Why is it important to teach thinking?

Better thinking leads to better learning and more responsible citizens.

As the world becomes more complex and demanding, educationalists recognize that to prepare learners for life after school in the conceptual age they require an education, which develops knowledge; creative problem solving; cognitive processes as well as intellectual dispositions and attitudes necessary to engage in lifelong learning.  The “knowing of knowledge” is no longer enough to succeed in the rapidly changing world in which we live.

Cognitive skills and dispositions that will always be in demand and valued,  namely clear and convincing writing and speech; productive collaboration; analysis, synthesis and evaluation of  continuous growing amounts of information; solving challenging and complex problems and  focusing on and performing tasks with persistence and accuracy, need to be taught. Good teachers need to impart and model these skills and dispositions and provide opportunities to learners to develop effective thinking skills as part of a well-rounded education.

Thinking is therefore a key component of most learning and teaching. Although the National Department of Education has placed a strong cognitive focus on teaching and learning since 1997 with the formulation of critical and developmental outcomes that have to be achieved at all levels of education, these outcomes appear not to have become reality in South African classrooms yet.  We know that some learners in South Africa (and elsewhere) are disadvantaged in the sense that no-one has helped them to acquire the attitudes and skills of effective thinking. If it is true that most of what we call ‘good thinking’ or ‘intelligent behaviour’ is learned, then educators (other professionals and parents) have a responsibility to do so.  Only then can education truly contribute towards a just society.