The Science Behind Rocket Thinking

What inspired our rocket thinking slides?

Developing Experts’ rocket thinking slides are designed to engage students in open-ended discussions that encourage deeper thinking, the application of knowledge and the opportunity to identify and address misconceptions. Each unit contains between 2 and 3 questions, and the placement of these are highlighted both in the relevant lesson plan and in the teacher notes pack. These questions cover a range of formates, including key questions; linking and grouping; odd one out; hot seat; ranking; agree or disagree; hot seat; PNQ (positive, negative, question) and make a guess. 

Regarding the question types, both the name and theory have been inspired by key researchers in education and pedagogy, including Bloom (1956); Perkins (1993) and de Bono (1970; 1985). In particular, Bloom’s taxonomy and exploration of higher-order cognitive skills have been significant in the development of questions that encourage pupils to think critically, solve problems, engage creatively and make informed judgements. For instance, we can see Bloom’s upper three levels in action in the following question from our Year 3 Plants unit. This key question is accompanied by pictures of an oak sapling and a mature oak tree, with a 100-year timeline in between, and asks: What stories could the tree tell over its lifetime? If we apply Bloom’s higher-order cognitive skills here, the pupils should be able to analyse the prompt, identifying patterns in the tree’s growth, development and relationship with other living things; synthesise ideas, perhaps developing theories about what weather events or wider landscape developments the tree could have witnessed; and evaluate concepts, using sources they have come across to argue what the tree may experience next. The placement of this question in the lesson as a whole, therefore - which is on the topic of plant growth - exposes the students to a much wider range of ideas beyond the necessity of sunlight, water and minerals. 

Teaching concepts in this way leads to a much more effective retention of knowledge and helps pupils to grasp the underlying principles and structures of a subject (Perkins, 1993). In his work on teaching for understanding, Perkins advocates for the importance of applying knowledge to real-world contexts, which is why many of our questions involve topics such as climate change, health advice and animal welfare. In particular, questions such as linking and grouping and odd one out use real-world examples. Furthermore, other question types such as key question and PNQ are influenced by De Bono’s work on lateral thinking, which is “quite distinct from logic and often more useful in generating new ideas” (1970). Therefore, questions such as ‘What would happen if dinosaurs hadn’t gone extinct?’ and ‘What would happen if mammals were the only type of mammal on the planet?’ encourage pupils to think unconventionally and challenge traditional thought patterns. 

By moving beyond knowledge, comprehension and application, rocket thinking slides aim to create meaningful and enduring learning experiences.