Six silly hats (When is it OK to mock stuff you think is daft?)

//Six silly hats (When is it OK to mock stuff you think is daft?)

Who doesn’t love wearing silly hats? Christmas dinner just wouldn’t be the same without popping on a paper hat and looking like a complete buffoon for the duration. But does this kind of behaviour have a place in education? And if you think not, is it acceptable to poke fun at those who disagree?

So, firstly, let’s establish whether or not Edward de Bono’s Thinking hats actually are silly. Harry Webb’s rule of thumb on determining whether an idea is silly or has merit is to imagine whether it could feature in a Monty Python sketch. Now clearly I’m partisan here, but can’t you just see John Cleese and co having enormous fun with the hats? The sketch practically writes itself. And obviously Brain (or Brian) Gym would work equally well: I can almost hear the smutty guffaws as Eric Idle enthusiastically rubs his ‘brain buttons’. But some education ideas just aren’t funny. Regardless of whether you think they’re any good, there’s just not that much scope for lampooning Direct Instruction, Jigsawing or whole class discussions. Yeah, OK you can do that (yawn) boring, socially inept teacher-as-fool thing that David Walliams is currently channeling, but really, no one thinks Big School is funny, do they?

Also, and maybe more tellingly, the obviously pro Hats site reads like a parody. Even though I knew that it wasn’t intentionally funny, I found myself chuckling along. Here are a couple of gems:

Six Thinking Hats® is a time-tested, proven and practical thinking tool. It provides a framework to help people think clearly and thoroughly by directing their thinking attention in one direction at a time–white hat facts, green hat creativity, yellow hat benefits, black cautions, red hat feelings, and blue hat process. Dr. de Bono wrote this international best selling book in 1985. You can buy a copy here.

It’s a simple mental metaphor. Hats are easy to put on and to take off. Each hat is a different color which signals the thinking ingredient. In a group setting each member thinks using the same thinking hat, at the same time, on the same thinking challenge—we call this focused parallel thinking–a tool that facilitates creativity and collaboration. It enables each person’s unique point of view to be included and considered. Argument and endless discussion become a thing of the past. Thinking becomes more thorough.

Six Thinking Hats® has become a basic 21st Century tool kit for proactive business and education thought leaders, and students–K-12 & Higher Education. To read a variety of business articles and case studies click here.

“We love the hats. Tara and I introduced our students to them right away on Friday. Our Academic/Honors students were skeptical. My Applied Communications class LOVED them. Since then, with a little encouragement, we have had nothing but success with the hats. Tara’s Journalism class is attacking the school magazine all with hats. My Applied class designed and implemented a new independent novel unit utilizing the hats. My Honors Speech and Debate class has implemented a new peer comment format that revolves around yellow, black, and green hat ideas. My Honors III class is exploring The Red Badge of Courage with the hats. The red hat is especially helpful because they are putting themselves in a few of the characters’ shoes. They also linked the current Jessica Lynch debate (hero or not) to the novel with the hats.”

“SIX HATS® has provided me with a whole new channel of thinking – pulling my mind into new directions.” —Carrie Mathias

This stuff is comedy gold! And even funnier is the Uncyclopedia page, Six Hats which has some great caricatures of ‘typical’ six hats thinking.

Typical Blue Hat thinker

Typical Blue Hat thinker

OK, so I’ve enjoyed myself sniggering at all this, but is this intimidatory? Am I squashing debate by mocking a strategy that other teachers might hold dear? Will they perhaps feel too ashamed to be able to defend their thinking and experience? Well, these are valid concerns, and obviously, I’d hate to think that I was closing down discussion. Just because I think I’m right doesn’t mean I have the right to stamp on other people’s opinions. But here’s the kicker: wasting time on stuff which is obviously guff is irresponsible. Time spent teaching kids about how to act when wearing (even metaphorically) coloured hats is time not spent teaching them maths, science or history. I see it as a professional responsibility to root out and expose any practices that are so clearly without merit. You see, the thought that anyone in a position of power is pedalling this nonsense makes me cross. As you can see from the links above, people are making money out of teachers’ credulity; public money that could be sent on something that might actually benefit children. What really irks me about de Bono’s dubious headgear is that it’s a way of trying to market thinking. Obviously children thinking is a good thing – everyone wants that. But the idea that we need to wear hats to think in different ways is just insulting. I could just get angry and make impassioned, righteous tilts at these time-wasting windmills, but sometimes it’s more effective (and possibly kinder) to laugh. Laughter pricks pomposity.

