theoryThis section offers various support materials on bringing more thinking in your classroom.

Support material for Step 1 Tutorial

Aims in general

Aims can also be referred to as goals or objectives. They should always be connected to results, which is to say that by understanding where you want the students to end up, you can construct tasks or activities that will allow them to reach these desired results. Your aims will give direction to the tasks, or activities, that you select. For example, if your aim is to teach students how to extract important information from a text the activities that you give them would be different than if your aim was to teach them to how to recognize specific grammar structures in a text.

Aims can also be overarching in terms of covering a whole unit of work -  understand how changes in society led to changes in art, or even course of work – acquire the skills needed to create or perform art.

A good aim should be flexible and allow for a variety of outcomes.

The aims consist of:

• CONTENT AIMS –  based on the needs of the learners and on the curriculum.
• THINKING AIMS – practice the use of particular thinking tools (eg ENV) and /or practice some of the skills necessary for using and understanding these tools (understanding values and parameters, categorizing, comparing, contrasting) What tool is appropriate for your aims? How are the skills necessary for this broken down? What will the students need to be able to do to apply these? (eg categorizing, noticing similarities and differences.) Ultimately the thinking aims teach the learners to think systematically and to use thinking tools to help them solve any problems, also those of a type they have never encountered before.


THE FUNCTION of your aims can be made clearer by using function formulation, which has 3 steps.

1. Formulate your aims through COMMON LANGUAGE           eg to present well 
2. Formulate your aims through VERB + OBJECT.                 eg to present a product 
3. Formulate your aims using the verb CHANGE.                   eg to change the listeners’ attitude

Thus the aim of presenting well becomes more specific (relates to a particular product) and has a purpose (to persuade).

The aims of a thinking task should always be considered in context and should always consider what it is they hope to change. Overall aims are usually part of a system of tasks, each with their own specific aim, but all moving towards the same goal and leading to refinement of the algorithm or description for doing such a task.

When your content and thinking aims are clear and well - formulated, it is time to move on to Step 1 tutorial of the Thinking Task Framework, a tool to help teachers plan thinking tasks and lessons, where you can find out HOW to create a thinking task.

Step 1 guides you in HOW TO create a task which has room for thinking


The Thinking Task Framework is a tool for the teacher interested in integrating the thinking dimension in his/her lesson. It summaries the steps to be made by the teacher and the learners while working on a task.

Step 2 guides you in HOW TO help your learners to cope with the challenging task they have been offered  and HOW TO scaffold your learners activities/actions while building an algorithm for solving the challenging task they are offered.



So now you have a task (from step 1) you would like the students to tackle! What next?…FIRST - before you start - (recommended!) do the task yourself and see what steps you go through in order to complete the challenge. This trial run really helps and can turn up some surprises!

Write down all the steps/processes followed and make notes on;

  1. the skills (& knowledge) you expect the kids to be using while working on this task 
  2. the resources (or information) they will need/or be allowed to use or access
  3. skills or processes you'll need to directly teach students while working on/attempting the task
  4. the thinking skills they will need to use/be introduced to (click here for lists), (click here for an example). 
  5. where your kids are likely to get stuck (which is a good thing!)

Keep the list in a table format like this (with example of working through the analysis form).



  • Function of STEP 2 for learners: change learners approach of coping with the challenging tasks/problems from “not knowing how” and “guessing” to “using specific thinking models/skills for building a solution/algorithm”.
  • Function of STEP 2-guide for teachers: change the teachers’ skills in scaffolding their learners from “not knowing how to guide learners in developing and algorithm” to “having an idea on how to scaffold/support/guide your learners in building an algorithm (NOT just giving them the steps)”.


Step 2 is divided into three SUB-STEPS which are described below.




SUB-STEP 2.1. Build a generic description of the task

Essentially this means generalising the problem. At first you won't be able to do this with your students (you'll just tell them) because they will need to learn how. Over time and with practice you will be able to transfer responsibility for this step to your students. 

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SUB-STEP 2.2. Introduce (or remind students about) thinking models to apply to the task

A first you will need to teach students the skills associated with the thinking model you've chosen to deal with the task and teach them how to apply it. Over time students will become familiar with and be able to apply a variety of thinking models and you will transfer to them the responsibility for choosing the model to apply.   

