In June I wrote a Blog Entry about encouraging children to think at school. It sounds so obvious- isn’t that what everyone has been doing all along? But if you take a close look at what children do, hour to hour, day to day, in many schools, very little of it demands any kind of deep or sustained intellectual work. Of course from a psychological perspective we are all thinking, all of the time- making moment to moment decisions and calculations, choosing what to pay attention to and what to ignore, remembering some information and letting most information pass us by, etc. But schools can and should be helping children with the more deliberative thinking that Kahneman describes in his new book, Thinking Fast and Slow, the kind of thinking rational informed people engage in when faced with complex problems. It's the kind of thinking that people only do under certain circumstances.
If you walk into a classroom, what signs should you look for that it’s a place where your child will learn to think? Here are two examples.
Psychologists and educators should work on finding a way to track and measure this essential part of the the educational enterprise. If we can hold students and teachers accountable for addition, subtraction, spelling, and a five paragraph essay, we ought to find ways to hold them accountable for knowing the difference between a question that can be answered with data and one that cannot, how to figure out what to learn next, and how to reason through a complex and meaningful problem.