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Magazine Issue 87: Cognitive Flexibility
September 2017

This month: Thoughts about Cognitive Flexibility

Article: Cognitive Flexibility
New Resources
Mike's Books
Additional Resources

This Month's Article:

Cognitive Flexibility

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Cognitive Flexibility

An Article about cognitive flexibility and how you can use it to introduce real life challenge into any lesson.



This is a Free Sample Resource

Categories: Article, Thinking Skills, Any Subject, All Ages

Tags: High Order Thinking Metacognition

Stroop

Before you read any further you really need to try this out (bet you can't get them all correct. I got 5 wrong first try):

http://www.onlinestrooptest.com/stroop_effect_test.php

So, how did you do? Frustrating isn't it? But the Stroop Test is a good way to introduce the idea of cognitive flexibility.

This high order skill is your ability to switch effectively between mental tasks and to handle multiple tasks at once. You're a teacher. You know EXACTLY what cognitive flexibility is AND you probably get frustrated that some of your pupils don't yet.

So here's what you might do about that:

Designing it in

It would probably backfire to suddenly give your students too much to think about and too many quick changes of topic. There's a concept called 'cognitive load' that defines how much input a brain can handle before it stops paying attention. In fact a finite cognitive load is a strong argument against excessive use of colour, animation and sound in educational media; valuable brain capacity is used up dealing with all the frills and less is available to process the content. Some flare and dazzle is needed, but only sufficient to grab and hold attention.

So start small and involve pupils in what you are doing. Explain about cognitive flexibility and let them loose on the Stroop Test. Then experiment with accelerated change: 10 minutes on spellings - 10 minutes on times tables - 10 minutes reading - 10 minutes exercise - 10 minutes group discussion about the current topic. See how it goes. Get their feedback. Adjust the timings and activities. The purpose here is to find out how your pupils cope with a speeded up learning environment. One that probably mimics their eventual working life far more accurately than conventional school does.

Raising the brain bar

Now try out tasks that require 2 or more strands of learning to be managed at the same time. Group work is good for this. In small groups, assign pupils a role and set the group a task and a timescale. The trick here is to set just too much to do in just too little time with just enough skill in the group and just enough available resources. You want groups to 'kind of' succeed, but to be under pressure in doing so. Everyone attempts to focus simultaneously on their group role, group interactions, time left, personal task as well as the final outcome.

Warning!

There may well be tears. It's tricky to get tasks like this right for everyone and sometimes the cognitive demand we've placed on our students outstrips their cognitive flexibility. It's worth saying to them up front that this WILL be challenging. A pre-existing culture of grit, determination and resilience can go some way to mitigating the pressures. But it remains a valuable and important experience for pupils to come right up to their current cognitive limit in a safe environment with a thoughtful and caring educator (you) to help them grow through the experience. 

A mind stretched by a new idea never returns to its original size - Oliver Postman 


New Resources:

Flex Thinking (Standard)

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Flex Thinking (Standard)

A Thinking Skills Tool (standard version) for improving independent learning and individual contributions to group work.



Categories: Thinking Tool, Collaborative Thinking, Skills-Based Learning, Any Subject, All Ages

Tags: Metacognition Learning Style Collaboration Independent Learning
Free Standard Member Resource: Login or Join for Free to access this resource and others.

Flex Thinking (Premium)

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Flex Thinking (Premium) A Thinking Skills Tool (premium version) for improving independent learning and individual contributions to group work.

Categories: Thinking Tool, Collaborative Thinking, Skills-Based Learning, Any Subject, All Ages

Tags: Metacognition Learning Style Collaboration Independent Learning
Teacher Premium Resource: Login or Upgrade to Teacher Premium to access this resource.

Flex Thinking PowerPoint

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Flex Thinking PowerPoint

A Thinking Tool Template in PowerPoint for teaching Flex Thinking



Categories: Thinking Tool, Meta Cognition, Skills-Based Learning, Any Subject, All Ages

Tags: Metacognition Collaboration Independent Learning Learning Style
Teacher Premium Resource: Login or Upgrade to Teacher Premium to access this resource.

Cognitive Flexibility Think Sheet

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Cognitive Flexibility Think Sheet

A Think Sheet with some fun and frustrating tasks to help pupils work on their cognitive flexibility.



Categories: Think Sheet, Thinking Skills, Other Subject, All Ages

Tags: Metacognition High Order Thinking
Teacher Premium Resource: Login or Upgrade to Teacher Premium to access this resource.

Mike's Books:

The original Thinking Classroom text will help you flex your own thinking about teaching and learning:

How to Create & Develop a Thinking Classroom
by Mike Fleetham

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How to Create & Develop a Thinking Classroom<br> by Mike Fleetham A short, practical Book bringing together many tried and tested ideas for thinking skills and effective learning in the Primary classroom. Packed with clear explanations and photocopiable resources it's a great way to give your classroom and teaching a 'thoughtful makeover'. Still useful and relevant and nearly 10 years old!

Available in our shop

Find out more
Categories: Book & EBook, Teaching & Learning, Any Subject, Junior

Tags: Thinking Skills Planning Lesson Design

Additional Resources:

Thinking Classroom Archive:

Think Sheet - Innovation

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Think Sheet - Innovation A Think Sheet for exploring the concept of innovation.

Categories: Think Sheet, Thinking Skills, Business, Secondary

Tags: Innovation Creativity
Teacher Premium Resource: Login or Upgrade to Teacher Premium to access this resource.

Challenge 10 Toolkit

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Challenge 10 Toolkit An Article introducing Thinking Classroom's Challenge 10 Toolkit - theory, practice, rationale and impact.

This is a Free Sample Resource

Find out more
Categories: Article, Teaching & Learning, Any Subject, Educators

Tags: Hattie Marzano EEF Effective Practice

 

Books:

Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential
by Carol Dweck

Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential<br>by Carol Dweck A contemporary classic? Find out about growth and fixed mindsets; entitist and incrementalist thinking. A growth mindset is foundational for increased success.

Available from Amazon

Opens in a New Window
Categories: Suggested Books, Research

Tags: Success Hard Work Character Growth Mindset


Next month we think about... Judgement & Decisions