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Six Thinking Hats: A collaborative learning strategy that works

  
  
  

collaborative learningFor those of you unfamiliar with Edward de Bono, he is the physician and author behind “parallel thinking,” the term used to describe a learning method in which all members of a group collaborate to explore—rather than argue or endlessly debate—a subject.

He writes about this concept in Six Thinking Hats, a book that essentially aims to improve communication and make decision-making in groups more focused and collaborative.

We’ve found his process particularly useful for group work and problem-solving exercises when we are discussing hot or controversial topics. Here’s how it works:

Six Thinking Hats: A collaborative learning strategy that works

First download edgalaxy’s free PDF printout; it has six cards, one for each “hat” of de Bono’s strategy. Then divide students into six different groups, giving each one a card.  

Each of the “six thinking hats” in this method offers a unique way of looking at an issue:

White hat (information): When wearing this hat, students explore the facts of the issue. They may ask questions like:

  • What do we know about this issue?
  • What information is missing?
  • Where can we find this information?

collaborative learningRed hat (feelings): When wearing this hat, the group discusses how they feel about the issue. Does it unsettle them? Engage them? Do they relate to the issue or feel invested in it? Why or why not?

Black hat (judgement): Groups wearing this hat should consider the risks or negative effects of a decision. Logic should guide this group’s reasoning.

Yellow hat (benefits): Members who have this card should consider the positive effects of a decision; logic should also be used to draw conclusions.

Green hat (creativity): This group is responsible for coming up with solutions to “black hat problems.”

Blue hat (thinking): The blue hat group should be thinking about thinking.  In other words, they must consider what type of thinking is needed to understand this issue. Do they need to summarize, compile lists, ask questions, create a timeline?

Thinking hats provide students with a clear focus—which makes grappling with ambiguous topics not only less intimidating, but manageable, making argument and endless discussion a thing of the past.

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