What is Higher Order Thinking

Going beyond the basic level of comprehension

Following the previous article on effective ways to memorize, we at Studentpark aim to increase the standards of its teachers by introducing concepts above mere memorization. One such process is called higher order thinking. When you memorize and repeat back the information as it is and without having to think about it, we call it rote memory. Much like a robot; it does what it’s programmed to do, but it does not think for itself. Higher level thinking is a process of taking thinking to higher levels than just restating the facts. The ultimate goal of education is for students to be able to process information by evaluation, synthesis, analysis, and interpretation.

Higher Order Thinking (Courtesy: BrainFacts)

Higher level thinking requires that we further evaluate the facts that we’ve memorized. This involves understanding the concept, infer and deducing something from them, connecting them to each other, categorizing them, manipulating them, putting them together in new ways, and applying them as we seek new solutions to new problems.

Higher level thinking includes concept connection, concept formation, seeing the bigger picture, problem solving, idea generation, visualization, critical thinking, practical thinking, and creative thinking. It includes being able to think of similes, metaphors and analogies that illustrate a concept. Studies have shown that successful people consistently and interactively use analytical, creative, and practical thinking throughout their days.

The following strategies are offered for developing higher order thinking skills. This listing should not be seen as comprehensive, but rather as a place to begin.

Take the mystery away

Start by teaching students about higher order thinking and higher order thinking strategies. Understanding the process enables you to get a grasp of what you’re aiming for. To make higher order thinking a habit, the first step is to help students understand their own higher order thinking strengths and challenges.

Teach the concept of concepts

A concept is usually an amalgamation of several smaller concepts. Explicitly teaching the smaller and usually ignored concepts enables you to understand the the concept of concepts. In a particular subject, break down a concept into smaller concepts and make sure it is explicitly identified and learned. So make sure you have mastered basic concepts before proceeding to more sophisticated concepts. If you have not mastered the basic concepts, you may attempt to memorize rather than understand.

Clarify the difference between understanding and memorizing

When you are studying, make sure that you are not just memorizing, but rather making an effort to understand the conceptual content of the subject matter. Do not take in what the textbook says word for word, but ask yourself and seek answers to how and why of the concept you are learning. Encourage yourself to talk about the concept in your own words. Understanding and explaining the concepts not only is an exercise for higher order thinking but also helps in memorization.

Categorize and connect concepts

You should identify important concepts and categorize them in your head. Having concepts sorted in your head will enable you to associate one concept with another. Make sure you understand the critical features of a particular concept and are able distinguish it from other concepts while connecting similar concepts together. By doing this, you learn to see how many connections are possible, to connect to what you already know, and to create a web of concepts that help you gain more clarity and understanding. Being able to link one subject/concept with another is an essential form of intelligence.

Elaborate and explain

Encourage yourself to engage in elaboration and explanation of facts and ideas rather than rote repetition. Relate new information to prior experience, make use of analogies and talk about various future applications of what you are learning. Using analogies, similes and metaphors to explain a concept can deepen your understanding of the concept as it simplifies it into an easier concept you already know.

A picture is worth a thousand words

Try making a visual representation of what you are learning. You can do this by associating a simple picture with a single concept. Pictures are known to stick in your head better than words, similarly pictures enable us to understand the concept better than words. Draw diagrams of the concept and its critical features as well as its relationships to other concepts. Graphic organizers provide a beginning framework for conceptual mapping. You should develop the habit of mapping all the key concepts after completing a passage or chapter.

Expand discussions at home

Relate the topics you’ve learned with practical applications at home. Initiate discussions with friends and family based on concepts in everyday life. The subject matter need not relate directly to what you are studying in school. Ideas from reading or issues on the news can provide conceptual material (for example, “Do you think uniforms in schools are necessary?”).

Teach inference

Inference is the process of drawing a conclusion based on the available evidence plus previous knowledge and experience. An inference can be also called an educated guess. Children and students should be explicitly taught at a young age how to infer or make inferences. A good method to build inference skills is by skimming through the paper and looking just at headlines, photographs and openings, then practice making inferences about what the articles will be about.

It is understandable, as college is quite different from high school. The professors are less likely to be personally involved, classes are bigger, exams are worth more, and reading is more intense. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you; it just means you need to learn to study more effectively. Above tips on learning higher order thinking are a good place to start. But keep in mind these tips are not comprehensive, and there are other ways to make higher order thinking a habit. Implementing these tips into your regular study routine will help you to efficiently and effectively learn course material. But remember to experiment with them and find that work for you.