Thinking Hard

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At Oakwood Park Grammar School we aspire to provide the very best teaching and learning possible for all our students. To further our drive for the best educational experience for our students we have developed a THINKING HARD programme to help challenge and guide our students to the greatest achievements possible.


Thinking Hard is a national programme​ that has been developed by The PiXL Club Partnership (a national collective of schools and teachers working together to develop new teaching resources and strategies) to inspire challenge for all learners in the classroom.


Thinking Hard at its core rests on a very basic concept High Impact Teaching Strategies (HITS) are developed and delivered by teachers which in turn result in students learning in a deeper and more meaningful manner.


The Core Idea

Thinking Hard was influenced by Robert Coe’s 2013 work Improving Education, and the belief that that learning happens when we think hard. Too often students can be thinking and working but not learning, because they have only engaged on a surface level. An example of this is the question ‘How many of each animal did Moses put in the ark’. Most student’s answer 2, however the answer is 0 as Moses did not put any animals on the ark.

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Too often student’s answer question on a surface level gleaming information or facts without any real understanding. Thinking Hard aims to combat this through High Impact Strategies. This is at the core of Thinking Hard the idea that by getting student’s to Think Hard about what they are discovering they will learn more and therefore be more successful.​

Why is this important?

The curriculum across all the key stages has changed and now GCSE and A level examinations demand a much broader and deeper subject knowledge and understanding of their topics. Being able to regurgitate facts is no longer good enough, student’s now must understand the facts and be able to use them to create hypothesis, analyse work and create arguments to a high standard. With these higher standards at GCSE and A level universities are also looking for creative and independent students that have the ability to be flexible in their thinking. Therefore now is the time for student’s to develop this ability to Think Hard so they can achieve highly.

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Key Concepts

Thinking Hard might seem complex but it based on simple ideas firstly that there are three tiers to every students learning. The easiest way to understand is to consider learning as a house…

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By breaking down every students learning into these tiers we can more easily target key areas for students but also help build their skills and confidence.  With these three elements now in place we can structure students learning and engage them in the Thinking hard process.

Breaking It Down!

Within each Tier there are a number of thinking Hard Devices teachers can use to help students THINK HARD.

When students are developing their Knowledge and Understanding student’s need to discover retain the important information therefore they might:

  • Reduce
  • Transform
  • Deconstruct
  • Derive

When students are Analysing and Evaluating they need to be able to use the knowledge and understanding they have, therefore they might:

  • Prioritise
  • Categorise
  • Criticise
  • Trends and patterns
  • Practise

When Students are engaging with a Flexibility of Thinking they need to use their knowledge and understand to show independence and creativity in their thinking therefore they might:

  • Make connections
  • Compare
  • Extend

The concept is that each of these devices can be used to start continue or develop a student’s higher thinking abilities with careful planned and formulated tasks questions and discussions that allow the student’s to move past basic yes and no deliberations.

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With consistent use of these strategies, routines and devices across the whole school in every classroom every student’s learning will be greatly impacted. At Oakwood Park Grammar School Teachers are engaging in Thinking Hard developing ‘high challenge, low preparation’ practices that are transforming the learning in the classroom and support students’ thinking.

Thinking Hard at Home

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Thinking Hard devices can be used in a range of situations to help support students here are some tasks students can do at home to help them with their studies. If you want to make sure they are challenging themselves at all times ask them if they could do one of these tasks for their current homework, or around exam time suggest one of these strategies to complement their revision.

  1. When asked to research a topic student’s could try reducing information they find then prioritising it into the most important points. This also works well for revision.
  2. Transform a point or set of points that a student finds it difficult to remember. For example after reading a text with important points in reduce the text into 5 key points. Then transform the 5 points into an image or the most important point, instead of note taking. This change of approaching the subject can be a cognitive trigger.
  3. When asked to research a topic make sure students do not just describe – criticise and analyse the topic and sources.
  4. Practice, when student’s revise practice is a key way to learn and improve, doing past papers or going over past tests can be a great way to reinforce the knowledge and understanding.
  5. When analysing sources, images or artefacts see if students are making connections between the information they have researched and talked about and the sources they are discussing. Are they making their own conclusions and are these backed up with facts from their research? Are they comparing and contrasting points of views?

If you would like to know more about Thinking Hard at Oakwood Park Grammar School please feel free to contact The Thinking Hard lead Mr Edwards at