Thinking skills

Self expression & acting


The use of thinking skills is a key component of the WLW. Visible thinking, critical and creative thinking, and higher-order thinking skills are explicitly taught and embedded across the learning areas. We strive to develop learners who are intelligent thinkers.

“Visible Thinking”

Visible Thinking

Visible thinking refers to any kind of observable representation (for example, graphic organisers) that records and supports the development of students’ ongoing learning, including their thoughts, understandings, questions, reasons, and reflections. Some of the key benefits of visible thinking include:

  • a deeper understanding of content
  • an increased motivation for, and engagement with, learning
  • the development of ‘thinking skills’ – students’ understanding of how they think and learn (metacognition)
  • an ability for the teacher to see learning through the eyes of the students (visible learning)
  • increased opportunity for formative assessment and the provision of feedback

To promote visible thinking, teachers at WLPS weave thinking routines through their classroom curricula. These routines help students to make their ideas visible and accessible, and provide them with ways to help structure their ideas and reasoning. A number of these routines are also co-operative learning strategies. Examples include: Think Pair Share, Venn Diagrams, Mind Maps, KWHL Charts, Jigsaws, 3-2-1 Graphic Organisers and Plus Minus Interesting.

The effect sizes related to the implementation of metacognitive strategies, such as thinking routines, include:

  • metacognitive strategies 0.60
  • self-questioning 0.64
  • classroom discussion: 0.82
  • concept mapping: 0.64
  • the ‘Jigsaw’ routine 1.2

Importantly, the use of thinking routines helps to make student learning visible – where teachers can ‘see’ what students are learning. This has a number of associated benefits, including providing teachers with information to:

  • diagnose students’ immediate needs or necessary interventions
  • decide ‘where to next’
  • immediately offer support and/or feedback

Critical and Creative Thinking

At WLPS, students develop critical and creative learning skills as teachers explicitly teach and embed the skills throughout the learning areas in independent and collaborative tasks. The staff uses ACARA’s Critical and Creative Thinking learning continuum to plan integrated tasks, and programs such as Habits of the Mind to explicitly teach the skills.

Critical and creative thinking is a general capability of the West Australian Curriculum, which states: “Students develop capability in critical and creative thinking as they learn to generate and evaluate knowledge, clarify concepts and ideas, seek possibilities, consider alternatives and solve problems. Critical and creative thinking are integral to activities that require students to think broadly and deeply using skills, behaviours and dispositions such as reason, logic, resourcefulness, imagination and innovation in all learning areas at school and in their lives beyond school.”

Critical and creative thinking has four elements:

  • Inquiring – identifying, exploring and organising information and ideas
  • Generating ideas, possibilities and actions
  • Reflecting on thinking and processes
  • Analysing, synthesising and evaluating reasoning and procedures

The third and fourth elements of critical and creative thinking are directly linked to visible thinking, as students are required to ‘think about their thinking’ (to use metacognition). At WLPS, these elements are therefore also addressed during the implementation of ‘thinking routines’.

Some brief examples of how critical and creative thinking is embedded in some of the learning areas include:

Numeracy: choosing strategies, analysing alternative approaches to solving problems, justifying choices of strategies and employing problem-solving techniques.

Literacy: discussing the aesthetic or social values of texts, analysing points of view, sharing personal responses and expressing preferences for texts.

Science: posing questions, making predictions, solving problems through investigation and analysing and evaluating evidence.

Technologies: analysing problems that do not have straightforward solutions, thinking critically and creatively about possible solutions and engaging in computational thinking.

Humanities and Social Sciences: questioning sources of information and assessing reliability, examining past and present issues, developing plans for personal or collective action, thinking about the impact of issues on their own lives.

Habits of the Mind

Habits of the Mind are a set of 16 life-related problem-solving skills that promote reasoning, insight, perseverance and creativity. Understanding The Habits enhances students’ abilities to select appropriate patterns of thinking when faced with a problem, uncertainty or dilemma. At WLPS, we implement this program with the aim of providing students with the thinking skills and metacognitive skills to work through real-life situations, independently and collaboratively, to reach positive outcomes. Ultimately, we aim to develop students that have the characteristics of effective thinkers.

The Habits are:

  • Persisting
  • Managing impulsivity
  • Listening with understanding and empathy
  • Thinking flexibly
  • Thinking about your thinking – metacognition
  • Striving for accuracy
  • Questioning and posing problems
  • Applying past knowledge to new situations
  • Thinking and communicating with clarity and precision
  • Gathering data through all the senses
  • Creating, imagining and innovating
  • Responding with wonderment and awe
  • Taking responsible risks
  • Finding humour
  • Thinking interdependently
  • Remaining open to continuous learning

Related effect sizes for critical and creative learning include:

  • teaching problem solving skills: 0.63
  • metacognitive strategies 0.60
  • self-questioning 0.64
  • classroom discussion: 0.82

Higher order thinking

At WLPS, staff use Bloom’s Taxonomy (cognitive domain) to inform their lesson planning. This domain involves knowledge and the development of intellectual skills. The skills are categorised into six thinking behaviours and are organised from most simple to most complex. These are: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation.

Teachers use the taxonomy to structure the development of the students’ thinking skills. They:

  • Explicitly teach the language of verbs such as apply, define, create and critique, and the thinking required to undertake them,
  • Plan classroom questioning and discussions that include higher-order thinking,
  • Plan structured learning experiences that move from the simple to complex thinking behaviours, and
  • Consider the thinking skills when differentiating the curriculum.