And hopefully, educated, intelligent readers can work out that I’m mocking I’m not mocking them, I’m holding up a fad, which really should have expired years ago, to ridicule. But like VAK, de Bono’s party hats seem to linger on, zombie-like while new generations of teachers are instructed in its methodology and uses. If you didn’t laugh, you’d cry.

You really can!

You really can!

And just as wearing silly hats at Christmas lightens the mood and makes us equal, so too does a rueful smile at the way we can all be taken in by gimmickry and fads.

Related posts

Some thoughts on learning styles
The problem with fun
Why the knowledge/skills debate is worth having

2017-04-09T22:52:02+00:00September 19th, 2013|myths|


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  2. David McQueen ♕ (@DavidMcQueen) September 19, 2013 at 10:00 am - Reply

    I will admit to having once used this in a workshop six years ago and then quickly dashed it, when I did more research. It is nonsense and as you say should be discarded so teachers can focus more on good teaching.

  3. Fran September 19, 2013 at 2:18 pm - Reply

    I would not, repeat not, spend money on coloured hats. But I do not consider it a waste of time to teach young people to approach the same problem in different ways.

    • Ruth September 19, 2013 at 9:26 pm - Reply

      I totally agree, Fran. I have never bought any books or paraphernalia to do with the Hats, or taken seriously any overblown claims on marketing websites, but I have used the exercise in science lessons (to structure writing about nuclear power, for example) and I don’t see any inherent folly in it, just a means of encouraging students to cover several angles, beyond the one they think of immediately.
      I don’t go along with the VAK beliefs; students should aim to be well-rounded and adaptable whether or not strong learning preferences are a factor to consider. But having a bit of fun with metaphorical hats doesn’t involve subscription to any view other than the fact that problems can be approached in different ways.

      • David Didau September 19, 2013 at 11:28 pm - Reply

        Ok, so is your position that thinking hats are fine as long as you don’t buy books about them? That seems a little inconsistent. If you find them so effective maybe you should invest more time in reading up on them?

        Giving children the knowledge to be able to see new angles is what’s important. If they know enough they’ll be able to think better. Wasting time teaching them what the hats represent is time that could be spent teaching them stuff that could help them think better. I can’t think of an activity that might use the hats that wouldn’t be improved by not using them.

        • Ruth September 19, 2013 at 11:54 pm - Reply

          Thanks for replying. I thought you might pounce on the ‘should you read up on it’ loophole as I commented…

          We agree that teaching them how/giving them opportunities to think is what’s important, of course. I just find the hats no big deal to incorporate at times. Insisting on ‘vanilla’ thinking exercises would be like saying, for example, that debate should follow one structure and therefore jettisoning debating games.
          The only time I’ve wasted/invested in Thinking Hats is here (it really doesn’t take much explaining in class). I am following the arguments here (and was aware that it was deemed deeply uncool) but I still find it hard to see what the harm is.

          • David Didau September 19, 2013 at 11:58 pm

            I guess the ‘harm’ in the situation you describe is minimal. I just think the hats are silly. While you’re welcome not to agree, most of the comments here seem to being saying, “Yes, thinking hats are a bit silly, but…” and them trying to find an excuse for them. Isn’t it easier not to have to make excuses for our teaching?

    • David Didau September 19, 2013 at 11:21 pm - Reply

      If you have a solution to a problem, do you need to approach it in a different way?

      • Francis Michael Farrell September 19, 2013 at 11:25 pm - Reply

        Well, maybe the idea is to use the ‘hats’ to help you find a solution.

        • David Didau September 19, 2013 at 11:38 pm - Reply

          Why would you need hats to do this? Your PMI suggestion is a much better, simpler way to get the same results.

          • Francis Michael Farrell September 20, 2013 at 12:12 am

            Just flicking through the book again. It’s years since I’ve read it (probably a reason for that, below) and I see now that I have forgotten much. I had a quick look at ‘red hat thinking’ to see whether that would contribute to finding a solution to a problem. It seems it is different type of ‘hat’/’thinking’ than white (objectively looking at facts) and ‘Yellow (looking at only the positive ) and ‘black’ (looking at the negative). For red you are allowed to say what you feel about something without having to justify or prove a point. You can reveal your hunches or gut feeling openly. He suggests that you could use it at the start and end of a meeting to see whether people’s feelings had changed.

