Robert Swartz: 'We must teach to think more than to memorize'

  • 2015

Considered one of the most influential personalities in the world in the field of education, Robert Swartz is the pioneer in the inclusion of critical and creative thinking in curricular content. This philosopher proposes a radical change in the current school "that kills the desire to learn and think." Recently, he has presented the new center for the Teaching of Thought at the Lope de Vega International School in Benidorm to more than 300 teachers.

What is 'Thought Based Learning'?

Thought-Based Learning -TBL- is a new teaching methodology in which instruction in thinking skills is infused into the content of the curriculum, so that teachers encourage students to use these higher thinking forms to explore in depth what they are learning in the general curriculum.

How and how can learning be transformed?

Students learn in a more motivating and active way through thinking, more than just to pass exams in a passive and memorial way as it happens today in many classrooms focused on the teacher's role. More importantly, they learn important thinking skills from a deep and enriched way to compare and contrast things to deftly make decision making or problem solving. These skills will remain with them for the rest of their lives.

You talk about the importance of "learning to think with skill", what does this mean and how can it contribute to student learning?

Every person thinks, but not everyone thinks as carefully as they could. Think about how many times we make decisions in our life that, after carrying them out, we realize that we have not reflected enough on them and, therefore, have turned out to be a bad choice. Teachers can teach students how to think more carefully and skillfully before making a decision and solving problems.

What is the teacher's role in this model change?

Its role is to guide and present challenging objectives to students so that they learn to use a good way of thinking - higher thinking skills and not just memory - applied in learning content. Introducing these thinking skills and practicing them both alone and in working groups is the teacher's main role in this new methodology, not simply giving master lessons and transmitting information for a memorial learning.

Are teachers prepared to be part of this change? Do you think that the way to train teachers in the university should change?

No, teachers have not been prepared to teach in this way but they should be. It is a shame that most teacher training programs still educate them to teach with the old methods. Which means we have to teach teachers to teach differently. But this is not difficult. In reality, for many teachers this is a natural and much more satisfactory way of teaching. And each teacher can make these changes.

Should parents be part of this process?

Flatly yes. Parents can not only reinforce this type of teaching and learning at home, but many of these skills such as decision making and problem solving. Skills that you can use at home with your children to make decisions more carefully and solve problems more efficiently.

Do you think that the use of the new methodologies is positive for this new teaching model?

The use of new methodology develops the abilities of our students. Think of how much information is available to our fingertips and the abilities in this sense that students have today compared to those they had 15 years ago. But, like everything else, these new technologies must be used with care and common sense.

What weaknesses detected in our education system?

Spain is no different from other countries, it relies too much on the basis of standard multiple choice exams to determine what students have learned, for example. This usually gives more prominence to the repetition of the contents than to the competition over them, which does not guarantee adequate learning.


Robert Swartz: 'We must teach to think more than to memorize'

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