Category Archives: Thinking Classrooms

Teaching Environments in Preschool Teaching

Paper presented at ECER, the European Conference on Educational Research, 23-26 August 2016, Dublin, Ireland.
Research Director, dr. Ann S. Pihlgren, Ignite Research Institute
Box 116, SE-761 22 Norrtälje, SWEDEN

See slideshow: Slideshow Teaching environments

Read the paper: Teaching Environments in Preschool, Pihlgren

This paper analyzes how preschool teachers and caretakers meet the demands for cognitive and creative development of children. Observations of 40 sessions in preschools for 1-5-year-old children, and staff interviews were used. The questions guiding the analysis concern how preschool staff describe the considerations they make when planning, how this is represented in the observed activities, and how the results compare to the school and afterschool material analysis.
Teaching thinking and creativity presupposes that the teacher plans, assesses, chooses activities and tools, and arranges the setting carefully, with focus on fostering children’s habits of mind. The contextual and communicational interactions play a vital part of support. Evidence of the anticipated criteria was difficult to ascertain in the observed preschools as well as in the previously observed classrooms and afterschools. All previously found teaching environments were found in the preschool material, with a bulk of the child-investigative teaching environment. This environment is similar to Pramling’s description of ‘child centered pedagogy’. A few preschool teachers present successful planning models and interactional activities to improve children’s thinking and creativity, and was found similar to Pramling’s ‘development pedagogy’.

Discussing Religion – Discourses in Plans for Thoughtful Dialogues

Paper presented at ECER, the European Conference on Educational Research, 8-11 September 2015, Budapest, Hungary.

By: PhD Ann S. Pihlgren, Ignite Research Institute, Master of Theology Malin Pihlgren Nylander, Church of Sweden.

Read the paper: Pihlgren & Pihlgren Discussing religion – discourses in thoughtful dialogues with students

See slide show: Presentation Discussing religion ECER


This paper analyzes discourses in method materials for thoughtful dialogues in the classroom. It focuses on materials presenting religious and moral subjects. ‘Thoughtful dialogues’ refers to a family of interrelated methods for philosophizing with students, e.g. philosophy for/with children, and Socratic seminars, using open-ended questions, and an investigating and collaborative interlocution. The questions guiding the study were:

  • What discourses can be found in methodological materials for thoughtful dialogue addressing the subject religion?
  • Are questions in the materials used to address faith, morality, and teaching? If so, how?
  • How are the discourses found in the methodological materials related to the discourses in religious education in a highly secularized country (Sweden)?

In this study a social constructionist/poststructuralist approach is taken, where knowledge is considered contextual and social, and where an action or stance therefore can be considered as impossible or natural depending on how the world is perceived within the dominating discourse. Our analysis was carried out by using a revised version of Fairclough’s (2013) three-dimensional conception of discourse, presenting an analytical frame for empirical discourse research: Analysis of texts, of discursive practice, and of discursive events as instances of social practice.

The results show three discourses in the material. The discourse of critical thinking in school is the most frequent, and aims at transforming teaching. Faith is normally not a part of the agenda. The teaching philosophy in school discourse does not address faith, and moral questions and the egalitarian dialogue are elements used to justify the teaching of philosophy in school. The third discourse addresses faith and suggests a critical thinking in religion discourse, challenging the present hegemonic discourse in western societies. Religious education in secular countries tends to focus on teaching about the world religions from an outsider’s perspective whereas the methodological materials for thoughtful dialogues tend to focus on moral questions when exploring religious texts.

Religious education in school could be considered from two factors: 1.) The attitude toward questions of faith and 2.) The approach to knowledge. Questions of religious faith might be addressed in education, or not. Knowledge might be seen from a fundamentalist point of view, where a set of true facts are presented to the students, or, as in the opposite position, attaining knowledge includes critically examination of facts and values. This will give four different approaches to religious education in school: Dogmatic religion, dogmatic atheism, examining theology, or examining philosophy excluding theology.

