Six Thinking Hats Model for Learning Tool

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The aim of this project is to implement an effective discussion tool by using six thinking hats model as the mechanism. There is a need to implement an effective learning tool for education in Hong Kong. Discuss tool is a kind of them. Although there are many discussion tool available in the web space, most of them are not developed for specific need especially education. In this project, we used the six thinking hats model as a mechanism in order to develop an effective online discussion tool.

The six thinking hats model will use as a mechanism to facilitate the synchronous online discussion. By using this model, a collaborative learning assistance platform will be developed. In this project, we will show you why six thinking hats model is situation for student to learn and the author will also evaluate the proposing environment.


There is a need to implement an effective learning tool for education in Hong Kong. Discuss tool is a kind of them. Although there are many discussion tools available in the web space, most of them are not developed for education. In this project, we develop an effective discussion tool by using the six thinking hats model as a mechanism.

And in this section, we will go through some background information for this project. They are: specific definitions related to this project, the need e-learning resource and we will also use the Groupware and 3C Collaboration model to analysis online discussion tool. Background

The need of e-learning resources in Hong Kong

In October 2009, the Education Bureau of Hong Kong (2009)[1] released a report related to e-learning entitled “Working Group on Textbooks and e-Learning Resources Development”. The report stated that it is a global trend to use e-learning in education and there is a “paradigm shift in school education from a text-based and teacher-centered mode to a more interactive and learner-centered mode”. E-learning resources are encouraged to develop in order to enhance the learning effectiveness and provide the student a best mode to learn. The Secretary for Education has announced to launch a three-year “Promoting e-learning pilot scheme” in 20- 30 primary and secondary schools in the 2010/2011 school year. From the above, we can see there is a potential need to develop an effective learning tool for education in Hong Kong based on the government policy.

What is Project Based Learning?

Project Based learning (PBL) is a conceptual model that fit learning into projects. According to the definitions in the PBL handbook[2] for teachers, projects are consist of different tasks, based on challenging problems, that required students to “design, problem-solving, decision making, or investigative activities”; Meanwhile PBL allows the student to work relatively autonomously over extended periods of time; and eventually come up with a realistic products or presentations.

The definition above is too abstract that cannot distinguish the different between projects and the instance of PBL. According to Thomas (2000)[3], he proposed five criteria that an instant of PBL project should have. They are centrality, driving question, constructive investigations, autonomy, and realism.

    1. “PBL projects are central, not peripheral to the curriculum.”

Projects are the curriculum. The central teaching strategy in PBL is the project itself. Students learn the central concepts through projects. The centrality here means students learn things that are outside the curriculum are not examples of PBL. For example, illustrations, examples, additional practice, or practical applications like discussion is only an “application” of the projects, it is not considered to be the instance of PBL.

    1. “PBL projects are focused on questions or problems that “drive” students to encounter (and struggle with) the central concepts and principles of a discipline.”

The project has to be about a “driving question” or an “ill-defined problem” which can motivate the student to learn. The question that student pursue, as well as the applications mentioned in the last paragraph, must be well combined in the service of an important “intellectual purpose”.

    1. “Projects involve students in a constructive investigation.”

In order to be consider as a PBL project. Based on the PBL project, the students are able to “transformation and construction” of knowledge, making new understanding and skill by the PBL activities. If the project represents no difficulty to the student or it is about the “already-learnt” knowledge, the project is an exercise and it is not a PBL project.

    1. “Projects are student-driven to some significant degree”

There is no expected, predetermined outcome for the PBL projects. It is because the PBL projects not like traditional instruction and projects, it is highly dependent to the students’ choice, organization and responsibility.

    1. “Projects are realistic, not school-like.”

The PBL project give the student a feeling of “authenticity”, it is because of the topic, the tasks, the roles that the students play incorporates real-life challenges where the focus is on authentic (not simulated) problems or questions and where solutions have the potential to be implemented.

Why Project Based Learning is effective

According to George Lucas Educational Foundation (2001), the project based learning is effective for student as it is student driven, based on this situation, the attendance of the student will increase and thus increase their self-confidence, motivate them to participate in the project

Secondly, research show that the “academic gains equal to or better than those generated by other models, with students involved in projects taking greater responsibility for their own learning than during more traditional classroom activities” (Boaler, 1997; SRI, 2000 )

“Opportunities to develop complex skills, such as higher-order thinking, problem-solving, collaborating, and communicating” (SRI, 2000)

“Access to a broader range of learning opportunities in the classroom, providing a strategy for engaging culturally diverse learners” (Railsback, 2002)

The problems

There are many discussion tools available in the web space but seldom of them are designed for learning. Especially, they have addition feature to facilitate learning and at least, the usability of the online tools.

