A recent history of teaching thinking

Authored by: Steve Higgins

The Routledge International Handbook of Research on Teaching Thinking

Print publication date:  June  2015
Online publication date:  May  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415747493
eBook ISBN: 9781315797021
Adobe ISBN: 9781317752301


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There have always been arguments about what the terms ‘teaching thinking’ (Sternberg & Berg, 1992) and ‘thinking skills’ mean since they first came into vogue in the late 1970s (McGregor, 2007). Indeed some argue that the concept of teaching general thinking or thinking skills is misguided, while others focus on its utility in the classroom to provoke more complex thinking and to help teachers develop appropriate pedagogies to support learners’ development (Higgins & Baumfield, 1998). A host of different programmes and approaches have advocated teaching thinking skills (see Nickerson et al., 1985 for an account of developments, particularly in North America through the 1970s and the early 1980s; and Hamers et al., 1999 for a European perspective up to the turn of the century; or McGregor, 2007 for more recent developments). One way to understand the development of teaching thinking is to start with the influence of three key individuals who exemplify the different strands of teaching thinking in schools. Each have pioneered a different approach, and their ideas have influenced and inspired other programmes and approaches over the last 60 years. Subsequently, as teachers have adopted these ideas, and as researchers have explored their effects, there has been a cross-fertilisation of ideas, with increasing emphasis on the impact of different approaches so their inclusion can be justified in an increasingly scrutinised curriculum.

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