Thinking Matters in Norway
Background: The Thinking Schools project in Oslo began back in 2012, the Education authorities in Oslo entered an international project together with the NEELB in Northern Ireland. The project’s target was to explore whether working systematically on students’ thinking skills and strategies that might have an impact on literacy and science attainment and results. Thinking Matters (then Thinking Schools International) provided support throughout the project period.
The project’s results indicated that impact was evident on several levels and that the Thinking Matters Approach also proved to an important element in teacher and leader learning (organizational development). In 2013/2014 it was decided that there would be a follow up project in Oslo with one of the schools from the first project and two new schools.
Ljan and Hallagerbakken Skole involved in the new project were from more challenging catchment areas with many students coming from ethnic minorities and speak little Norwegian. Setterbraten Skole draws from a catchment that is more affluent and with a greater degree of social mobility.
Norway is currently introducing a new core curriculum which redefines the purpose, values and principles for education, the essence of which clearly reflect the central tenets of being a Thinking School. Emphasis within the curriculum, for example, include expectations that schools should help pupils to be creative and inquisitive, to ask questions and to develop scientific and critical thinking. It states that the “School shall help the pupils to reflect on their own learning, understand their own learning processes and acquire knowledge independently”. This is evidently an opportune time for schools across Norway to consider the benefits for their students of adopting a Thinking Schools approach.
In response to this, a group of experienced teachers and school leaders from Hallagerbakken Skole has recently commenced training to enable them to become a Hub Thinking School. As a hub school, they will provide provision of professional development and consultancy support for future Thinking Schools across Norway, with a view to extending the Thinking Schools network there.
Tools and Strategies
When the schools began the project back in 2015 the thinking tools and strategies were mostly new to all the teachers involved . One of the school leaders said this was a strength; teachers, leaders and students had to learn something new and that made it easier to take risks, ask for help, share their ideas and their challenges – and help others. One of the biggest impacts the project has had is that more teachers (and students) are engaged in high quality discussions on learning and thinking. It is now seen that the tools and strategies are used in all classrooms and in all subjects. Many students use the different tools independently and engage in discussions on which tools are the best for the challenges they approach. Tests on literacy and science skills indicate that students now get better results.
The drive team at each school has been very important throughout the project period. They have had the opportunity to meet with the drive teams from the other schools and project leaders at the school administration. Ideas have been shared and challenges discussed during these meetings. It became clear that the more that was learned about the Thinking Matters approach, the more complex and deeper it became. All members of the drive teams feel they have learnt a lot and are able to transfer information and motivation to the teachers at their own schools.
The central elements from the Thinking Matters approach were implemented in the school’s strategic plans. The teachers are always looking for new and better ways to teach and for students to think and learn.
From the beginning of the project, participating in a network with other schools, teachers and countries has had a strong focus:
• International: participating at the conference, visiting schools in England, attending courses.
• Local: establishing a group with leaders and members of the schools drive team. Teachers and leaders at the schools visiting each other throughout the school year.
Read the Summary Report of the Regio Comenius funded ‘Developing a Thinking School: Norway to Northern Ireland’ Project and the NEELB Creating a Thinking School Pilot Project
Take a look at Ljan Skole’s account of their Thinking Journey
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