Amy Malbouf-Fealey


Mini-course: Make Thinking Visual

Topic/ Purpose

Make Student Thinking Visual

Education today requires students to be critical thinkers. This is a skill that does not come easily for students as it requires them to access higher levels of cognition. The act of thinking is not something that can be seen, therefore, it can be difficult to teach. How do educators create a learning environment that is rich in student thinking? The Purpose of this mini-course is to provide teachers with tools to help them foster a class of deeper thinkers through the use of different visual thinking strategies. The strategies in this mini-course can be integrated into the core subjects so that it does not take time away from them, rather, it makes the learning experience in these subjects even richer.

At the end of this course, participants will answer or reflect on the following questions:

1. What does it mean to make student thinking visual?

2. How does using the language of thinking promote student thought?

3. What are thinking routines and how can I incorporate them into my everyday instruction?

Needs Assessment

1. Instructional Problem

Standards require students to become deeper thinkers through critique and analysis. Educators want students to be curious, to be thoughtful, and to question their learning. By creating critical thinkers, we are preparing our learners to be successful problem solvers in the future. How can teachers model the process of thinking when it is not a concrete or visual task? According to the article, "Making Thinking Visible," by David Perkins and Ron Richhart (2007), "Fostering thinking requires making thinking visible. Thinking happens mostly in our heads, invisible to others and even ourselves." This supports the notion thinking is a difficult concept for many to grasp. Its abstract nature proves to be challenging to explain, teach, and master in the world of education.

The need for opportunities and strategies to promote thinking is so important. Researchers have found ways in which educators can make thinking visible for learners. David Perkins' research found that, "Fortunately, neither others' thinking nor opportunities to think need to be as invisible as they often are. As educators, we can work to make thinking much more visible than it usually is in classrooms." Through the use of Harvard University's Project Zero initiative, I have found several strategies that teachers and students can use to develop their thinking as well as ways to make that thinking visual. These strategies have been researched and tested, which makes them meaningful and useful to current teachers.Our future needs people who question, analyze, and evaluate. This course will give teachers three techniques to implement in their classrooms to foster a rich thinking environment.

2. Intended Setting

This course is meant to be used in a professional development setting in a school building. I will facilitate the mini-course over the course of a full work day so that participants have adequate time to dig into the texts and fully explore the visual thinking strategies as well as develop their plan. Part of the course will require the use of online discussion and submission of work, therefore, appropriate technology and connection to internet is needed.

3. Participants

This course is designed for all educators, administrators, or teaching staff. It provides anyone who wants to develop rich thinking in their learning environments with tools to model the process of thinking within any subject matter.

4. Intended Change

After completing this course, participants will have adequate tools to use in order to model and promote rich student thinking. They will apply different strategies to their current instructional plans so that they can immediately start the process of building this type of learning environment. This course will help educators make the process of thinking more concrete for their learners.

Performance Objectives

1. Given an article and a Powerpoint presentation, participants will evaluate 3-5 questions or phrases to determine whether or not they promote thinking through a sorting activity.

2. Given an informational website, participants will evaluate 4 visual thinking routines by using a rubric.

3. Given an outline of 4 steps, participants will design an plan to promote thinking in their classroom using 3 of the visual thinking routines from the course.

Task Analysis

1. Goals:

Terminal Goal: Teachers will design a plan to make thinking visual in their classroom for their students.

Enabling Goals:

Teachers will understand how the language of thinking can promote student thinking.

Teachers will evaluate different thinking routines to determine which relates best to their teaching.

Teachers will construct a plan to help them implement the information from the mini course into their own classrooms.



-internet navigation

-what cognition and thinking means

-procedures for writing responses/ reflections to questions


-Choose to spend adequate time with the course materials

-Choose to provide quality responses in reflections

-Choose to provide quality feedback to peers


-Identify language that promotes thinking

-Identify different visual thinking strategies

-Ability to navigate online articles

-Ability to navigate through a Powerpoint presentation

-Ability to post responses in an online forum called (will add once forum is created)

Interpersonal Skills:

-Effective at giving constructive feedback

-Effective at working with others in a group to accomplish a task

3. Pedagogical Approach

Units 1 and 2: Connectivist: participants will utilize information from articles, websites and a Powerpoint presentation to complete the task of sorting effective wording of questions/ phrases and ineffective wording of questions/ phrases as they pertain to promoting thinking in the classroom. They will also complete the task of evaluating different visual thinking routines through the use of a rubric.

Unit 3: Constructivist: Participants will use what they've learned to create a plan of implementation.

Curriculum Map

References and Resources