Developing Critical Thinkers Through Inquiry-Based Learning
We have heard the demand of business. Schools are being charged with developing students who are adept at solving real-world problems.
At SISD, we are creating a culture of challenge in our classrooms by beginning to implement more engaged learning (sometimes referred to as project-based learning), a method of instruction that encourages students to truly gain real-world knowledge of the topics they’re studying. Engaged learning allows students to “learn by doing,” thereby drawing them into the learning process more fully and inspiring critical thinking about items of relevance to them.
One of the best examples of inquiry-based learning at SISD is the High School Project. In recent years, the project was only available to seniors, but has recently been expanded for students in grades 9-12. Students identify and select a topic of interest to them and then spend several months using critical thinking and problem-solving skills to complete the various tasks and deadlines related to their project. In May, students present their project to community members. Seniors earn a special designation on their diploma for completing the project.
I witnessed this engaged learning activity first-hand as my daughter, Olivia, completed her high school project. She met with lawmakers in Austin about proposed legislation that could add flexibility to the graduation plans of Texas students. The experience she gained was vital and was instrumental in her experience as a Communications major at Baylor University, which has led to her work in the Marketing Communications field.
In the past, students have refurbished cars, hosted sports camps and talent shows, raised funds for children with cancer, learned to paint or play an instrument and even trained animals. The work – because of its relevance to each individual student – is always remarkable. The lessons learned along the way – making deadlines, scheduling appointment, writing thank you notes to mentors, developing interpersonal skills and understanding the importance of time management – are invaluable.
The message from Austin is clear: high-stakes testing is decreasing. With this in mind, it’s clear that Texas students are headed in the right direction. Sunnyvale ISD is determined to keep critical thinking and problem-solving at the top of our list of priorities in our classrooms.