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Thinking Routines

capacitiesOne of the core ideas from AbD's first four years of work is that maker empowerment is a dispositional outcome, as it relates to Project Zero’s concept of thinking dispositions. The first phase of AbD's research, which focused on the promises, practices, and pedagogies of maker-centered learning, built on previous Project Zero work asserting that dispositional behavior is comprised of three elements—ability, inclination, and sensitivity. The work also underscored the important finding that “sensitivity to opportunity” is a key developmental bottleneck: in other words, people often do not activate dispositional behavior because they simply do not notice opportunities to do so. Dispositions, by definition, are habits of mind—tendencies towards regular patterns of behavior that people develop like any other habit by regularly engaging in certain forms of behavior until those behaviors become routine.

Project Zero researchers have leveraged the idea of routine behavior and developed a set of practices called thinking routines. Thinking routines are short, engaging, two-or-three-step patterns of intellectual behavior that are highly transferable across contexts. They are designed to be easy to use, easy to remember, easy to transfer, and to be vividly effective when used on a wide variety of topics. The idea is that when classroom instruction includes the frequent use of thinking routines across a range of subjects and contexts, students will become habituated to using these routines as a matter of course. In other words, they will develop dispositions related to the patterns of thinking the routines promote.

Since the late 1990s, the concept of thinking routines has played a role in several Project Zero initiatives. As part of Agency by Design's work, the research team began to wonder: What thinking routines could we borrow and expand on from other Project Zero initiatives, and what thinking routines could we develop ourselves, that would cultivate the three primary maker capacities of looking closely, exploring complexity, and finding opportunity? AbD presently showcases the five thinking routines shown below. The Parts, Purposes, Complexities thinking routine was originally developed as part of the Artful Thinking project; the Parts; Perspectives, Me thinking routine was developed as part of the Exploring Complexity initiative; the other three thinking routines were developed directly by the AbD project.

Thinking Routines from the Agency by Design project: