Six Key Principles

of the Cultures of Thinking Project


Six Key Principles / 01
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Skills are not sufficient; we must also have the disposition to use them.
Possessing thinking skills and abilities alone is insufficient for good thinking. One
must also have the disposition to use those abilities. This means schools must
develop students’ inclination to think and awareness of occasions for thinking as
well as their thinking skills and abilities. Having a disposition toward thinking
enhances the likelihood that one can effectively use one’s abilities in new


Six Key Principles / 02
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The development of thinking and understanding is fundamentally a social
endeavor, taking place in a cultural context and occurring within the constant
interplay between the group and the individual. Social situations that provide
experience in communicating oneʼs own thinking as well as opportunities to
understand othersʼ thinking enhance individual thinking.



Six Key Principles / 03
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The culture of the classroom teaches. It not only sets a tone for learning, but
also determines what gets learned. The messages sent through the culture of the
classroom communicate to students what it means to think and learn well. These
messages are a curriculum in themselves, teaching students how to learn and
ways of thinking.


Six Key Principles / 04
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As educators, we must strive to make students thinking visible. It is only by
making thinking visible that we can begin to understand both what and how our
students are learning. Under normal conditions, a studentʼs thinking is invisible to
other students, the teacher, and even to him/herself, because people often think
with little awareness of how they think. By using structures, routines, probing
questions, and documentation we can make studentsʼ thinking more visible toward
fostering better thinking and learning.


Six Key Principles / 05
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Good thinking utilizes a variety of resources and is facilitated by the use of
external tools to “download” or “distribute” oneʼs thinking. Papers, logs,
computers, conversation, and various means of recording and keeping track of
ideas and thoughts free the mind up to engage in new and deeper thinking.


Six Key Principles / 06
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For classrooms to be cultures of thinking for students, schools must be
cultures of thinking for teachers. The development of a professional community
in which deep and rich discussions of teaching, learning, and thinking are a
fundamental part of teachersʼ ongoing experience provides the foundation for
nurturing studentsʼ thinking and learning.



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Joni Stam (2017)