a sense of ownership over the events that are happening. It is challenging but exciting.
In conclusion was the project worthwhile? Most definitely! It has been a launch pad into developing and extending both children and teachers thinking about their learning. It has facilitated the development amongst staff of risk taking and the hope is that this atmosphere is increasing transferred to the children within phase 2.