Making Thinking Visible for Budding Scientists

By now we all know that traditional lecture style teaching and learning just simply does not work for most students! When we do not provide students with a chance to be active and the ones in charge of their own learning, we are doing them a great disservice! Educational research suggests again and again that students must be actively exercising their ability to think, problem solve, and inquire to retain information and grow as learners.

Fortunately, the book Making Thinking Visible has outlined a variety of ways to promote active student learning and understanding for all learners (Ritchhart, Church, Morrison, 2011). In this blog, I will outline three that can be used for learners specifically in the science classroom:

1. The 4 C’s (Ritchhart et al. 2011, p. 140)

The 4 C’s is one strategy that can help the budding scientists in your classroom successfully make their thinking visible by making reading content more comprehensible. The 4 C’s stand for Connections (how does it relate to the student), Challenge (what should be challenged or questioned about the text), Content (what is worth remembering), and Changes (what changes/differences are suggested/promoted in this text).

As students read a text and progress through the 4 C’s, they will be challenged to draw similarities to their own lives, challenge their own thinking as well as the “thinking” behind the text, and see what their learning through new lenses.

2. Circle of Viewpoints

Another strategy that can be employed in the science classroom is the Circle of Viewpoints. This strategy could be particularly useful for identifying scientific or pseudoscientific sources in the science classroom because its aim is to identify and evaluate various perspectives on issues. It is an essential skill for students to be able to change their lenses of thinking and learning to be able to investigate reliable and non-reliable science. The circle of viewpoints will ultimately provide students with a deeper, more complete understanding of a topic.

3. The Explanation Game

What better way to get your budding scientists engaged in their learning than to make it a game?! The explanation game is one final strategy that can be utilized in the science classroom to help students breakdown new information by looking at the individual parts of an object or system deeply and asking oneself questions that may help explain the object as a whole. One way I’d like to personally use the Explanation Game in my future classroom is to have students choose different things that they would like to examine, have them research and evaluate those things, and then form groups to share their findings. This gives students more autonomy and a sense of purpose to be able to teach their peers about their findings.

There are so many more to be used and when used strategically, these strategies can allow students to truly blossom into independent learners and budding scientists.


  1. Jay,

    I think that the 4 C’s lends itself well to various topics in chemistry, specifically, but one that comes to mind for me is when learning the topic of electrochemistry. Many students have loose backgrounds on electricity prior to coming into high school chemistry, but it can be an abstract topic if students do not have a way of understanding what they already know, things that are challenging, or things that contradict their current ways of thinking.

  2. Hi Lauren,

    Great post! I think the MTV strategy that I like the most out of the three listed is “the 4 C’s”. As a future chemistry teacher, do you have any suggestions on how you would incorporate this strategy in your future classroom? Is there a particular topic in chemistry that you think would be best for this strategy?

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