Representations of our learning such as posters and research papers are not the only way that a learner can make their thinking visible to themselves and all others around them. In their book Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison discuss multiple different strategies to make the thinking of your students visible to them while they are in the classroom. The amazing thing about this book is that it give concrete outlines of each strategy and examples of lesson plans for each strategy. Most of all the explicit descriptions of each strategy make it very simple for a teacher or anyone else using the material to implement the strategies.
Teachers can have some trouble making the thinking of their students visible to them. For example a teacher may feel that students looking up answers to questions on a worksheet in their textbook makes the connection between life and that information. However, this is not the case. Making the material relatable to our students is a source of much difficulty for teachers. It is very important in science classrooms to make real world connections to concepts because it can make the material easier to understand. This is the crux of making thinking visible, applying what you’ve learned to your own life.
Making connections in the science classroom should not be as difficult as it seem. Science is the world around us so it is easy to see concrete examples of material covered in class in our lives. For example a group of 16 year old students who are just learning how to drive could apply the concept of the ideal gas law to their lives very easily. When it gets cold outside, your tires deflate so they need to be inflated more regularly. This is important information for a new driver that applies the direct relationship between pressure and temperature that is shown in the ideal gas law (PV=nRT).
this is an example of a concept that can make thinking visible, now let’s investigate concrete strategies of making thinking visible that can apply in any classroom.
One of the thinking strategies is the “Circle of Viewpoints” when conducting this strategy students look at one central issue that effect many different types of people throughout the world and they list those types of people in a circular fashion around the central issue and describe that persons perspective on that issue. Below I will discuss further on how to put the “Circle of Viewpoints” into action.
How to do it
- A central issue is required such as global warming or child labor
- Surrounding that central issue are different viewpoints
- The goal is to be able to get the perspective on the central issue from various different viewpoints
- Encourage questions and differing opinions
- Expose new ways of thinking about a important issue that affects a large number of people
- Creating greater awareness on how others think
- Gain a broader and more complete understanding of the topic, event or issue being discussed
- Set up- introduction of the source material (image, story, issue, event, or topic)
- Identify the viewpoints- generate a list of people, places, or things that can be effected you your central issue
- Select a viewpoint to explore
- Respond to the “I think… “ prompt- ask students to make a statement regarding the issue from the viewpoint they selected
- Respond to the “A question I have from this viewpoint….” prompt- ask students what may complicate this issue from their specific viewpoint. What is this person curious about?
- Share the thinking- ask the student to share and discuss their responses to the prompt
- Overall depth of thought
- Originality of opinions
- Complexity of questions
- Realistic views (not based on preconceived notions)
Below is an example of the Circle of Viewpoints on Paper withe the issue of Child Labor as the central issue. As on can see there are many different perspectives on this issue. When students evaluate the issue from that specific perspective it allows them to open their minds up to new ways of thinking about the issue and ultimately getting more out of the process than if they were to only look at the issue as themselves.
Here is a link to my twitter account where I will be posting various things about science and science education https://twitter.com/MrRadford_Sci