What do you do when you want to challenge students, but you also want them to learn? We give them critical thinking challenges. Critical thing requires many skills-problem solving, collaboration, design thinking, and perseverance. When a critical thinking question is carefully crafted, you can get students to explore learning outcomes while having fun and being engaged in their learning at the same time.
The Problem: Create a problem students need to solve. Relate it to your learning outcomes when possible. For example: Can you create a windmill that powers itself?
The Materials: Give your students the materials they will need to solve the problem/access to materials they choose. For example: cardboard, dowels, plastic lids, tape, glue guns etc.
The Time: Give your students time. Time to plan.think.test/retest/collaborate. For example: Meet with your group and come up with a plan of attack. When you have a plan you can come pick out the materials you need to start building. You’ll have two hours to work on this challenge today.
The Feedback: Give your students feedback. Ask them what they can do to make it better. For example: Your windmill turns, but it keeps getting stuck. What can you do to improve how smooth it runs? Take the next thirty minutes to see if you can resolve it. Students need to be given time to reflect on and use the feedback.
The Collaboration: Encourage students to teach others. For example: I love that your axle turns to easily. Can you show the class how you made it?
We have already started writing critical thing challenges related to science learning outcomes. If you would like to give them a try along with some helpful tips, student example and marking guides you can find them in our store. We’ve tried to make them accessible to regular classrooms using minimally priced materials.
Classroom Chemistry Critical Thinking Challenges
Design an Electrical Game Board
Design a Carnival Attraction
Simple Machines Critical Thinking Challenges
Structures and Materials Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Challenges
Electricity Critical Thinking Challenges
Do you use projects in your classroom? What about challenges? What do you think the advantages or disadvantages of this type of learning can have? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.