For the learning facilitation, we would like to point out an effective discussion tools should help the participant to learn systematically. It is because, our brain was train to think inside the box (habit). This may limited our thought and make the discussion low affectivity.

For the user usability, chat confusion is one of other problems for online discussion tools. Thirunarayanan, M. O. (2000)[4] suggests that there may be chat or conversation overlap in chat rooms as the student and instructor submit their responses at their “unique pace”. The participants may talk simultaneously and interrupt the other participant to follow the conversation. As the text area of the chat history is usually scrolled automatically, participant will have problem when they want to follow the comment of their initiated idea.

Introduction to WebQuest

Discussion as a learning approach in PBL

Difficulties in discussion


The aim of this project is to build an integrate discussion tool to serve the needs of discussion task in WebQuest. We are going to used six thinking hats model as the mechanism in the discussion tool. This project will be an application to Web Quest system (Yeung 2009), while this project provides the student a platform to perform the discussion online based on project based learning and Yeung’s system provided a platform for teacher to examine and manage the student project.


  • Objective To study the need of a discussion tool in e-learning
  • To study the problem of exiting discussion tool
  • To study the advantage of using a collaborative mechanism in PBL
  • To review and examine the six thinking hats model as collaborative mechanism
  • To redesign the model in order to fit the PBLS
  • To develop a collaborative system for PBL

In this section, we have gone through why there is a need to develop the e-learning resources in Hong Kong, it is because the research suggested that e-learning is good for the student and there is a trend to shift the teaching paradigm from “correspondent learning” to the “peers learning” . Hong Kong Government is totally supported the development of the e-learning resources. The students are also preferred to communicate online rather than communicate face to face.

Communicate Mediated Communication and Computer Supported Collaborative learning is two main ideas in this project. In which, we have gone through the meaning of collaboration learning and the benefit of discussion as the learning activity.

Report Organization

Discussion as a learning strategy

Askell-Willams and Lawson (2005)[5] has carried out a sophisticated study in teaching-learning discussion, they investigated the topic in different aspect, and the overview below is concluded by views of expertise in perspectives of psychological, sociological-constructivism and socio-linguists.

There is a convincing reason that why discussion can serve as teaching and learning purpose. Dillon (1994)[6] stated that discussion can benefit in “understanding of subject matter and resolution of issues related to the subject matter and its educational function; personal growth; and understanding of the value of group reflection and deliberation”.

Discussion is also a primary mechanism in students’ social transactions. The discussion itself served as a knowledge construction process. Social transactions in classroom can encourage student to put the knowledge into “public domain”, their reasoning and understands can then be the augmented, examined, elaborated, critiqued and related to the understandings of other people.

Tobin, Tippins, and Gallard (1994)[7] also stated that the role of discussion provided a perfect platform for students to interact. Group interaction can provide a background in which student can be negotiate differences of opinion and seek agreement. It is more important that student can generate question and clarify understanding of specific content. Peers interaction can develop their ability to speak out, unafraid in order to take a proper stand.

Based on the social cognitive perspective, discourse is also a primary deliberation tool for cognitive development. Nuthall (1997)[8] proposed that the potential benefit of discourse is “transactional relationship between socio-cultural experience and self-organizational activities of the mind”. Such activities of the mind are facilitated through discussion, Askell-Willams and Lawson showed us an example. If a student only acquires knowledge from a teacher, the student will only incorporate the “single dependent perspective of the student-teacher relationship”. If, on the other hand, the student acquires the knowledge in discussion in which different perspectives are described, explained and debated, the student’s performance will incorporate with a “larger network of intertwined social and logical relationships”.

Problem rose from discussion

Of course using discussion as a learning strategy is not suitable in every situation. Baxter, Woodward and Olson (2001)[9] showed that learning through class discussion might not effective for those “low-achieving” students, it is too difficult for them to involved in the discussion frequently and they may not have chance to speak out according to their shyness.

Hollander (2002)[10] also noted that the organization of effective discussion at the individual level is not straightforward. Some student talk much while other talks little, the content of discussions can be awkward, there is no guarantee that the discussion content will be “threaded in a coherent manner” and not all students might have developed effective skill for contribution. It should also be noted that, leaving student discuss by their own will not engaging an effective discussion. Many students need specific instruction in order to know how to ask proper questions and give proper respond.

