Visible Thinking, Pt. 1

I have read so much about this book and how it is applied in a classroom from others.  I have always meant to get it, but there have always been so many other things on my mind that I kept putting it off.  Well, after the persistence of a good friend, I finally broke down and bought it.  In typical reflective fashion, I will use this blog to record my thoughts and opinions as I progress through the book and start implementing some of the ideas into my class.  Today though, will just be about the first two chapters, which are kind of like the philosophical base.

Chapter 1 - Unpacking Thinking

  • First though before I even began, unpacking is a term that is meant to imply an expansion of thought, not a reduction, which is how I see the geometry of learning

  • The whole section on beyond Bloom's is wonderful.  I remember introducing Blooms to a grade 6 class in my first year of teaching and they responded with so many questions about how to move up the levels, it drove me nuts.  I don't see learning as a linear process.  It is fractal, not sequential or hierarchical.  Even the new Blooms, it is just a replacement of the old nouns with new verbs, more of an emphasis on doing, but the steps are still in place.

  • Pg.7 the mind is designed to detect patterns .... I don't know if I like this word.  Maybe I am being a pedant, but....

  • I think the distinction between focusing on different levels of thinking (Blooms) and focusing attention on the levels or quality of thinking (Visible Thinking).  This is really the difference between the two for me; one categorizes thinking into a box, and the other analyzes it in order to expand.  Blooms is reductionist, and Visible Thinking is expansionist

  • A lot of the research I have been doing in my M.Ed is quoted in this book.  The authors are drawing directly from high level academic research.  I love this.  I hate the false dichotomy that teachers (and researchers) create between practice and research.  They are intertwined and dependent on each other.  You cannot have research with practice, and you cannot have practice without research.  I see them as one and the same thing, and I get the impression that so do the authors of this book.

  • All the stuff about high stakes testing (pg 9) are great quotes for teachers working in the public school system to argue and fight with bearocrats (I didn't spell that wrong).  Doesn't apply to me at this point in my life, but good to know for the future.

  • Gimmicks and Glamour; I love how they describe certain activities as fun and engaging, but still shallow.  The transmission model of learning is long gone, but education has this need to hold onto it.  We dress it up in a new dress and call it something new, but it is still transmission; taking something from my head and putting it in the students   Learning doesn't happen that way.

  • Great list of thinking skills (pg.11), but every researcher in the world has their own taxonomy of thinking skills, and to me, they are all the same.  The VT list in good in that it is languaged in verbs and actions, and it based on understanding.  Still, a list such as this is still reducing thinking to a set list.  I do, however, love that wondering is on the list!

  • Love the idea for Visible Thinking Portfolios.  Need to meditate on that one and see how I will set it up..... I am not happy with my current portfolio practice.

  • There is so much here that is just great practice.  Instead of saying, here do this, they present ideas and they reframe teaching as being attentive and mindful.  I can't say how refreshing this is to read in a book designed for classroom practice.  Usually, they are simplistic and reductionist.  This one is telling the teacher straight out, paying attention and listening is the core of your job.   Love it.

  • Pg 14; another list of thinking; at least they admit that thinking is not something that can easily defined (if defined at at all!).

  • Now we are getting into some things I can try.  So, I tried to this mind map with my students this morning and the results were really interesting.  I found that some of them are quite knowledgeable about thinking and are excellent at self analyzing.  Lots of talk of inner monologues and how to solving problems and asking good questions.  Others look solely to the mechanistic side, using my brain, getting ideas, and doing something with no real reflection on how it gets done.  There are lots of Emotional and Meta responses, and a few strategic responses.  This will be the goal of this program for me, getting the kids to think about HOW they are thinking, or HOW they could be thinking.  After we did the mind map, I had them wrote a tweet about what they think thinking is.  It will be interesting to come back to this later in the year and see how their conceptions have changed.

  • All in all, I am love with this book, and very excited to read the next chapters and begin to implement some of the thinking routines.  That does not mean I have no criticism of it, I do, but they are pedantic in nature and I feel that for the most part I am in agreement with the rational and reasoning.  I find there to be a real mish-mash of metaphors.  One moment they are talking about an organic process (fostering, growing, expanding) and then the next they are talking about a mechanistic one (the mechanical process of the mind, constructing understanding, drawing out knowledge).  One metaphors puts learning into the world of complexity  (and I offer up fully that I am biased and I see myself as a Complexivist) and the other makes it look like the transmission model of learning.  Still, I think when looking at it from a whole, they are way more on the complexity side than on the transmission side.  There are so many synchronicities in what they are saying and how I view teaching, learning, and knowing.