            I suppose it’s a bit like in a class where you ask pupils to line up on a continuum reflecting what they think about an issue. At that early stage you are not asking them to debate or defend; they are just allowed to show their current point of view. You sometimes repeat the exercise at the end of a lesson/unit, as I am sure you know. The chapters are lot longer than I remembered.

            I think he was concerned to change the type of adversarial thinking that he feels happens where the cleverest people produce the cleverest arguments to defend their position rather than actually find the best answer.

            I found it all sounded OK in the book but when I tried it out with a class (how can we improve the flow of pupils through the dining queue) we got nowhere. So, that’s why it probably got left on the shelf.

            Alas…I must finish marking. As Lady Macbeth says, ‘consider it not so deeply’ 😉

  4. tonyfurze September 19, 2013 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    I had just got to these after reading about them in Mr Beadles ‘Could Do Better”. So this can now be thrown into the mix of things I am thinking about at present. Thanks.

  5. Sam Aiston September 19, 2013 at 8:59 pm - Reply

    Are you criticising the idea of constructing a balanced argument by exploring all different aspects, or just the fact that wearing hats to do this is a bit daft?

    • David Didau September 19, 2013 at 11:23 pm - Reply

      I point you to this extract from the post: “What really irks me about de Bono’s dubious headgear is that it’s a way of trying to market thinking. Obviously children thinking is a good thing – everyone wants that. But the idea that we need to wear hats [even metaphorically] to think in different ways is just insulting. ”

      Does this answer your question?

      • Francis Michael Farrell September 19, 2013 at 11:30 pm - Reply

        Hi, David. There seems to be a bit of a question over whether you are actually supposed to wear a hat. I have dug out my copy of the book (better than marking mocks). He says in chapter 2, ‘I want thinkers to visualize and imagine the hats as actual hats’ He puts ‘visualize’ in italics.

        • David Didau September 19, 2013 at 11:35 pm - Reply

          Obviously actually wearing the hats would be inexcusably ludicrous. Doesn’t stop it happening though. But, that’s irrelevant. Even visualising them is pointless.

      • Sam Aiston September 21, 2013 at 12:58 pm - Reply

        Yes, thanks. Too daft for Primary?

        • manyanaed September 21, 2013 at 1:27 pm - Reply

          Some folk are really daft. If you think wearing the hats is silly, just don’t wear the hats. Wearing the hats makes no difference to the system for thinking. What a fuss. Where does the phrase, about putting one’s thinking cap on, come from?

          • David Didau September 21, 2013 at 1:56 pm

            Peter – you have completely missed the point of the post – if you read it again you might get the point that wearing hats is utterly irrelevant.

        • David Didau September 21, 2013 at 1:56 pm - Reply

          I don’t want to comment on that. Do what you must.

          • Sam Aiston September 21, 2013 at 3:27 pm

            I shall. If the only criticism is they need to be explained (2mins- only do it once) or the idea that a hat is a bit silly (probably- but each to their own) then the idea is fine with me!
            Don’t think anyone is saying use it as a substitute for gaining knowledge about a subject!

          • manyanaed September 21, 2013 at 4:04 pm

            One last try, otherwise the only post I will ever read will be your one on Six Thinking Hats. I’ll go through the post and comment on each section.

            First you make fun of the coloured hats, and I assume this is about the wearing of coloured hats. Monty Python made fun of a lot of stuff and they could make fun or wearing different hats. Fine. Spike Milligan made fun of the saying, ‘When one door closes another opens’. Amazingly doors do open and close and are made no less effective as doors by his sketch.

            So onto the part by the typical blue hat thinker picture. That picture adds a lot to the voracity of your argument, which I assume we have not yet reached.

            You write. ‘…wasting time on stuff which is obviously guff is irresponsible. Time spent teaching kids about how to act when wearing (even metaphorically) coloured hats is time not spent teaching them maths, science or history. ‘ May I ask you why it is obviously guff? You have some evidence of this? If you do I would be delighted to read it. I don’t think the system has ever been subjected to exploration in a scientific way. So the only evidence we have is from folk who have used it. Some say it works, some, probably don’t think it works, and some have never used it.