Questions of faith and religion need to be discussed with others: Thoughtful dialogues could be used in classrooms and other contexts for dialogues about faith, and religious and theological questions, and thus helping the individual to form a relationship or grounded base on which he or she can reflect on matters of faith and belief or disbelief, both on her or his own and with others. This approach is in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Socratic Dialogue in Education of Children Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Paper presented t the ICOT, The International Conference o Thinking, 1st of July 22015, In Bilbao, Spain, by Assistant professor Ali Nouri, Malayer University, Iran, and Research Director Dr Ann S. Pihlgren, Ignite Research Institute, Sweden.

Read the paper: Dialogue and Autism Noori, Pihlgren

See slideshow: An overview Noori Pihlgren


This paper presents the theories and rationales guiding a forthcoming project of testing a dialogic program, using Socratic dialogue, to enhance social and emotional abilities of children diagnosed as autistic. The main study will be performed next year. The aim of this paper is to outline and examine the possibilities of Socratic dialogue as a basis for pedagogical thinking and practice when teaching students with autism, and to present a model for doing so in remedial classes. First, an introduction of the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs), and the current educational interventions for children diagnosed with these disabilities is presented, using research from different sources. Research results from using Socratic dialogues as a pedagogical method with students in regular classes is presented, showing that systematic Socratic dialogue enhance the social and emotional skills of students, as well as their critical thinking. This is followed by a discussion where we show the potential advantages of dialogic learning as an effective strategy for intervention and remidiation of individuals diagnosed with autism. The hypothesis is that Socratic Dialouge can be used to enhance the social and emotional development also of children diagnosed as autistic. The argument is presented based on evidences on the impact of dialogue on typical and atypical students’ learning and thinking. It is generally considered that the social nature of dialogic learning may equip children with specific abilities to effectively interact with others and perceive their emotions. However, the method might have to be revised to function with children diagnosed as autistic. Accordingly, the paper ends by introducing a dialogue based teching design that is compatible for children diagnosed with ASD, using weekly seminars in class.

Enhancing Teacher’s Understanding of How to Develop Students’ Thinking

Paper presented at the 17th ICOT, International Conference on Thinking 2015, 30th June, in Bilbao, Spain.

Read the paper: Enhancing Teachers Pihlgren

See the slide show: Pihlgren Enhancing Teachers


Schools around the world are trying to cope with rapid societal changes – fast progress of technical development, the globalization of communication, markets, and ideas, and the demand for equal education for different groups in society. If these challenges are to be met, for the benefit of mankind, it calls for good educational practice in every classroom, focused not only on teaching thinking to students, but also on their abilities to make productive choices, and to take responsibility for societal development in the future.

This paper is part of a larger study including a thorough investigation and analysis of current research literature on how education can meet the demands for cognitive development of students, compared with results from observations and teacher interviews, recorded at 125 lessons in classrooms with students from grade K-12, and 60 sessions in afterschool with students from grade K-6. The questions guiding this particular part of the study concern how (if at all) the teachers’ ways to plan and carry out classroom activities changed after having participated in development programs, and what methods seem to be more effective than others when changing teachers’ classroom behavior. Twelve units in eight schools K-12 and afterschools K-6 participated.

The ‘thinking classroom’ presupposes that the teacher plans, assesses, chooses activities and tools, and arranges the setting, with strong focus on fostering students’ habits of mind, rather than fixating on factual knowledge or covering of certain knowledge areas. The contextual and communicational interactions play a vital part of support in a thinking environment. The development programs focused on these issues. Before teachers participated in the programs, observations showed little evidence of the anticipated criteria in the classrooms (Pihlgren 2013a, 2014). Though most teachers showed an understanding of what would develop the students’ cognitive skills, they lacked the understanding of how to translate their theoretical knowledge into practice.

Some of the elements used in the development programs proved to be more effective, especially when combined: The impact on teachers’ behavior in the classroom increased when the teacher was required to try out different ways to act, when they were required to present their experiences and get feedback from colleagues, researcher and leaders on what they had done and how, when the teacher read theoretical texts connected to what was tested and lectured on and the texts were discussed with colleagues, and when the principal or vice principal took active part during the program. An ‘ideal type’, a model of how a successful development program would look like was constructed and can be used for designing or evaluating teacher development programs, where the aim is to change teaching practice to address higher cognitive outcomes.