David Hyerle's Thinkabout BLOG

Over the next month we will be offering you links to interviews of leaders of 

Thinking Schools who are responding to questions such as:


What is a Thinking School?


For Students, what difference has the process of becoming a 

"Thinking School" made for them?


What were some of the challenges you met on your journey to becoming a Thinking School ?


The video clips are short, meaningful, and powerful as you will see over the next month from educators in Norway, Thailand, and the UK.   Schools in Ethiopia, South Africa, and Malaysia will also be featured to give you a world-wide view of how the focus on using visual tools such as Thinking Maps for cognitive/critical thinking, Habits of Mind for developing dispositions, and enquiry/questioning processes all come together for students, teachers, and administrators across entire schools. 

Enjoy listening to these powerful insights from your educational colleagues!

Visiting Concourse Village School


When I visited Concourse Village School year before last --and observed classrooms-- I was deeply moved by the vision of the principal, the clarity of questioning and collaborative structures used by teachers, but most of all the brilliance of the students who had been DEEPLY using Thinking Maps for several years!  The results, in one way, speak for themselves, but visiting this school in the Bronx was a moving experience for me. 

Concourse Village Elementary School (CVES), part of the New York City DOE, serves a highly diverse community in the South Bronx, with many families from the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Africa. Founding Principal Alexa Sorden was asked to oversee the opening of the new school in 2013 to replace a school that was closed due to performance.

Detail on Concourse Village School


356 students

45 teachers

98% Free/Reduced Lunch

27% Students with Disabilities

26% English Language Learners (ELL)


Alexa emphasizes the need for fidelity of implementation across the school. “It has to be part of the culture,” she says. 


That commitment to fidelity is paying off. Just three years after replacing a school closed due to poor performance, CVES is now ranked 7th out of over 1,800 schools in New York City on the state mathematics test and 9th in English Language Arts. In 2015-2016, students at CVES achieved 94% proficient or above in literacy and 98% proficient or above in math—compared to single-digit proficiency levels in the school CVES replaced. Alexa credits this success to the student-centered curriculum they have developed, including the use of Thinking Maps... 

Read more.....


Thinking maps

as a common visual language


Mapping is a rich synthesis of thinking processes, mental strategies, techniques and technologies, and knowledge that enables humans to investigate unknowns, show patterns of information, and then use the map to express, build, and assess new knowledge.

The uses of tools for mapping information have been far and wide-- from the early cartographers to present day Google Maps--and in this peer reviewed article in the book Knowledge Cartography, published by Cambridge University Press, I investigated the implications for using visual tools, especially Thinking Maps®, as transformational pathways to learning in the new cognitive age. Here is an excerpt and a view of Thinking Maps that few have seen.

"As mesmerizing as this metaphor is in a technological sense, ultimately this is about power sharing in the creation of knowledge. The gulf between our students’ relatively high technological expertise and underdeveloped mental fluency is one of the key barriers we must transcend to enact positive change through knowledge sharing in schools, the workplace, and globally. So the mapping metaphor also opens up a central dilemma: our students may be networked to information webs, yet few have developed congruent thinking tools that enable them to consciously pattern information into meaningful, integrated, networked knowledge." Click the link below


It's Never Too Early To Think!


With all of the cognitive/neuroscience research coming out over the past few decades, it is now commonly accepted that thought and language (not JUST language) are dynamically developing in a social environment from birth.

 A foundational text is 

“The Scientist in the Crib”... a wonderful read by

Dr. Gopnik, of UC Berkeley, my alma mater.











That is why I love this video clip from the Seattle area. Listen to a pre-K teacher discuss the use of Thinking Maps for literacy development beginning with phonemic awareness.  Her students were having trouble distinguishing between the letters "n" and "m" ... and a Double Bubble Map is the immediately successful tool.










You may also find this link to a chapter I wrote a useful summary of how Thinking Maps® are used from early literacy up through college level for reading comprehension. 

Research on reading comprehension is presented along with specific classroom examples developed by teachers to show how the basics of reading are facilitated along with higher order analysis of texts from across disciplines. (from my previous ASCD book "A Field Guide to Using Visual Tools")

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Thinking Skills History 

Excerpt from Thinking Students

Book by Dr. David Hyerle

When Thinking Skills became Popular: WHY? And WHAT NOW?

When Thinking Skills became Popular: WHY? And WHAT NOW?