            I and others have told you that it takes a few minutes to explain to children about the hats system. They get it very quickly. But if five minutes is too long for you, then ok. You win. And if hats is used more than once then that reduces the ‘wasted time’, as you put it, overload for each subsequent use. Let me add that I completely get the issue of having to use student time to teach them something they will only use once. The reality of using hats does not generate such an overload.

            You then type, ‘What really irks me about de Bono;s (sic) dubious headgear is that it’s a way of trying to market thinking.’ It is not the headgear that matters. But when I have said that you have requested that I reread your post. In big letters: YOU DO NOT HAVE TO OWN OR WEAR COLOURED HATS.

            You then type, ‘But the idea that we need to wear hats to think in different ways is just insulting.’ Whoops. Read the big writing above please. Not about WEARING the hats. About getting groups to think in ways that allow views to be given in a structured and respectful way. It can also be used with groups from 1 to whatever you think is valuable/manageable. But just get clear, it’s not about wearing hats of any colour. In fact, one could be naked and carry out the six thinking hats process. Or you could paint your appendages any colour you like.

            You then have a picture of an advert for purchasing some coloured caps. Perhaps it is this that you don’t like. The marketing process. Read the big writing above, please.

            So as far as I can tell what you do is assert that thinking hats is a worthless. You don’t provide any evidence for that assertion. Not even one of your normally well chosen links. You, personally don’t like thinking hats. Fine. I don’t like spam. If I asserted spam was bad for you because someone sold a spam eating spoon in different colours you might think I was a little mad. Perhaps Monty Python could do a spam sketch. That would make me right.

            Were you once attacked in the street by a man wearing a coloured hat?

          • David Didau September 21, 2013 at 5:47 pm

            I’ve no idea what you’re trying to accomplish here Peter. But as you continue to be confused despite my attempts to clarify I refer you to some more big writing: I KNOW DE BONO DIDN’T WANT OR EXPECT ANYONE TO ACTUALLY OWN OR WEAR THE HATS.

            If you still feel the need to find fault, please read today’s follow up post and make any further comments there:

          • manyanaed September 21, 2013 at 8:11 pm

            I went through each of the points you made. You kept referring to the actual wearing of coloured hats. What about the other points I addressed?

            The minimal time it takes to introduce the hats system?

            That there is no research evidence for or against (other than de Bono’s own claims)?

  6. Francis Michael Farrell September 19, 2013 at 9:42 pm - Reply

    I have mixed feelings about De Bono. He has another thinking strategy called PMI (Plus Minus Interesting). The idea is that what ever you are thinking about (e.g. should we all become vegetarians) you first HAVE to think of the positive implications. Next you HAVE to think of the negative results. Then,(hardest?) think of results which are neither positive or negative but simply interesting. Now, we may feel this is just a version of making a list of for and against. He suggests we often have a predilection to one point of view on an issue and tend to focus on finding the arguments that support our opinion and neglect the other side. This method forces us to consider the other point of view (usually for a stated length of time, too).

    Now, this is no different to two of the hats in the six thinking hats approach. and I think is useful. I never thought, though, that we are meant to actually wear a hat.

    Having said that, my problem with him is that IF his methods are so creative, why does he seem to keep writing the same book! And the same goes for Tony Buzan.

    • David Didau September 19, 2013 at 11:33 pm - Reply

      The advantage PMI has over the Hats is that it’s straightforward, obvious and doesn’t waste time explaining pointless distinctions between colours. BUT, any ‘thinking tool’ is only as good as the knowledge students have. If the don’t know much then they will struggle to think of anything interesting. Any heuristic which values making connections and abstractions above the quality of knowledge which underpins them is fundamentally flawed.

  7. Francis Michael Farrell September 19, 2013 at 11:40 pm - Reply

    ‘is only as good as the knowledge students have’.
    I think (but do NOT want to become an apologist for him) that Bono would agree. He says you use ‘white hat’ thinking when you are being objective about facts and figures.’ i suppose you might use ‘red hat thinking’ (emotional view) to try to consider how somebody might feel about those facts and figures (perhaps the numberof badgers culled; or number of abortions performed).

