Institutional Structure & Supports
What is needed to sustain and grow Visible Thinking at a school? What kinds of structures and supports help to create a culture of thinking?
At one level, all that is needed is dedication and commitment. An enthusiastic individual or pair of teachers can be very successful in creating change in their classrooms using these ideas on their own. For schools thinking about adopting Visible Thinking as an instructional approach as well as promoting a school-wide movement toward a culture of thinking, it will be important to consider putting in place the supports and structures that ensure success. Below are some key needs for such an approach:
Facilitation of the teacher groups and general process.
Facilitation is essential for leadership, coordination, introducing new teachers to the program, and supporting the work. The facilitator need not be an expert in Visible Thinking, only a dedicated individual interested in the work and in promoting the development of a culture of thinking at the school among colleagues. The facilitator’s role is to introduce and discuss the routines as well as set up regular core group meetings.
While we suggest a Visible Thinking Coordinator have a commitment of 50% time to support and grow the program, in some situations this might not be possible. In those situations, it will still be important to have a volunteer facilitator, or pair of facilitators, to coordinate the group and schedule group meetings.
Teacher time to meet in the study groups and exchange ideas.
New instructional ideas benefit from regular action, discussion, and reflection to help them take hold and become established. For this reason, it is important to create a schedule that allows for study groups to meet together consistently.
Two hours every week for new groups is ideal. This allows for momentum to be built and interest to be sustained. Groups might meet every week for 8-12 weeks and then begin to meet once every two weeks. Two hours ensures that there is time to discuss a piece of student work brought from a member of the group as well as to share what is happening in classrooms and to discuss routines.
Teacher planning time for teachers new to the process.
While the Visible Thinking routines and processes of documentation are designed for easy integration with the curriculum, teachers new to this work will find it does take some planning to think about how to use the routines most effectively. Ideally, this planning would occur jointly with other teachers. As a rule of thumb, administrators might think of terms of one hour per week of additional planning time for teachers new to the process.
Ongoing professional development
Devoting a day or two every term for exploration, planning, and discussion of Visible Thinking helps to maintain focus and to grow the ideas and practices of teachers. An outside expert, the facilitator, or a group of teachers at the school could facilitate these days. The time can be balanced between sharing classroom practices with learning new routines and planning for future instruction.