Collaborative Networking
Collaboration between & with Students, Educators, Leaders

27 February 2012
post by Robert Price

Collaborative Networking

between us in pairs, groups, schools, and global networks
Collaborative Networking is one of Thinking Schools Ethiopia’s Six Starting Points of Thinking which includes reflective questioning; thinking skills; visual mapping; collaborative networking; developing dispositions; and structuring environment. This blog posting will explore Collaborative Networking.

The techniques for cooperative learning are many and there are many models for establishing collaborative groups, classrooms and schools. The research on cooperative learning in school and the need for high quality collaborative groups in the work place connect to the recent evolution of social networking through new technologies as learners engage other learners around the globe. Collaborative Networking (i.e. collaborative learning at all levels) can greatly change the success of students, educators and the community as thinkers and learners. It is sustainable and a low cost high impact methodology – a transformative design. Like all implementations aiming for sustainable success: whole school implementation with a goal of mastery is important if not vital.  In this post we’ll briefly look at collaborative networking from within the classroom to whole school to global including:

  • Collaborative Learning – Students
  • Collegial Coaching – Teachers and School Leaders
  • Professional Learning Communities
  • Collaborative Learning between Schools Regionally and with Country
  • Collaborative Learning between Schools Globally
  • Methods
  • Tools

Collaborative Learning – Students
Peer to Peer sharing and learning
Collaborative learning is an environment  in which two or more people learn or attempt to learn something together. People engaged in collaborative learning capitalize on one another’s resources and skills:

  • asking one another for information,
  • evaluating one another’s ideas,
  • monitoring one another’s work,
  • learning from each other’s prior knowledge – schema,
  • etc.

Collaborative learning is based on the model that knowledge can be created within a population where members actively interact by sharing experiences. Several examples of many that are very effective include Think-Pair-Share; Three-Step Interview and Learning Teams (one page outline – pdf file). Visual Mapping and Reflective Questioning are very effective elements to use within cooperative learning.

An example excerpted from a chapter on the Thinking Schools Ethiopia project in an upcoming book on Thinking from Corwin Press models the potential of collaborative learning on a global level:

  • A vivid example of the potential this had for our collaborative effort occurred during my fifth visit to Ethiopia when students at Children’s Home Academy were using a laptop in their garden to Skype with a school in North Carolina, USA. The students in Ethiopia were in the student’s garden – one of five at the Children’s Home Academy that provides food for the student lunches. The North Carolina students were tethered to the classroom computer talking about a garden they were envisioning. It was apparent that the food movement in the USA has much to share with and also learn from locations in parts of the world that actually need to have school gardens.

Collaborative learning methodologies can support the development of increasingly complex types of thinking. Benjamin Bloom developed a hierarchy of six types of thinking which become increasingly complex and demanding. Though the “levels” have increasing complexity, at any age level or at any time within a classroom context a teacher or student may move between different levels. There is no linear sequence required for use of this taxonomy. The six levels (as revised by Andersen)

  • creating
  • evaluating
  • analyzing
  • applying
  • understanding
  • remembering

Collegial Coaching – Teachers and School Leaders

Collegial Coaching is a model that improves teaching — especially performance (i.e. pedagogy) — by observing, learning, and coaching each other within our learning community. Successful Collegial Coaching includes:

  • openness to observe and learn as professional colleagues;
  • creating systems of observation and learning;
  • using techniques that provide a means to learn from each other regularly.

Collegial Coaching includes regular collaborative coaching, discussion groups, and practicing collaboratively in real classroom environments.

Observation techniques should be clear with goals and techniques to support our collaborative learning. We use techniques based on research to fully develop our abilities as focused observers. An example might be deciding on a specific focus to observe for (e.g. a specific student behavior) then while observing writing and sketching observations + questions. We all bring skills to learn from — new and veteran teachers. By honoring, and pooling our varied and collective talents, the goal of providing the best possible learning environment(s) for students reaches new heights. The Instructional Coaching model initially includes coaching support from outside sources, but ultimately our greatest resources are peer to peer within our teaching and learning community.

An example of one Collegial Coaching Model usually in small groups (3-4 best) where the educators regularly observe each other. The model includes:

  • The Briefing – The participants initially meet to provide an overview of the lesson and determine the observation focus. It is best to select a facilitator for these sessions. The briefing format includes:
  • The Lesson – The lesson will provide an opportunity to observe strategies and techniques that interest all the participants. The lesson format includes:
  • The Debriefing – The teachers will meet immediately after the lesson to share observations. It should involve all participants including the teacher leading the lesson.