  8. cindy wynn (@CbwynnWynn) September 20, 2013 at 12:08 am - Reply

    And why are you David Didau, wasting your and my time writing this rubbish in the first place. I hate knockers who knock for the sake of it. I suspect you are a serial knocker with nothing better to do and no ideas of your own, so you take to knocking others. What are your own ideas about getting people to think about things…and I mean your own ideas…not stuff from other people and places like the PMI…do you have any of your own ideas..if so please publish them. Then we can waste our time continuously knocking them. I personally choose not to use the hats for some of the reasons you state…eg it would take some time to teach kids about the hats first. However I have seen people use the hats idea well…ie ending up with kids doing quality thinking. Do you know what quality thinking is David Didau…if you did you might reason with yourself and figure out that people can decide for themselves whether they think thinking hats is right for their students.. and they dont need you banging on endlessly for your own entertainment and argument. Do you teach? I feel sad for those students if you do being taught by such an opinionated idiot.

    • David Didau September 20, 2013 at 12:15 am - Reply

      My goodness Cindy! What bile! It’s ironic that you are indulging in exactly what you’re accusing me of – I wonder if you’re a troll?

      As to my ideas, interestingly enough I have written two books – one is available on Amazon right now: and the other will be available for you to pour scorn on in January next year. In the meantime, I’ve written hundreds of posts on this site which discuss my thoughts about my own teaching practice and the the poor unfortunate students I teach.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, but please in future please try to keep the tone polite or I’ll be forced to block you.

      • Francis Michael Farrell September 20, 2013 at 12:30 am - Reply

        Out of curiosity I looked at her blog. She recommends/links to one of your posts!

      • Den Perrin October 28, 2014 at 8:35 pm - Reply

        Hi everyone!
        What the Hats represent is parallel thinking as opposed to normal critical thinking only. We can still do our critical thinking under the black hat but having the other hats means they help to think in alternative modes at will. A good exercise is to write a list of say 10 bad thinking habits, then 10 good thinking habits. It’s good to see that there is interest in encouraging better thinking!

  9. John September 20, 2013 at 12:42 am - Reply

    I reckon she must have been wearing a see through hat….

  10. September 20, 2013 at 4:11 am - Reply Let us not forget the Six Action Shoes….. I tried Six Hats once with a reasonably good S3 class.. they liked the idea of being able to look at problems from different angles but as one said to me ‘Why do you need to have hats?’ Why not just a chart or labels?’ I’ve had much more success, especially in poetry analysis with PMI. It works well for S6 (Higher) students as they have to really think which is the whole point n’est pas? Larkin’s ‘This be the Verse’ went down a storm once we said things for the PLUS such as ‘It’s short!’ and MINUS ‘It’s VERY rude Sir..!’ They then came up with some very good analysis for the INTERESTING bit 😎

    • David Didau September 20, 2013 at 9:31 am - Reply

      I think that about sums it up – why do we need the hats?

      And thanks for the shoes! That’s a gem

  11. bt0558 September 20, 2013 at 11:55 am - Reply

    “If you have a solution to a problem, do you need to approach it in a different way?”

    “I think that about sums it up – why do we need the hats?”

    “Regardless of whether you think they’re any good, there’s just not that much scope for lampooning Direct Instruction,”

    As a senior manager I used the Six Hats with excellent results for engaging in problem solving with a range of managers and others. It was often most successful with individuals and teams that held the view ‘if you have a solution to a problem, do you need to approach it in a different way?”.

    Just because you don’t see any value in using the hats, why would you think they were not needed. You use the term ‘we’ as if you were speaking for the whole of the teaching profession, or at least those with any common sense.

    I would be interested to see some of the arguments you have for dismissing the use of the hats other than the “I think they waste time” argument. My experience has been that for those who find knowledge/skill acquisistion difficult in a particular situation, taking a different approach can be very valuable and different approaches can be effective and therefore they become efficient. Fast and focused direct instruction is of little use if the kid doesn’t learn the thing.

    I have used the hats when I thought it would be useful and I have seen kids who were often disengaged getting excited about problem solving and developing a range of solutions to complex problems and issues, as young as year 7. Now they are in year 10 do they still use the six hats. Maybe and maybe not, they will decide on the best approach to solving a problem and for some that wouldn’t have happened without the six hats.

