Communities of Thinking –
Educational vision and practice
The "Community of Thinking" is an innovative educational model developed at the Branco Weiss Institute in Jerusalem. Since the program's inception in 1996, it has been expanded and refined, while being implemented in over 20 schools throughout Israel. The program integrates a unified vision of educational aims, objects and processes; a practical framework for teaching and learning; a whole school model; and teacher development and school improvement systems.
The Community of Thinking program aims to bring educational practice up to date, both in terms of its aims and its means of operation. Regarding aims, we believe that whereas once it may have been sufficient for graduates to possess a great deal of knowledge about certain key fields, in the current world a primarily knowledge-based education will not suffice. Graduates must also possess the abilities and inclinations to think -- critically, creatively and inquisitively -- about themselves and the world they live in.
Regarding means, we have drawn upon and integrated recent advances in cognitive science and education in order to develop, test and improve a unique framework for teaching, learning and curricular design.
Teaching and learning framework
Our practice of teaching and learning is organized in three stages:
a. the question phase – in which the fertile question, a central and open-ended question relevant to the learners’ experience, is posed;
b. the inquiry phase – in which the learners engage in group research through cooperative learning and dialogical instruction; and
c. the concluding performance phase – in which research teams and the community as a whole apply what they have learned in order to develop and exhibit understanding.
These stages are supported by a continual process of initiation by which students form the common knowledge basis necessary for creating questions and conducting research.
Whole school improvement
Teaching and learning in a community of thinking is the pivotal axis for school improvement, however the base for changing schools participating in the program is broader. Accompanying the framework for teaching and learning, we have developed whole school curricular and organizational models, teacher education and in-service facilitation processes, and a network for inter-school mutual learning and cooperation.
The program has been disseminated in Israel through numerous articles, conferences, workshops, and seminars. In the English-speaking world the program has begun to attract attention, especially in Australia and New Zealand, where elements have been adopted by Australian schools participating in the Navigator Schools Consortium (NavCon) and the Learning to Learn Coalition of South Australia. Program leaders Yoram Harpaz and Adam Lefstein have appeared in international conferences and workshops in Australia, Canada, England and the U.S.A. Relevant articles appearing in English include:
Harpaz, Y. & Lefstein, A. (2000) Communities of thinking, Educational Leadership, 58(3), pp. 54-57.
Lefstein, A. (2002) Thinking power and pedagogy apart - Coping with discipline in progressivist school reform, Teachers College Record, 104(8), pp. 1627-1655.
Harpaz, Y. (in press) Teaching and Learning in a Community of Thinking, Journal of Curriculum and Supervision.
adam lefstein & yoram harpaz – firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com – august 2004