Thinking Skills & Personal Capabilities

Thinking Skills & Personal Capabilities

Planning for Infusion

This section includes advice and guidance materials that outline what infusion means, and suggestions for ways to incorporate the infusion approach into your teaching practice.

See also the section on Infusion and Implications for Teaching in the TS&PC guidance booklets and the CPD PowerPoint presentations in Resources

Infusion and Implications for Teaching

The skills and capabilities highlighted in the Thinking Skills and Personal Capabilities (TS&PC) framework need to be developed and assessed in and through the curriculum’s Areas of Learning.

Pupils’ progress in the TS&PC is connected to their progress in the Areas of Learning. As the quality of pupils’ thinking improves, they will make progress in their classroom work. This is the essence of the infusion approach.

Pupils learn content knowledge of the curriculum alongside considering what it means to think skilfully in the subject they are studying. When you explicitly teach pupils the ways of thinking that distinguish skilled performance within a subject, they will progress towards sophisticated understanding and well-informed, reasoned thinking.

If you teach Thinking Skills separately, there is a risk that pupils are less able to transfer what they have learned into other areas of the curriculum. However, if you teach Thinking Skills in a rich context infused within an Area of Learning, pupils develop a deeper understanding of skills concepts. They will also be better at applying these concepts in a range of situations.

Lessons that use the infusion approach help pupils develop both their subject knowledge and understanding and skills in a particular type of thinking. The Thinking Skills deepen understanding of the subject concept and this, in turn, provides an opportunity for teachers to explicitly teach the skills and for pupils to practise them.

The materials in the next section Launch, Activity, Debrief outline ways to plan for infusion by building into lessons explicit teaching on:

  • the methods that pupils should apply as they complete their work;
  • covering content knowledge; and
  • evaluative strategies to monitor work in progress and end of task achievements.

The TS&PC guidance booklets, and the resources Planning for TSPC and Planning for Infusion, will help infuse these skills in the classroom.

Launch, Activity, Debrief

Launch, Activity, Debrief is a form of plan, do, review. It’s a format that teachers can use when planning pupils’ learning experiences in a sequence of lessons.

For this format to work successfully, there will be times when you have to first explicitly teach pupils how to carry out aspects of the work they are to do.

For example, in the Activity section below, the first bullet point requires pupils to plan and organise their work. In the early stages, you will need to show pupils how to plan. You should also show them the format for the type of planning you want them to do.

This might seem obvious, but it can be a neglected component of infusing skills development into lesson delivery. See also the Making Thinking Skills and Personal Capabilities Explicit in Your Teaching section for more information.

The Launch, Activity, Debrief lesson model in the table below shows how you can infuse Thinking Skills and Personal Capabilities (TS&PC) into many subject-specific activities.

Lesson Phase

Strategies for Infusion


Teachers use this stage to set up the learning as a challenge for the pupils and to engage their interest.

  • reframe tasks as a challenge to generate pupils’ interest;
  • share the learning intentions and expectations, making sure to include TS&PC in the learning intentions;
  • connect the learning to previous learning or activities;
  • provide time for pupils to understand what’s expected of them;
  • model skills or capabilities that pupils need to demonstrate;


During this stage, teachers engage pupils in an activity or challenge where they develop a particular skill or capability in the subject.

  • ask pupils to plan and organise work;
  • ask pupils to think, pair, share ideas and opinions;
  • use thinking frames as part of the activity or lesson (these help pupils focus on the specific processes or steps involved in a particular thinking skill);
  • use effective questioning to further embed skills (for example, questions that clarify, look for reasons, explore alternatives or invite enquiry);
  • ask pupils to work in groups on the task;


This stage gives an opportunity to consolidate the learning (both subject and skills oriented) and promote a language for talking about what pupils have learned and how.