    I think Francis’s summary above was simple and useful, especially his description of De Bono’s rationale which was …..

    ‘I think he was concerned to change the type of adversarial thinking that he feels happens where the cleverest people produce the cleverest arguments to defend their position rather than actually find the best answer.’

    I believe that the method (among many other alternatives) does just that in a simple way that can be used by adults and young children, and judging it against Mr Webb’s criteria and making fun of it has not changed my view.

    You may believe, having written a book entitled “The Perfect OFSTED English Lesson”, having dabbled with SOLO, having concluded that fun is bad and Direct instruction is good that you are in a position to ridicule tools developed and used by others and I am sure that a good numbers of your disciples on here will agree with you. I feel perhaps that this sometimes arises from a mixture of Cult of Celebrity and a lack of real understanding of problem solving processes.

    I do hope you won’t consider this post to be bile as you suggested was the case in Cindy’s post. I also formed the impression that you were being insulting to other teaching professionals without justification.

    Just because you don’t like using the hats and cannot find a place for them in your teaching doesn’t mean that they aren’t useful per se. That is just a tad solipsistic I feel.

    Interesting that you would feel that there is little scope for lampooning direct instruction, I cannot for one moment think why you would think this. I thought they did a pretty good job in the movie Dead Poets Society, but maybe that was just my ignorance showing through.

    Fascinating discussion. Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

    • David Didau September 20, 2013 at 12:11 pm - Reply

      BT0558 – I’m surprised that you’ve managed to form the opinion that I’ve insulted anyone. I’m pretty clear that I haven’t. My view is that Thinking Hats are silly and you are welcome to disagree. If you feel insulted by that view you might need to consider why. While your comment isn’t bilious it is personal in nature. You’ve made a set of assumptions about me which aren’t really justified. Hey ho.

      You say “Just because you don’t see any value in using the hats, why would you think they were not needed. You use the term ‘we’ as if you were speaking for the whole of the teaching profession, or at least those with any common sense.” I feel I am doing precisely that. My contention is that there is nothing that you could do with thinking Hats that couldn’t be done better and more efficiently without them. If you would like to take on the substance of that view then please do. But I’d much prefer that you tried to do it without resorting to ad hominem attacks on other arguments I’ve made or the belief that I am some kind of Svengali figure.

      Finally, I think you might be surprised about what Direct Instruction actually is. It was developed by Siegfried Engelmann in the 1960s and bears no relationship to anything depicted in any Robin Williams films. If you’re interested in finding out more, this is a good place to start:

      • bt0558 September 22, 2013 at 6:15 pm - Reply


        I think you misunderstood my motives for posting. My apologies if you took anything I said as insulting or an ad hominem attack, nothing could have been further from the truth.

        I actually went to a great deal of effort to explain that I had personal experience of the Six Hats, that I had found them to be very effective and even stated the contexts in which I found them to be particularly useful.

        You were saying that it was ok to mock the technique but you did not present any evidence for this opinion. You explained that you thought the Six Hats would make a good Monty Python sketch. You described another post as bile, when all it did was to query your right to mock and ridicule a strategy without any real justification.

        I don’t believe that just because you feel that there is nothing that can be done with the Six Hats that couldn’t be done better or more efficiently without them this gives you the right to mock the approach which I believe implies a degree of incompetence on the part of the user.

        I am now unsure whether it is the actual donning of the physical hats you object to or the approach to problem solving.

        I did not intend any ad hominem attack, far from it. I was trying to get to grips with why you would wish to mock something for which you had no evidence, and would then be shocked at some of the reaction. I explained that I believed your confidence in stating your case may have come from a mix of sources including cult of celebrity etc. This still seems wholly reasonable to me. I am in no way mocking you as a person, just trying to understand why you would think this way.

        Maybe that is another blogpost. Is it ok to mock and question the possible reasons for a persons actions, if one doen’t mock the person.

        I did think this was a daft thing to say in the context of problem solving….

        “If you have a solution to a problem, do you need to approach it in a different way?”

        I did think this was a daft thing to say…we quite often use tols and techniques that are interchangeable, skinning a cat and all that……..

        “I think that about sums it up – why do we need the hats?”

        And you are quite correct. I did not appreciate the relevance of the capitalised Direct Instruction as apposed to my use of the term ‘direct instruction’. I used it in the folllowing way….

