Thinking Schools Int’l


Thinking Schools International, LLC is a company focused on facilitating expertise within schools, school systems, and across regions and countries for transforming the practice of education toward the collaborative development of a wide range of thinking processes of all members of learning organizations. Thinking Schools International is a collaboration of Kestrel Consulting (UK), Centre for Cognition at Exeter University (UK) and Designs for Thinking (USA).

Thinking Schools International, LLC conducts direct training with individual learning organizations, certifies trainers at different levels of expertise, while also welcoming other organizations to engage with us in licensing agreements for using these materials and processes around the world. The Key: Schools implement and assess their own transformative designs for explicitly developing thinking processes for learning, literacyteaching, and leading with a focus on their own vision.

Kestrel Education, working in partnership with the Cognitive Education Centre at the University of Exeter in the UK,  developed the whole school approach to the teaching of thinking.  This approach was strongly influenced by the work of Gill Hubble during her time as Associate Principal at St Cuthbert’s College, Auckland, New Zealand. Schools in the UK have been taking a whole-school approach leading to raised attainment, improved motivation, concentration and independent learning. The culture in schools has changed to one where teacher and students work together and place thinking at the heart of the curriculum. As the Executive Head Teacher of Rochester Grammar School, Denise Shepherd, says ‘this approach has transformed the way we work at Rochester Grammar School’.

Designs for Thinking is a group of education consultants implementing Thinking Maps and software in learning communities, from pre-kindergarten through high school, including a focus on leadership.

bubbleWorking under licence to TSI, there is now Thinking Schools South Africa (TSSA) and Thinking Schools Ethiopia (TSE). Thinking Schools International is also collaborating with organisations in India, Brazil and New Zealand.

TSI manages training in various countries. All these schools take a whole-school approach to the teaching of thinking and share good practice, resources and expertise.  Within the TSI website there is a library of resources available to all schools in the network.

The focus of Thinking Schools International is on the integration of 21st century thinking skills supported by research combined with using practical technological approaches.

The Methodologies:
1. Reflective Questioning high quality questioning and listening skills
2. Thinking Skills explicit use of cognitive processes
3. Visual Mapping the use of visual tools to map out ideas
4. Collaborative Networking between us in pairs, groups, schools, and global networks that includes collaborative learning; collegial coaching; regional and global collaborationsExamples include collaborative learning, collegial coaching, professional learning communities, parent involvement.
5. Developing Dispositions characteristics, dispositions, and habits of mind are engaged
6. Structuring Environment considering how the physical space is organize and resources used

What is a thinking school?

It is hard to encompass a definition for a thinking school in one short, concise sentence.  TSI has asked some of its experienced ‘thinking’ contacts for their definitions which are given below.  If you have a more succinct definition, let us know!


One short definition:

A Thinking School is ‘an educational community in which all members share a common commitment to giving regular careful thought to everything that takes place.  This will involve both students and staff learning how to think reflectively, critically and creatively, and to employing these skills and techniques in the co-construction of a meaningful curriculum and associated activities.  Successful outcomes will be reflected in student’s across a wide range of abilities demonstrating independent and co-operative learning skills, high levels of achievement and both enjoyment and satisfaction in learning.  Benefits will be shown in ways in which all members of the community interact with and show consideration for each other and in the positive psychological well-being of both students and staff.’ (Burden, 2006)

Another definition:

A Thinking School is ‘an educational community in which all members share a common understanding and vision of the nature of the high quality learning and teaching for all pupils, and are committed to working together to make this vision a reality.  They think deeply about their work, reflectively, critically and creatively, and spend time discussing the best ways to co-construct both a meaningful and purposeful curriculum and associated activities, drawing on a wide range of learning opportunities.  They are committed to their own learning, keep abreast of research, learn from each other and are open to new ideas, considering these carefully before deciding whether they will usefully contribute to their vision for a thinking school.

A school which is successfully developing as a thinking community will strive to ensure that all pupils are developing and demonstrating independent and co-operative learning skills using a range of thinking tools and strategies.  The school will generate high levels of achievement and an excitement and enthusiasm for lifelong learning.  All members of the community will interact with and show consideration for each other, in such a way as to enable the positive psychological wellbeing of both pupils and staff to flourish. (Knapp, 2006)

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