I teach an exuberant gang of third graders who appear to take on life with an abundance of confidence. They have so much more exposure to the world than I did. In many ways, I am awed by the children’s compassion for others and their zest to try new things. As I worked more extensively with my pupils, I realized that they need considerable guidance to complete tasks delegated to them. Armed with enthusiasm, they would charge into an activity, only to falter and ask for help at the slightest challenge. To accommodate differentiation for various learning styles and levels, we usually set projects at varying difficulties, and I noted that very few learners attempted the challenge tasks. I swiftly grasped that students were uncertain of how to advance with simpler tasks as well unless elaborate directions were provided.
The essence of the issue came to me when I was inspecting ‘Bloom’s Taxonomy’.
The learners were perfectly able to remember facts and figures. They could parrot everything that appealed to them and experienced no hitches in retaining material at a rudimentary level. They also demonstrated an understanding of what was being taught during the lessons and could offer answers to simple questions based on the topic at hand.
The problem came to the fore when they were required to apply their understanding beyond the four walls of their classroom. Learners could comprehend mathematical operations such as addition and subtraction but had trouble pinpointing situations in which they could be used in real life. While studying how waste affects the environment around us, the students learned about segregation but had a tough time thinking of examples of solid and wet waste generated in their own homes. It was evident that students needed a push towards higher-order thinking skills, and the application of theory into practice was the place to start.
We commenced giving the learners more source-based and interpretive comprehension which allowed them to understand the known and then venture into the unknown to find answers. Unit related pictures were positioned before them for interpretation, and they had no choice but to think for themselves and dissect what they saw. After they presented their responses, they were requested to predict what would happen next, therefore asking them to push their thinking into abstract zones. The learners began to appreciate listening to the range of responses that began popping up during these inquiry sessions.
The learner’s progress with thinking skills was becoming more obvious as they began analyzing and forming connections between ideas. As IB facilitators, we always present concepts at a local level first so that students recognize where their roots lie and then endeavour forth into global scenarios so that they know that they are part of a much bigger picture.
Students could compare and contrast circumstances at regional and international levels and relate to practices pursued all over the world. It was exhilarating to break students up into smaller groups and watch them labour together in harmony even if they had opposing opinions.
The learners began to mindfully reflect on their actions at every step. They began to form sturdier personal beliefs with a firm grasp on what they thought to be true and right. The children also recognized that contradictory opinions did not necessarily mean that strife would ensue as they regularly collaborated in groups and were required to solve issues amicably.
‘Evaluating’ and ‘Creating’ were just a stone’s throw away once the learners had toiled hard on developing their thinking skills. They were eager to dive into complex topics, share their opinions and stand firm with them in the face of disagreement. They were able to debate and defend their point of view with confidence that I had not observed in them before. During this learning expedition, students undertook extensive research missions and created projects that displayed their knowledge and creativity. I had seen remarkable changes in every one of my students during this time. Their dispositions and outlook on life were altered as they built up their thinking skills and I was honoured to be a part of this voyage with the next generation. They were moulding themselves into lifelong learners that would be capable of facing any trials that life threw at them. Bloom’s taxonomy is now a crucial part of my teaching space and is a ready reckoner for me to gauge how to move the learners forward in their cognitive process.