Principle 4

From Term 1 2017, Victorian government and Catholic schools will use the new Victorian Curriculum F-10. Curriculum related information is currently being reviewed and may be subject to change.

For more information on the curriculum, see:
The Victorian Curriculum F–10 - VCAA

Students are challenged and supported to develop deep levels of thinking and application

Students are challenged to explore, question and engage with significant ideas and practices, so that they move beyond superficial understandings to develop higher order, flexible thinking.

To support this, teaching sequences should be sustained and responsive and explore ideas and practices.​

Components unpacked

4.1 - Teaching sequences promote sustained learning that builds over time and emphasises connections between ideas

This component involves running with ideas for sufficient time to examine and use them in depth. This applies to the way key ideas are built across a learning sequence, but might also mean having sufficient time in teaching sessions to properly examine ideas. Links are made across subject areas to demonstrate relevance and connectedness with what is being taught and how key ideas can apply to a range of situations.

This component is demonstrated by teachers:

  • allowing time for discussions to arise naturally and be followed in class to encourage the resolution of question
  • extending consideration of key ideas over a number of teaching sessions, rather than starting with a new idea or context each teaching session
  • revisiting previous teaching sessions so that ideas explicitly build across a unit
  • recognising that skills, understandings, processes or practices currently being taught have relevance for other subject areas and drawing students' attention to such relevance
  • identifying a series of generic skills and processes (such as problem solving, creative thinking skills, metacognition, etc.) that can become areas of focus across the curriculum
  • relating current learning to work done in previous teaching sessions
  • fostering connections to life outside school
  • allowing activities to continue, where possible, while students are productively engaged
  • collaborating from time to time with teachers from different disciplines to explore different aspects of an idea or skill, or related ideas or skills over the same time period with shared students.

The component is NOT demonstrated when:

  • activities and discussions are discrete, with minimal links between them
  • teaching sessions are compartmentalised such that each covers a separate idea from a list
  • key understandings are covered without reference to, or exploration of, relationships with other subject areas, prior learnings and/or life outside school.

Examples to illustrate the component.

  • A teaching session on the conditions on the Western Front during WWI is followed by students reading extracts from soldiers' diary entries and letters and matching the “firsthand” information found there with the main ideas from the previous teaching session. Students then record the main ideas from these two teaching sessions on an ongoing “mindmap” on WWI and make any links with previous sub-topics.
  • In year 7 Mathematics, students spend three teaching sessions working in self-paced pairs on concrete tasks focusing on pattern and algebra, before the teacher works with the whole class to extrapolate some shared understandings and relate them to the development and use of formal algebraic notation.
  • In the Arts, movements such as modernism, or surrealism, are related to writings about psychology and social theory generated during the same period.
  • In Humanities, students are studying the history and culture of Ancient Greece. In the Arts, they are studying Greek art. In English they are reading Greek legends and in Maths they are studying mathematicians of ancient Greece.
  • A cross-curricular team of teachers decide to highlight or focus on a particular skill (such as writing recounts or classifying attributes or developing evaluation criteria) over the course of a week or so.
  • In LOTE classes, students work on a unit of work on food or festivals, through which beliefs and values behind the customs are discussed, aiming to promote understanding and respect for various cultures and customs.
  • Unresolved student questions are kept on a notice board and referred to as a unit progresses.
  • Students investigate an issue in their local area and over time develop web pages devoted to this issue.
4.2 - The teacher promotes substantive discussion of ideas

This component involves the teacher providing opportunities for students to talk together, discuss, argue and express opinions and alternative points of view. 'Substantive' refers to a focus on significant ideas, practices or issues, that are meaningful to students, and that occur over a sufficient period of time to be effectively explored.

This component is demonstrated by teachers:

  • providing stimulus materials that challenge students' ideas and encourage discussion, speculation and ongoing exploration
  • encouraging students to raise questions or speculate or make suggestions
  • asking a high proportion of open ended questions
  • encouraging students to challenge, support or amplify others' contributions.