Professional Learning Communities
Within Schools—Between Schools
A professional learning community (PLC) is an extended learning opportunity to foster collaborative learning among colleagues within a particular work environment or field. It is often used in schools as a way to organize teachers into working groups.

Collaborative Learning between Schools
Locally, Regionally, Country, Globally
The methods used by students and educators in a classroom, within a school and local area can be expanded further – including within a region, country and globally. There are many technology tools to support such expanded collaborations – especially when the collaborative learning methodologies are solidly grounded and implemented initially on a local level.

While ALL six starting points of thinking are relevant and integrative with Collaborative Networking Visual Tools, Reflective Questioning, Structuring Environment are very instrumental in building success. Additionally, Community Building Exercises can be a very effective method of building understanding and respect of the collaborating people.


Visual Mapping for Organizing, Understanding and Sharing Our Thinking

23 February 2012
Visual Mapping
post by Robert Price

Visual Mapping – Visual Tools…

Visual Mapping is one of Thinking Schools Ethiopia’s Six Starting Points of Thinking which includes reflective questioning; thinking skills; visual mapping; collaborative networking; developing dispositions; and structuring environment. This blog posting will explore Visual Mapping. Schools that participate with Growing Thinking Schools professional development training can participate in sessions on Visual Mapping and Thinking Maps® as part of their whole school transformative design. Read more on Thinking Schools Ethiopia and Thinking Schools Trainings on this website.

Visual mapping transforms the way we SEE thinking — SEEING the patterns of our thinking and with other people’s thinking. They are a tool to organize our thinking supporting deeper thinking and understanding. Visual mapping improves comprehension, writing and presentations. Think of how a road map is used: to ‘map’ out a journey and understand where a place is in context to other locations. Visual mapping for organizing and seeing thinking provides a ‘road map’ for the mind. Thinking Schools Ethiopia uses Thinking Maps® in trainings – eight maps representing eight different ways the brain cognitively thinks and understands things.

An excerpt from the book Visual Tools for Transforming Information Into Knowledge by David Hyerle (2011, Second Edition, Corwin Press) will provide an introduction with visual tools. Thinking Schools Ethiopia is in the process of translating the highly respected book into Amharic courtesy of the author and publisher. The excerpt Summary Definition of Visual Tools from the book follows below:

“Visual tools are nonlinguistic symbol systems used by learners, teachers, and leaders for graphically linking mental and emotional associations to create and communicate rich patterns of thinking. These visual-spatial-verbal displays of understanding support all learners in transforming static information into active knowledge, thus offering a complementary representational system to more traditional literacies grounded in speaking, writing, and numerating. These linear and/or nonlinear visual forms are also metacognitive tools for self-assessment in each content area and for interdisciplinary learning that may unite linguistic, numerical, and scientific languages together on the same page. There are three basic categories of visual tools, each with specific purposes and visual configurations:

  • brainstorming webs for fostering creativity and open mindedness;
  • graphic organizers for fostering analytical content and process specific learning;
  • conceptual mapping for fostering cognitive development and critical thinking

Watch the video below on Thinking Maps and brain research with Pat Wolf known for her work with the translation of brain research to classroom practice.

A fourth category is a unique synthesis language of visual tools that has been used extensively across schools called Thinking Maps® (Hyerle, 1996; Hyerle & Yeager, 2008). This common visual language of visual tools integrates the creative dynamism of webs, the analytical structures of content-specific learning, and the continuous cognitive development and reflections fostered through conceptual mapping. Over time, new visual languages may develop that integrate different visual tools and thus enabling a greater range of thinking, communication, and reflection. Visual tools are used for personal, collaborative, and social communication, negotiation of meaning, and networking of ideas. These graphics are constructed by individual or collaborative learners across media networks and mediums such as paper, white boards, and computer screens. Because of the visual accessibility and natural processes of “drawing out” ideas, many of these graphics are used from early childhood through adulthood, and across every dimension of learning, teaching, assessing, and leadership processes. Visual tools are also used across cultures and languages and may become keys to new levels of more democratic participation and communication in human systems. Across traditional cultures and new “virtual” cultures, visual languages ultimately may be used for uniting diverse and distant learning communities as people in schools, communities, and businesses and in different countries seek to understand each other through seeing each others’ thinking and perceptions through multiple frames of reference.”

Thinking Schools Ethiopia professional development training starts with the initial two day Growing Thinking Schools training. During this workshop leadership teams develop their ‘journey’ with a visual flow map of the steps they will have the staff train and master. While each school might have different starting points, visual mapping is often an excellent entry point for developing the whole school with Thinking Schools Ethiopia. Visual Mapping is one of the six starting points of thinking that the staff may decide to learn, use and master.