Although the expertise may agree that discussion is a potential learning strategy for education, the key stockholder is the learner. If students’ knowledge is not enough to allow them to make effective use of a discussion, just like “how to act effectively”, “how to ask proper questions “and “how to give proper respond”, in this situation, the benefit of discussion as a learning approach are unlikely to be study.

The value of collaboration and discussion in learning strategy for Online learning Environment

From the above, we can see that how discussion benefit in students’ learning, here we will discuss the value of collaboration and discussion in learning strategy for Online Learning Environments (OLEs). Clark(2001)[11] stated that although it is achievable that learning with student interaction(passive learning), active learning through interaction including “faculty acting as peers, guides, and moderators” is generally consider more effective and well suited to OLEs.

Discussion is not like the traditional instructor lecture method of education. Discussion and collaboration increased students’ involvement in which engages students actively participated in the learning process compare with the traditional instructor lecture teaching method, discussion are able promote the belonging of “students’ achievement and satisfaction”.

Clark stated that, although the student and instructor remained as a key player in the discussion as learning strategy, there are still some different between the traditional classroom and OLEs. The diagram stated below illustrated their different.

The Shift of Face to Face discussion to Computer Mediated Discussion

From the last session, we can see that there is advantage of using OLEs in discussion than traditional classroom. How about student? Do they also want to use the electronic resources to learn and interact with each other? An and Frick (2006)[12] found that student preferred to use computer mediated communication (CMC) than face to face (F2F) as communication media under certain condition. Here are the reasons:

    • Flexibility

The location and time become an independent variable in CMC such that student can perform discussion on web anywhere.

    • Interactivity increased

The flexibility of digital learning platform also contributed to the second point, it will increase the interactivity between the students and as well as the Instructor. The learning style of the students is thus transform from independent learning to peers learning by the use of computer aids. Sutton (2001)[13] (in An and Frick, 2006) suggested that CMC has caused the shift from “correspondence learning” to “social learning”. Berge (1995)[14] (in An and Frick, 2006) has also suggested the interaction among instructors, students, contents and interface have been “maximized” in the online discussion and thus facilitate the constructive thinking.

    • Allow student to learn by their own pace

When compare to F2F, CMC provide student more time to respond the question. It allows student to analysis and reflect the question with enough time so that they can compose thoughtful responds. Student can thus learn by their own peak in CMC, they can also take control to their learning and interact with the peer in order to build knowledge.

Overview of the Discussion Tool – Synchronized and Asynchronous Discussion tool

Discussion is definitely a common implementation for Computer Mediate Communication. Generally, online discussion tool can divided in to two types, they are synchronized and asynchronous discussion tool. And as educational platforms, the two distinct format of interaction impact differently. In this session, we are going to investigate the pros and cons of these discussion tools in learning.

What is asynchronous discussion tool?

According to Johnson(2006)[15], asynchronous instruction “occurs in delayed time and does not require the simultaneous participation of student and teacher”. The asynchronous instruction was used in distance education in the early year due to postal delays. The asynchronous voice conferencing are already proven useful in some instructional contexts, text-based asynchronous instruction are also widely used in the post-secondary education, it can also be considered as asynchronous online discussion.

Johnson stated that educators has been investigate the efficiency of asynchronous online discussion, they reported that it can “encouraging in-depth, more thoughtful discussion; communicating with temporally diverse students; holding ongoing discussions where archiving is required; and allowing all students to respond to a topic”

There are also potential limitations of the asynchronous discussion room. Student may not check the forum frequently, lack of spontaneous feedback may lead students feel isolated, it is necessary to spend more time in the discussion in order to make it mature.

Dede and Kremer (1999)[16](in Johnson, 2006) conducted a survey to check the students’ preferences of asynchronous discussion tool. They found that the asynchronous discussion provided a more comprehensive interchange for them, but it required more time and provided less social interaction than synchronous chat.

What is synchronous discussion tool?

According to Johnson (2006), “Synchronous instruction occurs in real time and requires the simultaneous participation of students and teacher”. The synchronous instruction was used in the closed circuit television on university campus in the early year. Until 1980s, video-conferencing and interactive television connected remote classroom, in which, the synchronous discussion allow student to ask question and perform interaction in spontaneously, the educators start conduct study how synchronous discussion tool help student in learning.

As you can see, synchronous communication tools allow multiple users communicate with each other at the same time using text messages, According to a report investigated by Branon & Essex (2001)[17] (in Johnson, 2006) showed that synchronous chat tools are useful for “”holding virtual office hours, team decision-making, and brainstorming, community building, and dealing with technical issues”. Spontaneous feedback can make student feel connected; student will not feel isolated in this situation, meanwhile, student are all actively participate in the discussion tool synchronously, not like asynchronous discussion tool, required student to login frequently to check for update.

