It’s About the Shift, Not the Conclusion

The focus of the entire year in my class is how to be a better thinker, collaborator and problem-solver.  Students learn to use thinking tools and then constantly reflect on how their thinking abilities have improved.  At the moment we are immersed in inquiry.  Students are trying to decide whether or not Canada should build the Northern Gateway Pipeline.  As an educator, it is my job to stay neutral.  I teach tools and create conditions for students to explore data and share observations. Ultimately, it is their job as citizens to decide where they stand on issues and how they want their governments to act.  Because we build community knowledge rather than individual knowledge, my students constantly share and listen to one another to build better ideas. This exposes them to contrary points of view that often challenge their own conclusions.  Being able to shift stance when faced with new information is an important part of becoming an integrative thinker.  Below are a few gr 6 student reflections on how their thinking is improving.  Note how students are learning to leverage each other to build ideas.

“Well before I probably wouldn’t listen to others because I would have assumed I was right.  But now I think hearing other people’s thoughts is a lot more helpful and it can also back up my idea.  I also think it is good to hear other people’s thoughts because it helps you shift down the value line to make a better decision.”

“I think my thinking has changed in many ways, for example, I used to see one person’s idea and stick to it, not changing at all.  Now I interpret other people’s ideas and change my thinking all th time.  Like when I was learning about the pipeline, I thought it was all a terrible idea, but now I have shifted to about the middle, always taking in new facts and ideas from other people that think the pipelines are good and bad.”

“I am a better thinker now because I always selected data and then concluded.  I’ve also always stuck to my idea and never shifted.  I have realized that arguments never help and just end up having people be mad at each other.”

“I have become a better thinker from sitting in a circle with the class.  It helps me get more ideas, and the ladder of inference. So when people give ideas it helps me to trigger ideas in my brain.”

“I am a better thinker because after Ms. Siwak showed us system 2 thinking I now think deeper and get more information.  I am now better because she showed us how to causal model which also makes me think more and get more out of my schema.  Finally, she showed me that you can change your opinion even if you think strongly about it. With the N.G. pipeline I have shifted between medium to bad to good.  The value line also helps to change my opinion.”

“In the past I would decide on one thing and not stop to change my input.  For example, when we first started learning about the oil pipeline, I thought it was a good thing, but after I learned about how it was effecting animals, I thought it was a bad thing.  Also in the past I would always be on the top of the ladder of inference but now I gather information in the data pool and learn more.”

“I’ve become a better thinker because I know how to handle new information.  Before I would always freak out when I didn’t know what side I was on.  Now I just step back and take a breath, come back and think through both sides instead of just randomly choosing an opinion.”

“I now pay attention to more than a few fish in the data pool.  I never paid so much attention to all the data. There is more than one direction to point your ladder.  There are more than one way to interpret, conclude and act.  The ladder doesn’t just go one way.”

“My thinking is better. Like in the circle when someone says something it triggers someone’s schema.  Before I couldn’t think as fast as I can now.  I have more ideas every day for different things.  The knowledge building circle helps me get ideas.”




  1. Lisa Noble

    Amazing. I’m always blown away by your students’ learning, and by the fact that you provide such a great forum for them to be heard. I really liked the image of “pointing your ladder in another direction”, because I think it really showed that giving some students visual images to help understand concepts in a way they might otherwise miss. Thanks, as always, for making me think. The pipeline is an issue that has me thinking a lot about the data pool, and that I probably need some more fish.

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