Teaching Strategies For Higher Order Thinking Skills10 Jan 2012
Some fundamental principles of learning should guide all teaching strategies, whether focused on higher order or lower order thinking. The American Psychological Association (APA) summarized recent changes in perspectives on learning in a report entitled Learner-Centered Psychological Principles: Guidelines for School Redesign and Reform (Presidential Task Force on Psychology in Education, cited in Kauchak & Eggen, 1998).
These principles suggest that learning is a very individual activitygoals and learning tasks that are meaningful for one teacher or learner may not be meaningful for another. In the learning process, individuals seek coherent representations of knowledge that both fit into what they already know and also have future usefulness.
How well they progress depends in great part upon the teacher; the climate the teacher establishes and the instructional strategies the teacheruses can motivate students to learn and think on higher levels.
A major factor in the growth of higher order thinking capability is a student-centered classroom. It supports the open expression of ideas, provides active modeling of thinking processes, develops thinking skills, and motivates students to learn. Without it, students will not persist in higher level thinking processes. In this open environment, a teachers awareness of student motivation can dramatically affect a students progress. A teacher who incorrectly assumes that a student lacks motivation to think at a higher level may miss the real reason for nonperformancea lack of prerequisite knowledge and skills or lack of interest in the content or activities; or the teacher may not understand that a learners motivation is sometimes influenced by cultural differences of values placed on learning (however, motivational differences are not due to race, ethnicity, or economic status) (Crowl et al., 1997).
In the student-centered environment, great expectations lead to greater chievement. Teachers who expect more of their students express more positive interactions; smile more frequently; use more eye contact; have closer proximity to students; provide clearer and more thorough explanations; give more enthusiastic instruction and follow-up questions; require more complete and accurate answers; provide more prompting and encouragement; allow more time to answer questions; and give more praise, less criticism, more complete feedback, and more conceptual evaluations (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998).
The teacher avoids comparing students with each other. Constructive critical responses to student work are meant to provide strategies to overcome a students learning difficulty procedures such as displaying students grades, exhibiting student assignments, or sharing in other ways the accomplishments of successful students decrease rather than increase the motivation level of low-achieving students (Crowl et al., 1997, pp. 246, 248). The successful teacher conveys the message that making mistakes is okay; in fact, it is an important part of learning (p. 273). In lesson planning, the teacher sets appropriate short- and long-term instructional goals because unrealistic expectations can increase anxiety. Students will persist in achieving goals that are challenging, specific, and attainable in the near future through reasonable effort and persistence (Crowl et al., 1997, p. 241). There is no busywork in this student-centered, thinking classroom, and student progress is monitored using several methodsnot just tests.
Specific Methods and Strategies to Enhance Higher Order Thinking Skills
Once the teacher establishes the student-centered classroom and creates a framework for incorporating thinking skills into lessons, he or she can then consider strategies and methods that can enhance students thinking ability.
To reduce the risks of ambiguity and confusion and improve student attitudes about thinking tasks, the teacher should provide students clear instructions for assignments as suggested in the studies by Hines, Cruickshank, and Kennedy; and Snyder et al. (all cited in Kauchak & Eggen, 1998).
For this reason, careful lesson planning is essential. Factors to consider in lesson planning include organization of activities, clarity of explanations, modeling of thinking skills in action, examples of applied thinking, feedback on student thinking processes, instructional alignment of objectives and activities, and adaptations for diverse student needs. Kauchak and Eggen (1998) found that the following strategies contribute to the particular kinds of instructional communications necessary for developing higher order thinking skills.
1. Align learning goals, objectives, content ideas and skills, learning tasks, assessment activities, and materials and aids.
2. Establish organized activities and routines.
a. Prepare a task analysis of the thinking skill to be learned: identify the particular thinking skill to be learned, the prerequisite knowledge and skills, the sequence of related subskills, and the readiness of students to learn (diagnosis of prerequisite knowledge and skills).
b. Prepare sample problems, examples, and explanations.
c. Prepare questions that go beyond simple recall of factual information to focus on advanced levels of comprehension, such as How? Why? and How well?
d. Plan strategies for diagnosis, guidance, practice, and remediation.
e. Explain and follow established routines, such as starting on time and following the planned sequence of activities.
f. Convey enthusiasm, genuine interest in a topic, warmth, and a businesslike approach with thorough preparation and organization, minimal transition time between activities, clear expectations, and a comfortable, nonthreatening atmosphere.
