Evaluating the effect of visible thinking routines on students' awareness and conceptions of thinking and understanding in the science classroom

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


This classroom action research project is inspired by the belief that 'life outside of school is better characterized as a series of transfer opportunities than as a series of recall assignments to be done.'(Brookhart, 2010, p. 5) Furthermore, I believe that knowledge can only be transferred when one's level of understanding for a particular topic goes deeper than simple recall. Researching best practices on improving students' critical thinking skills that would enable them to integrate and transfer their knowledge led me to the realization that for students to have and to demonstrate a deeper level of understanding they first need to be aware of and fluent in thinking that leads to understanding. Students can accomplish a deeper level of understanding if the 'thinking' is modeled for them and the students are given opportunities to practice thinking for understanding. In order to identify what thinking for understanding looks like and when they are engaged in it, students need to make their thinking visible. To accomplish this, I model and introduce Visible Thinking Routines designed to help students become aware of and fluent in thinking that leads to deeper levels of understanding by focusing on the eight types of thinking that are vital to understanding as outlined in Making Thinking Visible (Ritchhart, Church, Morrison, 2011). I modeled and introduced six Visible Thinking Routines to my seventh grade students for a period of 14 weeks and had them complete concept maps, surveys and questionnaires to evaluate the effectiveness of the routines on their awareness and conceptions of thinking and understanding in the science classroom. The use of these Visible Thinking Routines helped students' awareness and conceptions of thinking shift from physical actions to more cognitive actions. Student thinking also shifted from simply identifying physical actions to making connections between the physical actions and the cognitive actions. Although results were positive, the treatment phase was not long enough for the students to fully comprehend the effectiveness or value of the Visible Thinking Routines on their understanding. Students were able to determine that thinking for understanding was valued in the classroom, but were unable to find value in it for themselves or value in using them in other classes. The Visible Thinking Routines and the emphasis on the thinking for understanding activities helped to establish a common cognitive language in the classroom.




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