When and where have you been a part of a culture of thinking?

I read a great new book by Ron Ritchhart, Creating Cultures of Thinking: The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools.

The price of the book is worth it for the introduction alone: Demystifying Group and Organizational Culture. Have you ever been part of a group – a book club, a committee, a travel tour, a graduate course, a club, or a classroom? Then this book is for you.

“When and where have you been a part of a culture of thinking? That is, when have you been in a place where the group’s collective thinking as well as each individual’s thinking was valued, visible, and actively promoted as part of the regular day-to-day experience of all group members?”

“Take a moment to identify a single instance from your life as a learner in which you were part of such a group.”

Do you have an experience of being in a culture of thinking in mind? Upon reflection, do you remember having a sense of purpose to the learning? Do you remember having a commitment to the task at hand? Was there a feeling of equity within the group? Was there a sense of engagement and an element of challenge? In recalling a time when you were part of a dynamic group of people learning and creating together, do you have a feeling of connection: connection to the task at hand, to the topic, to the learning, and to the group?

“It feels good to be a member of a culture of thinking. It produces energy. It builds community. It allows us to reach our potential. This is something we as educators need to remember. A culture of thinking is not about a particular set of practices or a general expectation that people should be involved in thinking. A culture of thinking produces the feelings, energy, and even joy that can propel learning forward and motivate us to do what at times can be hard and challenging mental work.”

Like I said, the introduction is amazing!

My favorite big question in the book was: “What do you want the children you teach to be like as adults?” How would you respond to this question?

Collective responses head along these lines:

“We are hoping for someone who is curious, engaged, able to persevere, empathetic, willing to take risks and try new things, a go-getter, able to problem solve, creative, passionate about something, a listener, open-minded, healthy, committed to the community, respectful, analytical, inquisitive, a lifelong learner, an avid reader, a critical consumer, helpful, compassionate, imaginative, enthusiastic, adaptable, able to ask good questions, able to connect, well rounded, a critical thinker…”

… and the list goes on. Include your own and you’ll notice that there are few traditional, measurable, testable skills mentioned.

This is an awesome book and should be read by teachers and administrators… or  anyone interested in the tools needed for unlocking, understanding, and shaping powerful learning environments that get the best out of people.

It even contains that amazing 2011 quote by Matt Damon at the Save Our Schools Rally in Washington DC:

“As I look at my life today, the things I value most about myself – my imagination, my love of acting, my passion for writing, my love of learning, my curiosity – all come from how I was parented and taught. And none of these qualities that I’ve just mentioned – none of these qualities that I prize so deeply, that have brought me so much joy, that have brought me so much professional success – none of these qualities that make me who I am…can be tested.”


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