Teaching Young Learners How to Think


The author L.P. Hartley once wrote that ‘the past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.’ If we are to help our students adapt to the challenges of the present and future, then we need to teach differently and move from a focus on what to learn to one of how to learn. We need to equip our students with a range of problem-solving, critical thinking and decision-making skills to enable them to assess information, understand problems and find their own ways of handling situations. Also, the challenging times we have been experiencing around the world call for a fresh approach to thinking, in the types of mental and emotional faculties that we rely on when examining a situation or making decisions, for example.

In this course we will be focusing on exploring different questions around thinking in general as well as part of our everyday teaching. As reflective practice is going to be an organic part of this course, we will also look at what this means in our teaching context and its importance in developing thinking in the primary classroom. We will consider some factors that are an obstacle in the thinking process and explore our own teacher beliefs and attitudes to give us a greater insight into how these affect our students’ ability to think.

As this course focuses primarily on creative and critical thinking, problem solving and philosophy for children, we will be analysing the main aspects of these areas through practical classroom examples, as well as through looking at the relationship between emotional intelligence and these thinking skills. During this process we will also be reflecting on ways of asking questions and responding to students’ questions in order to promote thinking. The final layer of this course will be adding a creative twist to your own teaching and the course materials you are using. During this collaborative process, you will identify and experience some of the thinking skills introduced throughout the course.

Course Objectives:

During this course you will:

  • identify the key questions around teaching thinking skills to be developed in the primary classroom and explore the answers to these
  • consider your own teacher beliefs, attitudes and language that affects your students’ ability to think
  • learn how to incorporate the development of thinking skills into your teaching
  • develop your own activities and add a twist to course materials in order to promote thinking skills in the primary classroom

Programme details

Course structure:

The summer course comprises an introductory session and five content modules delivered over a three-week period.

There will be two live tutor-led interactive workshops each week, as well as a number of engaging asynchronous tasks that you complete in your own time.

We anticipate that most live sessions will be held at around 1pm UK time, but we will also take into account the various time zones of participants and deliver the live workshops at times that are convenient for the majority of participants.

The asynchronous part of your course will allow you and your fellow participants to extend the learning from the live sessions. Typically, this will include follow up quizzes, extra readings and materials. You will also benefit from opportunities to discuss aspects of each session with your peers in pairs and in small groups, allowing you to reflect on how you might tailor the content of each session to your own teaching context. 

We expect you to devote at least 5 hours each week to your course. Outside the scheduled live sessions, you can study at times that are most convenient for you.

Class sizes are kept small to maximise opportunities for interaction. 


During your two weekly live workshops, you will be expected to participate actively in discussions and exchanges with your tutor and fellow participants. You will be encouraged to continue your discussions through additional online interaction throughout your course.

The first day of your course will begin with an introductory session to introduce you to the structure, expectations, and goals of an Oxford Teachers' Academy course. You then follow a series of five modules over three weeks.

Module 1: Introduction to teaching thinking to children

  • Identifying key questions to be answered regarding the development of thinking skills in the primary classroom
  • Looking at aspects of reflective practice and their role in developing thinking skills

Module 2: Obstacles and general solutions in developing thinking skills

  • Considering main obstacles in children’s ability to think
  • Exploring our own teacher beliefs and attitudes and how these affect children’s ability to think
  • Identifying a number of key strategies, techniques and solutions to promote thinking

Module 3: Creative thinking

  • Identifying some basic conditions for developing creative thinking
  • Exploring the main characteristics of creative thinking skill through practical examples
  • Analysing course material and adding a creative twist to them in order to promote creativity
  • Reflecting on the creative aspect of this process

Module 4: Critical thinking and problem solving

  • Looking at the role of emotional intelligence in developing critical thinking skills and problem solving
  • Consider ways of promoting curiosity and giving students space to discover things around the world, through simple problem-solving tasks
  • Analysing and adapting course material to promote critical thinking skills
  • Reflecting on the problem-solving aspect of this process

Module 5: Philosophy for children

  • Identifying what philosophy for children means and looking at the need to promote thinking through philosophy
  • Teaching philosophy to children through stories and discussions
  • Analysing and adapting course material to help children become more thoughtful, considerate and reasonable individuals


Oxford Teachers’ Academy courses are certified by the Department for Continuing Education. In order to receive a Certificate of Completion, course participants must submit an Evidence of Learning Journal  which will be evaluated against established criteria. If all criteria are met, participants will receive an electronic Certificate of Completion within six weeks of submitting their journals.

You will also receive a University of Oxford Certificate of Attendance on successful completion of each OTA online summer course.



Description Costs
27 July - 14 August: Teaching Young Learners How to Think £280.00


The Department is, unfortunately, unable to offer any scholarships or reduction in fees for the Oxford Teachers’ Academy online courses at present.


Erika Osváth


Erika Osváth is a teacher, teacher trainer and materials writer. She is the co-author of Mixed Ability Teaching, OUP (2016). Prior to embarking on a career in teacher training and development in 2009, she worked for International House for 16 years in Central and Eastern Europe as Director of Studies, where she also co-ordinated courses for Young and Very Young Learners, as well as for students of Business English. She has acted as a trainer on many Cambridge Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) courses. Erika has extensive experience in teaching primary, secondary and adult learners.


Please click on 'Book Now' to reserve a place.

Subject to the availability of places, the closing date is Friday 24 July 2020.

Further course information notes will be emailed to participants shortly before the start of the summer school.

Any queries?

Please contact the Programme Administrator by email at ipota@conted.ox.ac.uk

Level and demands

It is expected that participants will have some experience of teaching English language.

This course is intended for primary school teachers.

All participants must speak English to a minimum of a high B2 CEFR level of proficiency.

IT requirements

This programme is delivered online. To participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.