Thinking skills programs are typically general in nature, i.e., they don't focus at a particular subject matter area. These programs emphasize higher-level thinking practices that are applicable to all disciplines or learning situations. The programs can begin as early as third grade, but most begin no earlier than grade six because the programs often require reading ability beyond beginning reading skills. As students progress through the grades, the programs become more advanced in nature.
The majority of the programs are aimed at the learner in grades four through twelve; some, though, are also appropriate for college and adult learners. There are many of these thinking skills programs available for purchase.
Each of the programs have a strong research base, and if used for what they are intended, learners become quite good thinkers, particularly as critical thinkers, problem sovlers, and decision makers. It must be remembered, however, that usually these programs become "add ons" to what the classroom teacher is expected to do, or these programs become another class (a class about thinking), that students attend two or three to four or five times during the week. Whenever a thinking skills program is used, teachers need to include the thinking procedures learned in the program in their lessons. If this is not done, there is little transfer of learning. The program becomes a class about "thinking" that has little to do with what is learned in the regular curriculum.
The following are some of the more well known programs. Included is brief explanation of each program with web site links that, if interested, can provide more information.
CoRT (Cognitive Research Trust)
The CoRT is a program started in 1969 by Edward deBono. The program is first used in New Zealand and Australia, but now is world wide. Central to the program is something deBono refers to as "lateral thinking." Two key concepts learned in the program is that it is not necessary to be "right" every time one "thinks," and intelligent people are not necessarily skillful thinkers. Three website links for CoRT are:
(this is deBono's web site)
H.O.T.S. (Higher-Order Thinking Skills)
H.O.T.S. is a program started in 1982 by Stanley Pogrow. H.O.T.S. is a computer based thinking skills program for compensatory students in grades four through eight. The purpose of the program is to increase the students repertoire of higher-level thinking strategies. Three web sites for H.O.T.S. are:
Instrumental Enrichment (I.E.)
Instrumental Enrichment is a program started in 1980 by Reuven Feurestein, a cognitive psychologist from Israel. The focus of the program is to develop independent learners. Central to the program is the concept that cognitive development requires mediated learning experiences. In the program the learners complete paper-and-pencil tasks called "instruments." Three web sites for Instrumental Enrichment are:
Odyssey of the Mind
Odyssey of the Mind is a program started in 1985 by Sam Micklus and Ted Gourley. The intent of the program is to develop creative thinking skills through team problem solving and brainstorming. According to Micklus and Gourley, the program is appropriate for all grade and ability levels. Two web site links for Odyssey of the Mind are:
Project Zero is a program started in 1981 by cognitive psychology professors at Harvard University. The first directors are David Perkins and Howard Gardner. Since 2000, there has been a new director. The program is intended for middle level students. It provides an opportunity to learn a broad range of thinking skills. The main emphasis, though, is on problem solving, reasoning, and decision making. A web site link for Project Zero is:
Philosophy for Children
Philosophy for Children is a program started in 1976 by Matthew Lipman, a philosophy professor at Montclair University in Montclair, New Jersey. The focus of the program is for learners to improve their reasoning abilities by discussing philosophical issues. The main purpose of the program is to help young people learn to think for themselves. A web site link for Philosophy for Children is:
Strategic Reasoning is a thinking skills program started in 1971 by John Glade. The program is based on Albert Upton's "Design for Thinking." The purpose of the program is to teach conscious thinking skills, i.e., learners are aware of the thinking skills they are using, and a key to learning are something called "thinking maps." This is one of the few programs that integrates the teaching of thinking with the teacher's regular instruction. Currently the program is accessed through an organization called the Innovative Learning Group. A web site link for Strategic Reasoning is:
Tactics for Thinking
Tactics for Thinking is a thinking skills program started in 1985 by a group headed by Robert Marzano. A main concept of the program is that students lack confidence in their thinking. A focus of the program is on "learning-to-learn" skills. Like the Strategic Reasoning program the "tactics" are integrated with the teacher's regular instruction. A web site link for Tactics for Thinking is:
Structure of the Intellect (SOI)
Structure of the Intellect is a thinking skills program started in 1969 by Mary Meeker based on Guilford's cubic "structure of the intellect." The program is intended for all learners elementary through adult. Central to the program are 120 thinking abilities and twenty-six relevant thinking factors. Two web site links for Structure of the Intellect are:
The Thinking/Learning (T/L) System
The Thinking/Learning System is a thinking skills program started by Peter Edwards and Ervin Sparapani. The program is intended to be used with all learners, elementary through adult. It focuses at four higher-level thinking skills, information processing, creative thinking, critical thinking, and decision making. The program combines Bloom's cognitive taxonomy with brain-based teaching. Like Tactics for Thinking and Strategic Reasoning, the intent is to integrate the thinking skills with the teacher's regular classroom instruction. A web site link for the Thinking/Learning System is:
For more information about these thinking skills programs you can also go to Costa (1985) Developing minds: A resource book for teaching thinking. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.