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12 23Sat09202014

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GDOE focusing more on critical thinking approach

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EDUCATION must not be confined to just the accumulation of facts; it must expand to learning what to do with knowledge and how to apply them in real life. Hence, the need to transform the school system from theory-based education to practical application.

Based on this premise, the Guam Department of Education is seeking to revolutionize public education by switching focus on teaching and learning critical-thinking skills to better guide students toward success after school and help them meet the workforce demands of the modern world, GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez said yesterday.

“We want our students to be able to understand how to approach complex problems, and to be able to make it relevant to their life,” Fernandez said, speaking before members of the Guam Contractors Association at the Hyatt Regency Guam. “When they go out of school into the real world, they won’t feel that it is a different world; it is what they are prepared for.”

STEM strategies

The problem-solving and critical-thinking approach, Fernandez said, entails a more complex process beyond simple memorization of facts. “You have to have more complicated reading materials that we can discuss and engage in to help our students meet the demands of the 21st century,” he said.

Fernandez said the goal starts with helping teachers facilitate teaching and learning critical teaching, inquiry and investigation through the STEM strategies.

The STEM Program, a nationwide education movement for improvements in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math in order to meet the needs of the future, was developed in 2007 in response to studies indicating significant gaps in these areas of study.

“Our focus is on teachers; it’s a big challenge. You want to offer them the support and resources that they can use to foster critical thinking,” Fernandez said. “We facilitate professional developments for our teachers to help them learn how to incorporate STEM strategies into their classrooms.”

Hi-tech classrooms

Fernandez said GDOE has invested federal funds to equip classrooms with tools to help teachers achieve the goals of the STEM Program.

GDOE, for example, has launched pilot programs for Pryce Elementary School, Untalan Middle School and George Washington High School, where technologically sophisticated learning equipment have been installed, such as smartboards, wireless connections, and multimedia projectors.

“What we’ve done is use our resources at hand to try to incorporate technology into the classroom and get the teacher resources to facilitate that sort of engagements with students,” Fernandez said. “You don’t want to just talk about technology; you have to give them an opportunity to access it and learn. So, it’s happening on a pilot basis.”

GDOE has coordinated its program with the University of Guam and the Guam Community College, Fernandez said.

“This is not just a branding or public relations issue,” Fernandez said. “We hope we can translate this to the workforce and economic development and growth of the island.”

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