The component is NOT demonstrated when:

  • teacher questions are mainly closed, with a particular response in mind
  • investigations or projects are run without significant class discussion of the purpose or key ideas and approaches
  • class discussion is allowed to wander, without focus
  • discussion is dominated by the teacher, who provides most of the input.

Examples to illustrate the component.

  • In History and English classes students access information from a range of sources including the movie Ned Kelly and discuss whether Ned Kelly was a hero or a villain/criminal.
  • In Mathematics, the teacher proposes an open problem and considers students' responses in turn, accepting all responses and inviting comment, until class agreement on the effectiveness of the different methods is reached.
  • A Science teacher gives each student a steel nail to put 'somewhere they think it will rust'. They bring their nails in the following week and report and speculate on what underlies the results, as the teacher or a student makes notes on the board.
4.3 - The teacher emphasises the quality of learning with high expectations of achievement

Teachers need to clearly signal an expectation that students will achieve at a high level and put in effort to produce quality work. This also involves teachers expressing and demonstrating confidence that students are capable of significant achievement. There is structured support to help students learn effectively so that this expectation does not occur in a vacuum.

This component is demonstrated by teachers:

  • using language that implies an expectation and a confidence that students will work effectively and achieve at a high level
  • praising efforts towards the production of quality work, and its achievement
  • providing support for students having difficulty on the basis that their work needs to improve to meet expectations
  • signalling clearly the standard to be achieved
  • not accepting work that is just 'good enough' and encouraging students to produce work at the standard they are capable of.

The component is NOT demonstrated when:

  • the teacher implies by words or actions that some students are not expected to achieve
  • standards of achievement are not made clear
  • all work is praised regardless of quality
  • the teacher turns a 'blind eye' to students who are working at a lower level than they are capable of.

Examples to illustrate the component.

  • In producing work for display, the technology teacher uses high standard work strategically to provide encouragement and support for all students to extend their expectations.
  • A teacher focuses special attention on encouraging and scaffolding students who express lack of confidence in their mathematical ability.
  • Students are asked to repeat work that is clearly not up to a standard of which they are capable.
4.4 - The teacher uses strategies that challenge and support students to question and reflect

This component involves the development of learning tasks designed to encourage and support students to move beyond their current understandings and think more deeply about ideas and practice. Teacher questions are open-ended and designed to promote depth and breadth of knowledge and understanding. Teachers emphasise engagement with ideas and practice through exploration.

This component is demonstrated by teachers:

  • introducing ideas by using interesting and challenging activities
  • using short, group-based challenging activities to raise questions
  • challenging students to reflect on their response to tasks
  • asking open questions calling for interpretive responses
  • posing questions and hypothetical situations to move students beyond superficial approaches
  • asking students to represent their understandings in a variety of ways
  • including frequent open ended problems and explorations
  • strategically building opportunities for students to develop hypotheses or speculative ideas and to extend and question interpretations
  • focusing on the reasons for answers or steps in procedures as a vehicle for building understanding
  • encouraging students to see knowledge as a construction and to examine critically and even challenge information provided by the teacher, a textbook, a newspaper, etc.

The component is NOT demonstrated when:

  • Classroom work is constrained or recipe like, without room for discussion or debate of purpose or methods
  • Lesson plans contain too much material to allow sustained discussions in response to student questions
  • Activities focus mainly on knowledge and comprehension
  • Concepts are treated as 'things to be learnt', emphasising formal definitions
  • Ideas are introduced formally without discussion or questioning
  • Illustration and exploration of ideas occurs mainly through one source eg reference to text books.

Examples to illustrate the component.

