Critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration: How to develop LOMLOE key competencies at primary level

Spain’s education system has come under a lot of scrutiny in recent years. A focus on rote learning, piles of homework and endless copying from the early primary years has led to criticism from parents, students and teachers alike.

A desire to modernise and come in line with education systems across the EU led to the development of the new educational law LOMLOE. Part of the law’s stated aim is to keep pace with changes in society.

A Competency-based Approach

A little over two years later and we’re starting to see the benefit of some of its key concepts. Not only is there a greater focus on social justice issues like Inclusion and Sustainability in the classroom, but key competencies are also being worked on. Competencies which go beyond simply memorising facts and regurgitating them in exams and help students think for themselves.

The new law has a competency-based approach (ie. using knowledge to do / achieve things) that gives schools more freedom to personalise learning based on their students’ needs.

All of this sounds wonderful, but it’s impossible for teachers to simply switch teaching styles from one day to the next without, support, training and the relevant materials. In today’s post we’re going to look at three of those competencies, critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration. We’ll see what they are, why they’re important and how we can incorporate them into out English classes

Critical Thinking

What is it?

Critical thinking is defined by the dictionary as: “the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement.” Put simply, to think critically, you need to be able to put aside any assumptions or judgments and merely analyse the information you receive.

Why is it important?

For many years the education system has force fed students information. Students then have their intelligence judged by how well they can retain and regurgetate that information in a highly pressured exam situation. Employers now see soft skills such as critical thinking as vital in the workplace and a key to employability. It helps students form well-informed opinions, promotes curiosity, allows for creativity and enhances problem solving skills. The ability to think critically can also improve empathy among students.

How can we encourage it?

Getting our youngest students to think for themselves and form their own opinion can be tricky. Life is much easier when you can simply teach from the book. Which is why critical thinking is now a key component to most course books.

The ability to self-evaluate using the evidence and information gathered is vital. Reflecting critically on what you’ve learnt helps with critical thinking. Added to that, in this particular unit, you can see one of the key aims is the ability to agree and disagree. Fundamental attributes to critical thinking.

Rise and Shine and its unique methodology provides plenty opportunities for critical thinking throughout the book.  For example the ‘I can’ statements at the end of the units allows students to think back over their work and evaluate whether they have achieved what they set out to achieve.

I Can Shine statements, LOMLOE

Problem Solving

What is it?

The ability to solve a problem doesn’t only relate to Maths. Problem solving goes a long way beyond the classroom walls. Our younger students are figuring out how to tie their shoe laces, button their coats and how too avoid getting the blame for something naughty they did.

Why is it important?

We need to help our students understand that problems will arise in all walks of life. Figuring out how to solve them can require creativity and a lot of thought. It’s important we don’t simply solve all of their problems for them.

How can we encourage it?

In I Can Shine there are plenty of chances for students to develop their problem-solving skills.

Let’s take a look at I Can Shine 5 where the book looks at a school garden project. Students read and listen about a school garden project. Take the time to identify the problems (no gardens at home, lack of funding) the students could have and show your class how they solved those problems.Problem solving. LOMLOE

After working through the reading and seeing what issues the students came up against, you could ask what your students could do to help projects at their school or in their community.


What is it?

Helen Keller once famously said: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” the art of collaboration is one that needs to be nurtured from a very young age. Learning to build relationships and work through differences is a skill you will continue to work on your entire life.

We never know who we are going to end up working with. However,  something we need to know is we can’t do everything alone. There will be times when, no matter how hard we try, we need a helping hand. Learning to collaborate means will be able to make the most of everyone’s skills to achieve the best possible goal.

How can we encourage it?

Understanding students’ relationships with each other and how whether they will work well together is obviously something only a teacher can know. I Can Shine gives these diligent teachers the materials to foster collaboration in their classrooms and among their learners.Collaboration. LOMLOE

In this “Wonder” section of I Can Shine, our learners are encouraged to talk about when they have helped others. How they have collaborated to make someone else’s life easier. Allowing students to reflect on what they have done to help others, be it setting the table for dinner or helping someone with their homework, will provide them with a sense of self-worth and a new appreciation of the help they receive from others.

When we walk into our classroom, we need to take a moment to realise we’re not simply helping our learners get 9’s and 10’s in their exams but we also want them to get 9’s and 10’s in life. Helping them become their best possible selves. The LOMLOE has now provided us with the push we need to go out and help our students get to grips with these core competencies. Now it’s up to us to grab that opportunity and make the most of it.

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