With continuing grade inflation at GCSE and A-level, universities are seeing increasing numbers of students with top grades and extensive extra-curricular activities. In order to differentiate between high quality candidates admissions tutors are now taking into account their thinking skills, problem solving ability and their ability to apply their knowledge in a real world context. Think Club helps students to develop these skills in a demanding yet non-judgmental forum.

Think Club courses run in Gerrards Cross during term time and are designed to develop students’ thinking skills, communication and confidence, smoothing the transition from teacher-led learning at school to more independent thinking and learning at university. Founder of Think Club, Emma Thatcher, told us more about the course.

What is Think Club?

Think Club is a course for students in years 11-13: classes take place once every two weeks during term time. Informal discussion groups of no more than six students meet to develop their critical thinking and problem solving skills. We run the sessions in a similar way to university supervision or tutorial groups – the students are expected to contribute as adults and to drive the discussion as much as the moderators. We aim to vary the groups so that each incorporates a mix of students from different schools and disciplines: this way they broaden their knowledge base and meet a wider range of people. Being outside the school environment enables our students to escape the constraints of the peer group that they regularly encounter at school.

Sessions incorporate aspects of critical thinking, ethical debates, logic problems and communication skills. Students will learn to deconstruct arguments, think skeptically about sources and to take criticism constructively themselves.

What do students gain from the courses?

We encourage our students to view their education as their responsibility and to start taking control of decisions that will ultimately affect their working life and future. Students will develop their understanding of their relationship with the various parties involved in the higher education process: from tutors and supervisors to lecturers and professors so that they can maximize their enjoyment of higher education and achieve the best possible results.

How does Think Club help with exams and interviews?

We run dedicated revision planning and exam technique sessions, as well as interview preparation sessions. These are only open to students already enrolled on the Think Club course. We believe that good exam technique builds confidence, allowing students to give their best performance on the day. With a structured approach to planning their exams they are less likely to be unnerved by unexpected questions or changes in exam format. Similarly our interview preparation sessions encourage students to think broadly around the subject they have chosen to study at university and help them to tackle awkward questions with confidence.

What do Think Club members say?

Feedback from parents and students is overwhelmingly positive. Think Club parents describe their teenagers as ‘very upbeat and confident’ after sessions and commented that ‘confidence’ in her exams improved, as well as her written and verbal communication’.

Our students have said that ‘Think Club is unique in what it offers. It’s not about learning for exams but about approaching problems and it helped me to gain a better understanding of how to approach an exam in a way that suited me… I will never look at an exam the same way again’.

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