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Children and teachers in a classroom sat in a circle

About Thinking Together

This page is also available in Spanish translated with thanks by Lorena Lopez Oterino.

What is 'Thinking Together'?

  • Thinking Together is a dialogue-based approach to the development of children's thinking and learning.
  • It promotes children's awareness and use of talk as a tool for thinking - they learn to not merely interact, but to interthink.
  • It connects the development of children's 'thinking skills' to the development of their communication skills and curriculum learning.
  • It emphasises the importance of both teacher–pupil and pupil–pupil talk.
  • It is based on over two decades of classroom-based research into the relationship between talking and thinking. This research has been carried out mainly in the UK and in Mexico – but related research has been done in Finland, Holland, Japan, Norway and Spain.

How Does it Work?

  • Children are explicitly taught about Exploratory Talk – a way of interacting which emphasises reasoning, the sharing of relevant knowledge and a commitment to collaborative endeavour.
  • Each teacher and class agree on a set of ground rules for talking together.
  • Children work in groups of three, using Exploratory Talk as they work on curriculum-based activities.
  • The teacher acts as model and guide for the use of Exploratory Talk. Activities for implementing this approach are available in our books (see Publications).

How Has it Been Evaluated?

  • In several projects, involving hundreds of children, a programme of Thinking Together lessons has been implemented in schools.
  • In each project, matched 'control' schools are selected to enable comparisons to be made of the quality of children's talk in groups, the development of their reasoning skills and their curriculum attainment, before and after the implementation (which is normally a period of at least six months).
  • Each teacher's use of modelling and guidance strategies is evaluated. Teachers and children involved also evaluate the impact of the approach.

What is the Impact?

  • Quality of group work: students engage more effectively with tasks for longer periods of time, with all participants being included more in discussions.
  • Quality of talk: the quality of students' talk changes significantly. More features of Exploratory Talk appear in their dialogues, showing more reasoning occurring when they solve problems.
  • Individual attainment. Individuals show improvement in educational attainment (as measured by tests of attainment in science and maths) and in non-verbal-reasoning (as assessed by the Raven's Progressive Matrices test).
  • Wider influence. Thinking Together has informed the UK National Curriculum guidance and has generated projects in several other countries.
  • Theoretical significance: the results of the research support L.S. Vygotsky's claims about the relationship between social and psychological development.

Full details of the ways the impact has been measured and reported in peer-reviewed journals and books are available on this website.