But there are still limitations for the synchronous discussion tool. It is difficult to implement synchronous discussion tool compare with asynchronous discussion tool. It is hard to get students online at the same time, and it is difficult in manage large-scale conversation. Lack of reflection time for student and it is demanding for the poor typist.

Synchronous Versus asynchronous online discussion

Educators are commonly agreed the learning outcome of asynchronous online discussion room is better the face-to-face discussion. But the limitations stated above (isolation and frequently participation) discourage them to use this mechanism alone. There lead to the trend of implementing synchronous chat tool, it is because synchronous chat can override those limitation, as it “attempts to emulates” face-to-face discussion. Using synchronous chat not only enhanced social transaction but also improve student learning outcome.

Johnson(2006) suggested the best methodology is combining the synchronous and asynchronous chat tool in Online Learning Environment in order to get “higher levels of student satisfaction and mastery of course requirements than implementation of either mode in isolation”. Johnson stated that there is a survey supported student who’s used both discussion tools are most likely to achieved the course requirement because using the both tools can maximized “personal engagement in learning”.

Review on different discussion model

Structured Academic Controversy

The method was firstly introduced by David W. Johnson and Roger T. Johnson, they are the leading expert in cooperative learning. As titled, academic controversy is a structured discussion strategy by using controversy, in which, controversy means an individual has a different idea and that idea is incompatible with others’ idea, so two of them need to compromise in order to reach a common agreement. According to the Cooperate Learning Center, academic controversyuses the “intellectual conflict” to encourage student to reach higher achievement. It will also enhanced the quality of “problem solving, decision making, critical thinking, reasoning, interpersonal relationships, and psychological health and well-being”

There are three goals which SAC are designed to help the to achieve. They are

  1. to gain a deeper understanding of an issue,
  2. to find common ground, and
  3. to make a decision based on evidence and logic

The five procedures in SAC

    • Step 1- “Organizing Information and conclude”

Students are separate into two groups, one of them will receive materials which written in supportive side and the other receive material of the opposite side. The groups will discuss together to conclude main ideas for present.

    • Step 2: “Presenting And Advocating Positions”

Student will present their argument, each side have a limited time to contribute the groups ideas. After the presentation, the other side can have a minute to rebut.

    • Step 3: “Uncertainty Created By Being Challenged By Opposing Views”

After the rebuttal of each group, the two sides will be switched. Each of the group will receive material from their opposite side. The students are required to use their material and points they have learnt from the other side earlier to formulate points of the opposite view.

    • Step 4: “Epistemic Curiosity and Perspective Taking”

Students will put down their position and discuss the issue together; they are required to find points which they are agree with and disagree with based on their evidence from the argument in order to reach concurrence. If the group cannot find a consensus of the topic, they are advice to find a compromised procedure which they could use to resolve the disagreements.

    • Step5: “Re-conceptualizing, Synthesizing, and Integrating”

It is a sharing session, the whole class grouped together and discusses how the group worked as a team and how can SAC help them in understanding the issue.

Limitation of SAC:

  • Student may be prejudiced by first impressions, they may not able to change their mind even the evident are support the opposite idea. And thus, it is hard to reach consensus at the end of the process.
  • As SAC involved rebuttal, student may thought they are personal attacked by the criticism if the others student are not handle the rebuttal properly.
  • It is demanding for the low-achieving student to speak out in the group they may not have chance to speak out according to their shyness.

Civil Conversation Model

The model was firstly used by the Constitutional Rights Foundation for encourages student to analyst a text material. With the guidance of the team leader, groups member are encouraged to study a selected text material, they will get to know their own points of view in the discussion procedure and eventually build a shared knowledge within the group.

The challenged text material is an essential step for discussion in Civil Conversation. The text should be in a proper length and the conversation will takes place with the students in a circle. The teacher usually acts as a facilitator.

The aims of the facilitator are:

  1. identify the topic and main points in the text,
  2. list what they agree and disagree with in the text, and
  3. pose questions about the text they believe are worthy of discussion.

The challenged text will organized as a worksheet and contains question which required student to answer. The questions are usually in the below format:

  1. What is the selection is about:
  2. What is the main points are:
  3. What do you agree with
  4. What do you disagree with
  5. A selected question for group discussion, the question should have no simple answer which can only use the materials as evidence.
  6. Debrief Questions
    • What did you learn from the conversation?
    • What did you find you had in common with other members of the group?
    • For anyone not active in the conversation (those good listeners), what did you learn; what did you agree with; who said something that you would have said?