3. Explain the task clearly.
a. Set goals at the beginning of an assignment.
b. Provide examples of finished products.
c. Avoid vague, ambiguous terminology such as might, a little more, some, usually, and probably. These terms suggest disorganization, lack of preparation, and nervousness.
d. Introduce tasks with a clear and simple organizing framework such as a diagram, chart, preview, or one paragraph overview.
e. Introduce key concepts and terms before further explanation and study.
f. Use questions that focus attention on important information.
g. Give emphasis with verbal statements, nonverbal behaviors, repetition, and written signals.
h. Make ideas vivid with pictures, diagrams, examples, demonstrations, models, and other devices.
4. Give transition signals to communicate that one idea is ending and another is beginning.
5. Provide feedback at frequent intervals with a corrective feedback to clarify incorrect or partially incorrect responses.
Scaffolding involves giving students support at the beginning of a lesson and then gradually turning over responsibility to the students to operate on their own (Slavin, 1995). This limited temporary support helps students develop higher order thinking skills. It functions in much the same way that scaffolding does when providing safety and access for a window washer or painter. However, scaffolding must be limited to only enough support so that learners make progress on their own (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998, p. 313). Too much or too little support can interfere in the development of higher order thinking skills. For example, when teachers give students help even though the students do not ask for it, as reported in a study by Graham (cited in Crowl et al., 1997), students get the message that they cannot do the task on their own.
Students differ in the ways that they organize knowledge and events in their memories (also known as their schemata or script knowledge). These differences influence how they understand current information and events and are partially explained by cultural background (Crowl et al., 1997, p. 98), but are not fixed. Scaffolding can change the schemata and scripts by which students learn new information and skills (Crowl et al., 1997). The following strategies provide the type of structural support needed for developing thinking skills.
1. Use scaffolding at the following times (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998):
a. During initial learning, use scaffolding along with a variety of examples to describe the thinking processes involved.
b. Use scaffolding only when needed, by first checking for understanding and, if necessary, providing additional examples and explanations.
c. Use scaffolding to build on student strengths and accommodate weaknesses.
2. Provide structured representations and discussions of thinking tasks.
a. Visually represent and organize problems in concrete examples such as drawings, graphs, tables, hierarchies, or tables (Clarke, 1990; Crowl et al., 1997; Kauchak & Eggen, 1998).
b. Demonstrate how to break up a thought problem into convenient steps, using a number of examples and encouraging students to suggest additional examples (Glaser, 1941).
c. Discuss examples of problems and solutions, explaining the nature of problems in detail and relating the worked-out solutions to the problems. This practice reduces the students need for additional teacher assistance (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998).
3. Provide opportunities for practice in solving problems (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998; Howe & Warren, 1989).
a. Provide teacher-directed practice before independent practice, spot-checking progress on practice and providing short responses of less than 30 seconds to any single request for assistance (Fisher et al.; McGreal; both cited in Kauchak & Eggen, 1998).
b. Assign frequent, short homework assignments that are logical extensions of classroom work (not more than 20 minutes for elementary students; 10 problems a night works better than 50 a week) (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998).
c. Link practice in the content area to complex, real-life situations (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998).
Learning and Thinking Strategies
Learning strategies, sometimes referred to as cognitive strategies, include rehearsal, elaboration, organization, and metacognition to assess and regulate ones own thinking (Crowl et al., 1997). They may involve skills such as highlighting, diagramming, visualizing, or using mnemonics. Some learning strategies are more complex, such as multipass, a strategy used to improve reading comprehension. Multipass also would apply to the initial learning of new concepts, rules, and principles by means of written information. In the first pass, students survey material for a general idea of what the information covers and how it fits together. In the second pass, students size up the important points, looking for contextual cues to important information. In the third pass, students attempt to answer questions about a passage. The following strategies have been known to help develop individual learning and thinking capabilities.
