The Thinking Classroom


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You may or may not have heard of the concept of the The Thinking Classroom.

It's a pretty interesting topic coined by Peter Liljedahl, of Simon Fraser University, in British Columbia, Canada. 

I was at a math conference north of Toronto in May of this year, and attended a workshop on the topic; it was pretty interesting....

Techniques of the Thinking Classroom involves an approach to teaching mathematics -- and could be equally applicable to the pure sciences and engineering related courses I guess -- that essentially re-organizes the drawbacks of traditional techniques used in teaching these notoriously difficult subjects.

The Thinking Classroom is built on the foundation of engagement from both the student's and the teacher's perspective.  

In fact, long-term research into classroom techniques for teaching math, as provided in Peter Liljedahl’s research shows which approaches to teaching have the greatest positive effect on students.

And here are 3 key cool tools Thinking Classroom teachers can apply to their classroom, based on his research:

  • Keep students on their feet: For many students, learning mathematics is a much more efficient process in a group setting. Have students form small groups where working on their feet is paramount. Similar to the principles of agile project management in the business space, having people work out problems while standing next to their peers encourages them to get engaged, rather than sit back and focus on a problem alone in isolation. 
  • Give students hints, and not answers. Teachers need to present each group with enough information about the new concept or strategy to solve the problem, without providing any explicit answers. Instructors should check in on each group and give reasonable direction, then let the group develop their own approach to a solution.
  • Provide each group with a non-permanent surface to work on. The traditional example used in the workshop was a whiteboard, which allows students to work out problems freely, then erase mistakes, and continue. Whiteboards and dry erase services eliminate thought barriers.  The goal here is to encourage students to get involved and even encourage students to make mistakes, erase quickly, and move forward. Whiteboards and #VNPS surfaces give you the large creative canvas to do that without wasting tons of paper. 

Giving students just enough information to solve a problem amongst themselves in Thinking Classroom environments ensures they receive support from their peers, and helps them develop a solid understanding of the concepts, without having to tackle the problem on their own.

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