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A Welsh academic has presented two papers at a major international conference in the United States.

Dr Helen Lewis, a senior lecturer at Yr Athrofa: Institute of Education, spoke at the 18th International Conference on Thinking (ICOT) in Miami, Florida.

The conference brought together leading researchers and practitioners from across the world.

The event sought to explore strategies for engaging people, from toddlers to senior citizens, in understanding world issues from different points of view.

Transdisciplinary in trend, it drew from such fields as education, neuroscience, health sciences, the arts, sports, business, anthropology, history and technology. Keynote speakers included professors Howard Gardner, Shari Tishman, David Perkins, Guy Claxton and Carol McGuinness.

Dr Lewis’ first paper focused on how animal-assisted interventions, specifically a reading to dogs programme, can improve children’s views of themselves as capable, confident learners.

Her second paper looked at the benefits of using videos of classroom practices as a starting point for reflection and discussion.

Her research suggests that this approach can support teachers to teach thinking more effectively, as well as supporting young learners to think metacognitively.

Dr Lewis, who has recently become the first Welsh Early Education Associate and has been nominated to sit on the ‘Let’s Think’ National Forum committee, said: “The conference was truly inspirational. This was a fantastic opportunity to hear from experts in fields such as metacognition, learning dispositions, creative and critical thinking.

“Delegates from around the world came together to share their research and classroom practices. Temple Grandin’s presentation, which considered the autistic brain; Mary Helen Immordino-Young’s research about emotions and brain development; David Perkins’ discussion of what ‘being smart’ really means; and Shari Tishman’s talk about the power of ‘Slow Thinking’, were particularly fascinating.

“Professor Carol McGuinness discussed international evidence relating to how thinking competencies are promoted effectively, and many of the key messages she gave reasonate with the national mission here in Wales. After my own presentations it was encouraging to see the level of interest in the curriculum innovations and research that is happening in the Welsh context.”

Dr Lewis has recently co-authored two books relating to thinking; one a book of practical ideas to support young children’s creative and critical thinking, and one containing local, national and international case studies of how schools approach the teaching of thinking. Both are due to be published later this year.

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