The Ruyton Reporter - Spring 2014 - page 6

6
the ruyton reporter
Development of Critical
Thinking Skills
Throughout the past 18 months we have
been exploring the potential of inquiry-
based learning in the primary years. The focus
has been on developing curriculum that is
engaging for our girls and allows them
to learn in a manner which is personalised
and which promotes critical, deep thought
into complex ideas and issues.
Within an inquiry framework the girls are encouraged to:
• question and both pose and solve problems
• delve into their own learning, exploring breadth and depth to construct new
understandings of significance that will stay with them.
The girls are challenged to pursue their curiosity and to explore further questions or
ideas that emerge for them as interesting, challenging and sometimes confronting in
their search for deeper understanding. The inquiry process begins with what the girls
already know, their perceptions, feelings and attitudes, and this is then built upon
throughout the inquiry cycle. It challenges girls to reflect on their current knowledge
and to develop their own unique way of understanding and perspectives on an issue.
Inquiry-based learning recognises that every child has a unique way of seeing the
world founded on their own experiences and prior learning. During the inquiry process
learning becomes the focus and the role of the teacher and girls is to extend their
thinking to explore new ideas together in collaboration. Inquiry-based learning
encourages girls to use knowledge of different subject areas, especially Humanities
and Science, to think like a geographer, historian or scientist, as they explore complex
issues and seek to find solutions, constructing new knowledge and understandings.
The inquiry process is based on
collaborative relationships
between teachers and girls.
Rather than the teacher making
all of the curriculum decisions,
the inquiry process challenges
teachers to invite girls into
making curriculum decisions and
to co-construct their learning.
Inquiry-based learning allows the
development of critical thinking
skills that will enable our
students to be lifelong learners,
prepared for whatever the 21st
century throws at them.
Ms Nicole Ginnane,
Head of
Junior School
Our Young Inquirers
It’s never too early to start asking questions! This is
what our Year 3 girls were doing during their
construction group activity earlier in the year. They
were asked to identify what materials they found in
a structure of their choice, and discussed the properties
and purpose of these materials. The structures they
explored included mud, clay and cob houses, as well
as those made of straw, stone and wood. They worked
on their iPads to conduct research, using Google, and
found useful videos and images. They applied a
‘thinking tool’ to record the information, for instance
a pencil and a notebook, to collate the details as dot
points, sticky notes, lists, drawings and even a Venn
diagram. As part of this project the girls also made their
own mud bricks from soil and plant detritus, and left
them in the sun to dry. Carla and Georgia discussed
how they
‘used variables, such as adding coloured paper
and flowers, to see what would happen to the bricks.’
At the end of the activity the girls could comment more
knowledgeably on the suitability of materials used for
building, having examined the appropriateness of their
properties, such as strength, toughness, durability, and
resistance to water.
Ms Margaret Gordon,
Junior School Curriculum
Co-ordinator
Inquire, Inform, Inspire
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