Does This Make Sense? A Thinking and Reasoning Strategy
Some of the best strategies to help students get motivated and become more focused are the simplest. As they say, you can’t reinvent the wheel! I strongly believe that metacognitive strategies are very effective as they get students thinking about their way of thinking. Research shows that being able to define objectives helps individuals improve in key areas such as decision making, planning, and any action that has a purpose (which is, or should be, most of them). One simple strategy that gets students to focus directly and deliberately on the intentions behind their actions is AGO: Aims, Goals, Objectives; this strategy was developed by Edward de Bono, the father of lateral thinking and one of the most celebrated intellectuals of our time. AGO is a simple strategy that “makes sense” while teaching students to think about what they’re doing and if it “makes sense” (and of course if it does not, we teach them how to make decisions that are in line with their AGO). This is one of life’s most basic yet underutilized lessons and one of the reasons, I imagine, why de Bono is a major proponent of teaching thinking skills in school.
For a quick semantic clarification: Since aims, goals, and objectives are closely related and often used synonymously, this strategy defines Aim as one’s general direction, Goal as an ultimate destination, and Objective as a recognizable point of achievement along the way.
One critical role of a coach or parent is to help students concentrate on the general idea of “purpose”, since without a sense of purpose, all actions are either reactions to a situation or matters of habit or imitation. When I reflect on all of my students, past and present, the ones who have been most aware of their AGO (even if we have not explicitly engaged with this specific strategy) are the most motivated and vice-versa, and therefore are generally the most successful. The intention of this type of strategy is to directly instruct students on how purpose is distinct from reaction and habit and how by acting with intent, we can create our own success. Our educational system is unfortunately structured so that students are often looking to adults, or the “authority”, for the “correct” answers or ways of doing things without doing any thinking of their own, regardless of whether there is a single solution or correct answer. Teaching and modeling metacognitive and other thinking skills promotes just that: thinking. Developing thinking skills enables us to become rational, resourceful, purpose-driven, problem-solving human beings. Students will not only be able to correct their own thinking and behavior through this type of strategy, but they will be able to develop stronger interpersonal connections as they begin to understand what guides people’s actions in general. People who engage in metacognition are more able to identify what is guiding others’ actions (are they behaving rationally and with AGO in mind?) and choose their actions accordingly.
I once believed that due to the complex metacognitive nature of this strategy, it was best applied with students in older grades – when they can understand what it means to let purpose direct their actions. I have since changed my own line of thinking as I’ve implemented this strategy with children as young as seven and eight years old. I obviously modify my language to be age-appropriate and relatable for a younger audience, but I’ve found that children are very receptive to being empowered to think in these ways. While it takes some time to develop these thinking and self-monitoring skills, the younger we start students on purposeful behavior and decision-making, the more successful they can be. This strategy teaches students of all ages how to literally develop and maintain a rationale for their behaviors, which leads to rational behavior and goal-oriented decision-making.
DeBono’s Six Thinking Hats (1985) recommends the AGO strategy be taught via a series of simple steps:
Step 1: Introduce the idea of metacognition.
• Discuss with students that as individuals, we must always be thinking about how we’re thinking, making decisions, and taking action.
Step 2: Define and discuss Aims, Goals, and Objectives with students.
• Discuss the general idea of “purpose” and that aims, goals, and objectives are all benchmarks and indicators of purpose. Don’t let students get hung up on the semantics of each word.
Step 3: Whenever we go to make a decision or take action in some way, we must be doing so for a reason and with AGO. Direct students to always think: What is the purpose of their action/decision? What is the aim, the goal, and objective?
• Discuss with students that decisions without a purpose or without thought to AGO often end up being detrimental to both the decision-maker and others (in small and/or big ways).
• Hasty decisions often haven’t been reasoned through. Teach students to think about AGO even when they feel pressed for time because time is saved and efficiency is gained when we behave in ways that make sense because they are in-line with our goals.
• If someone does not have or can’t state the reasoning/purpose behind their action or decision, they shouldn’t do it! Tell students to go back to the “drawing boards” in their head and re-thing the purpose of their action or get rid of it all together because it is a habit or reaction to something else.
• The ONE QUESTION that I always have students ask themselves is, “Does this make sense?” They always know the answer and often can correct their behavior or thinking with little support once they have become stronger thinkers.
