Creative and Critical Thinking


Active Learning, Creative and Critical Thinking At West Hove Infant School

West Hove school

Aims and Objectives

At West Hove Infant School we aim to develop children’s independence of thought, self-confidence and ‘learning how to learn’ skills. This leads to ‘active’ rather than ‘passive’ learning. It gives children a sense of ownership over their learning by being actively involved in decision-making. The development of thinking and problem-solving skills in the classroom is not new to us – elements of good practice were evident – but there was a need to audit, refine and extend our practice and to ensure that such skills underpinned our recent curriculum review.

The following principles underpinned the development of active learning, creative and critical thinking:

  • Children need to understand that they are not ‘stuck’ at a set level of performance – ‘fixed’ and ‘growth’ mindset
  • Children need to be able to verbalise their thinking in order to highlight and clarify the skills they are practising
  • Children need to learn how to work in ‘teams’ or ‘groups’ and learn the skills of discussion, debate, negotiating, persuading and co-operation
  • Children need to learn to understand that others may have different viewpoints, that sometimes there are no right or wrong answers, that people can change their ideas and opinions
  • Teachers need to model the thinking process – they need to model the use of language, the thought and problem solving process, sometimes teachers don’t know the answers!
  • Teachers need to encourage children to investigate, explore and find out for themselves when appropriate


Actions/Strategies used

Since our last Ofsted inspection developing active learning, creative and critical thinking has been a key focus for Quality First Teaching.

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  • Developing thinking skills made one of the key drivers in our curriculum (under the heading ‘Enquiry’). Creative and Critical thinking skills are now planned into each subject/topic.
  • Review of oral and written feedback and focusing on ensuring our feedback enables a ‘Growth Mindset’ and is linked to the Characteristics of Learning. Staff CPD on ‘Growth Mindset’
  • Active Learning, Creative and Critical thinking audit tool developed and agreed by all staff – what does this look like for children, adults and in the environment?
  • Expectations for the environment agreed and added to environment audit
  • Staff discussed characteristics of learning and agreed 5 key characteristics which we want the children of WHI to develop – Perseverance, Independence, Imagination, Co-operation, Curiosity
  • Learning to Learn planning developed and specific activities to introduce key characteristics
  • Each characteristic represented by a ‘Learning Character’. Learning Characters introduced into every classroom
  • Whole school assemblies planned linked to Characteristics of Learning to coincide with classroom focus

Impact on Teaching and Learning

Lesson Observations:

A number of strengths related to the development of thinking skills and a growth mindset were observed during lesson observations. The characteristics for learning were on display in many classrooms and were referred to during the lesson.

 ‘Excellent use and reference to characteristics of learning’

‘Opportunities included for developing children’s thinking skills’

‘Excellent opportunities for AfL, self and peer assessment’

‘Lots of great animated talk and sharing between partners’

‘Great ideas for brain breaks that ….encourage the children’s thinking/focus’

‘Excellent challenge and high expectation for children’

‘Lots of opportunities to develop children’s thinking’

Environment Audit:

The environmental walk in Autumn 2015 found that active learning skills were being celebrated in the classroom:

‘All classes had a learning to learn display and some had examples of children’s work from the learning to learn week. ‘

The Learning Characters have been introduced and all classes have displays linked to these.

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What the children say:

What does learning feel like to you?

‘Learning feels like….

‘…climbing up a really really tall ladder.’ Leah

‘….swimming and getting to the end of the pool’. Zac

‘… going on a rollercoaster.’ Olivia

‘… going into space.’ Miller


Next Steps:

  • Continue to develop the language of growth mindset across the school
  • Continue to develop opportunities for collaborative and mixed ability working
  • Continue to plan for problem solving in mathematics
  • Use Learning Characters to embed understanding of the characteristics of learning


Characteristics of Learning

Please click on the image below for a better view of our Characteristics of Learning.

Characteristics of Learning thumb