Making Thinking Visible

by Nelson Coulter | Nov 28, 2023 | Thought Leaders

I recently read The Power of Making Thinking Visible: Practices to Engage and Empower All Learners by Ron Ritchhart and Mark Church (2020).

This book is a follow-up to one printed about 10 years prior by Ritchhart, et al. The authors assert that Making Thinking Visible (MTV)… “has the power to: Foster deep learning; Cultivate engaged students; Change the role of students and teachers; Enhance our formative assessment practice; Improve learning (even when measured by standardized tests); and Develop thinking dispositions.” (p. 6)

My top takeaways:

  • Thinkingis more process than product.
  • Deep learning is the result of both understanding andthinking.
  • Engagement occurs on three levels: with others, with ideas, and in action.
  • Understanding requires both “digging” and sense making.
  • MAKING THINKING VISIBLE is a set of practices: Questioning, Listening, Documentation, and Thinking routines.
  • Robust thinking only happens when the content is also robust.
  • The quality of the questions drives the quality of the learning.
  • Professional development events too often focus on training teachers in a set of tools or practices, but ignoring the deeper learning of the skill set and cultivation of mindsets needed to deploy those tools most effectively. (p. 226)
  • Three teaching inhibitors: The rush toward quick judgment and evaluation, the tendency to predict what students will say before they say it, and the desire for closure.
  • A powerful facilitative question: “What makes you say that?”
  • Teaching is a complex undertaking, precisely because learning is a complex outcome.

My favorite quotes:

“These opportunities [for deep learning] are infused with critical thinking, grappling with complexity, challenging assumptions, questioning authority, and embracing curiosity – all core elements of what it means to learn deeply.” (p. 6)

“Formative assessment lives in our listening, observing, examining, analyzing, and reflecting on the process of learning. Even then, our assessment becomes formative only when we use that data to inform our teaching and students’ learning. Formative assessment then is driven by our curiosity about our students’ learning and the desire to make sure our teaching is responsive to their needs as learners.” (p. 12)

“As the feminist poet Alice Duer Miller observed, ‘Listening is not merely not talking,’ it is ‘taking a vigorous, human interest in what is being told us.’” (p. 26)

“Poet Judy Brown writes that it is the space between the logs where the fire grows (Brown 2016)”. (p. 218)

RR and MC embed in this work several teacher moves (technical applications/strategies) to foster deep learning and make the thinking of the learners public.

This is one of the best books on the teaching-learning process I’ve read in recent years. An excellent option for team studies by those who want to push their instructional A-game higher.

*If you’d like to read more of nc’s blatherings, go to nc’s Recursive Learning

Collegiate Edu-Nation
Nelson Coulter