UKEdMag: Developing higher-order thinking skills in your learners, by @rlj1981

  • By Rachel Jones: (extract)

All teachers work in one way or another using taxonomy. Many of us use Bloom’s hierarchical taxonomy, which sets out levels of learning from Understanding, through various stages to Analysis, right through to Evaluate towards the zenith of the pyramid, with Create at the top.

This was designed to promote higher-order thinking skills in education and is really useful for encouraging teachers to consider Metacognition - the actual processes of how students learn. Of course, there is also SOLO Taxonomy, which has been embedded into teaching practice, allowing students to reach towards an extended abstract. Whichever taxonomy you use as educators, we should be guiding our learners to achieve their potential and beyond. Why settle for them just to understand something- my goldfish understands when it is going to be fed, doesn’t mean that it is a useful transferable skill.

As a happy coincidence many exam boards ask questions that reward higher-order thinking- so encouraging your learners to operate at this level is worth your time, in terms of skills gained as well as potentially improving student outcomes.

My students made Question Cubes to steer their thinking in terms of higher-order questions - and hopefully answers. These were made from a box net, and they were asked to generate six questions, one for each face of the box.

Question-led learning can be very powerful, and a good way of demonstrating pre-structural learning and thus progress in a lesson. The student’s engagement in their own learning is heightened when the lesson is led by questions generated by them rather than simply posed by a teacher. It allows them to demonstrate their understanding of key terms, as well as making links with learning from previous lessons. This leads to a deeper level of learning as they are making links between new knowledge and the previous knowledge they had to enable them to construct the question cubes.

The students were encouraged to write higher-order thinking questions, so they were framing their work with ‘evaluate’ or ‘analyse’ so when asking the questions they could write answers that did more than simply demonstrate knowledge or understanding. As a starter, they wrote questions on each face of the cube. The questions were based on the learning from the previous lesson and will be used next lesson as part of a student-led plenary. I also thought that placing the blocks on top of each other would create a 3D questioning prompt, which learners could use in a meaningful way to inform essay writing or planning- giving them an essay tool kit of questions to help them frame their answer.

Another activity to promote higher-order thinking is creating evaluative bunting. During the previous lesson, I had used SOLO taxonomy so that my learners….

Continue to read this article (free) by clicking here to access within the UKEd Magazine. The online version of this article was originally published in 2014, and updated in 2020 by the UKEd Editorial team in accordance with website and policy updates.

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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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