Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.
Lately I have been thinking about thinking. One of the key elements of the modern approach to teaching, and which is thought to be different from old-fashioned teaching and learning, is that it trains children to think for themselves, to approach problems with a range of skills and to be able to engage in stimulating enquiry based learning.
But does it? And did the old fashioned way not prepare people to think?
And what does it mean to think? If you are asked to think about something, what do you do? What exact activity do you engage in?
At John Colet we have a few answers to these questions. One basic use of the techniques of mindfulness which we introduce to the children is that a still and clear mind is a good starting point for the application of reason.
With a clear mind we can call upon a range of tools: brainstorming, which is a process of noting down all the associations one has with a given problem or topic; analysis, whereby we sift and categorize various options; synthesis, which involves grouping and comparing and contrasting alternatives.
Or we might use Edward De Bono’s Six Hats method of problem solving: white the facts; red our feelings; yellow positive aspects; black negative or challenging elements; green new ideas; blue the big picture.
My conclusion to date? Clear, objective, effective thinking doesn t just happen, but is a skill which needs to be taught like any other.