1. Deliberately design lessons or programs for the express purpose of teaching specific learning and thinking strategies (Darmer, 1995, abstract; Kauchak & Eggen, 1998).
2. Teach self-reflection and self-evaluation about thinking processes (Cotton, 1997, p. 4; Easterwood, 1996, abstract). The following effective approaches were reported in several studies by Crowl et al., (1997):
a. Challenge preexisting ideas (beliefs, concepts, and misconceptions) by presenting situations that students are unable to explainparadoxes, dilemmas, and perplexities.
b. Guide students in how to do systematic inquiry, allowing them to think independently, but preventing them from pursuing dead ends and simplistic answers.
c. Encourage students to reflect upon and make sense of new information by making judgments in writing or discussions about its relevance, telling in their own words how to integrate their findings with their previously existing ideas, opinions, or approaches.
d. Encourage and guide students to formulate hypotheses, speculate on consequences, guess, brainstorm, and discuss how their thinking processes have worked to change their ideas.
e. Monitor and correct inefficient strategies.
f. Encourage continuous reflection of beliefs about thinking, thinking processes, and evaluation of effectiveness.
3. In approaching different learning and thinking tasks, use cognitive maps and advance organizers to show the major steps or parts (Cotton, 1997; Crowl et al., 1997).
4. Teach the initial and rehearsal strategies for complex tasks (Crowl et al., 1997).
a. Teach how to preview, question, read, reflect, recite, and review (PQ4R) when learning from written materials (Crowl et al., 1997).
b. Provide instruction in abstracting, analyzing, outlining, summarizing, and generalizing; this improves both reasoning and reading ability (Glaser, 1941).
c. Emphasize broad problem-solving strategies, algorithms (specified set of steps for solving problems), or heuristics (widely applicable problem-solving strategies such as using meansend analysis for ill-defined problems, working backward when parameters are known, and drawing analogies for unfamiliar problems) (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998).
d. Provide practice for routines of different strategies, algorithms, and heuristics until they are overlearned, so that their use becomes fast, effortless, and consistent (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998).
e. Teach specific learning strategies by talking about the strategy, modeling it while thinking out loud, and providing opportunities for practice (Crowl et al., 1997; Kauchak & Eggen, 1998). Show persistence in thinking things through and confidence in the thinking process; students who hear teachers express self-confidence in reasoning actually develop greater confidence in themselves. The following strategies were reported in a study by McTighe (as cited in Crowl et al., 1997).
Provide names and definitions for each thinking skill.
Ask students for synonyms and examples.
Model steps for using each skill.
Explain appropriate and inappropriate contexts for using each skill.
Arrange practice of skills in cooperative learning groups.
5. Strengthen comprehension and skills in applying related concepts, rules (principles and procedures), decision-making processes, and problem-solving strategies.
a. Diagnose students existing schemata (conceptions and misconceptions) by asking probing questions (Crowl et al., 1997).
b. Provide hands-on situations for students to mess around with interpreting raw data or generating new explanations (Crowl et al., 1997).
c. Provide examples of questions or stems of questions that require higher order thinking and encourage students to answer them independently, in pairs, or in groups (Crowl et al., 1997).
d. Redirect, probe, and reinforce the development of critical and creative thinking skills (Cotton, 1997).
e. Provide practice, without the expectation of extrinsic rewards, grades, or tests, in making choices, brainstorming, finding problems, experimenting with chosen themes and approaches, and developing tentative solutions to a variety of problems involved in areas such as painting, music, storywriting, and other art challenges, as well as scientific and mathematical undertakings (Crowl et al., 1997).
f. Provide practice on how and when to apply procedural knowledge, including rules and facts (Crowl et al., 1997).
Provide opportunities for discovery of procedural knowledge.
Explain the goals of the procedure.
Define problems/situations for which the procedure is appropriate.
Explain why particular strategies are appropriate for the problems/situations.
Demonstrate the step-by-step application of a procedure.