During the mid-1980s “thinking” or “thinking skills” became popular in schools. While this sounds odd, an early history of education in the Americas and many other countries around the world shows quite conclusively that the overlapping acceptance of behaviorism and theories of static “intelligence” shaped an educational paradigm based on a “banking” system of learning content, not on the direct facilitation of thinking skills, dispositions, deep questioning leading toward improved thinking...read complete blog

- from tacit to strategic use of visual tools – a resource

Posted on the 27th April 2016

I was thinking the other day about how much of what we do in schools stimulates thinking but actually does not directly develop students’ fluency with the tools we give them.  Remembering Gill Hubble’s writing from New Zealand reminded me about the crucial distinction she made between “tacit” to “strategic” use of visual tools.  Here is an excerpt from “Pathways to Thinking Schools”, and five examples of ...

read complete blog

Remembering Gill Hubble’s writing from New Zealand reminded me about the crucial distinction she made between “tacit” to “strategic” use of visual tools

West Belden is an urban K-8 charter school serving a high-poverty, high- minority population in Chicago. Thinking Maps were implemented and supported over many years to help bring about significant change. The intensive focus is paying off. Students at West Belden have demonstrated strong growth in academic skills on the NWEA tests, which Distinctive Schools uses for formative assessment. In addition, students at West Belden showed over 200% growth in the first year for the NWEA Map assessment, meaning they made two years of academic progress in a single year. More than 30% of West Belden’s eighth graders were accepted into highly selective high school programs, and many others are heading to selective charter schools. Finally, West Belden achieved the highest possible rating on Chicago’s accountability scale.

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From the Curriculum Director:


“We’re preparing our students for the kind of thinking and writing they will need to demonstrate for college and career,” says Katie O’Connor, Executive Director of Curriculum & Instruction. “Thinking Maps is a tool that makes students’ thinking visible to them. It gives them a springboard for higher levels of academic achievement.”


From the Director of Schools:


“Thinking Maps has created a common language across and among grade levels, campuses, staff and students. It’s had a powerful impact on our SEL* implementation because our teachers are using Thinking Maps to empower students to think critically about behaviors that make them successful learners.” Read more...

Bringing it all Together in Thinking Schools

Our Brains are not designed for…. Downloads?

I just downloaded a book today. OF course even 20 years ago the idea of loading a book onto an iPAD along with a whole library would have been a strange thing. It seems that today, we are overloaded: we and our students are at the breaking point of what researchers in the cognitive-neurosciences call “Cognitive Load.” The book I downloaded is by neuroscientist Daniel Levitin: “The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload.”

I am looking forward to actually reading it, but the article in the New York Times that helped me make the link is a VERY good start! Read article...


This dilemma is not just about organizing  information— but about critical thinking— and an action research paper sums up how visual tools, and specifically Thinking Maps® explicitly develop both organization skills and critical thinking.  Here is an excerpt by Long and Carlson (2011) from the conclusion section of their research document that goes beyond the important task of "organizing" to deeper understandings:


In conclusion, Thinking Maps make an excellent addition to any classroom because they teach students to think critically about subjects and form connections between subject disciplines. By watching their thoughts unfold in front of them, they will be better equipped to make curricular connections and develop deeper knowledge and understanding of concepts. Since Thinking Maps can be utilized across all grade levels and content areas, they are an invaluable resource for teachers. With so many schools basing their curriculum and instruction on standardized tests, students are rarely afforded opportunities to develop critical thinking skills that are necessary in higher education. Read more...


Bringing it all Together in Thinking Schools

HELLO to all of our friends and followers of Thinking Foundation !


Back in 2008, just as I was thinking about how to follow Dr. Art Costa’s vision of “School as a Home for the Mind” I was asked by Art to write a chapter for a new book, “Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind.”

I saw this as an opportunity to bring together that which seems so natural: cognitive processes and dispositions. I had developed Thinking Maps as tools based on fundamental cognitive processes and Art had initially developed a model of dispositions, or Habits of Mind. It also gave me an chance to focus on ‘essential questions’ that facilitate students’ thinking and drive curriculum design, and inquiry teaching. These are the 3 pillars of Thinking Schools: cognitive/thinking skills, dispositions, and inquiry.


Below are the links to the chapter.


The inspiration for this chapter was a visit to a school (Friendship Valley in Maryland, USA) that had systematically implemented Thinking Maps and Habits of Mind lead by a visionary principal, Thommie DePinto, PhD. I visited many classrooms, but one caught my eye (and my video camera!). A first grade teacher had brought her students to fluency with Thinking Maps and Habits of Mind. And she used essential questions and facilitation .... brilliantly!











