01Thinking Schools

At the Abbey School, we aim to provide a nurturing and supportive environment for students to fulfil their potential. Through using a variety of Thinking Tools we provide personalised and productive learning for all, aimed at making our students independent, resilient learners ready for the challenges of the 21st Century.


What is a Thinking School?

“A thinking school is one of an educational community in which all members share a common commitment to giving regular, careful thought to everything that takes place. This will involve learning how to think reflectively, critically and creatively, and to employ these skills and techniques in the co-construction of a meaningful curriculum and associated activities.” Professor Emeritus Bob Burden, of the Cognitive Centre at Exeter University.


Three Guiding Principles of Thinking Schools

There is a global call for action to improve student performance through educating for higher order thinking. What is at stake? Applied literacy, jobs in the global economy, and an engaged and thriving community. Schools, therefore, need to shift from teacher-led memorization of information to explicit teaching of skilful thinking and problem solving. This requires equal access to learning at higher levels for all students, independent of gender, ethnicity, and cultural background. The Thinking Schools International approach is based on three guiding principles that address this need, which are:


Principle 1: Innate Thinking.
All learners have the innate ability to think and improve their thinking.
Principle 2: Thinking Transfer.
All learners need to transfer thinking processes directly to content deep learning.
Principle 3: Student-Centred Models.
Improving thinking and learning are most effective when student centred models are explicitly implemented across whole schools.

Why a Thinking School?

We are living through a time of exceptional change and technological development. At the Abbey School, we believe we need to nurture our children and young people to be confident, adaptable and resilient learners who can think for themselves. Our moral purpose is to transform the life chances of our young people so that they will have the self-esteem, skills and knowledge to thrive in an ever-changing world.

Why do we use Thinking Tools?

As a Thinking School, The Abbey is committed to developing over time:


✓ A common language of learning;


✓ Thinking Skills embedded at the heart of the curriculum;


✓ Vibrant, collaborative learning environments;


✓ Transformation of learning;


✓ Developing skilled, resilient, independent, reflective learners


✓ Whole school training of all teachers and support staff



We also have a dedicated drive team of lead teachers in a School Improvement Group (SIG) who coach and mentor the other teachers and support staff.

The Abbey School’s Journey into becoming a Thinking School

The Thinking Foundation offers a Thinking School Accreditation process. The framework they use for a school to achieve accreditation is based on 5 Key Areas for Reflection and 15 Criteria representing the vision of directly facilitating thinking as a foundation for early childhood through adult education and for nurturing all students as global citizens. These Key Areas and Criteria are useful descriptors for defining a Thinking School:


Key Area 1: Student centred: Student centred thinking develops life-long, independent, resilient and cooperative learning skills including reflective, critical, and creative thinking and the capacity to solve problems and transform information into meaningful knowledge and action.
Key Area 2: Facilitative Leadership: Facilitative Leadership engages all members of the school community in interactions that promote group and individual learning, informed and thoughtful decisions, and a planned, sustained effort toward a common purpose.
Key Area 3: Integrated Professional Learning: This provides access to planned, connected and diverse opportunities for continuous learning and growth for individuals and groups within the adult school community in the thinking pathways the school has chosen.
Key Area 4: Interactive Assessment: Interactive Assessment is a continuous process of reflection on growth and development to inform both learner and instructional decision-making that engages teachers and learners in a variety of formative and summative approaches.
Key Area 5: School-Wide Ethos: School-Wide Ethos reflects the quality of the thought-filled interactions between and among people within the school and the larger educational community and the ways in which all members actively demonstrate respect for each other and the capacity to invite and consider multiple perspectives.

2015 - 2016

04We introduced the first Thinking Tool to all Year Groups: Habits of Mind. They actively promote the characteristics of effective, resilient, independent learners e.g. persistence, and responsible risk taking. This was done through a series of 16 lessons delivered to all tutor groups in form time over a 16 week period.


We also redesigned our own personalised Abbey School Habits of Mind logos, which we have placed around the school in the forms of:

✓ Posters


✓ Wall logos


✓ TV PowerPoint


✓ Lesson labels


Finally, our teaching and support staff are actively encouraged to engage the students with these Habits of Mind in the form of immediate Assessment for Learning (AfL) verbal feedback to the students.

2016 - 2017

05We will be introducing the students to Thinking Maps. These are 8 visual ways of presenting your thinking. Each one is specific to its purpose, and designed to allow the students to: 


✓ Plug holes in their knowledge by visualising their responses against mark schemes



✓ Work independently from teaching and support staff


✓ Work cooperatively with each other to enhance their learning


✓ Show great Habits of Mind skills


✓ Visually plan their answers


✓ See logical connections between concepts


✓ Access the higher grades in exams


✓ Become independent, resilient self-learners


✓ Attain above and beyond their target grades


We will also be reviewing and measuring the impact that both Habits of Mind and Thinking Maps are having on students’ positivity and resilience, as well as their attainment, progression and exam results.

2017 - And Beyond...

We will be introducing our 3rd thinking tool (as yet undecided), and continuing to evaluate the impact Thinking Schools is having on the students, the teaching and learning, and the progression and results, before considering to go for full Thinking Schools International accreditation.

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For more information, please email: Dr R Speller (Deputy Head-teacher in charge of Thinking Schools) at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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