Thinking Curriculum

The strategic plan defines the core purpose of the school as providing an inclusive, rigorous learning environment that challenges and engages young people to grow as passionate learners who are connected and motivated, creative and independent, demonstrating social action and values, leadership, resilience and self esteem when interacting with the community.

Providing a curriculum that supports the development of thinking skills:

  • teaches students about thinking and learning
  • engages students in complex thinking to manage new situations and solve problems
  • has extended periods of time for sustained thinking
  • embeds thinking and learning strategies in every activity and is accessible to every student
  • relates thinking and learning strategies to subject knowledge

Why is it important to teach the skills of thinking

Teachers and schools are faced with the challenge of providing building blocks for their students' effective participation in workplaces and communities of the future. It is therefore necessary to provide young people with the capacity and motivation to:

  • be community-builders, with strong social competencies, resilience and self esteem
  • work in teams with skills in co-operation, communication and negotiation
  • select and evaluate information and be intellectually curious
  • be problem-solvers and be able to think creatively and critically
  • be independent of mind, self-regulating and reflective
  • be flexible and be able to adapt to change and
  • know how to learn and want to continue to learn throughout life

Research findings from the Middle Years Research and Development Project (MYRAD} tell us what students believe about learning to think.

The more students believe their teachers to be emphasising thinking and learning strategies...

  • the greater the motivation
  • the more strongly they are involved in productive cognitive strategies
  • the more firmly they focus on the task goals the less they see the school to be focused on individual ability and competition
  • the less they perceive a lack of control over their own learning

The more students feel they are given time to explore and understand new ideas, the more they...

  • feel motivated to learn
  • value really understanding their work
  • feel they are in control of learning
  • believe their school is showing them how to be better learners

How is the culture of a thinking orientated school is characterised?

Some of the characteristics include:

  • collaborative teacher-student relationships
  • shared beliefs about thinking and self-regulated learning
  • high teacher efficacy and capacity for conceptual change
  • modelling by teachers and leaders
  • students engaged in learning for life
  • authentic assessment
  • a whole-school approach to teaching thinking

How do students in thinking oriented classrooms learn?


  • interact to build knowledge actively, co-operatively and individually
  • have time to think and engage in sustained inquiry
  • feel secure to accept challenges
  • put effort into sustained, complex thinking
  • leverage technologies to facilitate powerful thinking

How do teachers in thinking oriented classrooms work

Teachers in thinking oriented classrooms:

  • know their students and know how they approach learning
  • are coaches and mentors
  • provide challenging rather that routine tasks
  • use teaching strategies to develop learning and complex thinking
  • model thinking and learning strategies
  • are learners who develop new approaches and solutions

Implementing a thinking oriented curriculum

Use of the General Design for a Whole School Approach to School Improvement will assist school communities plan the implementation of a thinking oriented curriculum. The design elements in the model represent the critical aspects of schooling that need to be addressed simultaneously. Schools will have different starting points when adopting this model, but it is recommended that they begin with the element that focuses on beliefs and understandings.

Some examples of how each design element can look to support thinking and learning :

Beliefs and understandings

  • Teachers understand the importance of positive student-teacher relationships to support learning.
  • Teachers believe that all students can enhance their learning through the development of thinking skills.
  • Teachers understand the thinking demands and learning expectations in all learning areas.
  • Teachers accept responsibility for teaching knowledge about thinking and learning in all learning areas.
  • Teachers believe students need to be highly flexible and skilled learners, capable of learning new roles and solving complex problems.
  • Teachers believe learning is an active, individual process of building meaning.
  • Teachers understand the importance of student involvement in decision-making about what and how they learn and students taking responsibility for their learning.

Standards and targets

  • Teachers are informed of school and system standards and targets for literacy, numeracy, attendance and retention and are aware of the different needs and pathways of diverse groups of students.
  • Emphasis is placed on rigorous and realistic challenges for all students, and on persevering with those for whom there is evidence of under- achievement.

Monitoring and assessment

  • Teachers have a good knowledge of individual students and their approaches to learning.
  • Teachers use a common framework for assessing higher order thinking.
  • Teachers provide students with opportunity to evaluate their learning through meta cognitive strategies.
  • Student self-assessments are included on written reports.

Classroom teaching strategies

  • Teachers provide students with challenging tasks that stimulate, encourage and support thinking.
  • Teachers model thinking and learning strategies they want their students to develop.
  • Teachers explicitly teach cognitive and meta cognitive strategies and embed them in all learning areas
  • Teachers are equipped with a range of teaching practices and strategies that cater for the diverse range of students.
  • Learning takes place in a cooperative environment.

Professional learning teams

  • Multi-disciplinary teams actively construct their own understandings about teaching and learning through professional development and develop new approaches and solutions together.
  • Teachers share professional practice to develop students' thinking skills and create learning environments that foster students' thinking skills.

School and class organisation

  • Teachers ensure students have sufficient time to think, reflect and engage in sustained discussion, deliberation and inquiry
  • Teachers have increased contact with students and develop comprehensive knowledge of their learning needs in different learning areas.
  • Consistent processes for developing students' thinking and learning skills are embedded in all learning areas.
  • Teachers establish flexible student groupings to maximise learning

Intervention and special assistance

  • Teachers provide targeted support to identified students and utilise individual learning plans.
  • Teachers develop students' thinking skills to support literacy.

Home, school and community partnerships

  • Teachers pursue productive partnerships that extend students' learning opportunities.
  • Teachers ensure students make connections between their schoolwork and their own lives.
  • Teachers in primary-secondary clusters plan and implement consistent learning opportunities.

Leadership & coordination

  • Active leadership and coordination sets clear directions and targets, and supports all staff in developing the specific knowledge, skills and strategies required to effectively teach thinking and learning skills.
  • School leaders ensure the development of thinking and learning skills is embedded in all aspects of the curriculum.