More on Visual Mapping:
Research: Thinking Foundation:
Thinking Maps®:
Thinking Schools International:
Concept Mapping:

See the 14 February blog posting for information on David Hyerle – international expert on Visual Mapping and the creator of Thinking Maps who will be in Addis Ababa from the 4th-8th March. Contact Bereket Aweke for more details.

Thank you Geoffrey Suddreth, General Manager of Thinking Maps®, Inc. and David Hyerle, creator of Thinking Maps® and founder of Thinking Foundation for providing use of Thinking Maps® with professional development for school leaders, NGO leaders and educators in Ethiopia.

Video below is a collection of still images of Thinking Maps® by children and educators in Addis Ababa and Hossana Ethiopia

Crafting Your Child’s Future… Thinking Schools Ethiopia

By: Edda Zekarais
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 

This article is taken from the upcoming March issue of  ” The Eminence” magazine.

‘Isn’t thinking a key component of most learning and isn’t student learning the primary function of all schools? Unfortunately, a great deal of evidence would appear to indicate that a significant proportion of pupils pass through their 15,000 hours of schooling without being required to do much real thinking at all. External tests and examinations are prepared for and passed at every level by means of drills and rote-memory exercises with the result that a great deal of superficial information may have been accumulated without any reflection on its value or the meaning. Meanwhile, the notion of an autonomous (and group orientated) learner and problem-solver has been completely lost.’ (Professor Bob Burden (University of EXETER-UK)

Indeed, can we take a moment and reflect on the type of routine education we have had? Better yet, if a parent, what sort of education/ learning system have we put our most valuable children into? If a teacher, what have students learnt with us today? If part of the school administration, what values have we imparted on our students and have we truly made an effort to engage with our students beyond reminding them to pay tuition fees, respect school rules or even keep grade scores up so that our school is successful?
Fundamental as these and other related questions might be, they only tend to be asked contextually. In other words, they are left as questions to be asked and responded to by those in the system of education. It is rather unfortunate that it fails to be understood that such bearings only hamper and limit the exploration of maximum capacities to teach and learn. What such a statement alludes to is the fact that, learning and teaching should not only be limited to teacher and student, and within the confines of a school compound.
The truth of the matter is, raising questions alone without suggesting or providing tangible solutions to such issues is equally hazardous as doing nothing at all.
On the other hand, the beauty of the matter is, profound dedications and contributions have been made to address the issue(s). In addition, time and time again, across continents, it has been proven this effort works! This is in reference to Thinking Schools International. Initiated in the UK and US by David Hyerle and Richard Cummins, Thinking Schools International has been integrated into schooling systems in the UK, Norway, South Africa, Malaysia, India, Brazil and Northern Ireland.

Defined a
‘Thinking School is an educational community in which all members share a common commitment to giving regular careful thought to everything that takes place. This will involve both students and staff learning how to think reflectively, critically and creatively, and to employing these skills and techniques in the co-construction of a meaningful curriculum and associated activities. Successful outcomes will be reflected in student’s across a wide range of abilities demonstrating independent and co-operative learning skills, high levels of achievement and both enjoyment and satisfaction in learning. Benefits will be shown in ways in which all members of the community interact with and show consideration for each other and in the positive psychological well-being of both students and staff.’
(Professor Bob Burden (University of EXETER-UK)

Understanding the benefits associated with Thinking Schools approach or learning, Eminence Social Entrepreneurs in collaboration with Thinking Schools International (TSI) have created Thinking Schools Ethiopia (TSE). This partnership without doubt comes at a crucial moment in the thriving academic sphere of Ethiopia.
Education is a basic foundation for any country’s development, especially in the context of developing nations. In our context, Ethiopia’s globally appraised growth will require constant human capital productive involvement. This condition creates obligation to cultivate these required skills from childhood and continue building them even in adulthood life circumstances. In such environments, progress is visible and achievable considering; each and every single person becomes a stakeholder in the processes created therewith.
Approaches and ideas set forth by Thinking Schools International also apply for Thinking Schools Ethiopia. In other words, the ‘whole-school’ teaching-learning approach is to be implemented within Ethiopia and in the long-run across the region. A vigorous pilot programmed phase between 2009 and 2011 was completed with utmost success. Following, TSE conducted pre-implementation training with government and private schools, the latest one having taken place November 2011. Consequently, the Addis Ababa City Administration Education Bureau signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Eminence (TSE) officially making it possible for the latter to commence preparations for initially working with schools in Addis Ababa.
This whole school method of teaching changes systems of the teaching-learning processes by making everyone a learner and teacher at the same time. Conventional schooling systems that focus on teacher-dominated learning, non-child/ learner friendly learning environments/ spaces, non-creative thinking, minimal parent and school administration involvement, etc are some of the aspects that TSE will work with in schools.
Of recent, Thinking Schools Ethiopia has received support from UNESCO-IICBA (UNESCO International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa), which serves as great acknowledgement and also encouragement at the same time for this grand initiative in the area of education.
I would like to see this continue in some form…this was a complete success…to have on an ongoing basis…for public school teachers…that would assist the whole education system in the country because this was a workshop about changing minds…acquiring a new set of beliefs about what education is all about… (Awol Endris, Dr— Program Director at UNESCO – IIICBA)
Future prospects for TSE hold expansion within Ethiopia and eventually in the region. In all of the engagements that will follow the progress, TSE will further strengthen Eminence’s social responsibility based initiatives that are crafted for wider community good.
“…I have started up using Thinking Maps…managing my own classrooms…now every single individual in my classroom is very much engaged in what we try to do…this has become a two way communication…” Mr. Addis – English Teacher
Video of Mr. Addis interview including how the integration of Thinking Schools Ethiopia training has impacted him as a teacher and the affect on his students…

