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There has been a great deal of reflection recently as to our journey as an Advanced Thinking School, quantifying what we do and why.
Thinking Skills have become such an integral part of the school, it is sometimes hard to step back and see what it is that is being achieved and how far we have actually come. We initially set out on this journey because we felt our students had a weakness. Although they were academically bright and able, they lacked resilience when they found tasks challenging and struggled with persistence.
Since our first accreditation as a Thinking School in 2012 the range of tools we use has broadened, but so has our mindset about what we want to achieve. Our constant evaluation and wish to stretch ourselves has pushed the project ever onwards, with staff and students alike expecting more.
Becoming an Advanced Thinking School has given us opportunities to talk to other practitioners in other schools at varying stages of their thinking journeys to gain inspiration, but also has served to highlight how much we have embedded these ideas. We have thoroughly enjoyed welcoming others to see what we do, including visitors from abroad and those from our local feeder schools, where our outreach programme has seen hundreds of primary age students step through our door to be introduced to our thinking practices & ethos.
Very early on the school set out a view that thinking should be integral to what we do, and that the tools, whilst useful, should fit with our needs, rather than pursuing the idea that we are a thinking school because we use the tools. We have fully embraced a wide range of strategies, Costa’s Habits of Mind, De Bono’s 6 Hats, Thinking Maps and more, but each time only as an answer to an issue, rather than as a way of collecting new strategies.
Some time ago we decided that instead of constantly striving for new methods, we would stop and embed the methods we have, and it feels that this was exactly the right decision. Students and staff alike are more confident in the tools we use, they are fully embedded in our everyday working life, and have become as integral to the school as the buildings and furniture. They are used extensively not just by the students, but at a staff level - for example feedback on the School Development Plan is sought annually from all staff through a 6 Hats proforma, and all events are evaluated this way too.
What has been the greatest pleasure in this process though, has been to recognise the development of our students. What well rounded, community driven people they have become. Listening to them talking to visitors about their experience as students at a Thinking School is a powerful reminder of why we are always striving to improve. Responding to the questions they can ask when stuck, or developing new information now, seems a long way from the days of students just asking for the answer.
Of course, we are not an idyllic, perfect school, there are areas to work on, but to think how far we have come inspires us to what we can still strive to achieve.
Thinking School Coordinator
Maidstone Grammar School for Girls
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