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Thinking is Learning

6th July, 2016

By Scott W

'Let them think!’ Marie Antoinette exclaimed.

Well, she should have.

We have all decided to tutor or teach because we want to help others learn. But sometimes learners need time to think, which means that we need to let them think and even to struggle.

One of the wonders of tutoring and teaching is having the ability to help others to acquire new skills, however, as a learner I have always enjoyed the moment in learning when something clicks: the lightbulb moment. Whilst pupils can experience this moment when being led by a teacher, it is often more significant when they reach that point on their own. With this in mind, let them think for themselves.

Even without reaching the correct answer, prolonged periods of thought can only serve to improve learning behaviours by building concentration, and enhance understanding by consolidating knowledge and allowing students to rule out various incorrect conclusions.

Even from the earliest age, giving children time to think is vital. The 'Every Child a Talker' scheme claims that allowing time for children to formulate responses is vital in allowing them to develop expressive language. We like the idea raised by another blogger - 'Thinking Thumbs' and 'Finished Fingers', where children give a thumbs up whilst thinking and wiggle their fingers when they're ready to answer. For little ones, this seems a great idea, and encourages them to understand the importance of both the answer and the thinking behind it.

Sometimes it is about having the confidence to allow children to sit quietly. Many inexperienced teachers can mistake this for a lack of understanding and quickly being to lead again. As Steve Bowkett says, in his book, 'Jumpstart!': 

'As children come to know more about how to think, long silences following a question will tend to indicate reflectiveness rather than the fact that they haven't got a clue.'

If you do not feel confident that learners have given a reasoned answer, challenge them to think again. As Mike Gershon advises new teachers, when students give an answer, push their thinking a little further by asking, “Why?”, “What reasons do you have for thinking that?”

You can soon train your learners into thinking more deeply by maintaining a Socratic approach.

So, be brave and let your pupils learn without you and watch out for that moment of delighted realisation when they get there themselves.


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