        “Direct instruction is a general term for the explicit teaching of a skill-set using lectures or demonstrations of the material, rather than exploratory models such as inquiry-based learning.

        This method is often contrasted with tutorials, participatory laboratory classes, discussion, recitation, seminars, workshops, observation, case study, active learning, practica or internships. Usually it involves explication of the skill or subject matter to be taught and may or may not include an opportunity for student participation or individual practice.”

        It seems that you refer to Direct Instruction the specific method developed by Siegfried Engelmann. I have never seen the term used in this way so please accept my profound apologies. I have indeed gone to look about at Engelmann and his ideas after following your link. It is interesting (maybe not earth shattering). It seems to reflect the way that I see many teachers actually teach and I wonder how many have actually heard of Engelmann. He seems to have preached that teaching should be based on an understanding of the way people learn, I hope I haven’t oversimplified.

        I will in future distinguish between Direct Instruction and direct instruction and will have another look at Engelmann so that for that.

        I do not believe you are some sort of Svengali figure, but I do feel that a number of bloggers on the web do start to feel a little superior for any of a range of reasons some of which I listed above. I do feel also that in this age of social networking, some individuals are easily impressed by blogs, twitter and the popularity of some bloggers to the extent that they start to believe what is blogged even if it is without substance. I tend to call such people disciples as they seem to be blind followers based on faith.

        So I didn’t use the term “Svengali” and I wouldn’t have done so although as you have brought it up I am able to see the similarities. There are some important differences clearly between your followers and Svengali’s.

        There are others on the web who, so I am led to believe, try to cultivate this sort of Svengali hold over followers working in groups/teams. They indulge in mutual admiration, commending other bloggers for being insightful and intelligent when they express sympathetic views and reblog each others stuff endlessly. Some people even go as far as suggesting that it is the number of followers (disciples) that is important to these bloogers rather than the actual issues involved.

        I can’t believe that myself, but there you go. At least you do not get involved in any of that self agrandisement, and that is one of the reasons I followe your blog very closely. I actually think your stuff is always worth reading. On this occasion I believe however that you were misguided.

        • bt0558 September 23, 2013 at 9:52 am - Reply

          Still having a look around at Direct Instruction vs direct instruction.

          Most interesting I have found thus far is this I think…

          I will not read your latest post on praise until next week as I tend to end up spending far too long reading and researching after reading your blogs.

          Thought provoking, thanks.

  12. manyanaed September 20, 2013 at 5:32 pm - Reply

    Interesting. I have used many of the de Bono techniques, taught teachers and students to use several, used many myself and read many of de Bono’s books. I used the hats and other techniques with my SLT and found them generally very successful and they have very little overhead in terms of teaching anyone what the terms mean.

    I don’t particularly like the strong marketing push that de Bono corporation attempts.

    I thought the six action shoes was rubbish and I have not used that system.

    I don’t see why actually wearing hats would be of any value. De Bono describes the hats as metaphorical. A particular focus for thinking. If one needed a concrete item to support this then I don’t see why that would be so silly. I have never even thought of using real hats.

    You normally add links to research that supports your views. Are there any such links?


    • David Didau September 20, 2013 at 6:14 pm - Reply

      Hi Peter

      Not aware of any decent research on de Bono although the debonoforforschools,com site has a link to some spurious ‘research’. This is just my opinion.

      And of course actually wearing the hats is particularly stupid: don’t stop it happening though!

      • manyanaed September 20, 2013 at 6:40 pm - Reply

        So yur only issue is the actual wearing of coloured hats?

        • David Didau September 20, 2013 at 6:43 pm - Reply

          No. That is not any part of my issue. Please read the blog – my issues are stated there.

          • manyanaed September 20, 2013 at 9:08 pm

            I have read your blog. Did you read my reply where I said there was *very little* overhead in teaching about how to use the six hats. So all that is left to object to, if you know of no evidence to disclaim the effectiveness, is… ??? What?

  13. Martin Said September 20, 2013 at 10:38 pm - Reply

    Here’s my tuppence. The six categories seem to be a perfectly sensible set of perspectives. The hats are a structure, they do not advance thinking at all.

