Thinking Classrooms with Peter Liljedahl

Last week, Dr. Nicki mentioned Peter Liljedahl’s research on vertical, non-permanent spaces. That took me on a journey into Peter’s work, and after reading all of Peter’s work around Thinking Classrooms, I had to invite him to the Modern Learners podcast. Luckily, he made time in his busy schedule before we concluded our math theme.

Meet Peter Liljedahl

Peter Liljedahl is currently a professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. He is also the President of the Canadian Mathematics Education Study Group and the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education. He has an extensive body of work that he generously shares at

Thinking Classrooms

Peter most prevalent work is his research on “Thinking Classrooms.” In his forthcoming book, he writes, “a thinking classroom is a classroom that is not only conducive to thinking but also occasions thinking, a space that is inhabited by thinking individuals as well as individuals thinking collectively, learning together, and constructing knowledge and understanding through activity and discussion. It is a space wherein the teacher not only fosters thinking but also expects it, both implicitly and explicitly.”

Initially, his research indicated nine principles, and the initial publication can be viewed here. However, in the interview, Peter explained that the research has evolved, and there are now 14 principles in the Thinking Classroom. In the podcast we discuss just three. First, we discuss at length collaboration and vertical, non-permanent surfaces. The two compliment and enhance one another. Peter concludes the interview with a brief mention of the random grouping principle. He says the evidence for what random grouping does for classroom community is vast.

The Bridge Between Math and Places and Spaces

This podcast episode is the perfect bridge between our MLC themes. We’ve spent time exploring math through our Modern Learners Lens, and now we’re moving into Places and Spaces. Peter does an excellent job in this interview explaining the research behind vertical, non-permanent spaces. He even mentions that he’s never seen a classroom not be able to find space or budget to create more vertical, non-permanent spaces once they experience the thinking those spaces naturally produce. The research is clear, and now we just need to make it happen.

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