May 16

Part II Interview with Adam Scher, Principal, Way Elementary, Bloomfield Hills.

Adam Scher and Way Elementary initiated Making Thinking Visible in Oakland County.   Adam shared the following insights in an interview with me.  This is part II of a three (3) part interview. 

Adam Scher, Principal of Way Elementary

 Developing a Culture of Thinking & Using Visible Thinking (Part II)

Year Two Focus 

Using Visible Thinking and developing a culture of thinking became more stressful and personal in year two for teachers.  They experienced what the students experienced in year one.  To help them deepen their understanding, we required all teachers to submit analytical reflections each month.  This provided them a structure for generating insights into their work and for personal accountability.  In their reflections, they looked at student work and their own work through the lenses of the eight cultural forces.  As a result of these reflections, they realized that the visible thinking approach to teaching and learning did not take additional time but rather replaced what they had been doing.  They also worked on combining curriculum standards where appropriate.  Using the Thinking Visible tools and developing a Culture of Thinking required them to reallocate how they delivered the curriculum to deepen student learning.

In year one, their learning was episodic and went from lesson to lesson.  In year two, it became much more integrated with a focus on the big picture of a lesson or unit and how  the parts fit together to generate deeper meaning.  Staff identified the big curricular ideas for every grade level.   One of the biggest changes we saw immediately was the learning language and attitudes of students.   They were more respectful of one another’s contributions, made efforts to connect with the ideas of others and wanted to add on to and expand the insights of each other.  This approach demands active participation on the part of students.

Teachers modeled the thinking strategies and the students modeled the teachers.  Staff realized how important this modeling was. As they engaged in their reflections, one of the aha’s gained by the year-two teachers was that they had stopped modeling the Visible Thinking strategies. Since they had several of these strategies on automatic, they were assuming the students did as well. They immediately put modeling back into their instructional process.  This is an example of how important reflection time is in the learning process for both teachers and students.  Staff only gained this and other insights into instruction because there was time, a structure and accountability expectation for doing regular reflection.  This process helped us move away from a doing work model and toward a learning model of instruction.

Please scroll down to find Part I of this interview posted on 5/13/13.  Watch for  part III, the final part, on Monday, 5/20/13.  Please feel free to leave a comment, suggestion of question using the comment box.


  1. Judy Hauser

    Very interesting!

  2. Susan Payne

    As the media specialist at Way, I notice that students are more respectful when others are contributing and their expressive language relating or connecting to a story often is more developed. Our staff just had a discussion about how teachers need to provide students with the procedures, how to, and basics of navigating their way through learning. This year, I intend to encourage students to engage in conversation with someone is saying. I’m considering beginning by encouraging students to respond to one another with: “What makes you say that?” I plan to model interactive conversation and to build in time for students to have the opportunity to engage in conversation with one another.

  3. Adam

    Hi Neva,

    Sorry it’s taken so long to get back to you, but I didn’t realize comments were posted. Stories of Learning is one of my favorite websites to learn how others in the field are creating tremendous cultures of thinking. Here’s the website: http://storiesoflearning.com/Welcome.html

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