    Your five minute lesson planning is great David. It is a structure though. It makes me no better at planning the lesson without the content knowledge or pedagogical content knowledge, but it is a useful starting point.

    The hats are a mnemonic and no more, but a useful mnemonic if they help kids to remember the categories. I think it takes less than five minutes to teach the kids the categories. The colours become a hook to which the kids can attach the categories. Yellow feels bright, so it is easy to remember that is the benefits etc. Very useful for little ones.

    If I could make money by inventing a mnemonic based on coloured socks, then call me cynical or a sell out, but I would brand it up, build a website and take my family for a lovely holiday somewhere where I could wear sandals with socks underneath. I’ve always envied those people, I feel it gives one an air of both bookishness and righteous leftyness.

    Granted I would only advertise it as a mnemonic and I’m not sure how I could both advertise it and stop people using it without getting some form of intellectual property payments buy hey, there are some great young legal minds out there who will be there to help me when the time comes. They might have even used the hats, you always hear them saying “let’s look at the facts” in court room dramas and Jodi Picoult novels.

    PMI is sometimes better, but actually for music sometimes I want an emotional response. No harm done.

    Wearing a hat is always silly until you are of an age when a pipe also looks acceptable, but socks……

  14. headguruteacher September 20, 2013 at 11:14 pm - Reply

    My view of 6 hats is forever linked to working with a colleague some years ago who was a hats devotee. She carried 6 small coloured plastic cones in her bag and got them out to make a point in meetings. The yellow hat would be placed on the table to add emphasis to her point in a discussion. Or Blue. I found it excruciating. We humoured her, much as you might do with an astrologer arguing to do X or Y because Venus is in the 7th house of Aries…It was basically harmless but was also hard to take seriously. And I did try.

    • kaizenteacher September 20, 2013 at 11:52 pm - Reply

      Which in a way points us back to the title of this post: When is it right…

    • peter blenkinsop September 21, 2013 at 4:52 am - Reply

      I have never seen hats used in that way. It is either an individual activity to allow one to think about aspects of a problem or a group activity to get all participants to contribute in a more constructive way, with someone who facilitates the process. Very odd for someone who imposes the hats or cones in your case. It is no more than a disciplined way to move towards solutions.

      • bt0558 September 22, 2013 at 6:18 pm - Reply


        Why is it that you are able to say in 4 lines what I have tried and failed to say in about 40 paragraphs.

        Clear and concise. Well said.

        • manyanaed September 22, 2013 at 8:09 pm - Reply

          ‘cos I don’t know as many words as you do?

  15. […] feel the need to make a few things clear. A few days ago I wrote this: Six Silly Hats (When is it OK to mock stuff you think is daft?) and some of the response I got suggested that I was confused on several […]

  16. […] feel the need to make a few things clear. A few days ago I wrote this: Six Silly Hats (When is it OK to mock stuff you think is daft?) and some of the response I got suggested that I was confused on several […]

  17. […] of this was a recent blog article which was critical of the use of De Bono’s thinking hats (   The blog met with a number of comments from defenders of De Bono, who stated how they found De […]

  18. […] that is as ridiculous as Brain Gym is “Thinking Hats”. David Didau wrote about it here and quickly discovered that few things get more of an angry reaction than pointing out the […]

  19. […] speak French is like building a wall.’ And what’s more they’ve shoe-horned in the Thinking Hats. But there’s a clear recognition that all of this is dependent on […]

  20. Hammersmithblue October 1, 2014 at 11:44 pm - Reply

    I am going to write The Six Grundies of Wisdom with highlight chapter on the Brown Pants of Despair.

  21. Den Perrin October 28, 2014 at 8:45 pm - Reply

    The Hat system probably appeals to people who don’t enjoy constant arguments and like to organise their thinking in alternative ways. Of course there are other ways and there is no argument with them. I find that one of the benefits of using parallel thinking (the hats) is that they save time with circular argumentative thinking. Comedy and mocking has its place. The hats system would be for people who enjoy thinking and the better results that good thinking produces.

  22. […] Thinking Hats […]

  23. […] The bottom line is this: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences is conceptual confused, lacks experimental support, flies in the face of more generally accepted, mainstream scientific research on intelligence, and, most importantly, provides absolutely nothing of any practical value to teachers. You might as well rely on something as obviously risible as thinking hats.  […]

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