Here are the links to both the video of the classroom and the chapter

It is a model for any classroom, anywhere in the world!

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Kenmore Elementary School Baldwin Park , California


Before starting their Thinking Maps journey, Kenmore’s scores on state tests put them at the bottom of the 13 elementary schools in their district. Their student scores now make them the top-ranked school in Baldwin Park USD. In 2018, Kenmore was named a California Distinguished School, the state’s highest honor. Based on their students’ Spring 2017 results on the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CASPP), the school was named an Honor Roll School by the Educational Results Partnership (ERP) and Campaign for Business and Education Excellence (CBEEE). They also received an America’s Best Urban Schools Award sponsored by the National Center for Urban School Transformation (NCUST). Read more...



Lucia Mar Unified School District is the largest school district in San Luis Obispo County, covering more than 550 square miles and serving a student population that is both geographically and demographically diverse. They implemented Thinking Maps in 2013 to build their students’ critical thinking and writing skills. Their success hinges on a professional learning community grounded in sustained, embedded professional development to support deeper implementation of the Maps. Read more.


Grit’ your Teeth...

Posted on the 25th May 2016

If only students would “grit their teeth” as the expression goes

If only students would “grit their teeth” as the expression goes, bear down, focus, decrease impulsivity, increase perseverance, and gain resilience! Voila!


Some researchers and educators are saying that this is now the magic for success.  These folks like to say that “non-cognitive” behaviors are what we all need to focus on as if these dispositions are somehow disconnected from thinking processes.  It is…

read complete blog

Building from the Ground ….Down

Posted on the 16th December 2015

Last month I traveled for two reasons.  One reason was to work with educational leaders in Ethiopia and the other was to travel across northern Ethiopia.  Little did I know that the real reason was waiting far beneath the ground. After flying into Addis Ababa and then north, our Thinking Foundation team began working in the city of Mekele in the northern Tigray region of Ethiopia. We are collaborating with a dozen university professors and lecturers, lead by the Tigray Development Association, to initiate the Thinking Schools Accreditation Process (TSAP)...  read complete blog

Learning STUFF

Posted on the 11th September 2015

As the temperature chilled the other day with late summer here in the Sierra Mountains of California, my mind jumped months ahead to the ritual of Thanksgiving and how my Mom always filled the turkey cavity with a breaded stuffing.   How could my mind jump so far ahead ?  I really loved watching her stuff that turkey and I loved to stuff huge portions in my mouth—because there was always more!  The meat was precious, the stuffing always abundant (and void of ... read complete blog

Educating a Thinking Generation

Posted on the 3rd June 2015

A Citizenry that can Think

“A literate citizenry is just a citizenry that can read… not a citizenry that can think.”  Dr. Yigal Joseph

The documentary The Language of the Mind shares the remarkable story how visual tools have changed how students in the New Rochelle School District (New York, USA) are thinking and contributing to the overall classroom discourse, regardless of English ... read complete blog

So last week a colleague asked me to explain how the Thinking Friends program supports even the youngest children in the early years to develop “executive functioning.”  That got my head whirling a bit as there are so many levels to what we are doing with these farm animals.  Much like in Orwell’s Animal Farm, these animals are best when they are working together!!

First, here is a brief introduction to Thinking Friends, then to a long foray (with apologies) into mental models, mental “cognitive” ...

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The Nature of Thinking

Posted on the 3rd March 2016

Instead of writing a blog, this entry is a reflective array of photos….. Patterns of thinking are found in and generated from nature. 

For those of you who are using Thinking Maps, take a moment to look at these ...

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Growing Thinking Schools

in Ethiopia …

Posted on the 12th November 2015

Since 2009, Robert Price has been developing Thinking Schools Ethiopia, facilitating training with school educators and NGOs.  However, in the past 18 months the project has been building momentum, culminating in the current Growing Thinking Schools Project in Tigray, Ethiopia. What began with a social media connection is now 37 laboratory model schools representing 12 Woredas...read complete blog

David Hyerle on the Big Picture view of TSI

Posted on the 05th July 2015

I’ve just flown back from the International Conference on Thinking in Bilbao, Spain with an appreciation for all that leaders in the field over the last 30 years have given us.   This conference moves every year from country to country, having started back in 1982 when this field was just becoming identified as a key pathway for transforming schools. 

Keynote presenters included those who have led the way over all of these years: Howard Gardner, Art Costa, David Perkins... read complete blog