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About Thinking Tools and classroom communication: Discussion with Dr Cas Olivier

Name of Scholar / Expert:

Dr Cas Olivier

Who is Dr Cas Olivier? 

Dr Cas Olivier is a specialist on the thinking brain. In his work, he demonstrates how twenty-eight inborn thinking tools are integrated and holistically employed in thinking processes. This approach provides thinking roadmaps to gear learners towards developmental mindsets, and this thinking tools programme is registered with the South African Council for Educators.

He provides national and international online Thinking Tools sessions to teachers, parents and learners, as well as businesses and entrepreneurs.

He is the author of The DNA of Great Teachers and a co-author of Critical Thinking: A Multi-Dimensional Approach in the Context of South Africa. His book Potential Development using Thinking Tools: The Key to Flipped Teaching will be released on 1 November 2019. An extract is available here.

What is Thinking Tools classroom communication and how can it enhance better thinking and learning?

The rule on verbal communication is clear: one person can communicate with only one person at a time. Experience has taught us that a father cannot simultaneously attend to his child and his wife telling him what happened during the day. He can either speak to the one or the other. A CEO cannot talk to a manager and her personal assistant at the same time.

Traditional teachers simultaneously talk to all the learners in their class when they teach. They regard this as their claim to fame. They claim that they were trained during their studies to teach classes. This is true – not that they can teach a whole class at a time, but that they were taught to do it. After they have taught a topic to a class, they ask checking questions at the end to determine which learners have arrived at the destination and which did not. It is not clear why they ask checking questions at the end of the lesson, because it is too late to rectify or remediate misunderstandings or information that was not grasped.

Regarding classroom communications what have you found are some of the biggest challenges parents, teachers and practitioners face?  What are recommended ways to overcome them?

Notwithstanding the fact that there is no evidence that one person can communicate with a group and can guarantee that the message is understood in full, teachers keep on teaching classes. When starting the explanation, the teacher regards the class as a group, which creates an ambiance – or the mood of the teacher versus the class. These classes provide the ideal hiding place for learners who do not understand the work. It is common knowledge that troublesome people, in this case learners, flourish in groups, which leads to disruptive unproductive noise that subsequently has a negative impact on classroom management.

This paradigm is based on communication as it happens in real-life settings. The rule on verbal communication is clear: one person can communicate with only one person at a time. Therefore, thinking tools teachers’ communication paradigm informs them that they can only teach one learner at a time. They refrain from presenting and explaining, for example, PowerPoint slides, one after the other, because they know learners’ brains work in hyperlinked ways which defeat all linear spoon-feeding attempts.

Thinking tools teachers’ primary task during communication is to carefully listen and respond to individual learners’ inner speech, whether intentional or unintentional. This is contrary to teacher-centred teachers who are under the impression that they can simultaneously communicate with all the learners in the class. Because they have not yet made the paradigm shift towards thinking tools teaching, they defend themselves by saying that there is not enough time to talk to each learner, especially with bigger classes, and still be able to cover the curriculum. There is no evidence or reason to believe that when a person becomes a teacher, the person receives superpowers and is then able to communicate with a class.

Learning is driven and guided by scaffolding questions by the teacher. Such questions are not randomly asked and neither are learners bombarded with a series of preset questions. Questions are asked one at a time. Each question is a formative assessment question custom-designed and directed at an individual learner. Since teaching is primarily about relationships, it is imperative that the teacher addresses each learner on their name when asking a question or starting a conversation.

What are some of the important signs that will indicate to parents, teachers and practitioners the successful functioning/implementation of classroom communication the Thinking Tools way?

Teachers are often surprised by how well the class engages and how the discipline improves when they start asking questions to individual learners instead of directing questions to the class. Calling learners on their names means that 1) the teacher respects them and expect the same respect in return, 2) the teacher recognises them, and 3) the teacher is silently signalling that no one can hide in the crowd. The latter is key in maintaining good classroom discipline.

Visit our Tools and Research and Other Articles pages for Dr Olivier’s recommended and applicable literature sources on classroom communications and Thinking Tools. 


Dr Olivier’s Contact Details are as follow:
Cell: +27(0)83-259-2857
Email address: cas@learningdesigns.co.za


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