By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE. Years ago, while conducting research for my doctoral dissertation, I spent the morning in a classroom and was forever changed by a question asked of a child, “what is your thinking?” When “Felicia” asked the child playing with funnels and tubes at the water table what he was thinking I was amazed at the potential of this simple question, one that I rarely hear in my many visits to early learning programs. What I was witnessing in the classroom that morning was a teacher willing to think deeply. To find out more about Felicia’s story please read, From theme-based to emergent curriculum.
Lately, I have been doing a lot of thinking about thinking – children’s thinking, teacher’s thinking, and my own thinking. I think often about teaching and learning and I try to think deeply about thinking and learning. I think about my own thinking, about my student’s thinking and the thinking of others. I think about what children are thinking and I worry that their thinking is dismissed when teachers create curriculum based on preset themes.
William Ayers (2001) reminds teachers that we can become “students of our students, in part to understand them, in part to know ourselves” (p. 138). Paulo Freire (1985) describes the transactional process of teaching and learning:
Through dialogue the teacher-of-the-students and the students-of-the teachers cease to exist and a new term emerges: teacher-student with students-teachers. The teacher is no longer merely the-one-who-teaches, but one who is himself taught in dialogue with students, who in turn while being taught also teaches. They become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow. (p. 67)
What is your thinking about teaching and learning?
Twenty-first century teaching and learning places high importance on critical thinking. As teachers we need to think critically and we need to focus our practice on encouraging children to think. I am inspired by Judith Ivey’s Ted Talk on metacognition (thinking about thinking) as an example of encouraging children’s thinking.
Big Ideas for Little Kids is a wonderful resource. I credit it with helping me learn more about philosophical thinking and I cherish my collection of children’s books that illustrate philosophical contexts. The Teaching Children Philosophy website and Facebook page feature a number of children’s books well suited for early learners to explore philosophy.
Early philosophical education is a fascinating focus – it invites and encourages deep and critical thinking, blurring the line between teacher and learner. However, thinking about thinking is not easy and not usually comfortable. New ideas naturally produce tension or cognitive dissonance. This tension constitutes a cognitive conflict or disequilibrium occurring with the experience of new information. While disequilibrium is uncomfortable the new information needs to be assimilated in order for learning to occur.
Thinking about thinking invites the building of theories from practice. Education is, according to Malaguzzi (2001), a “situation of research, and the research produces a new pedagogy.” An early years teacher who inspires me in her philosophical focus is Suzanne Axelsson from Sweden. Her blog posts about philosophy in preschool, illustrate the possibilities to produce a new “thinking” pedagogy. I am thrilled that through the connective powers of social media that I have come to know Suzanne and will be hosting her visit to the Greater Toronto Area, in the spring. I am excited to think about thinking in a collaborative forum with other teachers willing to embrace metacognition.