Sustained Shared Thinking

Sustained Shared Thinking (SST) is defined as an episode in which two or more individuals work together in an intellectual way to solve a problem, clarify a concept, evaluate activities, extend a narrative etc.

Both parties must contribute to the thinking, and it must develop and extend the understanding (Siraj-Blatchford et al. 2002). Conversations about nature and natural science topics are very well suited for SST. Exploring natural science topics requires time and concentration, and the adult has an important role as scaffolding and encouraging support for the child’s thinking. Adults need to understand the child’s cognitive, cultural and social perspective to enable bridges to be built between the child’s current knowledge and the knowledge the child is capable of gaining (see also “Epistemic stance”). The adult plays a key role in knowing the child, being aware of their level of development and through SST having the skill to support them to advance their thinking skills onto the next level (Siraj-Blatchford and Sylva, 2005).  

The following findings come from a large study of practice among kindergarten teachers: In settings considered effective, practitioners guided children into thinking in deeper ways by challenging their thinking. This was usually initiated by the child but then sustained through skilful interactions facilitated by practitioners (Siraj-Blatchford et al., 2002). Strategies for SST include:  

  • Showing authenticity and real interest 
  • Respecting the child’s own decisions and choices 
  • Suggesting 
  • Reminding – of something the child said earlier 
  • Encouragement to further thinking 
  • Offering an alternative viewpoint 
  • Use of open-ended questions 
  • Modelling thinking 
  • Recapping 
  • Clarifying ideas 
  • Offering your own experience 
  • Inviting children to elaborate (Siraj-Blatchford, 2005). 

Here is a video exemplifying how you can use these strategies in a conversation about woodlice:

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