Step 4: Reinforce and keep practicing and modeling this effective strategy!
Having Alex as a tutor was amazing. She is patient, understanding and very supportive in many ways. Alex not only helped our son with his writing and vocabulary, she helped him organize his thoughts and strengthen his study skills. I highly recommend Alex as a tutor.
She is patient, understanding and very supportive in many ways. Alex not only helped our son with his writing and vocabulary, she helped him organize his thoughts and strengthen his study skills. I highly recommend Alex as a tutor.
When there are so many great things that can be said about a person, it is hard to find the right words that truly satisfy that person’s character. I first began working with Alex when I was a freshman in high school. Not having success with previous tutors, I concluded that tutors simply are not for me. However, Alex showed me otherwise; her personalized teaching style, depth of knowledge, attentive manner, and even sense of humor is above any tutor I’ve ever encountered. Beyond the skills that make Alex an effective yet enjoyable tutor, she also provides insight and guidance to those who are struggling in certain areas of their life. I have sought Alex’s help with challenges both big and small, and she always steers me in the right direction while teaching me important life skills in the process. As I am now approaching my senior year, I am overwhelmed with feelings of confidence and excitement because I know that I will have Alex by my side.
I hired Alex to help me obtain a private school placement at the district’s expense for my 3rd grader, who is nonverbal and autistic. After hiring an ineffective attorney for the same purpose when my son was in first grade, Alex was able to accomplish this goal and got my son a placement in a specialized, private school program. While this endeavor took months of work, meetings, emails, and school visits to accomplish, my son is now in an appropriate program where he is able to learn and thrive. Additionally, Alex was able to get the school district to provide every single service, accommodation, and technology that I was requesting for my son. Alex is assertive, articulate, and knows the law and best educational practices. As such, she effectively and vociferously advocated on my son’s behalf and accomplished all of my goals. I highly recommend her to anyone in need of an advocate!
Alex is a highly skilled and knowledgeable writing teacher. Warm and nurturing. Reliable. Made learning meaningful, engaging and fun. Definitely recommend and will use again.
I must admit that I was absolutely fortunate when I stumbled upon Alex’s website during my internet search a year and a half ago. I was desperately looking for someone to proof read my papers and assist in guiding me throughout the pursuit of my doctorate degree. With the guidance, support, and constructive criticism from this very knowledgeable, insightful, and patient individual I received As in all my courses. I truly enjoyed working with Alex.
Alex is very well-versed and knowledgeable about many subjects. I have not been in school in over 20 years and now I am back to obtain my doctorate degree. Alex has helped me get organized and has assisted me with my APA citations, grammar, and word choice. My writing skills have improved significantly and every one of my papers has received an A. Alex has provided me with the skills I need to continue my studies. I am so lucky to have met Alex.
Amanda: I am a student of Alex’s. I would recommend Alex to other students because she pushes you, gives you confidence, and she has a great sense of humor. She turns around any of your negative feelings into positive ones so you can believe in yourself to succeed.
Doretta: I am Amanda’s mom. Alex has a tremendous amount of patience. She is creative, funny, and very knowledgeable of her material. Alex tutored my daughter to obtain a driving permit. This was a major challenge for Amanda. Aside from needing help to learn the material, Amanda also has severe test anxiety. Amanda also has had many many tutors throughout her life. Alex not only helped Amanda learn the material and prepare for the test, but also made her believe in herself and decreased her anxiety. She is truly an awesome teacher and person. I highly recommend her to any struggling student.
Alex is a hard working and extremely dedicated person. Not only is she able to help me better understand what I am studying but she also has a way of inspiring me to learn more. I have had many tutors and I know for a fact that Alex is by far the best. She pushes me to better myself and helps me become increasingly more interested in school. Alex helps me with whatever I need to improve on and is always the first and most excited to congratulate me on my accomplishments. After studying with Alex my grades have dramatically improved. This made it possible for me to get into a high honors English class after years of special Ed. Also with her help she made looking and applying for colleges an enjoyable experience. She is an amazing tutor and person and I can go on forever stating how much she has helped me become a confident student.