Additional thoughts from Mr. Addis on the need for participant centered professional development training…

Eminence (Thinking Schools Ethiopia) to Host Thinking Schools International Co-Founder & Thinking Foundation Head

By:Edda Zekarias (Communications Officer at Eminence)


Dr. David Hyerle will be visiting Eminence (Thinking Schools Ethiopia) on March 3-8, 2012. During this visit, he will meet and discuss with select government officials and partners both from the government and private sector.

Brief Intro

David Hyerle, EdD, is an author, researcher, seminar leader, and keynote speaker focused on integrating content learning, thinking process instruction, and collaborative leadership across whole schools. He is founding director of the Thinking Foundation, a nonprofit organization supporting research in cognitive and critical thinking development for the purpose of creating thinking schools nationally and internationally.

Growing Thinking Schools from the Inside Out 

The creation of his Thinking Maps model emerged from his experiences as a middle school teacher in inner city Oakland, California, USA. His development of Thinking Maps was also informed by his work with the Bay Area Writing Project and the Cognitive Coaching model.

Among his numerous professional books and articles based on visual tools research, David wrote the foundational training materials for Thinking Maps and guided the professional development process with Thinking Maps, Inc. The Thinking Maps model is used across the United States and the United Kingdom, Singapore, New Zealand, Ethiopia, South Africa and many other countries. David co-wrote the training guide Thinking Maps: A Language for Leadership and edited Student Successes With Thinking Maps, a professional book presenting background research and documenting the professional development outcomes from the implementation of Thinking Maps.

David is co-director with Richard Cummins of Thinking Schools International that currently has projects in United Kingdom (over 400 schools), Norway, South Africa, Malaysia, Ethiopia and other countries.

David earned a doctorate and bachelor’s at the University of California–Berkeley and has served as a visiting scholar at the Harvard School of Education.

Visual Tools 

Current Books by David Hyerle:
Visual Tools for Transforming Information Into Knowledge
Corwin Press, Second Edition, © 2009, 192 pages
By David Hyerle
Prologue by Arthur L. Costa
Foreword by Robert J. Marzano

Student Successes With Thinking Maps®
School-Based Research, Results, and Models for Achievement Using Visual Tools
Corwin Press, Second Edition, © 2011, 248 pages
By David Hyerle and Larry Alper
Foreword by Patricia Wolfe

Developing Connected Leadership
Solution Tree Press
By David Hyerle, Larry Alper, Kim Williams
read more about the book 


The Process of Developing Cognition

Starting the Vision
Growing Thinking Schools
From the Inside Out — a Transformative Design
Learner Centered Professional Development

This is the first of several upcoming postings that will provide an overview of the Thinking Schools Ethiopia process – beginning with the initial Growing Thinking Schools two day workshops. The upcoming blogs will look into each of the Six Starting Points of Thinking (visual mapping, reflective questions, environmental structure, collaborative networking, thinking skills and dispositions) as well as assessment and IT integration. Each of the six starting points of thinking will be highlighted separately and how they are a transformative design collectively in upcoming blogs. Any reflections and/or questions are appreciated in the ‘responses’ section.

