Pro Ed House School, a specialist school for children with learning and attention difficulties, is celebrating its 21st birthday having first opened in 1998 with a handful of students.
Founded and led by psychologist, Dr Anita Worrall and assisted by a team of well trained teachers, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, reading specialist and maths specialist, the children who attend Pro Ed House are intelligent but struggle in mainstream school due to difficulties with reading, spelling, writing, working memory, impulsivity and social issues. They come to Pro Ed House with a low self-esteem and are demoralised because they find school work or the school environment too overwhelming.
From the beginning Pro Ed House adopted approaches aimed at helping students to reflect on their learning by teaching them specific strategies for planning, organising, self-monitoring, working memory and approach to reading, writing, written expression and mathematics. This has given them a repertoire of strategies to choose from and the skills to select what strategies would help them the most.
Pro Ed House has always focused on the children’s thinking skills by using various programmes to enhance thinking such as Bright Start, Thinking Maps, Habits of Mind, Thinking Hats, Bloom’s Taxonomy, Visible Thinking Routines and Growth Mindset.
It has recently been awarded Global Thinking School Accreditation by the University of Exeter in the U.K. and now joins other thinking schools in South Africa and beyond.
“The world is changing so rapidly we have no idea what the job market will be like in 20 years time and have no idea what skills our children will need when they enter the job market. Our children will live in a world of change – they will require resilience, flexibility, interpersonal skills, critical thinking, communication skills and creativity. They need the opportunity to develop these skills – to encourage the growth of all these skills in specific tasks but also in life’s challenges” says Dr Worrall.
From left to right: Mrs Sheila Schuurmans (Principal), Dr Anita Worrall (Executive Director/Psychologist), Professor Lena Green (representing Exeter University) and Jane McIntyre (CEO, Thinking Schools South Africa) having received the Global Thinking School Accreditation plaque at a recent Thinking Schools workshop.
Dr. Anita Worrall, (PhD Cornell, USA), a developmental and cognitive school psychologist is the coordinator. She has organised and facilitated in-service training to Pro Ed House staff, and has offered coffee mornings to acquaint Pro Ed House School parents with Thinking Maps, Habits of Mind and the Growth Mindset. She continues to be active in Thinking Schools South Africa (TSSA), where she Chairs the National Board of TSSA.
Through in-service training (Friday afternoons 1.30 – 3.00 pm.) and different workshops, the staff are exposed to cognitive education training on Thinking Maps, Habits of Mind, De Bono Thinking Hats, Visible Thinking Routines, Anderson’s Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy and the Growth Mindset.
Staff are committed to attending different workshops offered by Thinking Schools South Africa.
Together with Thinking Schools South Africa and Thinking Schools International (UK), Pro Ed House School is dedicated to developing 21st Century learners, who are committed to and value habits of mind that lead to successful learning, resilience and resourcefulness in an ever changing 21st Century world.
The following Tools and Strategies to enhance learning and promote cognitive growth are used:
Basic patterns of thought such as planning, organising, shifting between tasks, goal setting, working memory and self-monitoring are slow to develop in children with learning differences. Explicit and regularly repeated teaching of these skills is required through the daily use of strategies, checklists and goals. Each child is provided with his/her own strategy file that best suits his/her learning.
It should be kept in mind the various traits characteristic of children who learn differently:
Dyslexia – difficulty with written language. They adapt well to the visual usage of Thinking Maps and Visible Routines.
We have found that Thinking Maps, developed by David Hyerle, lend themselves beautifully to our metacognitive and strategy learning curriculum.
The eight Thinking Maps correspond to eight fundamental metacognitive processes such as describing in context; describing qualities; comparing and contrasting; classifying; whole part relationships; sequencing; cause and effect; and analogical thinking.
All maps are set in a metacognitive frame that facilitates reflection. These eight fundamental Thinking Maps form a transformative language for learning and are eminently suited for our learners. They provide structure and organisation and they are used throughout the school.
Our children love the Habits and are able to label them and see value in them – for example, “finding humour” or “working interdependently” (not easy tasks for children on the autism disorder spectrum). “Thinking and communicating with clarity and precision” is another great habit to focus on for children with expressive language difficulties.
Recently, we introduced Ron Ritchhart’s Visible Thinking Routines.12 Routines such as chalk/talk or think-puzzle-explore uncover students’ thinking and establish a culture of thinking together aloud. In our classrooms, our children’s thinking is noticed, respected and encouraged by the teacher and by each other, thus fostering a culture of listening and learning together.
To those children who experience serious working memory problems, we offer Cogmed,13 a working memory program frequently used in schools in the US, Sweden and the UK. Working memory is the ability to retain and manipulate information for a few seconds or more. This temporary storage and manipulation of information is necessary for complex cognitive tasks such as comprehension, learning and reasoning.
Edward de Bono is the founding father of these six thinking hats technique and wrote a book about this called the Six Thinking Hats in 1985. Learners are encouraged to think of situations and possible solutions from a different perspective, thereby engaging them in being empathetic; looking at problems and solutions differently and equipping learners with complex decision-making processes.