My daughter struggled with writing her college application essay. We were fortunate to meet Alex who not only helped our daughter select the appropriate subject matter and prepare a well-written essay, but minimized the stress and drama that comes with this process. Alex has great writing skills and she is very creative and extremely knowledgable about the admissions process. Alex is a pleasure to work with.
Alex helped me with my personal statements for graduate school. It was helpful to brainstorm ahead of time because it made our sessions more productive. However, we brainstormed more throughout our sessions. She made me feel confident in my writing and the writing process less stressful. She took notes as we talked and cares about making a connection with her students. I definitely recommend her assistance! It was such a pleasure to work with her and I will be sure to keep in contact with her for future assignments!
Alex has worked with my son for three months and the improvement we have seen has been tremendous. My son went from failing in math to exceeding his peers in class. He enjoys his sessions with Alex and as a matter of fact, looks forward to her coming to tutor him, he refers to it as “so much fun and interesting”. Alex provided our son with the necessary strategies to apply to solve math problems and we can see him applying those strategies in his homework assignments. Our son went from 60’s and 70’s to 95 in scores for his math tests. We are incredibly lucky and grateful to have found Alex. She has done wonders for our son and has been able to teach him in a manner where he understands and retains the information. She has far exceeded our expectations in so little time.
Alex has been working with our 2nd grade daughter for over a few months now, and she has had an amazing, positive impact on her. Alex is knowledgeable, hardworking, and extremely patient with our daughter who has been having some challenges reading. Alex was able to identify our daughter’s weaknesses and help provide the necessary strategies and techniques to help her improve her reading skills. Alex is an excellent tutor who my daughter says “makes reading fun”! She eagerly awaits and looks forward to her sessions with Alex as Alex never fails to have a clever game and fun worksheets for them to work on together. With Alex’s help, our daughter’s confidence has really grown, and her reading has significantly improved –she will actually read aloud now! We are so grateful to have found Alex – she has truly been able to teach our daughter in ways that she can understand and learn. We can’t thank Alex enough for all her hard work, and would highly recommend her. If you’re looking for an intelligent, dedicated and incredibly responsive tutor, look no further!
Alex is an inspiring tutor, full of enthusiasm and knowledge. Her lessons are always personalized and tailored specifically to my daughter’s needs. My 5th grade daughter always looks forward to meeting with Alex, as Alex always includes activities and games that make learning fun for her. I noticed her increase in confidence and it showed through her improvement in grades. Dedicated, professional, reliable – what more could you ask for! I would highly recommend Alex without any hesitation. Thank you, Alex!
Alex worked with me very diligently and helped me with several college supplemental essays. Alex knew exactly what college admissions officers were looking for which helped me include critical information in my essays. Also, I was able to engage in conversation with Alex about how to go about revising my essays. She approaches the essay sentence by sentence and makes sure that the essential question: “so what?” is always answered within the writing. I recommend Alex as a tutor for anyone in need of help for any piece of writing.
I hired Alex as a tutor and an advocate to help me prepare and receive accommodations for an NASM personal training exam. Alex was critical in helping me successfully study and prepare for the test by teaching me effective study skills and test-taking strategies. Alex was able to get NASM to provide me the full extent of accommodations that I was legally entitled to. She also made sure that the reader for my test was competent and prepared by personally escorting me to the testing center to make sure that they were following the appropriate procedures. I am extremely thankful to Alex for her dedication to my success and for helping me pass the exam.
Alex is well prepared and detail-oriented and works hard during the sessions to make sure my son understands what she is working on with him.
My adult brother has been working with Alex for the past few months. She is amazing! I have never known someone in this profession to be so patient, insightful and so good at breaking down challenges into pieces of a puzzle in order to find the best possible solution.
Alex was able to help me improve my study and test-taking skills and I’m so glad I hired her! I am a nursing student in a competitive program and I felt lost given the vast amount of material that I had to study. Alex helped me use recall strategies like mnemonics to remember difficult terminology for exams. She was also helpful in teaching me metacognitive strategies for focus and self-monitoring during testing. I am especially grateful to Alex for helping me navigate through the difficult “red tape” of my program. She taught me effective self-advocacy techniques so that I was able to attain the outcome I was seeking by being assertive about my rights. I am now much more confident about going into my next semester of school and feel like I have the necessary skills to succeed.