Provide students with practice in choosing appropriate procedures and carrying out the steps of procedures.
Provide feedback on student performance of procedures.
g. Include individualized options in lesson plans designed to teach higher order thinking.
Provide choices among assignments, such as having 70% required and 30% optional (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998; Crowl et al., 1997).
Create multidimensional classrooms with learning tasks that encourage intellectual diversity, using modalities for several kinds of intelligences, such as linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, or spatial (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998).
Vary sequence of instruction and application. Students with low induction aptitude benefit from receiving training before performing an application task, while those with high induction aptitude benefit from performing the application task first (Donnelly, 1996, abstract).
Use cultural/community resources and information to express the acceptance and valuing of different perspectives that are necessary for successful learning by all students (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998).
Use participation tasks that are open-ended, involving several ways to solve problems, such as tasks that include opportunities for students to make different kinds of contributions, call on a variety of knowledge and
skills (including reading, writing, constructing, and designing), and incorporate multiple media (Cohen; Bowers; both cited in Kauchak & Eggen, 1998).
Use multiability tasks with varied activities to accommodate differences in language proficiency, abstract thinking, and influence of emotion.
Help students see themselves as effective learners so they can develop a greater internal locus of control (Katkovsky, Crandall, & Goods, 1967; Lefcourt, 1966; Strickland; all cited in Crowl et al., 1997).
Provide alternate learning materials with additional support and guidance for those who need it and additional enrichment activities for the others (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998).
Use mastery skills test management: Students who pass the quizzes are allowed to continue; those who do not pass are moved into additional activities (Guskey & Gates; Slavin; all cited in Kauchak & Eggen, 1998).
Use peer tutoring to allow more able students to work with other students on specific skills (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998).
Use cooperative learning such that each member investigates independently and later explains a different concept, process, or skill to the others (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998).
Use collaborative problem solving for problem analysis, not for problem solution (Kewley, 1996, abstract).
Use team-assisted individualization that combines cooperative and mastery learning. Students in mixed-ability learning teams receive direct teacher instruction on how to proceed, work on individual assignments with assistance and support from other members, and receive rewards for team performance (Slavin cited in Kauchak & Eggen, 1998).
Use computer programs that target specific concepts and skills (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998).
Direct instruction, involving teacher-centered presentations of information, generally does not work well for developing higher level thinking skills (Crowl et al., 1997). Nevertheless, the following strategies can make direct instruction more effective.
1. Limit direct teaching methods to the introduction of strategies and skills (Patrick, 1986).
2. Combine direct instruction with guided practice to teach students well-structured subskills and knowledge, such as teaching the learning strategies of rehearsal, elaboration, organization, monitoring, or metacognition (Crowl et al., 1997).
3. Avoid long lectures and use minilectures instead. Keep lectures very short (up to five minutes). The amount learned from a lecture decreases as the length of the lecture increases. Minilectures should be even shorter for younger, slower, or poorly motivated students or for complex or abstract content. A study by Kauchak & Eggen (1998)
offered the following suggestions:
Introduce new content with a familiar frame of reference. Analogies work well for this purpose. The closer the fit of the analogy, the more learning is facilitated. . . . Red blood cells are our bodies oxygen railroad (pp. 295296).
Express briefly what will be learned, why it is important, when it will be useful, and how it should be applied.
Break up segments with questions, discussions, and other devices because attention increases when a question is asked (Crowl et al., 1997).
Keep student responses to questions short because attention decreases when a student is called on.
Use visual displays to organize informationnetworks, hierarchies, schematic diagrams, and matrices show relationships among ideas or concepts.
Include demonstrations, debates, and student-initiated questions. These improve student attention and involvement.
Develop and link content to the overall section or purpose of learning.
Include transition signals between topics.
Provide review and closure through summaries, both verbal and visual.
To generate higher order thinking processes, questions must elicit answers that have not already been presented. Planning the questions in advance of actual learning time helps assure questions go beyond simple recall of information. Recalling the steps in a major procedure or skill may be useful, but memorization of steps does not help the learner understand why or how the steps should be used, nor does it help the learner apply the steps in a problem situation.