The initial two day Growing Thinking Schools sessions is for school leadership teams about to embark on whole school transformative design change using Thinking Schools Ethiopia thinking methodologies. The leadership team is comprised of the principal and other key faculty and staff who are school leaders in teams of 4-6 people per school. It is not about one size fits all. It is taking 21st century thinking methodologies that we know work (research as learned through practice) and then the school leadership team determining where their school (and school community) is currently, and how best to vision, create, achieve and sustain their goals. Mastery and sustainability are key visions of Thinking Schools Ethiopia. The initial two day Growing Thinking Schools sessions include learning and using Thinking Schools Ethiopia’s six starting points of learning to:
—learn (and reflect) about ourselves
—learn (and reflect) about our schools (and/or NGO organizations) as a collaborative team
—learn together as teams building a collaborative network between different schools and people
—learn thinking methodologies in a participatory centered (mirroring student centered) manner
—learn collaboratively within our leadership team AND between other school’s leadership teams
—develop understanding, thinking out ideas, learning each other’s perspectives (frame of reference), and developing an initial Growing Thinking Schools plan with visual tools…
—create a plan that includes mastery for the leadership team, the teachers, the school support staff, the students, and the greater community.

Click on the images above to see the full photos and/or visual mapping.
The images are left to right:

  • building community;
  • visual mapping with Working Field Guide;
  • Growing Thinking Schools training;
  • visual overview of Growing Thinking Schools implementation in Ethiopia 

The Thinking Schools Ethiopia – a collaborator with the Thinking Schools International network – six starting points of thinking methodologies  include:

1. Reflective Questioning high quality questioning and listening skills
2. Thinking Skills explicit use of cognitive processes
3. Visual Mapping the use of visual tools to map out ideas
4. Collaborative Networking between us in pairs, groups, schools, and global networks that includes collaborative learning; collegial coaching; regional and global collaborationsExamples include collaborative learning, collegial coaching, professional learning communities, parent involvement.
5. Developing Dispositions characteristics, dispositions, and habits of mind are engaged
6. Structuring Environment considering how the physical space is organize and resources used


Each of the six starting points of thinking will be highlighted separately and how they are a transformative design collectively in upcoming blogs.

The video clip below shares participants reflections
from a recent Growing Thinking Schools Ethiopia training.

Innovation and Ideas are Bidirectional
Locally & Globally

posted by Robert Price & Bereket Aweke
click on responses above to leave a comment 

Thinking Schools Ethiopia is part of the Thinking Schools International network that includes thinking schools in the United Kingdom (over 400 schools), South Africa, Norway, Northern Ireland, Malaysia and other countries. It is a vision to share bidirectionally, innovations and ideas between and among all schools in a collaborative manner to benefit students worldwide. This begins with respecting that innovation and ideas originate globally, then using 21st century methods (of thinking) to collaborate. The Thinking Schools Ethiopia project really began to take form when we started using Skype to communicate. This provided a tool for sharing ideas via text, voice and in view.

A vivid example of the potential this had for our collaborative effort occurred during my fifth visit to Ethiopia when students at a K-8 school in Ethiopia were using a laptop in their garden to skype with a school in North Carolina, USA. The students in Ethiopia were in the student’s garden – one of five at the Children’s Home Academy that provides food for the student lunches. The North Carolina students were tethered to the classroom computer talking about a garden they were envisioning. It was apparent that the food movement in the USA has much to share with and also learn from locations in parts of the world that actually need to have school gardens.

While the Thinking Schools approach is a systems approach that focuses on sustainability, funding for Ethiopia, a country with one of the lowest per capita incomes in the world (212 out of 228 countries) and currently the eighth highest population growth rate in the world, can dampen the potential. We believe there are some excellent mechanisms that can be implemented to provide support for innovation at a low per school cost and develop sustainability from within. Preparing a highly skilled team of master facilitators within Ethiopia along with a body of action research from Ethiopian educators should support the potential into a realization.

The recent memo of understanding (MoU) between Thinking Schools Ethiopia (part of Eminence Social Entrepreneurs – an Ethiopian founded and owned organization in Addis Ababa) provides a starting point of bidirectional change – an idea and ideal of global collaboration. And further supported with UNESCO’s recognition of Thinking Schools Ethiopia being a model of ‘modern pedagogy’.

Ethiopia has been an independent nation since ancient times, and is one of the oldest countries in the world. The workshops to date with over 2000 Ethiopian educators have provided a context, and a foundation to the potential. Most importantly the potential of the children – a generation of thinkers to come…

The video clip below shares a Thinking Schools Ethiopia demonstration lesson facilitated by Robert Price. During the use of collaborative learning,  visual mapping (Thinking Maps), reflective questions and structuring environment, the students discussed deforestation and other current events. Like the garden example above, the students’ hands-on personal experiences genuinely lend a collaborative potential of sharing ideas and innovations in a bidirectional manner…