As a leader it requires a lot of time, thought and collaboration to support a 'thinking culture' amongst your team. Let's face it, no-one is motivated in their work when there is a 'push down' approach or a 'one size fits all' model. We know that these types of approaches do not create dynamic, evolving, thinking early childhood spaces!
Whilst I do not think anyone consciously approaches leading in this way, what I have observed in many early childhood setting is that it can slowly sneak up on you. HOW and WHAT you spend your time on EVERYDAY - over long periods will accumulate - this contributes to the culture in your space, what your team focus on, talk about and 'bring to the table'! So yes ... it is the small micro interactions that matter the most not necessarily the outcome of your latest assessment and rating report.
A commitment to a 'thinking culture' does not come in a nicely packaged box with a well laid out set of rules and activities to ‘make it work’ - there are no templates! What it does require is a combination of complex skills, knowledge and dispositions to be cultivated by both leaders and teaching teams overall. This will mean that creating a SAFE ENVIRONMENT for your team to share their thinking is a top priority. Of course this no easy feat, but by far the most rewarding environment to be engaged in where the outcomes for children AND adults learning has the potential to be out of the box!
So as a leader what are some of the strategies you can adopt to cultivate thinking?
Ask powerful questions - create a positive tension when exploring pedagogy & practice - give your team something to think about!
Engage critically to foster depth in thinking.
Recognise the value of thinking and give it the time required.
Empower people to find solutions.
Model thinking - talk out loud with your colleagues.
Reflect with others - an important meaning-making process.
Celebrate thinking in your space!
- Learning is a Consequence of Thinking -
A culture of thinking produces the energy, feelings and motivation to push any team forward – this is WHY it is essential. John Dewey coined the phrase "All thinking is research" in his 1933 book called "How We Think" and identified 3 attributes that must be fostered: open-mindedness, wholeheartedness and responsibility. How do you nurture these in your own professional identity as a leader, teacher or educator?
In order to best engage what to do I also find it helpful to be aware of what NOT to do, the aspects that possibly limit a thinking culture? Being self aware and reflective of your leadership approach will offer you the best protection so limitations don't creep their way into your practice and erode your services potential? Here are a few pointers from my own experience:
Guard against creating unnecessary rules.
Refrain from always giving answers.
Don't over simplify pedagogy - dare to 'go there'.
Try to 'sit with' tension, debate or idea's that are oppositional to your own.
I have come to the conclusion that creating a thinking culture is an absolute necessity in building strong, collaborative and innovation teams!
So what can you embrace in your own practice to model, invite and activate thinking in your early childhood space? To leverage the power of thinking let me end with this video. It provides a visual narrative for 'thinking routines' - a practical framework that you can start to engage immediately!