Book Review: Creating Cultures of Thinking

618mnmxxexlI am proud to say that I heeded the advice of my friend and colleague, Philip Cummings, to read Ron Richhart’s book “Making Thinking Visible” a few years ago.  The best teacher books—in my humble opinion—are the ones that present practical strategies that straddle the line between things that make sense and things that you are already doing.  Ritchhart’s book hit that sweet spot for me, and I found the ideas in it compelling.  I’ve made many of them a part of my regular instruction in class.

Last month, I finally had time to read Ritchhart’s newest book, “Creating Cultures of Thinking: The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools“.  It is similar in many ways to Making Thinking Visible, but it’s the differences that really explain my mixed feelings about the new book.

First, while the first book was extremely practical and easy to implement in a classroom, Creating Cultures of Thinking seems aimed at a much larger scale.  I struggled at times to see how I could use the ideas in the book to make a difference in my own classroom.  The chapter about time management seemed to be simultaneously about abstract beliefs and institutional decision-making.  His final chapter is entirely focused on the large-scale efforts that can bring about the cultural changes for which he advocates.  These left me wishing for more power in my learning space.

On the other hand, his discussion of the hidden role of modeling in education and the four types of modeling really hit home.  Ritchhart writes,

“[The four types of modeling practices] can be identified as:

  • Dispositional apprenticeship: being a role model of learning and thinking
  • Cognitive apprenticeship: making our thinking visible
  • Gradual release of responsibility: modeling for independence
  • Interactive modeling: learning from examples, practice, and reflection

Because modeling is almost a hidden dimension of teaching, understanding each of these practices more fully can be useful as we seek to create a culture of thinking”

I find this categorization of modeling to be very useful in helping me focus on the skills that I have and the ones that I need to develop in myself as a teacher.   Overall, I was glad to have read the book and grateful for the thinking that it stimulated.  But, I will continue to recommend Making Thinking Visible as one of my five favorite recent education books, and leave this one for the policy makers and school leaders.

Have your read this book?  What’s your take?  Leave a comment.

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