Dr Ron Ritchhart Visits SPW

29 September 2023

Building partnerships with professionals is an important way for our community to continue to learn and grow.

What sparked the partnership
In 2012 Principal Helen Finlay participated in what she describes today as the most powerful professional development she has undertaken in her teaching career. The two days she spent with one of the authors of the book Making Thinking Visible, was pivotal in changing her focus in her classroom to creating a culture of deep learning and understanding.

It was this impact that Helen was keen to share with other staff that led to the SPW partnership with Dr Ron Ritchhart and saw all teaching staff participating in the same two day professional development course in 2022.

Sharing knowledge
This year marked the second year of our partnership with Dr Ritchhart, and this time we extended the offer to other schools in Adelaide. Over 80 educational teachers and leaders joined us on the Monday and Tuesday for his Creating Cultures of Thinking course, with Dr Ritchhart then working with our teachers and students for the following two days. We were also pleased to offer our SPW parents the opportunity to hear from him to gain a better understanding of the overarching approach to our curriculum.

“When we recognize that true understanding of a discipline involves learning its processes and ways of thinking as well as its content knowledge, then we naturally create opportunities for developing those abilities.” Dr Ron Ritchhart, Creating Cultures of Thinking: The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools

After two days of the professional development, staff left feeling excited and passionate about implementing visible thinking routines into their teaching practice and reflecting on how they are creating cultures of thinking in their learning spaces for our students.

Learning Labs
Our SPW teaching staff immersed themselves into a further two days of Dr Ritchhart’s latest research, Learning Labs. The Learning Labs gave teachers the opportunity to work with Dr Ritchhart in rich reflective dialogue and discussion.

Transferring these ideas into practical application, Dr Ritchhart supported teachers in the planning and implementation of visible thinking routines at different stages of students learning. The visible thinking routines are designed to ensure students are engaged, develop their toolbox of questioning and thinking strategies, further develop their knowledge and seek perspective.

Once teachers had identified an area to develop further, four teachers over two days volunteered to plan and teach a lesson. This gave them the opportunity to implement a new thinking routine and learn alongside an expert. All teachers had the opportunity to observe one of the routines being taught in the classroom and take part in a reflective conversation as a group following the lesson. Teachers found this to be extremely beneficial and were very grateful for the opportunity of this high quality professional development.

Parent Session
Our parent community also had the opportunity to come together and learn from Dr Ritchhart. The evening session discussed strategies on how parents can encourage visible thinking at home as children grow and develop. Using the thinking routine, “give one to get one” he asked parents/caregivers to share qualities which they would like their children to leave school with at the end of their time at SPW. It was great to hear the SPW Enduring Qualities of Collaboration, Responsible Citizenship, Empathy, Resilience and Critical Thinking shining through. Dr Richhart left our parents with nine visible thinking applications which provide tips on how to encourage and promote visible thinking on a daily basis. 

Thinking critically is vitally important for our students future and we look forward to Dr Ritchhart’s visit in 2024 as he continues to support us as a learning community.

Parent Resources:
9 Applications for Parents 

The Understanding Map

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