The following strategies for asking questions have been shown to improve the development of thinking skills.
Ask questions of all students equally, calling on nonvolunteers as well as volunteers (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998).
To stimulate curiosity or demand problem solving, ask questions about paradoxes, dilemmas, and novel problems and approaches (Crowl et al., 1997; Kauchak & Eggen, 1998).
Have students generate their own questions about topics (Crowl et al., 1997).
Start with lower-order questions, remediating as needed, and lead up to higher-order questions (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998).
Provide wait time after a question because students differ in the rate at which they
respond (Crowl et al., 1997; Kauchak & Eggen, 1998).
Feedback informs learners of their progress. The following strategies for providing feedback are effective.
Use informal checks such as thumbs up or thumbs down to show who got a problem right (Rosensine & Stevens cited in Kauchak & Eggen, 1998).
Provide immediate, specific, and corrective information, using a positive emotional tone (Brophy & Good; Rosenshine & Stevens; all cited in Kauchak & Eggen, 1998).
Avoid expressions of low expectations such as That was a good first effort (Crowl et al., 1997).
Avoid insincere feedback or excessive praise because they do not work except for very young children (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998). Praise is effective only when students believe they have earned it. Use praise to help students develop their own standards for success (Crowl et al., 1997).
Adjust feedback to response. For correct quick, firm answers, use short, general praise (e.g., good answer). For correct but hesitant answers, respond with encouraging feedback and explanation (e.g., Yes, the apostrophe in this case indicates a contraction, not a possessive. We see there is no possession suggested in the sentence) (Kauchak &
Eggen, 1998, p. 280). For incorrect answers due to carelessness, simply correct the error. For incorrect answers due to misunderstanding, provide more explanation and questioning, but do not overexplain. Take this approach with every student. For a number of incorrect errors by several students, reteach the material. When a student is
unable to respond, prompt the student until an acceptable answer is givendo not redirect the question to another student (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998). Reinforce desired behaviors, and at the same time, use appropriate behavioral strategies to eliminate undesirable behaviors (Crowl et al., 1997).
Group size must be limited to six or fewer for group work to remain manageable and focused. Before they can work well in teams or groups, students must learn skills such as listening carefully, maintaining focus, and providing support and encouragement (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998). Students must also receive challenging tasks, encouragement to stay on task when grappling with open-ended questions, and ongoing feedback about their progress (Crowl et al., 1997).
Team or group work facilitates knowledge construction through social interaction. Team and group work profit from careful strategic planning, including development of tasks, group procedures, materials, and assessment methods (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998). Student performance improves with monitoring of student activities and minimized transitional periods from one activity to another (Brophy; Crawford; both cited in Crowl et al., 1997).
The forms of group work found to be effective for the development of thinking skills include student discussions, peer tutoring, and cooperative learning. In any of these situations, using introductory activities to develop rapport or warm up for the team or group can facilitate group interaction (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998). At the start of a group, use some team-building activities such as name-learning games with follow-up quizzes on naming partners. Use additional time for students to do getting-to-know-you interviews (interests or hobbies) or something that no one else knows about me activities for group members. Use this information to introduce group members to the rest of the class.
Student discussions stimulate thinking, challenge attitudes and beliefs, and develop interpersonal skills (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998, p. 250). When organized and managed well, discussions allow students to develop critical thinking abilities and investigate questions that dont have simple answers (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998, p. 250). For best results, assure the presence of student background knowledge before using discussions. Begin with moral dilemmas to develop understanding and clarification of values or use other types of dilemmas to develop other critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Arrange groups for face-to-face discussion, such as in semicircles or circles, so that the teacher is included as part of the semicircle or circle (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998).
Peer tutoring pairs up students of different abilities to increase understanding and skill learning (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998). Make sure tutors are trained; untrained tutors sometimes imitate the worst from their teachers, such as punitiveness or a lack of helpful feedback. Students should learn how to explain objectives, stay on task, encourage their peers to talk about the lesson, and provide supportive comments, praise, and positive feedback. Place cross-age or same-age students in one-to-one pairs and supply them with structured learning materials for practice and feedback. Provide clear structure through student worksheets, including a focused agenda for tutor and tutee. Provide teacher monitoring, feedback, and guidance during peer tutoring to check progress and correct mistakes or misunderstandings. Restructure whenever a peer tutoring pair is not working.