  • A mix of short term investigations and open-ended longitudinal projects are developed in consultation with students. For example, as part of an environmental education unit, students consider and devise strategies for overcoming the school's litter problem (environmental citizenship).
  • Students learning about a traditional ceremony of a country are asked to investigate the values embedded within the ceremony and the connections to modern life.
  • A puzzle activity is used in which students work in groups to manipulate a variety of shapes to explore area, before a discussion aimed at generating general rules that describe relationships between area and shape and perimeter.
  • The classroom has a board containing questions or problems that have arisen during class discussion.
4.5 - The teacher uses strategies to develop investigating and problem solving skills

This component refers to higher order thinking skills that may be described in various ways, but encompass such things as interpretation, analysis, and application. It refers to the development of knowledge of ways of reasoning with evidence, particular to the discipline area. These skills and knowledge are needed to successfully solve problems.

This component is demonstrated by teachers:

  • using higher order thinking tools when planning activities to allow for multiple entry points and to develop higher order thinking skills such as synthesis, evaluation etc.
  • providing students with questions or challenges as the impetus for learning and encouraging and supporting students to construct their own responses to such questions
  • explicitly supporting students to develop the language and other representational tools (such as graphs, diagrams, reporting templates) needed to conduct investigations.
  • clarifying the purpose and context of investigations and problems
  • setting learning challenges that require students to analyse, evaluate and create and that allow for student risk taking, decision-making and time-management
  • providing support and scaffolding for investigative or problem solving tasks through checklists, proformas, planning frameworks, teacher-student conferences, self-and peer assessment processes, etc.

The component is NOT demonstrated when:

  • there is a strong focus on ensuring content coverage, as distinct from understanding
  • students are given a choice of activities but not given training in appropriate skills and knowledge
  • group commitment is not gained for ideas being developed
  • activities focus on having fun without regard to conceptual understandings or the deeper meanings of practice.

Examples to illustrate the component.

  • Students evaluate the success of an advertising campaign seen on TV or heard on radio and then develop their own advertising campaign tailoring it for a target audience.
  • A year 5 class raises the question about how long a ballpoint pen will last. They discuss how they can find out, then arrange a comparative investigation with different brands, measuring the length of line with appropriate controls.
  • Students explore social and environmental issues from a range of perspectives, clarifying the nature and quality of evidence and the values underpinning each position.
  • While exploring the structures of government in various countries, students are asked to examine the cost of the American space program. They are asked whether or not they think this money would be better spent elsewhere and challenged to justify their opinions.
  • A Mathematics class explores potential solutions to the problem of students at the school needing to cross a busy road, collecting data on traffic flow and student location, and mathematically modelling different proposals.
  • Students are provided with a variety of historical documents relevant to an issue reported in a contemporary magazine. They are asked to evaluate evidence for different interpretations of the event and its causes, to suggest strategies for resolving the issue involving the identification of key historical evidence, and to make judgments about the possibility of a definitive resolution.
4.6 - The teacher uses strategies to foster imagination and creativity

There has been considerable recent attention paid to lateral and creative thinking, as part of 'higher order' thinking and a 'thinking oriented curriculum'. Many schools have made this a major focus of teaching and learning policy. There are a number of elements of 'creativity' including flexible and unusual thinking, and facility with generating ideas.

This component is demonstrated by teachers:

  • encouraging students to be discoverers, explorers and creators in a variety of ways
  • setting tasks that ask for a variety of solutions
  • using strategies such as brainstorming or the generation of lists to encourage flexible thinking
  • setting tasks that require unusual approaches or unusual juxtaposition of ideas or the importation of ideas from a variety of fields
  • setting extensions to tasks that favour lateral thinking or diverse applications.

The component is NOT demonstrated when:

  • Tasks ask for a convergence of ideas on a single solution
  • The teacher sets problems and projects for which the requirements and the outcomes are closely specified
  • Opportunities for students to speculate and voice different ideas are minimal
  • Every student is expected to produce the same (possibly high quality) result or outcome or artefact.
  • A premium is placed on consolidation of skills or refinement of particular techniques and solution types, above the production of variety or the unusual.

Examples to illustrate the component.

