The first TA Teachers Conference Bringing Creativity and Thinking into the Educational Process was held in the Radisson Blu Daugava Hotel, Riga, 14 – 15th September, 2012. The conference presented the outcomes of the Nordplus project of the same name. The partners in the project from Norway, Finland, Latvia and Lithuania reported on their experiences in applying the Thinking Task Framework in their own educational settings, which ranged from pre-school to university. There were 85 participants from 20 different countries. The delegates were brought together by a common interest in thinking in education and they represented all areas and levels of education.
The conference was officially opened by a representative from the Department of Education, Sports and Culture of the Riga City Council. There were eight plenary sessions. Dr Alexander Sokol first gave an overview of the Thinking Task Framework, followed by three sessions by teachers taking part in the project: Irina Buchinska from Latvia speaking on the use of banks with upper secondary language students, Susan Granlund from Finland sharing her experience on integrating thinking in the primary EFL classroom and Deirdre Jennings from Lithuania giving an overview of introducing thinking in science and maths lessons. The teahers described how they had used the Thinking Task Framework in their work in schools, and how it had led to changes in their teaching practice, making it more challenging and increasing student motivation. In the second part of the plenary sessions there were presentations by Dr Alla Nesterenko from Russia on Problem-Centred Education: Goals, Structure, Results, by Tania Santiago from Spain on Thinking-Based Learning: Teaching Students to become Skilful Thinkers and Learners, by Prof Carol McGuiness from Northern Ireland on A Metacognitively-Rich Pedagogy for Thinking Classrooms, and by Dr Johannes Theiner from Austria on The Parental Role in Fostering a Child’s Creativity and Thinking Skills.
On the second day of the conference, presentations and workshops were divided into seven sections: the Development of Creativity in Language Education, in Science and Maths Education and in Pre-primary and Primary Education, Research on Teaching Thinking, Thinking across School, Thinking- based Lessons and Thinking at Home. Delegates selected the sections most relevant to their interests but were free to move between sections.
Common themes across the sections included the notion that thinking can be used as a vehicle to convey content by familiarizing learners with steps and thinking models and tools to help them to meet challenges and solve problems. At the heart of these approaches is student-centered learning, and increased student autonomy. The general consensus was that introducing thinking skills into education is challenging for both the teacher and the learners, it is relevant in many educational settings and subjects and is also extremely motivating and rewarding. Moreover, it addresses the future needs of today’s learners and the goal of lifelong learning. As well as the benefits of attending sessions, delegates also appreciated having the opportunity exchange experiences and to discuss a variety of approaches with colleagues. The conference ended with a gala dinner in the centre of Old Riga.
The Organising Committee would like to thank all colleagues who contributed to making the conference possible at different stages of the process. Our special thanks to Harry Flosser Studios for the visual support of the event.