Designing Effective Projects : Teaching Thinking
Explicit Teaching in Thinking

What Skills to Teach
By the time learners reach upper intermediate phase and senior phase, they are ready to begin to develop formal reasoning skills. Mini-lessons on the following skills would be appropriate for that age of learner.

  • Creating categories based on specific events or items
  • Drawing conclusions based on available information
  • Identifying some types of fallacies in informal reasoning
  • Understanding the difference between claims and facts
  • Evaluating the credibility of evidence
  • Judging the quality of a piece of work by a rubric
Upper senior phase and FET phase learners can be capable of quite sophisticated thought processes and can be taught the following skills. 
  • Constructing valid arguments
  • Identifying errors in opinions
  • Developing principles based on concrete information and situations
  • Drawing logical conclusions based on interpretation of information
  • Generating criteria for evaluating a project or idea
  • Creating alternative scenarios
Of course, the kinds of thinking that learners are capable of depend on more than their grade level. Some teachers can devise ways to help primary learners think logically, and when properly motivated by an engaging project, learners can achieve far more than many adults can imagine. The point is to look at the work learners are being asked to do and identify some important skills that will help them do it, then to think about the abilities of the learners in order to select those skills to target in explicit teaching.

Identifying specific skills to teach can be a challenge. Teachers can get some help from the literature on teaching reading. Skills such as making connections, asking questions, and making inferences are used in reading, but they are also used in thinking about anything else. There is a great deal of practical information about teaching reading skills and strategies in the content areas that can be applied to learning in general.

Examples of Teachable Skills
Intermediate phase learners in the Project Plan, African Adventure Safari, help safari guests learn about diversity, interdependence, and the wonder of life in the African wild. At appropriate places during the project, the teacher could teach the following skills:
  • Brainstorming
  • Setting learning goals
  • Searching for information on the Internet
  • Using a storyboard for planning
In Enduring Heroes* (original plan- unadapted) senior phase learners discover heroes of the past and present. As they read about heroes in Greek mythology, they consider a contemporary hero and write a myth about that hero.  Some skills that would be appropriate to teach during this project would be:
  • Summarizing by identifying important information and deleting trivial information
  • Using induction to develop abstractions based on concrete details
  • Evaluating their own work based on established criteria
FET phase algebra learners use socially relevant data to plot historic trends and project them into the future in Track the Trends: Predict the Future*. Some thinking skills that could be taught during this project are:
  • Searching for information on the Internet
  • Judging whether data are reliable
  • Interpreting graphs
  • Thinking for alternative solutions to problems


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