A Simple Prompt with Big Impact 

I’ve written before about the power of protocols, particularly the ones from Project Zero’s Making Thinking Visible.

One that I find I’m going back to over and over again is used to articulate shifts.  Shifts in learning, shifts in thinking, shifts in understanding.  We talk about the power of reflection, but how often do we run out of time, or squeeze it in at the end of our sessions with learners?  We talk about sharing our learning, and documenting our thinking, but how often do we ever go deeper than swapping stories and sharing information?  How do we make sure that we are focused on growth?

What can we learn by observing the shifts that others have undergone?

Here is the protocol:

I used to think….now I think…

Although it’s quick to implement, and you might think that it’s ‘simple’,  it’s my experience that it takes some practice and time in order to really articulate shifts in thinking effectively.

Try it for yourself,  but don’t just try it once.! Try it with the students and teachers you work with, but give it some time.   The reason that Harvard’s Project Zero refers to their protocols as ‘thinking routines’ is because of their understanding that the power of their use is in understanding that ‘routines are really just patterns of action that can be integrated and used in a variety of contexts’.

I love the way that Richard Elmore used this wonderful protocol to collect a series of essays to describe the shifts in understanding of a variety of educators!  I feel like I should use this protocol more often myself, especially on the blog!


  1. Love how the focus is on the learning journey… great to use with portfolios that document diagnostic/initial thoughts and with curriculum documents/success criteria to demonstrate learning.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] During the teaching of the AQ Course – Integration of Information and Computer Technology in Instruction, I often introduce students to the work of Ron Ritchhart and Project Zero from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. I’ve written more comprehensively about collaboration with colleagues that started my learning, the book Making Thinking Visible and an especially powerful prompt that I’ve had success with called I Used to Think…Now I Think… […]


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