  • in exploring animal classification young students are asked to generate a list of features held in common by a whale and a butterfly.
  • tasks are set around a 'What would happen if –?' format. For example, Physical Education students are asked to generate one change in the rules of football that will substantially affect aspects of the game, and to speculate on changes it would cause over time.
  • technology students are presented with a design brief to plan for a human colony on Mars.
  • mathematics students explore the potential patterns that might occur by varying rules for moving along a square grid according to a simple set of number sequences.
  • teams of students compete in a game that requires the generation of metaphors and similes with time constraints.

Theory snapshot

Aims of the principle

Principle 4 asserts that the key foundations to good thinking are attention to a 'thinking culture' and 'thinking dispositions' and not 'thinking skills' alone. This broader understanding challenges the notion that 'thinking' can be reduced to a discrete set of skills.

Substantive and productive thinking is supported through 'content neutral questions' (Golding 2002) that do not lead students to a particular response. These are reflective of a philosophical inquiry approach (Lipman) Other approaches link thinking skills, thinking dispositions and understanding of knowledge (Harpaz, 2001). The thinking curriculum brings to the fore the importance of student generated questions. This work is strongly linked to student power and ownership of learning (see Principles 1 and 2).

Interdisciplinary learning, as articulated in the Victorian Essential Learning Standards, identifies a range of knowledge, skills and behaviours. The knowledge, skills and behaviours that cross disciplinary boundaries, are essential to ensuring students are prepared as active learners and problem-solvers for success at school and beyond. Interdisciplinary learning focuses on ways of thinking, communicating, conceiving and realising ideas and information. Through posing their own problems, students develop the capacity to design and create.

Caring thinking: The new intelligence

Lipman's philosophical inquiry approach asserts that what is taught in schools is not (and should not be) subject matter but rather ways of thinking. He believes that 'people of any age can reflect and discuss philosophical issues profitably'; and explore a set of ideas that leads to questioning, exploring concepts and values, and posing problems. The classroom should be converted into a 'community of inquiry': a group (social setting) of individuals who use dialogue to search out the problematic borders of a puzzling concept.

Innovating with intelligence project

As educators, we can work to make thinking increasingly visible in classrooms. Tishman & Perkins (1997) suggest the simplest strategy is to use the language of thinking. Rich vocabularies of thinking consider terms like hypothesis, reason, evidence, possibility, imagination, perspective. Their routine used in a natural intuitive way helps students catch on to the nuances of thinking and thoughtfulness that such terms represent. Teachers should also be a model of thoughtfulness for one's students. Through not expecting instant answers, displaying honest uncertainties, and taking time to think about 'What if', 'What if not', 'How else could this be done?' or 'What's the other side of the case?' teachers visibly express respect for the process of thought and encourage students to notice problems and think them through. There are many thinking routines, however the ultimate aspiration is building a strong culture of thinking in the classroom.

Guiding questions

4.1 - Teaching sequences promote sustained learning that builds over time and emphasises connections between ideas

This component involves running with ideas for sufficient time to examine and use them in depth. This applies to the way key ideas are built across a learning sequence, but might also mean having sufficient time in teaching sessions to properly examine ideas. Links are made across subject areas to demonstrate relevance and connectedness with what is being taught and how key ideas can apply to a range of situations.

Download worksheet: Guiding Questions: Principle 4.1 (Word - 158Kb)

Professional learning team facilitator

Getting started

  • What do we do that builds connections between ideas across programs and classrooms?

Moving forward

  • How can we realise a learning environment connected through 'ideas'?
  • What learning and teaching strategies will we use?
  • How will connections between the different domains be made to support learning?

Individual teacher

Getting started

  • What do I do that builds connections between ideas across programs and classrooms?

Moving Forward

  • How can I assess this?
  • What learning and teaching strategies will I use?
  • How will connections between the different domains be made to support learning?
4.2 - The teacher promotes substantive discussion of ideas

This component involves the teacher providing opportunities for students to talk together, discuss, argue and express opinions and alternative points of view. 'Substantive' refers to a focus on significant ideas, practices or issues, that are meaningful to students, and that occur over a sufficient period of time to be effectively explored.