The four procedures in CC

    • Step 1- Selected a challenged text

Divided students into group and set the time limit of the discussion

    • Step 2- Ask for agreement and Disagreement

Ask every member to contribute idea on agreement and disagreement (question 3 and 4). Members should carefully listens to others and contribute new ideas based on that.

    • Step3- Discussion

Then ask the entire group to respond to question 5 the predefined discussion question. They are required to jot down the issues raise and they can raise a new problem anytime.The conversation can then continue by discussing the questions raised.

    • Step4: Sharing session

It is a sharing session, the whole class grouped together and discusses how the group worked as a team and how can Civil Conversation model help them in understanding the issue. And ask students to return to the Reading Guide and answer questions 6 and 7.

    • Step 5: Make enhancement

Conclude the ideas by asking the student to advise ways to improve the model. If appropriate, add these suggestions to the conversation rules.


  • Facilitator is essential in this model. Student needed guideline on how to make a good discussion. As the student usually asks for “factual question” of the article, it is only good for additional research. A good question should make student to “think about an issue, take position and back it up with evidence”. As you can see the quality of the discussion is mainly depended on the facilitator
  • There is no specific guideline for student to follow while they are taking place to discuss the raised question in step 3. The free-style discussion may lead the discussion out-of -track.
  • Civil Conversation Model are designed to analyst a selected material. It may not fitted the nature of Project Based Learning, in which, student are required to research on the topics and collected additional material by their selves. By doing their own research, they can have new ideas by reconstructing the material.

Six Thinking Hats Model

The Six Thinking Hats Model is a thinking/discussion strategy devised by Edward de Bono in 1994.

The model suggested that human thinking was divided in 6 session and the model uses 6 different colors to represent each of them, It requires students to extend their way of thinking about a topic by wearing a range of different ‘thinking’ hats:

The Hats

  1. White hat thinking focuses on the information available and needed.
  2. Black hat thinking examines the difficulties and problems associated with a topic.
  3. Yellow hat thinking focuses on benefits and values.
  4. Red hat thinking looks at a topic from the point of view of emotions and feelings
  5. Green hat thinking requires imaginative, creative and lateral thinking about a topic.
  6. Blue hat thinking focuses on reflection, control and the need to manage the thinking process.

The colors help students to visualize six separate modes of thinking and to convey something of the meaning of that thinking. It can be used by student in different ages, here are the 6 thinking hat model teaching materials for the primary school student and secondary school student.

Procedure of using Six Thinking Hat Model:

There is no parliamentary procedure for the six thinking hats model, the model can be fitted in individual thinking and it can also fit in group discussion. While using six thinking hat model in group discussion, usually, it required the group member to pick a color of hat and let them contribute their idea one by one. In this model, the blue hat is acted like a facilitator in the group. It aims to manage the thinking process and summarize the points contributed by their team member.


  • It allow student to think out of the box, not like SAC and CC, the six thinking hats model was a straight forward model to lead student to think the issue based on 6 different aspect.
  • Not like SAC and CC, emotion is brought into the model other than focused in evident, it opens up an opportunity for creativity within Decision Making.
  • Instructor is not necessary in 6 thinking hats model compare than Civil Conversation model, it is because student will take their own part as the blue hat controller, and instructor can just sit around and let the student drive the discussion by themselves.
  • Not like SAC, by using six thinking hats model the student will not prejudiced by first impressions. It is because the six thinking hat model is not aimed for controversywhich required student to rebut for each other, it allows student to express their ideas altogether by role playing.
  • By using this model, there is a directed way the leads the “low-achieving” student contribute in the discussion.

Review on existing system

Instructor Controlled Chat System(ICCS)

ICCS (Thirunarayanan, 2000) [23] was proposed to let the instructor involve into the student discussion, it can fix the problem with chat confusion and overlap. He proposed two software enhancements in order to achieve the aim:

    1. Instructor mediated chat

Instructors will have two windows on their monitor, one is the student discussion window and the other is the instructor control window. Each message raised from the student will send to the instructor window first before published to the other students, the instructor will choose the relevant question / response to publish. Students are only type and respond to the question until the instructor sends the message to the student window

    1. Instructor hints before the chat section

The second point is to save short comments; questions and statement in the database before the chat session begin. Once the student is lack of idea, the instructor can make use of the pre-saved statements to ask question and remind students to stay focused on relevant topic.

Potential problem of ICCS

  1. As the discussion flow is highly depended t

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