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The first similarity shared by expert teachers can be called a sequence of instruction. In order to understand the point, I would like to pay a closer attention to the first two steps of the Framework (TTF), forgetting for a while about the third step. 

Basically, the first two steps show us the actions the teacher has to perform if (s)he wants to bring more thinking into the classroom. These steps are the following: offer a challenging task (in other words, offer an open ended task or create a problem situation) and when students are stuck, help them build the solution (in other words, develop a method for solving the difficulty). Even though the steps seem straightforward, there are various combinations of how these are administered by teachers.

After analysing lessons of experts, I discovered the following pattern that distinguishes instruction of expert teachers from non experts.
A teacher gives a challenging task number one and students do it. As a result students produce result one (see Fig 2)



Figure 2. Sequence of Instruction: Step 1


I would argue that students always produce something. It is very rare that they cannot do the task at all. A teacher has given an open ended task; therefore, it is not that difficult to produce ‘something’. The question is often about the quality of what students produce.

Thus, the next step is very important – how the teacher deals with the produced result.

The second step of the framework says ‘help learners build the solution – develop the method for coping with the challenge’. There may definitely be different forms of providing this help. In my observations I’ve discovered that experts normally provide help in the form of a dialogue. So this is the point to hold a dialogue with the class on the quality of the first result (see Fig 3).


Figure 3. Sequence of Instruction: Step 2


The function of this dialogue is twofold. On the one hand, it is supposed to help students become aware of the problem with their first result. A teacher can use the following questions during the dialogue to achieve its function:

  • How can we assess what you produced?
  • How do you know that this is what it has to be?
  • The task is one, the results are different – how do we know which one is correct?
  • Looks like your results (you) disagree with each other, how shall we resolve it?
  • How did you do the task? Why this way? Are there any other ways of doing it?
  • The task was given; you were not able to do it, why?, etc..

The second function is to provide learners with the thinking models for building a solution, i.e. thinking models for constructing a method/a tool, which will allow students to come out of the difficulty. In the case of TA teachers, these thinking models are various OTSM-TRIZ models (e.g. ENV, Multiscreen, Problem definition, etc.).

During this dialogue-stage a degree of teacher’s help/involvement can differ depending on the extent to which students are familiar with the approach the teacher implements.

And as the last point of the instruction, students are invited to come back to the very same task they were doing and improve it, taking into account the conclusions they made for themselves after the T-Cl dialogue (see Fig 4). So basically, help is intended to help students improve the first result they produced.


Figure 4. Sequence of Instruction: Step 3


It is important to notice that the class stays within one task and the whole cycle forms a kind of a spiral or a loop where the students come back to improving the first result after holding a dialogue. It has been noticed that there may be several spirals/loops of this kind during one lesson. Sometimes one loop appears only as a result of two or more lessons but I would argue that when a teacher only starts working with the Thinking Task Framework it is better that (s)he plans a task that would allow students experience the loop during one lesson.

As to what concerns non experienced teachers, my observation shows that they would give one big task, subdivide it into smaller steps and during the dialogue would hold the discussion on the ‘next step’ students have to do (see Fig 5). So basically, the help will be never provided for improving the first result of the first task, but would be ‘addressed’ to ‘push’ students agree on the upcoming task.


Figure 5. Sequence of Instruction: Non-Expert Teachers


At the same time, I do not want to claim that experts don’t make any subdivision into smaller sub-tasks, but every sub-task of an expert teacher goes through the loop (see Fig 6). In other words, the difference will be that non-expert teachers will not make students experience a loop when working with sub-tasks.


Figure 6. Sequence of Instruction: Expert Teachers vs Non-Expert Teachers


This may seem a little bit complex, but for those teachers who have already tried to apply the framework for creating and managing learning activities following the framework this observation can help to think about their own lessons and plan tasks in ‘loops’ ensuring every single conclusion (s)he wants his/her students to make is done through a task, not explanation:  

  • task
  • my students do it
  • they produce the result
  • we talk about the result and agree on the method for improving it
  • I let them improve the result individually (in pairs/groups) after this discussion.

The following video excerpt from a lesson of an expert teacher is supposed to illustrate the first point. This is a lesson of English as a foreign language in form 11. Since this was an open lesson you will see some teachers present. The slides in the video are used to help you notice the main components of the instruction.


To sum up the first point:

  • Process for every task is spiral-shaped/done in loops: task 1 – result - help – task 1 is back;
  • Before help is provided the presence of the problem is explicitly agreed on;
  • During the help stage the OTSM-TRIZ thinking models are offered;
  • Sequence “teacher activity – students’ activity” is maintained.


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