top of page

Stimulate learning through thinking  

Learning through thinking means actively engaging in skillful thinking about complex problems, such as societal issues. There is no ready-made answer to those problems. By visualizing and analyzing thinking processes, students can better understand the problem and come up with good and creative solutions.  

By thinking about their own thinking, students learn to approach problems in another way. By focusing on this as a teacher, you stimulate their confidence in their ability to think through and solve complex problems.  


Students construct a way of thinking that they might transfer later in their day-to-day lives and become resilient and decisive citizens in dealing with real-world challenges. 

This video explores what learning through thinking means and how you can implement it during your lessons. 

Student goals

Students will learn to: 

  • develop action-oriented thinking skills relevant for ESD.

  • make their thinking visible by explicitly using thinking language.

  • develop metacognitive skills by reflecting upon their thinking processes. 

  • gain confidence in their ability to think about societal issues.

Test yourself as a teacher

  • Summarize the principle of "learning by thinking" using the following words:

social issue, complex, thinking, challenge, action-oriented, goal-oriented, challenge, engagement , self-confidence, deeper understanding, strategies, questioning and visualizing 


  • Use the 3-2-1 Bridge thinking routine. Write down: 

    • 3 words or ideas you take away 

    • 2 questions about the principle you still have 

    • 1 equation : Teaching thinking is like .... 


This thinking routine was inspired by Project Zero Thinking Routines.

Reflective questions

Did you try to apply one or more methods with your students? Did you practice some of the guidelines concerning powerful questioning? Or did you observe and look for opportunities to teach thinking? 

Reflect upon it using again the 3-2-1 bridge routine: 

  • 3 words or ideas you take with you  

  • 2 questions you might have about the principle 

  • 1 metaphor:  ‘Teaching thinking is like ….’ 

Compare your thoughts with your earlier thoughts. 


Explain how after your experience in the classroom your responses still connect or have changed to your initial responses. 

Lesson materials and more

Lesmateriale en meer

Get to work in the classroom

Cartoon hero to the rescue

The caterpillar

More information on

blended learning tools?

Compare and contrast

Guidelines to stimulate system thinking

bottom of page