Twenty years ago when
I first found Vygotsky's work and tried to apply the idea of scaffolding
with a reluctant teen learner using Buzan's (1974) Use your head
techniques, he turned round and said vehemently, "Miss, I HATE
this. It makes me fink." Dr David Hyerle has specialised in making
teachers and students 'fink?
Hyerle has founded
a group called Designs for Thinking. On his most recent visit
to NZ he attended the October AP/DP Conference in Auckland. He
and the forward-thinking principal of St George's Preparatory
School in Wanganui. Alan Cooper, talked about the application
of Thinking Maps to student learning and teachers' teaching.
St George's has been
applying Hyerle's approaches school-wide for a year and the results
have justified Alan's vision in inviting him to NZ. ERO agrees
- the school has just had a rave review. He will be returning
next year. Included will be a one-day course thr West Auckland
Meeting David Hyerle
was a real buzz. The strength of Hyerle's work lies in the exceptionally
clear and helpful way he makes links between cognitive purpose
and the thinking tools he employs. I like the analogy of Thinking
Maps to a language for learning.
Like any language
you get fluent by speaking it yourself, not just speaking about
it to students. I like the clear context he provides for the learning.
The theory is not clipped on: the maps arise from related theory
(constructivism, metacogniton, reciprocal learning). Using the
maps with understanding of their purpose gives learning and teaching
a theoretical and pedagogical coherence and integrity which is
What was so exciting
about the portfolio examples of the St George's staff and student
application of Hyerle's Thinking Maps was this coherence and integrity.
Teachers are using the strategies for their own work (planning,
evaluation. etc) because they understand the 'why'. Likewise,
there is evidence of students' growing confidence as they learn
to think with these tools.
The legacy of a decade
of grab bag courses on learning, styles, thinking, curriculum
statements, technology and problem-solving, whatever, without
the opportunity for cognitive and pedagogical synthesis is indigestion.
More is nor necessarily better. There are different cognitive
tools for different learning purpose, and the point is to understand
the purpose in order to understand which tool to apply and how
to apply it.
is simple - work on a whole-school basis; have teachers spend
time learning the 'language', the primitives of brainstorming
webs, task-specific organisers and thinking maps. then have teachers
apply these maps to their own work. and model and demonstrate
their use with students until students are able to select from
a range of tool s those most appropriate to achieve a particular
If your purpose is
to develop information literacy competencies. first you need to
know what information literacy is. If your purpose is to develop
critical and creative thinking skills, you need to undeistand
cognition, and how cognitive processes and strategies overlap
with and complement information literacy processes.
In relation to the
ICT strategy I think the point that needs to be made is that a
trained brain (whether the brain belongs to a teacher or a student),
used to applying thinking strategies to a wide range of information
and cognitive problemss and challenges is going to find ICT an
increasingly useful tool and enhancer.
For both students
and teachers it's not enough to know about mindmaps and other
graphic organisers, whether they are drawn on paper or on a computer
screen using one of several programs available for the purpose.
Thinking happens in the head. Knowledge is built in the head,
and it's the head that directs what happens on the screen. Students
become thinking literate by learning to think.
Students become information
literate by learning to use information critically to build knowledge.
Cognitive tools help them to understand and deepen their thinking
and learning processes.
It was really exciting
to discover where David Hyerle's approach and mine coincide. We
base our work in common theoretical underpinnings. We both work
from the basis that it doesn't work just to say "There are some
tools. Use them with your kids." After all. theres nothing new
about these tools. David Ausubel talked about graphic organisers
in the 6Os: Buzan was mindmapping happily in the 7Os. Most thinking
teachers have found Nancy Margolies' 1991 mapping book. If we
aren't using these tools alread, why not, and what's different?
It is essential, we
both agreed, to use the tools yourself to enhance your own conceptual
clarity about the content and the process of learning and teaching
and then modelling and guiding until students can choose and apply
the maps which will develop their own conceptual clarity about
the content and the process.
It's not learning
about. It's learning by doing. The more you know about the type
of learning in which you are trying to develop student competence,
the more deeply you will bt: able to apply the tools and develop
students' application. The acid test for whether or not the ICT
strategy will 'work' is the extent to which we can demonstrate
its influence on the quality of student learning and thinking.
David Hyerle uses
Inspiration, Stella and his own Thinking Maps software. but their
use is driven by how well teachers and students understand the
cognitive processes. David Hyerle's book Visual tools for constructing
knowledge, ASCD, 1996 is a must for all thinking principals and
Check out David's