ThinkingLAB at CA
Today, there is remarkable convergence of information about what skills are needed to be successful in the future. Authors including Daniel Pink, Sir Ken Robinson, Dan Heath, Howard Gardner, Tony Wagner and others share the belief that students will have to have agile and adaptable skills in addition to core knowledge to be successful.
At Colorado Academy our intentional efforts to ensure that these skills, what we call the Six C’s, are central to teaching and learning, even at the youngest grades: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, Cultural Competence, and Character Development. In our lower divisions, we call our program of study the ThinkingLAB.
Central to our efforts is the belief that every student can be creative and that every student can solve challenging problems if given the necessary skills. Current instruction in critical thinking and problem solving is where writing instruction was before Nancy Atwell, Ralph Fletcher, and Lucy Caulkins exploded onto the scene more than 20 years ago. We believe that a similar revolution in how problem solving and thinking skills are taught is essential.
At CA, we teach students how to define a problem, analyze factors, make decisions, and support them with evidence. We also teach a process for developing insights and creative solutions. We make it a regular practice for students to solve problems that matter to students, not problems that adults tell them they should care about. And we give every student the time to practice these skills over and over again, making it safe to make mistakes and to realize that failure leads to success.
Lower and Middle School ThinkingLAB Teaching Tools
Design thinking stands for design-specific cognitive activities applied to problem solving. It was articulated by IDEO, an award-winning global design firm that takes a human-centered, design-based approach to problems.
Performance Tasks and D-Quadrant Strategies
Performance tasks require that students follow a problem-solving process before they reach an “answer.” Rote memorization is not an option; thinking for oneself is a “must.” Quadrant D tasks or strategies are an educational tool based on the two dimensions of rigor and relevance. Tasks that fall in the “D” quadrant of that matrix are those that require students to think, analyze, compare, create, and evaluate. These kinds of tasks teach students to think in complex ways and then apply their knowledge to other parts of their world, even with confronted with unknown issues or complicated problems.
A Capstone Project is a multifaceted assignment that serves as a culminating academic and intellectual experience for eighth grade students. The projects demand critical and creative thinking to solve a real-world problem. Students are guided by faculty members and also have the opportunity to consult with subject matter experts.
Upper School Teaching Tools
A year-long course for all CA Upper School freshmen designed around Design Thinking methodologies, Global Perspectives helps students to understand and articulate divergent points of view, ideate insights, prototype and test their own analytics.
Colorado Academy’s Innovation Lab
is a place where doing is what matters, where students have access to materials and machines, methodologies and mentors. The lab is a 1,300 square-foot, two-story workspace where students have access to everything from automated machine tools to a 3-D printer and laser cutter. A series of Upper School physics electives are built around the use of this facility.