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SUB-STEP 2.3. Building the algorithms

Building algorithms means writing out the series of steps followed in order to complete the task, in essence making the steps in the students' thinking processes visible to them (and you). Over time this allows the students to become more able, agile and systematic thinkers.    

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SUB-STEP 2.1 Build a generic description of the task

  • Function: change learners’ view of the problem given in the task from “context-specific” and “context-bound” to “generic”.
  • Outcome: generic description of the task/of the problem given in the task.
  • HINT: To understand the problem, consider treating it as one of a family/class of problems and analysing the family.
When solving a non-typical problem/doing a challenging task one has to be able to abstract from the context the problem is wrapped in and to see this problem on a higher level – the level of a super system.
It allows you to switch from ‘comparing 4 famous people’ (specific task) to ‘compare and contrast’ (generic task)…. 
When you offer learners a challenging task, they start seeking the solution on the level of your context-wrapped problem. By building a generic description of the task you open your learners up to a new perspective on the problem and, thus, a new perspective on possible solutions.

 Possible procedure:

  • Repeat the task: So, our task is to “Compare the differences between four groups of famous people, for example: actors, writers, politicians, criminals”.
  • Move learners’ thinking above the context: So we need to make a comparison between four different elements.
  • Ask if learners’ know typical solution for a generic problem: How do we normally compare things? What does it mean to compare two different elements? 

Support resources:

  • Examples of generic task descriptions for different subjects e.g. compare and contrast tasks, analysis tasks (in progress)


SUB-STEP 2.2. Introduce (or remind students about) thinking models for coping with this generic task/challenge


  • change from not knowing about the model to knowing about the model; 
  • understanding that applying a thinking model (e.g. ENV) may help solve the challenge
  • independently applying a thinking model to solve the challenge


  • (at first) knowledge of the existence of a thinking model (including associated vocabulary). We can measure their recall of vocabulary and structure of the tool, then later check application – sometimes kids won’t be able to do more than learn vocabulary at first.
  • (later on) the pupils start understanding the application of the thinking model
  • (eventually) the pupils start reaching the learning goal by using a model doing a task or a series of tasks
  • (ultimately) - gradually the pupils start collecting and building a collection of models by themselves

 Possible procedure:

  • Introduce the pupils a thinking model to do a task/solve a problem when they have got stuck and don’t know how to proceed.
  • Teach them how to use it. Use a simple example to start with. Do it together with the pupils at first (e.g. model the use of ENV for the kids). Playing a yes-no game (needs a link, guess a number, animal I’m thinking of) is a good example that illustrates ENV as a model. The pupils learn to start from parameters (variables) instead of guessing (trial and error) values.
  • Over time students will become familiar with it and will be able to apply a variety of thinking models and you will transfer to them the responsibility for choosing the model to apply.


SUB-STEP 2.3 (in progress)



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I would like to conclude with offering a brief checklist for a teacher who is applying the Thinking Task Framework for constructing and conducting his lessons. This checklist includes the three basic components that I discovered while observing expert TA teachers at work.

There is the Thinking Task Framework that is supposed to help a teacher organise and manage the learning process where his/her students will be thinking. Every time a teacher plans his/her lesson following the framework, (s)he is invited to think about three other components by replying three questions:

  1. Is the sequence of instruction I am planning for Step 1 and 2 spiral-shaped? Will it make at least one loop during one lesson?
  2. Will there be space for a qualitative dialogue with my students? Will I meet all the three quality criteria?
  3. Did I think about making my students aware of lesson and task aims? Will they have the chance to contribute to their formulation?


This category includes articles that can help you understand the Stages of Competence Development better. 

This category includes articles that can help you understand the Thinking Task Framework better. Please note that Thinking Task Framework is a fairly simple model that is useful as an introduction into teaching thinking. For deeper understanding, please refer to the model of Stages of Competence Development. 

This category contains structured reflections of teachers who have been trying to implement the TA in their work and would like to share some lessons learned.

This category contains materials that can help you in the process of sharing your experiences on this site. Please note that the site is changing all the time, so some posts need updates. If you notice such a post, feel free to update it and make the life of your colleagues easier.

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