Cooperative learning is effective for developing cognitive, affective, and interpersonal skills through individual accountability. It involves more students and teamwork than peer tutoring and capitalizes on student diversity by placing students on learning teams and rewarding the groups planning and inquiry performance. Cooperative learning increases motivation, time on task, and student involvement and improves student self-esteem. Learning tasks should require cooperation and communication. Provide useful resources for study such as the Internet, textbooks, and reference books. Use student-generated charts or worksheets to support the organization of inquiry results and rotate student roles (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998). Cooperative learning includes group investigation, student teams-achievement divisions (STADs), and Jigsaw II.
Group investigation involves placing students in study groups to investigate a common topic. Group investigation gives students the chance to wrestle with ill-structured tasks, which are the kinds of problems we face in real life and to clarify and then structure the problem (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998, p. 245). To help students engage and stay involved, introduce the topic and ask students to identify subtopics that each group will investigate; divide students into groups according to student interest and balance of achievement, gender, and cultural background; arrange for group presentations to share the information gained; and provide feedback to groups and individuals on results and presentations.
STADs group students into teams and subteams as study groups. STADs study groups use four- or five-member teams, subdivided into pairs or trios, to study and master basic skills topics. These are more structured than group investigation teams. Using STADs can support the learning of concepts and rules in areas such as language arts, math, science, social studies, and health (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998). Plan activities by identifying content and skills to be mastered, presentation and practice activities, assignments to groups, improvement points, and group rewards. Prepare worksheets (and answers) that require direct application of the concepts, principles, or rules taught. Create quizzes for each student to parallel the worksheet information but with changes to prevent students from merely memorizing and providing rote responses. Before organizing into groups, teach students quiet talk and explain how to use it during discussions. The following are strategies for STADs:
Organize teams in work spaces and divide each team into two pairs or a trio and a pair.
Provide one worksheet to each pair or trio and focus attention on the use of the worksheets for studying, so that everyone on the team can explain each item on the worksheet.
Focus on improvement points from quiz scores so that groups compete against themselves rather than each other and explain the purpose of this process to the students.
Instruct students to work individually and discuss their problem-solving strategies within each pair and trio.
During teamwork time, focus on promoting cooperation and providing encouragement and praise.
Calculate team improvement points from individual scores and give team rewards; improvement can be reflected in individual team grades.
Jigsaw II is more structured and involves group goals, individual accountability, and equal pportunity for success. In Jigsaw II, assignments require individual members to investigate specific areas of expertise and then to return to the group to share results (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998). Jigsaw II strategies are as follows:
Divide content into roughly equal subtopics and organize them into worksheets or charts. Assign topics in which individuals are expected to obtain expertise and reflect assignments on worksheets.
Locate and organize resources.
Divide students into groups for balance of achievement, gender, and cultural background.
Monitor study activities and make appropriate rescues available.
Convene groups to discuss and compare information.
Administer and score quizzes using improvement points.
Provide feedback on group performance.
Computer-mediated communication provides opportunities for access to remote data sources, collaboration on group projects with students in other locations, and sharing of work for evaluation or response by other students (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998). Computer-assisted instruction (CAI) and computer-based instruction (CBI), when combined with regular instruction, improves students attitudes, motivation, and academic achievement (Crowl et al., 1997, p.
35). The following applications of such computer-mediated communication have been shown to be effective in improving learning of prerequisite and higher order thinking skills:
practicing inferencing skills and problem-solving strategies (Kauchak & Eggen, 1998);
skill building in areas such as verbal analogies, logical reasoning, and inductive/deductive thinking (Cotton, 1997); and
drilling and practicing, which incorporate probes or tests (Crowl et al., 1997).
Source: Higher Order Thinking Skills, FJ King, Ph.D., Ludwika Goodson, M.S., Faranak Rohani, Ph.D.