Smart thinking
Helping young people develop moral reasoning and thinking skills about offending and anti-social behaviour
By Don Rowe and Amanda Dickson. Published in association with the Citizenship Foundation.

Smart Thinking is a comprehensive programme for work with young people between the ages of 12 and 18. It can be used whenever there is a need to help young people develop their moral reasoning and thinking skills about offending and anti-social behaviour, or a desire to encourage positive social relationships. It has been developed by the Citizenship Foundation in conjunction with youth justice workers. It can be used with young people:
  • who are already in trouble whether in secure or non-secure settings
  • who may be at risk of getting into trouble
  • who may be in schools, clubs or communities and need help in thinking about matters such as 'respectful relationships' or 'rights and responsibilities'.
  • All are encouraged to be more aware of - and discuss - problems, attitudes and feelings… whether they are facing them as individuals or as groups.

    Smart Thinking contains material for 10 two-hour sessions and offers ideas and suggestions for further sessions. Illustrated photocopiable pages are provided to support group activities and exercises, along with guidance on how to set up and maintain groups and how to create a lively and varied pace throughout each session. The introduction offers a full understanding of why and how the materials have been developed, enabling them to be used to maximum effect. All of the material has been extensively trialled with practitioners.

    Smart Thinking aims to:
  • encourage the development of a range of thinking and communication skills
  • improve the ability to think about moral aspects of everyday life, with particular reference to offending and anti-social behaviour
  • enhance self-awareness through increasing the ability to think critically and reflectively
  • increase the ability to operate in social settings by improving the capacity to interact verbally.

  • An independent evaluation demonstrated the programme's potential to improve empathy towards others, attitudes towards the law and the moral reasoning to address dilemmas that arise in these relationships.

    A4 wiro. 120 pages. 978-1-903855-97-3. Published 2006. £32.95.


    For use by anyone who works with young people from age 12 upwards: in schools (for example in PRUs), youth work, youth justice, Connexions and other AIG settings, social work, counselling, policing and community safety. The material could also be used, with some adaptation, in a range of similar settings for work with some adults.



    Why a thinking skills programme?
    What kind of thinking skills?
    The advantage of group work
    Questions to encourage moral thinking
    Moral stage theory
    The importance of empathy in moral reasoning
    Development of attitudes towards laws and rules
    Empirical evaluation of Smart Thinking
    Toolkit: a practical guide
    Getting started
    Programme delivery
    Good causes
    Desert island
    They made me do it!
    Car crazy
    The break-in at Julie's flat
    Did they deserve it?
    Murder on the high seas
    The hostel


    Don Rowe
    is director of curriculum resources at the Citizenship Foundation. The Foundation has a history of curriculum development in many aspects of citizenship education, including teaching about the law, rights and responsibilities and the justice system.

    Amanda Dickson was until recently head of programmes at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre near Rugby.


    "The authors are clearly experienced group workers, and have devised activities that should work really well with young people. The majority of the units are based around written case studies or stories, but many of these could easily be adapted as role play or "hot-seat" activities. Resources also include sets of cards, problem page letters, and other worksheets that are well illustrated and can be easily photocopied…. many of the activities could very usefully be used for group work with any young people." Young People Now.