The power of collaborative learning

Using DeBono’s Six Thinking Hats in Psychology and Beyond

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Vanessa Evagora has been a teacher for two decades, enjoying a number of roles including Assistant Head Teacher, and Advisory Inspector. Vanessa is currently Head of Psychology at Aldenham School and loves being in the classroom. Outside of teaching, Vanessa is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors, due to her Principal Examiner roles across GCSE, A Levels and university entrance exams.


What is the point of the 6 Thinking Hats?

The 6 thinking hats is one way in which teachers can teach thinking skills.

It is designed to suggest ways in which parallel thinking can occur – having different ways of thinking about the same thing.

What are the 6 hats?

When people say that they are ‘putting on their … hat’, they are using this expression as a way to show that their thinking is going to follow a specific pattern. DeBono classified 6 different colours of hats as:

  • White Hat – Facts
  • Red Hat- Feelings
  • Black Hat- Risks
  • Yellow Hat- Benefits
  • Green Hat- Alternatives
  • Blue Hat- Thinking about Thinking (metacognition)
  • image1

    Teach Aldenham Breakfast Club – Thinking Hats in Action!

How can the hats be used in class?

The 6 thinking hats can be used for a wide variety of activities in lessons:

  • Skills acquisition – e.g. scientific process in Physics, Art techniques
  • Content discussion – e.g. History report writing, book responses in English
  • Pastoral and behaviour for learning work – e.g. Brexit – yes or no; why is it important to listen to the teacher?

A topic or idea is presented. Students are then asked to wear different hats and respond to the topic or idea using the thinking style of that hat. This allows the students to have an overall view of the topic and show their ‘parallel thinking’.

How do we use the 6 hats in Psychology A Level?

The exam board we follow considers that there are 5 areas of Psychology:

  • Biological – our bodies and genes cause our behaviour
  • Cognitive – our thinking causes our behaviour
  • Developmental – our upbringing causes our behaviour
  • Individual Differences – our personalities and uniqueness cause our behaviour
  • Social – our environment and interaction with others causes our behaviour.

The 6 thinking caps are used as each of the 5 areas of Psychology. Students adopt the thinking of that type of Psychology when they put on the hat. This means how that type of psychologist would explain and treat the behaviour.

For example: why do people kiss?

  • Biological – our bodies make us think it would be nice
  • Cognitive – we think it would be a good thing to do
  • Developmental – we have seen others kiss and have learnt from this
  • Individual Differences – we think it would make us happy
  • Social – others see it as normal for couples to do.

For example: how could you treat OCD?

  • Biological – medication and brain surgery
  • Cognitive – identify and change the unhelpful thoughts
  • Developmental – un-learn the compulsions
  • Individual Differences – undertake psychoanalysis, focusing on all areas of a single person’s disorder
  • Social – improve social links.

Teach Aldenham Breakfast Club – Thinking Hats in Action!

Why does the ‘6 hats’ technique work?

The technique of approaching a topic from a diversity of perspectives allows for deep processing of the material, so it is more likely to go into a person’s long-term memory.

Does anything else work as well?

The 6 hats is just one tool for thinking more critically and creatively. There are many others:

  • If you used a different V.A.K. learning style or a different one of the multiple intelligences, what would be different about your work?
  • How would X solve this problem?

For a whole range of different decision making and meta-cognition tools: www.mindtools.com


One thought on “Using DeBono’s Six Thinking Hats in Psychology and Beyond

  1. Great blog Vanessa, good to see how the concept of the hats can be utilised through the whole school EYFS to A Levels.


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