This initiative grew out of the work that Heidi Siwak and her Dundas Central grade 7 students began in February 2013. Those students had spent the school year deeply involved in Inquiry – investigating everything from what will happen once robots begin making moral decisions on behalf of humans to what it means to be a learner. Heidi attended a workshop at The Rotman School of Management’s I-Think K-12 initiative. There she learned specific strategies and tools students could use to develop deeper, more creative and complex thinking. The students began a unique thinking and problem-solving journey. Followed closely by Rotman, Nogah Kornberg began providing shoulder to shoulder support. Ellie Avishai, Josie Fung and Nogah Kornberg visited Dundas Central to work directly with the grade 7 students to deepen their integrative thinking skills.
Audrey Hensen- vice-principal and Barry Morlog-principal arranged for all middle school teachers at Dundas Central to participate in a one day introduction to integrative thinking. Teachers were positive about the experience, recognizing the potential these skills and strategies offered students as they worked to become better thinkers and move through inquiry.
Some significant developments emerged from this work. The first was that students began to listen carefully to the thoughts of others so that better ideas could be uncovered and built upon. The second was that students realized they weren’t just participating in ‘school’; the strategies they were learning were causing them to become better and more confident people.
Recognizing the potential this had for our intermediate school learners, Audrey Hensen, Heidi Siwak, Barry Morlog and Kelly Rizzo submitted a proposal to cluster Superintendent Mag Gardner to broaden opportunities for students in the West Cluster to learn the tools of integrative thinking. In the proposal it was suggested that high school teachers be included so that the work begun in middle school could continue.
There are several unique elements to the HWDSB Integrative Thinking Initiative.
The first is that this is not a top down initiative. This is growing from the work dedicated teachers are already performing daily in their classrooms. Part of the goal of this project is to allow teachers to use their skills and expertise to collaboratively develop integrative thinking in ways that makes sense to their individual contexts. Teachers will co-learn with program department personnel and administrators. It is a model for PD that we find exciting!
The second is the breaking down of silos. We are bringing together elementary and high school panels so that, hopefully, diversity of ideas and contexts will lead to a broader understanding of how to develop integrative thinking in our adolescent learners.
The third is that the curriculum has not been preset. Teachers will spend 3 days working with Ellie, Nogah, Christopher and Josie from The Rotman School of Management, but the program will be developed in collaboration with and in response to the needs of the participants.
That being said, there is a guiding plan:
1. The Rotman School of Management I-Think team will be facilitating our learning.
2. Teachers will experience integrative thinking so that they understand its benefits.
3. Teachers will learn the tools of integrative thinking.
4. Teachers will develop curriculum that incorporates the tools of integrative thinking.
5. Teachers will experiment with integrative thinking in their classrooms.
6. Teachers will share what they observe and learn.
7. In between sessions with Rotman teachers will meet in person or virtually to share what happens once we introduce students to integrative thinking, to ask questions and to receive support.
The research department of the HWDSB is supporting this initiative. They will be conducting surveys that measure and assess the impact on teachers and students of integrative thinking.