Updated: Jan 1, 2019
Scientists are saying fewer and fewer children know how to think deeply. They believe this is because we connect to one another—or not.
Our modern lifestyle provides a scarcity of time, no less energy and inclination to engage in pleasurable conversation, dynamic discussion and creative problem solving. This lack of “deep thinking practice time” is extremely detrimental to our lives.
How this lack is manifesting in our current batch of young adults is startling.
The college student in line in her school cafeteria calling home because she needs her mother to tell her what type of salad dressing she likes.
The recent post-graduate working in the corporate world who actively avoids contacting clients by phone out of fear of not knowing what to say.
The parent of a 26 year-old lawyer who attends her child’s job interviews or complains to her child’s employer about a variety of injustices, including too much work and long hours. (Some law firms have their younger lawyers trained in how to deal with the parents of their new hirees.)
These examples sound extreme, but I’ve heard countless others just like them.
At the 2015 Learning and the Brain Conference, Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D., stated that the number of competent deep strategic thinkers coming out of our colleges and universities significantly falls short of the need.
Due to changes in our society, we need to teach something we never before needed to teach. To be fair, we may never before noticed the need. But in this modern world, we can’t afford not noticing and not doing something about it.
Ron Richhart, with Mark Church and Karin Morrison, write in Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners (Jossey-Bass, 2011):
“[It is] important to nurture thinking in daily lives of learners and to make it visible so that a culture of thinking can be built and strong learning communities can be established…Students must learn how to wonder, ask questions, go below the surface, uncover complexity, make generalizations, arguments, plans, assumptions, clarify priorities, evaluate evidence, and uncover student’s thinking about thinking.”
Richhart, Church, and Morrison believe that deep thinking can be developed largely by our asking provocative questions and cultivating connections that require our children (and I believe ourselves) to pause, take time to wonder, explore, elaborate, and sometimes change their or our own thinking.
“What do you see?”
“What do you think is going to happen?”
“What does it make you wonder about?”
“How does this change your interpretation?”
“What new things are you wondering about?”
“What ongoing questions do you have?”
We can consider these questions as a starting point for we have a limitless number of provocative questions in our imaginations that can stimulate deep thinking conversations. When I follow this model, I find the answers endlessly intriguing. I love hearing children’s beliefs and thoughts as well as participating in the dialogue, which frequently follows.
If their answers are vague or demonstrate misunderstanding, I can also help them clarify their thinking. As a language therapist, I also like how this process offers an opportunity to stimulate their language.
TALK OUR THOUGHTS
Another easy way to help our children develop their deep thinking is what I call “talk our thoughts”. We don’t often think of engaging our children in our thought processes. But what if we did.
“Honey, we are going to buy Johnny his birthday present, get ice cream for the party, and then go to the party store for decorations. What do you think we should do first?…Well, I like ice cream as much as you, but what would happen to it if we DID get it first?”
Stimulating our children’s thinking expands our children’s brains and our brains—literally–but the biggest reward is:
THE JOY WE FEEL WHEN CONNECTING WITH OUR CHILDREN IN A DEEP AND MEANINGFUL WAY.