Download worksheet: Guiding Questions: Principle 4.2 (Word - 158Kb)

Professional learning team facilitator

Getting started

  • What do we do that builds discussion of ideas across programs and classrooms?

Moving forward

  • How can we realise a learning environment built through discussion of 'ideas'?
  • What learning and teaching strategies will we use?

Individual teacher

Getting started

  • What do I do that builds discussion of ideas across programs and classrooms?

Moving forward

  • How can I realise a learning environment built through discussion of 'ideas'?
  • What learning and teaching strategies will I use?
4.3 - The teacher emphasises the quality of learning with high expectations of achievement

Teachers need to clearly signal an expectation that students will achieve at a high level and put in effort to produce quality work. This also involves teachers expressing and demonstrating confidence that students are capable of significant achievement. There is structured support to help students learn effectively so that this expectation does not occur in a vacuum.

Download worksheet: Guiding Questions: Principle 4.3 (Word - 158Kb)

Professional learning team facilitator

Getting started

  • Whose expectations and perspectives dominate our programs?

Moving forward

  • What other expectations and perspectives could dominate our programs?
  • What learning and teaching strategies will we use?
  • How will the schools expectations be shared with the students to promote high quality work?

Individual teacher

Getting started

  • Whose expectations and perspectives dominate my programs?

Moving forward

  • What other expectations and perspectives could dominate my programs?
  • What learning and teaching strategies will I use?
  • How will the schools expectations be shared with the students to promote high quality work?
4.4 - The teacher uses strategies that challenge and support students to question and reflect

This component involves the development of learning tasks designed to encourage and support students to move beyond their current understandings and think more deeply about ideas and practice. Teacher questions are open-ended and designed to promote depth and breadth of knowledge and understanding. Teachers emphasise engagement with ideas and practice through exploration.

Download worksheet: Guiding Questions: Principle 4.4 (Word - 158Kb)

Professional learning team facilitator

Getting started

  • What is the role of student questions in our classrooms?

Moving forward

  • How can we affirm, support and develop student questioning in our classrooms?
  • What learning and teaching strategies will we use?

Individual teacher

Getting started

  • What is the role of student questions in my classroom?

Moving forward

  • How can I affirm, support and develop student questioning in my classroom?
  • What learning and teaching strategies will I use?
4.5 - The teacher uses strategies to develop investigating and problem solving skills

This component refers to higher order thinking skills that may be described in various ways, but encompass such things as interpretation, analysis, and application. It refers to the development of knowledge of ways of reasoning with evidence, particular to the discipline area. These skills and knowledge are needed to successfully solve problems.

Download worksheet: Guiding Questions: Principle 4.5 (Word - 159Kb)

Professional learning team facilitator

Getting started

  • What purposeful investigations and problems are posed in our classrooms?

Moving forward

  • If we collaborated more closely and more widely, what kind of investigations and problem solving might be possible?
  • What learning and teaching strategies will we use?
  • Does the program allow students to develop a range of investigative and problem solving skills?

Individual teacher

Getting started

  • What purposeful investigations and problems are posed in my classroom?

Moving forward

  • If I collaborated more closely and more widely, what kind of investigations and problem solving might be possible?
  • What learning and teaching strategies will I use?
  • Does the program allow students to develop a range of investigative and problem solving skills?
4.6 - The teacher uses strategies to foster imagination and creativity

There has been considerable recent attention paid to lateral and creative thinking, as part of 'higher order' thinking and a 'thinking oriented curriculum'. Many schools have made this a major focus of teaching and learning policy. There are a number of elements of 'creativity' including flexible and unusual thinking, and facility with generating ideas.

Download worksheet: Guiding Questions: Principle 4.6 (Word - 159Kb)

Professional learning team facilitator

Getting started

  • How do we recognise, respond to, and generate unusual, creative and flexible perspectives?

