Creating Cultures of Thinking: The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools (Book Review)

Creating Cultures of Thinking: The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our SchoolsCreating Cultures of Thinking: The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools by Ron Ritchhart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For my review of this book, I have chosen to use the thinking routine “I used to think…Now I think…”

I used to think it wasn’t so hard to create the right kind of classroom culture. Be kind and caring and clear in expectations and prioritize relationships. Now I think there’s more to it than that, and it’s worth stopping to reflect on the factors that contribute to a culture focused on thinking rather than just doing work.

I used to think that teachers were cultish in their use of thinking routines and applied them without much deliberation. “Today we’re using CSI: Miami or maybe Stop, Collaborate and Listen. Tomorrow, Duck Duck Learning.” Now I think there can be careful consideration of how these routines allow students to focus their thinking. Now I think they nicely split the difference between “solve for X over and over for the next 80 minutes; by the way, there’s only one right way to do this” and “you’re on your own to go learn; I’m here if you have questions”. I still bristle sometimes when administrators use these routines on me, though, and am wary of meetings replete with chart paper and sticky notes or pieces of paper taped up to the four corners of the room. I’m a work in progress here.

I used to think that teachers were fairly unsophisticated in their understanding of linguistics, far more likely to make pronouncements about how they would like language to work than how it actually does and to focus way too much on semantics while ignoring all sense of pragmatics or the importance of individual context in how specific utterances are received by listeners. Now I think…well, I still sort of think this actually, but I agree that there’s value in teachers reflecting on the language they use and what they might be communicating implicitly.

I used to think that relationships between teachers and students matter. Now I think this even more strongly.

I used to think…I don’t know how to articulate it exactly: something about the importance of the whole-school culture or ecosystems. Now I think that creating a culture of thinking requires more than just a few teachers changing their practice but rather an institution-wide reexamination of what we value in terms of teaching and learning. It doesn’t have to result in groupthink; it just doesn’t make sense for students to be getting mixed messages about what matters and what learning is for.

I used to think education books were kind of a slog. Now I think they don’t have to be.

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