Understanding Thinking and Learning



Scientific research and developments over the past two decades have lead to a greater understanding of how people think and learn. This new understanding provides powerful tools for developing skills in thinking and learning. We summarize these developments in the links underlined below.


How People Learn


A good summary of this research comes from a report commissioned by the National Academies of Science titled “How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School.


The book is available from The National Academies Press.

This book is also available free online.


The report cites three significant findings that provide the basis for a modern view of education. 



This new understanding has been refined by experienced educators like Arthur Costa, Bena Kallick, Robert Marzano and the users of Systems Thinking in education into viable programs for enhanced learning.


We have taken the best of these ideas and tools and organized them into a coherent program that will develop the habits of skillful thinking. This program can be infused into existing curricula with a minimum of intrusion. It is described briefly in what follows.


Habits of Mind


Noted educators, Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick, define and describe 16 types of intelligent behavior in their four book series, Habits of Mind: A Developmental Series.


Strategies for Effective Teaching


Robert Marzano’s research has identified factors that enhance the achievement of students. We focus specifically on a set of instructional strategies are common to successful teachers – Instructional Strategies that Work.


Systems Thinking

“Systems Thinking” is a collection of tools for the mind that are especially appropriate for understanding the behavior of complex systems.


A Changing View of Intelligence


With the change in understanding of how people learn comes a revision of the idea of intelligence. Perhaps the most revealing recent discovery about the brain is that it is not the immutable organ it was thought to be during the first three quarters of the 20th century. The brain is changeable and trainable. The brain changes in two important ways -- new synapses can be formed by using it thoughtfully and through exercise its blood supply is strengthened. In addition to stimulating the growth of the brain it is possible to improve the skill with which individuals think and learn by using proven techniques.


It is important for people to be aware of these new viewpoints because


1)     individuals can improve their processes of learning and thinking

2)     skillful thinking and learning make knowledge more useful and transportable

3)     we can initiate a lifelong process of continual development of the brain

4)     the continued prosperity of our society depends on our ability to think creatively and flexibly.




Copyright © 2006 Martin and Patricia Buoncristiani. All rights reserved.


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Page last revised July 25, 2006.