Making Thinking Visible: Creating Classrooms Where Student Thinking is Visible, has Value, and Shapes a Rich Story of Learning by Mark Church

Every classroom communicates to students a story of what learning actually is - what it feels like, what it looks like, and how it works to develop lasting understanding.

All too often though, with mandates and pressures dominating the attention of many teachers and school leaders, schools often become settings of “just getting through the work” and fail to provide a rich story of learning for students. For a number of years, the Harvard University Project Zero Making Thinking Visible team have questioned: Just how can classrooms and schools become rich cultures of thinking for learners, both students and teachers, and what difference does it make for their learning?

This question of creating a culture of thinking is not an easy one to answer. Thinking, by its very nature, is invisible – it happens inside one’s mind. The goal of making thinking visible is to make explicit what is actually going on in students’ sense-making through the use of routines, paying attention to language, creating opportunities for thinking, etc. When teachers strive to shift towards a more thoughtfully engaged classroom culture, they tend to reflect upon: What kinds of thinking are my students making use of in order to deepen understanding? Are there opportunities for my students to develop and explain their theories with one another? What kind of creative solutions do my students construct? How do I invite students to debate the complexities of a plan or issue?

This foundational pre-conference seminar is designed to introduce teachers and school leaders into this 'Making Thinking Visible' conversation. Educators attending this event will have opportunities for collaboration and reflection with other colleagues wishing to enact powerful stories of learning in their own classrooms and schools. Participants will consider concrete strategies, tools, and pictures of practice to broaden their own vision of what a new story of learning might be and how it might be achieved through creating a culture of thinking.

Mark Church

Mark Church works with educators throughout the world striving to create cultures of thinking in their classrooms and schools.

Mark challenges teachers to foster thinking dispositions in students in service of deep understanding. He invites teachers to promote a discourse of thinking in their classrooms that communicates value for student sense-making. Mark encourages teachers to make their classroom environments rich with the documents of student thinking processes.

Mark is currently a consultant with Harvard Project Zero’s Making Thinking Visible and Cultures of Thinking initiatives worldwide, drawing upon his own classroom teaching experience and from the perspectives he has gained working with educators throughout North America, Australia, Asia, and Europe. Mark enjoys helping teachers examine opportunities for student thoughtfulness, use thinking routines as supports and scaffolds, interact with students in ways that demonstrate interest in and respect for students’ thinking, and send clear expectations about the importance and value of thinking in learning.

Together with Ron Ritchhart and Karin Morrison, Mark is co-author of the book Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners (Jossey-Bass, 2011).