  • conduct a well-planned plenary that includes a review of the skills and capabilities used to complete the activity;
  • use questions that encourage the pupils to think back on the skills and capabilities they demonstrated (for example ‘What did you find difficult?’ or ‘What really made you think?’);
  • create a whole-class closing activity that recaps and/or re-exercises the main skills or capabilities learned; and
  • connect learning to other contexts.

The skills and capabilities in the TS&PC framework can invigorate and add new dimensions to your pupils’ learning. TS&PC build on and extend subject-specific skills. The framework also allows teachers to develop TS&PC across the curriculum, making it easier for them and their pupils to make connections, see relationships and infuse the skills in all Areas of Learning.

Seven Classroom Strategies

We have identified seven key classroom strategies that you can use to cultivate and strengthen your pupils’ skills and capabilities and to ensure that they use these in new situations. To realise their full benefits, you should implement these strategies using an infusion methodology. This will ensure that you embed the skills and capabilities in the curriculum’s Areas of Learning and that you teach them as an integral part of curricular topics.

It’s important that you make the skills and capabilities explicit to your pupils in the learning intentions and that your pupils recognise their importance. Relying on learning intentions for teaching creates a strong link between Thinking Skills and Personal Capabilities (TS&PC) and Assessment for Learning.

Not all learning will be investigative or enquiry based. You will still need to convey information, give facts and figures, explain concepts and present formulas. Every Area of Learning can provide opportunities to develop units of work that use a particular type of thinking or explicitly develop an aspect of Personal Capabilities.

Each strategy, summarised below, is explained in more detail in the briefing sheets in Appendix 1 of the TS&PC guidance booklets.

Setting Open-Ended Challenges (See Briefing Sheet 1)
Using open-ended activities and challenges is very important. Open-endedness enables pupils to respond creatively, construct their own meaning and offer reasoned decisions and solutions.

Making Thinking Important (See Briefing Sheet 2)
It’s important that thinking is valued and made important. You need to give pupils time to think. Teachers can sometimes ask questions and expect pupils to come up with immediate answers. If we want higher quality learning, pupils need time for more considered responses.

Effective Questioning (See Briefing Sheet 3)
To develop pupils’ skills and capabilities, you should use questioning strategies that go a step further than checking knowledge and understanding. You should use strategies that ask for further elaboration and, for example, that invite explanation and justification and/or prompt further questions and enquiry. Encouraging pupil questioning and extending their questions is as important as extending teachers’ questions.

Making Thinking Explicit (See Briefing Sheet 4)
You should be explicit with pupils about what you mean by TS&PC. This can help pupils to recognise what these skills and capabilities are and what their relevance is. It also gives you an opportunity to teach thinking more directly.

Pupils need to develop a language for talking about their thinking and being reflective about their learning. We often use the terms ‘metacognition’ or ‘thinking about thinking’ in this context. (For more information, see the Metacognition section in the TS&PC guidance booklets, and the  Metacognition section of the Delivering and Embedding Thinking Skills and Personal Capabilities web area.)

Using thinking questions, thinking frames or thinking diagrams can also help to bring thinking into the open and make the steps involved in a particular type of thinking more explicit. (See the Thinking Frames section of the Delivering and Embedding Thinking Skills and Personal Capabilities web area for more information.)

Thinking frames and thinking diagrams enhance thinking by:

  • placing the focus on the thinking process;
  • giving teachers a tool to explicitly teach thinking;
  • giving pupils a scaffold or guide to help them focus on one step at a time;
  • slowing down thinking;
  • making thinking visible; and
  • providing an external record of the thinking process for pupils and teachers to evaluate and reflect on.

Thinking frames are a temporary support. With practice, pupils will be able to work without them on similar and more complex tasks.

Enabling Collaborative Learning (See Briefing Sheet 5)
Giving pupils meaningful and challenging opportunities to work and collaborate with others is important. The dialogue that results allows pupils to develop social and teamwork skills. Talking about what and how they are learning also improves their understanding and their capacity for reasoning and argument.

