Developing Your Higher Order Thinking Skills

Often we ask ourselves “why do I need to know this.” And although it seems like a fair question, we need to recognize that the recall of knowledge is not as important as how we use that knowledge.  The recall of many facts is not important on its own.  It’s how you incorporate and use those facts. We need to be able to form opinions, to create and to understand these facts; doing this is making use of your higher order thinking skills. And, it’s a good idea to understand what the different higher order thinking skills are and how to make use of them to improve your grades and studying. Many of these higher order skills help with problem solving abilities, as well as helping you to understand the material you’re dealing with.

What Are the Higher Order Thinking Skills?

Many educators prescribe to Bloom’s taxonomy but there are other taxonomies that can be used but they all look at similar higher order thinking skills such as analysis, evaluation and creating. Many times you will need to use these skills when completing source-based tasks, language comprehensions and essays or research tasks.

Analysis is when you break down the information into smaller parts and then draw conclusions. When you make conclusions on the value of the information you are evaluating. Creating is re-assembling the information and creating something new from it. A good way to think about the use of these skills is first you will analyze the information, evaluate its value and then create an opinion or idea from that information.

Why Are These Skills Important?

Every day we are overloaded by information. Information is given to us via television, print, internet as well as all the information we gain at school. It’s important that we can use this information to understand it and gain different outlooks from it.  But, as there is so much information out there it is important not to take things at face value.  You need to be able to analyze what you have been given and form your own opinion on the facts you have been given.

Words Help You Identify the Skills Needed

There are words that will help you in figuring out which higher order thinking skill you will need to complete a certain task or question. Be warned though – there are words that require you to make use of all your higher order thinking, words such as describe, compare, debate and examine to name a few. When you are asked to analyze, explore, identify or outline, you are being asked to use analysis. Design, discuss, formulate, summarize or argue you are being asked to create. Words like evaluate, interpret, justify or conclude, inform you that you will need to evaluate the information.

Practicing Higher Order Thinking

There are many exercises you can do to help improve you higher order thinking skills.  A simple way to practice your higher order skills would be to analyze and evaluate various news articles and form an opinion which you can then debate with others.

Another great way to practice your higher order thinking skills is to use the thinking hats exercise. This exercise helps focus your thinking; each hat represents a different way of thinking. The idea is to only focus on that way of thinking when wearing that color hat. White focuses on just the facts, red makes you rely on your feelings towards that subject, yellow makes you look at the subject in a positive manner, the black hat is the critical hat, green wants you to come up with new ideas on the subject and the blue hat is where you draw a conclusion. Using these hats is a good way to approach analyzing, evaluating and creating information.

You could also make use of Socratic questioning – where you ask yourself specific questions that will help test your thinking skills. For example; can you put the information in another way? Is there another point of view? What can you summarize from the information?

Higher order thinking is an important part of learning, you learn and gain so much information every day and it is important to be able to decide what is important and what isn’t, you simply need to ask yourself WHY? Why is this information important? Why do I need to learn this? Why do I need to understand it?