Session 2 – Thinking Styles

Thinking Styles are a core element in learning. It frames the context for how a student stores information. In the description below you’ll learn more about the academic thinking styles that will give your child a heightened awareness as to what their learning style is based on what kind of thinker they are. And teenagers love learning about how they learn best, especially in the context of a life coaching program. Students in the classroom use this by becoming more aware of which styles they use in a group-like, academic setting. When students are aware of the teacher’s thinking style, they are more able to match their studying and what they’re doing in terms of paying attention to the teacher with or without studying methods. It is important for both the student and teacher to realize what kind of thinker they are and base the performance of the material on the style that comes easiest to them.

How you can support your child

We’ve found the best support parents can give is to read the paragraphs below and determine the kind of thinker they are. Then notice how often you revert to that thinking style. It’s fun to think about what the different styles are and how those different styles play out in family interactions. It’s fun to take notice at the dinner table, like when you’re planning the itinerary for a family vacation. By analyzing conversation, you tend to become more aware of you and your child’s thinking styles. If you find that you and your child have a different thinking style, which often happens, find where the largest differences lie. For instance, if your child is a what thinker, and you’re a why thinker, you can agreeably pay more attention to the details of the situation, as well as detail oriented questions. Your child then can understand his or her parent is more focused on the why, and can respond accordingly, offering explanations for their thoughts and actions. One of the most helpful way we both can assist a child in studying is by taking their notes and looking at each concept, and figure out which details and definitions are required, why the concept works either mathematically or scientifically, what the reasons were behind the action, or why this happened historically, or in literature, for instance. Then look at how these academic systems came to be.

From the Academic Life Coaching Workbook

Thinking Styles Just like learning styles, thinking styles are different for everyone. One of the benefits of looking at thinking styles, especially in the context of a life coaching program, is that knowing your thinking style is another tool to succeed that you can tailor to your specific process of learning. It’s another way of understanding what makes you unique, it increases your self-awareness, and it helps you understand why some teachers style makes sense while others don’t. Here’s an excerpt from an essay in Future-Proofed that addresses Thinking Styles:

The brain is a thinking machine. Just as everyone has a specific style of speaking, the brain has a specific style of thinking. From one point-of-view the brain can be thought of as an information device. It’s designed to gather information about the environment to keep you safe from danger and alert to opportunities.

Your thinking style is going to be approaching the knowledge from many different points of view. The problem occurs when students think that they know a topic, but really, they just know one perspective of the topic. They just know the details, the definitions, and not necessarily how everything fits together or connects. For example, students may know how to do a math problem but they may not necessarily know why it works or what it’s called.

When you know your thinking style, you’ll know your strength and you’ll also know what thinking styles you need to develop. Ideally, you will become comfortable in each of the three thinking styles. You will get in the habit of taking notes with each question answered for each concept, and include each thinking style in your writing.

As such, your brain focuses on 3 specific questions to make sense of the world.

1) What?

2) Why?

3) How?

How to Find Your Thinking Style

Your Academic Life Coach will provide a lot of valuable experience to help you determine your Thinking Style. Sometimes your style is readily apparent. Sometimes, it’s tough to determine. The key is to recognize the kinds of questions you find yourself asking when trying to learn something. Here are three paragraphs about characteristics of each thinking style.

What Thinkers

What-thinkers tend to love detail and want to know the names, definitions, facts, and more about the material itself. What-thinkers may put a copious number of facts in an essay, and put hours of work into their writing, but be frustrated with not earning the highest grade because teachers want more analysis. (In other words, the teachers want to know more than just the facts and have a balance of thinking styles in an essay.) What-thinkers assume that if they can know all the correct facts, and are knowledgable about the facts of a situation, the cause (or why) or method (or how) will be apparent.

Why Thinkers

Why-thinkers want to understand the reasons behind the action. Detail is somewhat important, but not as important as knowing the motivation behind someone doing something or the cause of something happening. These kinds of learners tend to drive what-teachers crazy, especially in a subject like Math. Why-thinkers assume that if they can know the causes behind something, they know all the important facts and there can be any number of methods to accomplish it.

How Thinkers

How thinkers want to understand how they can do something or how it happened. To a how-thinker, most details aren’t that important, but the essential details are paramount. When writing how-thinkers tend to summarize or retell the event from their particular point-of-view. As a result their papers tend to be light on synopsis and analysis and make the reader work to fill in many of the details. How-thinkers assume that the reasons are obvious, the details are usually superfluous, yet if someone knows how to do something, all the other pieces of knowledge will fall into place.

How to Use the Concept of Thinking Styles

Each Thinking Style is a channel or method of thought. Each is valid and important. Similar to a learning style, one of the goals of knowing about and using thinking styles is to become proficient at each style as well as know which styles might be your weak point. If you know, for instance, that you are a how-thinker, you may want to take more time focusing on the specific definitions or names when studying. If you are a what-thinker, you may want to spend more time looking for analysis and the reasons behind action. If you are a why-thinker, it would be worthwhile to spend just a little more time on the names and definitions as well as get used to learning specific methods for solving a problem.

The key to using learning styles is to become comfortable with each style, and to make sure that when you are studying you understand the concept from each of the three angles:

1) What are the details and definitions?

2) Why did it happen this way? Why does it work?

3) How did it happen and how can I do it?

Exercises for Building Your Thinking Styles

1) Take notes that you would usually take in class. Then, when reviewing your notes, code them into What, Why, and How for each major concept. If you can’t find a Why or How, that’s a good question to ask the teacher next time in class.

2) Practice writing paragraphs that address each of the four questions. Students often find themselves favoring one thinking style, which leads to writing that’s either filled with too many details and little analysis, or a summary of what happened without really letting the reader know what the main topic is and the reasons behind it. By addressing each of the four thinking styles, in turn, you ensure that you will begin to write outstanding paragraphs and papers (which will also help you on the college application).

3) Pay attention to the kinds of questions each teacher asks and the kinds of information your teacher is giving in class. Is your teacher fond of names, dates, and details? If so, then she’s probably a ‘what-thinker.’ Does he like to delve into the possible reasons why something happens? Then he’s a ‘why-thinker.’ Does she spend a lot of time going step-by-step through the problem or section? Then she’s probably a ‘how-thinker.’

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