Moving forward

  • What are the possibilities for learning and assessment if we generate unusual, creative and flexible perspectives?
  • What learning and teaching strategies will we use?

Individual teacher

Getting started

  • How do I recognise, respond to, and generate unusual, creative and flexible perspectives?

Moving forward

  • What are the possibilities for learning and assessment if I generate unusual, creative and flexible perspectives?
  • What learning and teaching strategies will I use?

You could try this

What whole school strategies impact on teacher actions?
  • Thinking is demonstrated by a range of performances
  • Higher order thinking processes can be used with all students
  • Understanding is a continuous process across the years of schooling
  • Different learners have different thinking preferences
  • Curriculum integration across the years of schooling promotes real world problem solving
  • Questioning is the basis of effective inquiry and scaffolds higher order thinking processes
  • Understanding develops through opportunities to explain, clarify, probe, make connections and identify problems and issues
  • Good questioning is a key skill that shapes whether students acquire the above dispositions.
  • Deep levels of thinking and application are integrated and are supported by throughlines (Blythe 1998) across disciplines, levels and stages of schooling
Learning and teaching tactics and skills

Tactics and teacher skill are directed to ensuring the classroom supports goal setting, personal competence and sustained thinking occurs. Students recognise that:

  • My learning style is known and respected.
  • I will have opportunities to be challenged with support.
  • I will be able to demonstrate my learning in a variety of ways.
  • My particular needs and interests will guide inquiry.
  • Inquiry has a real world application – assessment practice reflect this.

Tactics can include:

  • teaching through collaborative and small group opportunities, e.g Socratic dialogue, Community of Inquiry ,Group investigation, Arts based projects
  • applying and teaching skills in context, ICT is used where relevant; students are aware of application of the thinking skill in real life settings
  • using Bloom's Taxonomy 1956 (revised Anderson & Krathwohl 2001) to check the prior knowledge of students in all areas of the hierarchy
  • supporting creative and divergent thinking through frameworks such as Williams 1993, PBL, Kaplan model
  • using brainstorming, comparing/contrasting, hypothesising, visualising, associating ideas, classifying, evaluating, analyzing, sequencing, prioritising, intrapersonal skills, also, to support creative, critical, divergent, inductive thinking
  • actively encouraging learners' participation through inside/outside circles, PMI, 6 thinking hats, think/pair/share place mat, graffiti,3 step interview, mindmaps, concept maps, graphic organisers, venn diagrams, fishbone, role plays, producing digital imagery

TIP: try the Glossary section for more details of the suggested approaches

Download worksheet: Resources (Word - 168Kb)

Components of an effective lesson design
What grouping?
Action planning with strategies in mind

The teaching team through their ongoing research and planning ensures they are familiar with the recent research and literature on:

  • questioning open and closed
  • cognitive domain questions
  • affective and creative questions
  • reflective and metacognitive questions
  • thinking curriculum and frameworks
  • inquiry learning (e.g. integrated curriculum)
  • Download worksheet: Action planning (Word - 160Kb)
Reflection
  • How will I link to students' past experiences, previous lessons taught?
  • Do I involve all students, actively in an atmosphere that empowers them to be question askers?
  • Have I made the students' involvement that supports and structures 'thinkers' in the lesson objective clear?
  • Download worksheet: Reflection (Word - 162Kb)
Other support

Leadership teams provide strategic support to ensure time is allocated for professional learning that focuses experiences in a wide range of questioning approaches e.g essential, hypothetical, strategic, provocative, etc (McKenzie 2000); content neutral (Golding 2002); affective & creative (Gross 2005); and team thinking skills (Bennett & Rolheiser 2001; Murdoch & Wilson 2004). Cross disciplinary team meet to support wider thinking on planning resources and onging monitoring and review of units of work.

Vignettes

Classroom accounts of real-life practice that demonstrate this principle and its components being played out in early, middle, and later years classrooms across a range of learning domains:

Reflection

The worksheets pose a series of questions to support reflection on the outcomes of using a range of strategies.