Professor Robert Fisher of Brunel University, an expert on children’s philosophy, said: “The old-fashioned view of intelligence was that you were born with it, like a nose, but cognitive research reveals that the brain is more like a muscle than a nose: you have to stretch it so it becomes more flexible.”
Real learning is not just about amassing more and more information, it is about the capacity we all have to grow and to develop our intelligence by improving our thinking skills. Skills, which Professor Fisher suggests and which we at Bedford Girls' School believe can be learned and refined over time.
Today Oxbridge, and most medical and legal colleges, test pre-entry students not on their knowledge, but on their aptitude to think. And yet recent research shows, by age 11, most pupils believe the responsibility for their learning lies with the teacher.
Our task at Bedford Girls' School is to transform this passivity, to enable our pupils to develop lively and enquiring minds with which to think about what is being taught. The skills we use include reasoning, memory, planning, decision making and creativity throughout the curriculum. Through practice, our girls become better at reasoning and problem solving and more resilient learners for whom taking risks in their learning develops their creativity and their ability to communicate.
In a changing world, the capacity to respond to change, to assimilate large amounts of data and the ability to sort this into the useful and irrelevant is increasingly important. It is our view that Thinking Skills furnish our girls with a set of transferable skills and as their thinking skills improve, their confidence grows and they become more effective learners.