Thinking hats, thinkers keys, thinking maps, learning styles, HOTs, multiple intelligences; we have all at least heard of these, and even used them at some point in our teaching practice. To what extent do they help our students learn how they learn and learn to learn?
The founding father of sociocultural research, Lev Vygotsky (1978) talks about a dialogic approach to learning and teaching; one where learning-talk is central. By this he means deep, explicit talk about learning before, during and after it occurs. This learning-talk requires teachers to slow the pace down and focus not just on the doing; but on the thinking and learning that occurs through the doing. It requires targeted, thoughtful practice through which teachers also look deeply at their mental models and expectations around the capacity of their students to learn. Guy Claxton states “The crucial shift for teachers is to begin to get used to this idea that they are coaching the expansion of mental confidence and capacity”.
To take this one step further and consider where the locus of control may sit within this approach, we can call-upon the words of Neil Mercer who says; “As well as learning from the guidance and example of adults, children (and novices of all ages) also learn the skills of thinking collectively by acting and talking with each other”. Learner Agency within this whole approach is vital if learners are really going to be able to learn how they learn and to learn in a way that has them truly managing themselves and their own learning.
So, where might thinking tools and frameworks sit within this dialogic approach? They are just that; tools. Tools that can evoke or support learning; that when utilised within a rich dialogic approach, can provide learners with scaffolds to support their thinking about how they learn. Without rich dialogue, they are merely another tool that for the sake of ‘ticking-the-box’ may or may not support learners to become agents of their own learning.