Essentially, Six Hat Thinking is about improving communication and decision-making in groups. It’s a strategy devised by Edward de Bono that asks students to change the way they think about a topic by looking at the problem through a range of different “thinking hats.”

  • White hat thinking focuses on the information available and needed.
  • Black hat thinking examines the difficulties and problems associated with a topic.
  • Yellow hat thinking focuses on benefits and values.
  • Red hat thinking looks at a topic from the point of view of emotions, feelings and hunches.
  • Green hat thinking requires imaginative, creative and lateral thinking about a topic.
  • Blue hat thinking focuses on reflection, metacognition and the need to manage the thinking process.

The colors help students to see six different perspectives and to convey something of the meaning of that perspective.

What is its purpose?

Students learn to recognize that different thinking is required in different situations. The strategy also encourages listening skills, group dynamics and improves decision making.

How can you use it?

Consider an issue or topic which you would like your students to explore. For example, you may want your kids to discuss the financial compensation of Japanese-Americans interned by the US government during World War II.

Explain what thinking is required for each of the hats. Arrange your kids into small groups of six and assign each student a “hat.” Younger kids (and even high school students) enjoy actually wearing the hat so come prepared with a variety of hats in appropriate colors. Encourage the students to ask themselves a variety of questions:

White hat – what are the facts about the internment and possible compensation?
Black hat – what are the negatives about possible compensation? What might happen without compensation?
Yellow hat – what would be gained from compensating Japanese-Americans?
Red hat – how might the possible compensation make us feel?
Green hat – are there other solutions besides compensation?
Blue hat – what might improve the process of compensation?

After sharing their findings within their own groups, have the groups report back to the whole class about the types of ideas generated.

How can I adapt it?

Six Hat Thinking can be applied to many situations in which brainstorming, problem solving, creative and lateral thinking are required. This strategy can be a very useful tool in reviewing a range of texts or even creating a character profile.

Have fun!