de Bono thinking for Education

de Bono Thinking in Education

“We all hang on to assumptions of the past to make conclusions about the Bono teaches us to challenge such assumptions and develop new creative solutions to problems.” - Philip L Smith, President, General Foods Corporation

Dr. Edward de Bono has worked with Students and educators from around the world for decades. His material has been used and is still used by millions of students worldwide. If you are involved in educational training at any level, and you believe in our method of teaching thinking, we would be happy to hear from you. We are fully aware of the tremendous work being done around the world at this current time by individuals like you, who are helping others to discover their true potential.

Resources to for Teachers and Students can be found at the Learning Partnership for Schools


The material has been used with students over the age of 8. At this level, the effectiveness of the lessons depends very much on the motivation and skill of the teacher. There is no doubt, however, that the lessons can be used successfully with these young students. The lessons are less self-running than at more senior levels. The teacher has to maintain the momentum and keep this going by encouragement and suggestion. On the other hand, the motivation and interest of students in thinking is very high in this age group. They really do get involved in the business of having ideas. They are much less inhibited than older students and much less bound by competition and other structures. The lessons should not be called games but should be treated with all seriousness.

One very successful teacher calls the lessons “Thinking Groups”. The group size should be about 4-6 per group. The teacher reads out loud, elaborates and explains the lesson material because there may be reading difficulties in some of the groups. Nevertheless, the students are each given their notes to keep as usual. A very important point is to use those practice items which are going to be of interest to the students. This is not always easy to predict with this age group, and the usual mistake is to underestimate their interest and give them only child-type problems.

They can get very interested in adult problems as well as those related to their own immediate worlds. In addition, there may be considerable interest in the science fiction type of problem. Students of this age are often more interested in ideas as such than are older students who prefer the problems that relate more directly to their oven world. It is important to choose "rich" items where the student can easily picture the situation no matter how fantastic. The items should never be minimal ones which require the student to work hard before picturing the situation . With these age groups, the lessons can be taken quite slowly. For instance, a lesson may consist of only two practice items and a general discussion. The discussion on the thinking process involved need not be separated but may be interwoven with the practice items.

At first, the principles section may be left out, but this can be added quite soon. If there is time, the project section is used as a group discussion item rather than as an essay. Initially, the students may spend all their time pursuing matters which are not very relevant and also mixing up the practice items. The teacher need not worry too much about this as one of the most striking effects of the lessons is to train students to direct their thinking in a more focused manner. Experiments in which students who have done some thinking lessons are compared to others who have not, show very clearly that the lessons provide a framework which enables students to stick more closely to a problem instead of rambling from one subject to another. Students do not mind the use of labels (PMI, C&S, etc.) and the teacher should not feel embarrassed about using them. Confusion is the main difficulty in learning, and the labels are there to prevent this.

Since natural interest tends to be high at the elementary level, there is not much point in condemning ideas which seem way-out or trivial. At this age, ideas as ideas have a value for students and to condemn ideas simply introduces inhibitions without helping in any way. The teacher should try and maintain a strong flow of ideas and pick out and emphasise those which seem especially good. The three most important points for the elementary teacher to remember are:

  1. Keep a high level of interest through choice of item and also interaction with the students.
  2. Keep in mind the purpose of the lesson and the thinking operation that is the subject of it.
  3. Do not reject ideas.


At this age, the pressure of examinations is not so great as it is later, and there is therefore an opportunity to provide some basic groundwork in thinking. The important point is for the teacher to be deliberate and definite and to treat the subject in a serious manner. If the students begin treating the subject seriously, they are more likely to benefit from the lessons. At this level, the teacher may not be able to rely on naturally high interest levels but must provide a definite structure which the students can see and can work within. The pace of the lessons must be brisk and crisp rather than discursive and sloppy. Teachers should be free with their encouragement and praise and seek to guide the lessons in this way. They must also be quick to tighten up the lesson if it shows signs of losing focus. At this level (unlike the elementary level), the teacher does not have to accept all ideas. Indeed, if teachers did so the students may not know what they are supposed to be doing. Teachers can judge some ideas to be important, interesting, original, etc., and others feeble, trivial and irrelevant. It is not a matter of trying to force good thinking through criticism but of giving very clear guidelines. With this age group the lessons can be run in the intended manner. Since the pace is to be brisk, it should be possible to cover all the practice items. The process discussion section and the principles should also be covered. Unless it is more than a single period, the project section should be left out but it could be used as an essay subject or in a similar way.

Each student is given his or her own set of students notes to keep. Nevertheless, teachers should read out the practice items and try to enrich these. Choice of items will depend upon the teacher's assessment of their own classes. The items may have to be more relevant to the students' own lives since the students, unlike elementary students, are not as interested in ideas for the sake of ideas. Indeed, it is in this age group that immediate relevance may be most important. Students do, however, live in worlds quite apart from their own lives. For instance, through the medium of TV students are conscious of war, cops and robbers, and various other situations they may never actually meet. So the teachers' assessment of relevance must take into account not only the students' direct world but also the "second-hand world" derived from the media. Fantasy is not as wide ranging as with younger students but is focused on fairly well defined alternative worlds. Political and social realism problems are possibly less applicable at this stage than at either the younger or older age levels. The teacher must also try to provide variety by altering the format of the lessons and allowing interaction between groups. The important points for the teacher to remember at this age level are:

  1. Keep the lessons serious, deliberate and definite rather than playing around.
  2. Keep the lesson brisk and crisp.
  3. Provide by example definite guidelines and objectives so that the students do not flounder.
  4. Be quick to control facetiousness and laziness. If teachers feel that the class needs tightening up because the students have too high an opinion of their thinking skills, they may wish to use some of the test material provided.


At this level, the material may be used in a number of ways. It may be used as part of Liberal Arts or General Studies programs. Some schools are using it as a core subject for Social Studies. The use of the material in high school classes introduces problems that are not apparent in the other groups. At this stage, the students have already been exposed to several years of secondary education. They are used to definite subjects with a deliberate content and syllabus structures. They are used to individual achievement often on a competitive basis and are accustomed to being graded. The most important point here is that the students should know exactly why they arc studying thinking. They must not get the feeling that the subject is only a time filler. Nor should they feel that the subject is only an adjunct to liberal arts and is not regarded seriously by the school. The above section on "perspective" is especially applicable at this age.


The structure of the lesson with these groups is rather different. The class must be small in size - about twelve is the limit. Instead of dividing into groups, the students sit in one group with the teacher in the centre. The lesson can become a discussion session on a practice item. The thinking process involved is woven into this discussion rather than treated separately. This also applies to the principles section, which is not treated separately and may even be left out. Teachers may have to do a considerable amount of scene setting, prompting and questioning. Above all, they should be able to take a suggestion from a student and rephrase it so that it makes sense to the rest of the group.

Resources to for Teachers and Students can be found at the Learning Partnership for Schools