Promoting Independent Learning (See Briefing Sheet 6)
To enable pupils to be more self-directed, they need opportunities to plan, manage and monitor their progress. To do this successfully depends on other classroom strategies, such as:

  • being more explicit about skills and capabilities;
  • developing a language;
  • setting goals; and
  • reflecting on learning as well as a general focus on higher quality learning.

Making Connections (See Briefing Sheet 7)

To help pupils transfer their learning, you should make deliberate and explicit connections between the meanings and applications of skills and capabilities across contexts, both within and outside the curriculum.

For more information see Direct Instruction and A Good Activity is Not Enough in the Downloads section. See also Seven Classroom Strategies and the associated briefing sheets in the TS&PC guidance booklets.

Making Thinking Skills and Personal Capabilities Explicit in Your Teaching

Developing pupils’ Thinking Skills and Personal Capabilities (TS&PC) involves learning content knowledge and improving their skills in using that knowledge for a specific purpose.

We can think of TS&PC as an extension to the transmission model of teaching, in which the teacher conveys content knowledge to the pupil. However, you should equally consider the ‘receive’ part of the process where the pupil grasps the information successfully. This means that you will show pupils the methods, practices, techniques and procedures that are relevant to using subject knowledge skilfully.

Knowledge and skills are often connected. It’s important to make sure that your content coverage supports pupils in being able to respond so that their performances become progressively more skilful.

This is what we mean by infusing skills into lesson delivery. The pupil then has not only the ‘what’ (the content knowledge), but also the ‘how’ (procedural knowledge of the ways to apply that knowledge in practice).

Concern with Thinking Skills is responsive teaching: seeing that you have led the novice towards knowing how to use what they are learning with advancing skill. Can your pupils do what it is that you want them to be able to do? If not, how can you help them to get past the barriers that are limiting their performance? You can’t get better at a subject without also getting better at thinking.

For these reasons, you shouldn’t see TS&PC as a ‘bolt-on’. Improvements in outcomes will be a result of pupils making progress in the quality of their thinking.

Teaching must make clear what these types of thinking and learning skills mean. You can then go on to teach them directly. This means going beyond setting out the sequence of topics within a scheme of work. You should determine how to scaffold pupils in their grasp of subject knowledge, methods and procedures. Pupils will make continued progress if you simultaneously consider what to teach and how to convey and explain it.

See Making TS&PC Explicit in Your Teaching for more information.

Progression in Thinking Skills and Personal Capabilities

Pupils’ progress in the Thinking Skills and Personal Capabilities (TS&PC) is not as linear as their progress in subject knowledge and understanding. For TS&PC, it can be more uneven.

For example, sometimes pupils are able to demonstrate their skills and capabilities well because:

  • the task is relatively undemanding;
  • the topic is familiar; or
  • a more competent person has given them a good working model.

At other times, pupils’ ability to demonstrate competence can be reduced because the task is difficult, it is set in an unfamiliar context or they might not have a working model they can use.

To help you plan for progression in TS&PC, you might find the resources below useful:

  • in the TS&PC guidance booklets, see:
    • the sections on Progression of TS&PC in Pupils;
    • Appendix 2: From–To Progress Maps, which show expected progress across the Key Stages; and
    • Appendix 3: Strand Development; and
  • subject-specific Progression Maps for Key Stage 3 (see Downloads below).

The Key Stage 3 Progression Maps provide a snapshot of the sorts of activities and experiences that could characterise the use of TS&PC within individual subjects. They are not definitive and they do not capture all the nuances that might occur within the classroom.

We have provided them as an extra layer of support for teachers who want more specific exemplification of TS&PC as they would be used in practice within their subject. The examples in the subject-specific maps could also spark ideas for:

  • activities;
  • ways to structure pupil experiences;
  • opportunities for infusion; and
  • language that could inform recording and reporting on TS&PC.