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Creating Cultures of Thinking: Home

Resources for "Creating Cultures of Thinking: The Eight Forces We Must Master To Truly Transform Our Schools" by Ron Ritchhart of Project Zero at HGSE. [Guide by Stephen Taylor for Western Academy Beijing]

Principles & Messages

Understanding Map

Based on decades of research in schools around the world, "Creating Cultures of Thinking" by Ron Ritchhart of Project Zero at Harvard's Graduate School of Education (HGSE PZ), presents eight "cultural forces" that we must master to truly transform our school. Cultures of Thinking (CCOT) and Making Thinking Visible (MTV) are used widely in IB World Schools, and the tools and habits of CCOT will support the work of WAB in FLoW21

In the video interview above, Ron Ritchhart summarises the need for and ideas behind Creating Cultures of Thinking. It contains many great quotes that can be a stimulus for thinking and development. 

  • "Children grow into the intellectual life around them." LS Vygotsky
  • Happiness can be described as "time well spent". H. Gardner. 

Paraphrases from Ron:

  • We want students who are action oriented for global competence.
  • There is no contrast between doing well on exams and learning to think well. In fact scores go up.
  • Some of the things we do to "prepare" students for university (SAT etc), don't. 
  • We want students to do well - for the long term, not the short term. 
  • If we give anything lip service, we won't see results. It's not a quick fix. 
  • We can work on meta-strategic knowledge: skills and making thinking visible. 
  • In a culture of thinking, the group & individual's thinking are valued, visible & actively promoted
  • What kinds of thinking (thinking moves) are required in our disciplines and are we challenging our learners?
  • Opportunities for (personalized/differentiated) learning must have a low floor, high ceiling and wide walls


Snapshot Observations

WAB Labs: Reflection Questions

Reflection Questions/ Activities for Stephen's WAB Lab Sessions

  1. "Children grow into the intellectual life around them.Vygotsky
  2. Chalk Talk: Eight Cultural Forces in Action at WAB
  3. Give One, Get One: Bullet Journal
  4. Take-home reflection: Me You Space Time (MYST)

10 Ideas To Start Building a Culture of Thinking in Your School

Resource link (pdf - Project Zero): 

  • Have a conversation using the Chalk Talk routine 
  • Do a Ghost Walk at your school 
  • Engage in an article or book study 
  • Identify, "What thinking lives in my classroom?"
  • Discuss a video
  • Collect some data
  • Try a Thinking Routine schoolwide 
  • Use 
 Protocol with a group
  • Institute a "What if...Week"
  • Celebrate thinking 

About Stephen

Stephen Taylor

Director of Innovation in Learning & Teaching

Coach: Project Zero Online (Creating Cultures of Thinking IBEN: MYP Consultant & School Visitor

MA International Education, PGCE, BSc. Marine Biology

Website:      Twitter: @sjtylr

Blog: Wayfinder Learning Lab (

More: blogs, articles & resources

Creative Teaching & Learning Magazine: Celebrating 50 Years of Project Zero

Download a free copy of Creative Teaching & Learning magazine here

Project Zero began more than five decades ago to address a gap in scholarship on arts-based education. Over the past fifty years, they have continued research on arts-based learning and expanded their work to ask questions about learning.

From Zero to Fifty: Marking a Half-Century of Project Zero’s Impact in Education
From developing arts-based education to understanding the nature of creativity, intelligence, thinking and learning, Project Zero has changed what we know about human potential and educational practices. Director Daniel Gray Wilson highlights Project Zero’s contributions.

Valuing Thinking in the Arts
Why study the arts? Can the arts help us think? Does arts education have value for other areas of the curriculum? Ellen Winner shows how Project Zero is finding real answers to these often elusive and problematic questions.

How Are We Smart? 
What does it mean to be intelligent? We now know that intelligence, far from being singular, innate and fixed, is in fact multifaceted and learnable. Flossie Chua shows that it’s much less important to measure intelligence than to understand how we can get it.

The Quest for Deeper Understanding
Education that focuses on factual recall leaves students without the skills they need to apply their knowledge. Tina Grotzer explains why depth of understanding is important and how it can be achieved.

Leveraging Culture with Ron Ritchhart 
Reconsidering what schools are and what they aim to do has inspired the leader of Project Zero’s ‘Cultures of Thinking’ project to truly examine and understand what it is that creates the optimal conditions for learning. In this interview we learn more about what drives him.

Transferring Ownership of Learning 
An important way to leverage the cultural forces of the classroom for learning is to find opportunities for meaningful interactions. Teachers Jeff Watson and Roger Winn show how they’re using the Cultures of Thinking framework to create community within the classroom.

Assessment Reimagined
What if there were an alternative to traditional notions of assessment and accountability that could change what ‘counts’ in the classroom? Mara Krechevsky and Tina Blythe show how Project Zero is rethinking assessment practices that foster deeper levels of learning and understanding.

Five Lessons Learned About Creativity
In the old days, creativity was an elusive concept that belonged only to a talented few. Now we know that it is not the work of a genius, but a distributed and participatory process that can be developed and learned. Edward Clapp shares what the research has taught us.