Developing Productive Thinking Skills
Taisir Subhi Yamin
ICIE, Ulm, Germany
Renewed and sustained economic growth, the development of intellectual, creative, and social capital, and the well-being of all citizens means investing in high-quality learning the same way that previous generations invested in machines and raw materials.  As we move toward a modern, post-industrial world, creativity, inventiveness, entrepreneurship, and concerns about social well-being will determine which nations initiate the ideas and provide the leadership for continued productivity, economic growth, and improved societal services for all of our citizens.
Researchers often consider how to develop creative environments through “person” (the characteristics and problem-solving styles of the people involved), “process” (the operations they perform), and “product” (the resultant outcomes). However, in education, in business, and indeed in all areas of human endeavour, the problem-solving environment is equally important. And there are tangible things than can be done to help establish an energizing, stimulating climate. The focus of this session is on nurturing productive thinking skills in schools, post-secondary institutions, and the workplace by setting a positive tone which builds trust and openness, challenge and motivation, autonomy, dynamism, playfulness and humour, and idea support.
Aims and Objectives:
The overall objective of this workshop is to introduce well developed productive thinking skills materials into the language arts, math, sciences, and social studies curriculum. The four areas of thinking skills that will be the focus will include, but not limited to, critical thinking; creative thinking; creative problem solving; and future problem solving.
Remember that the recognition and identification of the real problem is at least half of the solution. This workshop will help you: Generate big ideas; use original thinking; release your creative potential; add value to your work.
This workshop will address the following topics:
(1)  Differentiation (e.g., Content; Environment; Process; Outcomes);
(2)  Competencies of the skillful teachers;
(3)  Characteristics of a thoughtful, interactive, up-to-date educational environment;
(4)  Strategies and action plans to create learning environments;
(5)  Trends, approaches, and strategies to develop programmes aimed at introducing productive thinking skills into educational institutions;
(6)  A framework of Productive Thinking Skills; and SEM;
(7)  What is productive thinking? Personality & motivational factors in productive thinking;
(8)   Idea generating techniques; product improvement;
(9)   Practical activities in productive thinking; and
(10) Putting it all together: teaching and promoting productive thinking.
In today’s information age, thinking skills are viewed as crucial for our children to cope with a rapidly changing world. Many educators believe that specific knowledge will not be as important to tomorrow’s workers and citizens as the ability to learn and make sense of new information.
Although in today’s world, the access of the knowledge is much easier than other times, people are exposed to various and even diversified knowledge; so are our students. However, they are expected to make sound and valid decisions in terms of their fields in either academic or workforce.
Life is a series of decisions, some small, some much larger. Who we choose as friends, the work or career we pursue, which political candidates we support, what we choose to eat, where we live, what consumer goods we buy, whom we marry and how we raise children – all these decisions are based on assumptions. We assume our friends will be trustworthy and won’t talk about us behind our backs. We assume our career choices will be personally fulfilling or financially remunerative. We assume politicians we vote for have our, or the community’s best interests at heart. We assume that the foods we choose to eat are healthy for us, and so on.
These assumptions are sometimes correct. At other times, however, the assumptions we base our decisions on have never been examined. Sometimes we hold these assumptions because people we respect (friends, parents, teachers, religious leaders) have told us they are right. At other times we have picked these assumptions up as we travel through life but can’t say exactly where they’ve come from. To make good decisions in life we need to be sure that these assumptions are accurate and valid – that they fit the situations and decisions we are facing.
Many of today’s youth lack the basic skills to function effectively when they enter the workforce. A common complaint is that entry-level employees lack the reasoning and thinking abilities needed to process and refine information. With the modern work environment requiring more thinking and problem solving than the jobs emphasize thinking on their campuses, in their curricula, and in their teaching practices in order to prepare students to function effectively in today’s workforce.
Thinking skills need to be developed by practice.  It requires you to ask questions about what you hear and read, and actively to look for other views on the subject you are considering. You will need to uncover any underlying assumptions in materials presented to you, and test their validity. You will also need to consider whether a particular argument makes sense, or whether there are mistakes in the reasoning.
In other words, thinking is viewed as: a systematic way of thinking, an awareness of the thinking process, a judgmental process of discriminating truth from falsehood, appearance from reality, mere opinion from informed opinion. In summary:
  • Researchers have found that productive thinking skills programmes and training make a positive difference in the achievement levels of participating students;
  • Teachers who receive training in productive thinking skills strategies will be better equipped to provide thinking opportunities for students;
  • Students benefit from specific training in critical thinking; creative thinking and creative problem solving strategies; and
  • Educators generally agree that it is in fact possible to increase students' critical and creative thinking capacities through instruction and practice.
There are currently two basic camps of philosophy with regard to the teaching of productive thinking skills.  They are the direct instruction approach and the infusion approach.
In the direct instruction approach, productive thinking skills are identified and opportunities are provided to practice these thinking skills in “content free” exercises.
In the infusion approach, the teaching of thinking skills is embedded the teaching of thinking within the traditional curriculum.  The rationale for this approach is that the process of thinking is difficult to separate from content.
In order for the skills to be fully developed, teachers across domains in order for the full acquisition of the skills.
The Selected Approach
This workshop will utilize a combination of the infusion and direct instruction approaches so as to be able to provide support for novice teachers as well as those who are more experienced.  This proposed training was aimed at providing participants with the skills and materials that they need to:
  • Identify students’ productive thinking skill needs;
  • Familiarize themselves with the academic and real world applications for these productive thinking skills;
  • Provide students with an introductory lesson to the productive thinking skills;
  • Provide students with guided practice lessons that teach students how to apply the skills;
  • Provide students with coaching tips and feedback to improve their use of a specific teaching skills;
  • Demonstrate to students the varied and numerous uses for these skills in solving problems, making decisions, or drawing conclusions;
  • Coach students to apply these thinking skills to solve problems; and
  • Assess students’ progress and growth by analyzing their behavior, conversations, and products.
What are the advantages of the adopted approach
The advantage of a combination approach is that it will provide multiple venues for teachers to apply the productive thinking skills training in across all domains. This approach is based on three assumptions:
  1. The more explicit the teaching of thinking is, the greater the impact will have on students;
  2. The more classroom instruction incorporates an atmosphere of thoughtfulness, the more open students will be to valuing good thinking; and
  3. The more the teaching of thinking is integrated into content instruction, the more students will think about what they are learning.