Project Activities and Encouraging Critical Thinking: Exploring Teachers’ Attitudes
The contemporary education process frequently emphasises the importance of teaching and learning by focusing teaching activities towards research and collaborative work, the encouragement of critical thinking, the creative and productive application of knowledge, an active approach to the teaching content, and solving specific problems in project activities. A survey was conducted on a sample of 220 elementary school teachers from three counties in Croatia (Primorje-Gorski Kotar, Lika-Senj, and Istria) regarding the frequency of implementing project activities that encourage critical thinking in pupils. The objectives of the research were to determine the regularity of implementing project activities at the class level and at the level of the entire school, and to examine possible differences between teachers who estimated regular implementation of project activities in their schools and those who estimated the levels of irregular implementation of project activities, in the application of contemporary work strategies, as well as in the attitudes on the contemporary paradigm of childhood and the education process. The research results showed that the majority of teachers estimated that project activities were carried out regularly at their school (66.5% on a class level and
65% on a school level). Teachers who reported the regular implementation of project activities at the class level and at the school level more frequently applied contemporary work strategies and techniques of critical thinking than their colleagues did. The research results also indicated that those teachers more frequently use established approaches to the educational process (teacher should explain, exhibit facts, and point out important conclusions) than their colleagues do. There were no statistically significant differences in contemporary attitudes between the two groups of teachers. Since the objective behind the implementation of project activities was to create the knowledge that, in the creative act, boundaries of the known or tried are transcended in the direction of new and expanded knowledge, importance should be given to the role of teachers in promoting the development of critical thinking and guiding pupils to explore and discover new knowledge.
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