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Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS)

Content adapted from SEAMEO INNOTECHs TEACHeXCELS Module 8:


Managing the Integration of Multiple Intelligences and Higher Order Thinking Skills

As a supervisor, you play a contributory role in directing the school towards the achievement of its
educational goals. You are expected to constantly guide and help the schools deliver quality
education to students.
But what do students really need? Do they only need to learn the topics discussed in class, or is there
something else that they need to develop to help them prepare better for lifes challenges?
Students go to school not only to absorb information. They also have to be taught what to do with
that information and how to apply it in real life. Students basically go to school to make themselves
better prepared for the real world. Are they aware of what the real world demands from them?
According to Giola (2005), when asked what kind of talents they like to see in management positions,
business leaders consistently set imagination and higher order thinking at the top. It is, therefore, not
just about the information students know, but how well they can process information to solve
problems and adapt to challenges. Have you and your division prepared your students well enough to
help them do so?
Higher order thinking skills (HOTS) refer to skills that allow students to process information, apply
them to situations, and make sound decisions. It is related to the ability to do critical and creative
thinking. Making sure that HOTS is integrated in the schools instructional activities is an important
component of your job as a supervisor.

What is HOTS?
As a supervisor, you want your students from your division to be prepared for work and life in general
when they graduate. Research has shown that students will not be prepared for work in a society that
demands higher order thinking skills if their schools focus exclusively on the basics. Students will not
learn to think for themselves if their schools expect them just to stay in line and keep quiet (Rabkin &
Redmond, 2005). However, many schools still focus narrowly on basic academic skills, testing, and
discipline.
There is a need to develop cognitive skills and not just provide information. Students need help in
developing the tools of thinking. These include careful observation of the world, mental
representation of what is observed or imagined, abstraction from complexity, pattern recognition and
development, symbolic and metaphoric representation, and qualitative judgment (Rabkin &
Redmond, 2005). Of course, it also involves critical thinking and metacognition.
Critical thinking is thoughtful thinking. It involves challenging an idea. It is being engaged in evaluative
thinking, and potentially leading to new knowledge (Moon, 2008). Metacognition refers to what a
person knows about what, how, and why he/she thinks, and how he/she can regulate his/her own
thinking (Weiner, Reynolds, Freedheim, & Miller, 2003). An example is a student studying for an
exam. She has been studying for hours and is exhausted. The decision that this student has to make is
whether she has studied the material for the exam sufficiently and can go to sleep, or whether she
must keep studying. The student must decide whether the material is generally well-learned, and if
not, what information necessitates further study. This decision not only necessitates the length of

time the student puts in, but also her studying behaviour, and ultimately, her test performance
(Perfect & Schwartz, 2002). Cognitive thinking and metacognition are important thinking tools that
support the development of students HOTS. As an instructional supervisor, you play an important
role in supporting your schools toward creating a learning environment that promotes the use of
HOTS.

Compare two sets of questions from a teacher who has just finished guiding his/her students through
a hands-on laboratory activity on photosynthesis, the process of food production in plants. Which set
of questions will truly check students understanding?

Set A

Set B

1. Define photosynthesis.

1. Why is photosynthesis not performed by


human beings?

2. What organisms use photosynthesis?


3. Does photosynthesis occur among humans?

2. What will happen to plants if they are kept


away from the sun? Why?

4. What is the main energy source for


photosynthesis?

3. How is photosynthesis accomplished?


4. What will happen if plants suddenly lose the
ability to do photosynthesis?

What do you think of the questions? Observe that the first set of questions only require recall.
Although asking recall questions is acceptable, it does not really promote HOTS. Recall questions do
not encourage students to think and apply what they have learned.
On the other hand, Set B questions are better in encouraging students to practice their HOTS. HOTS
questions focus more on the WHY, HOW and WHAT IF rather than the WHAT, WHO and WHEN.
Asking HOTS questions encourages students to think beyond the information learned and actually
force them to think in the real sense of the word.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Integrating HOTS in Instruction

Benefits

Drawbacks

Enhancement of students critical thinking skills

Time consuming to implement

Improvement of ways of thinking and skills in


problem-solving

Requires intensive planning for questions and


exercises by the teacher

Encourages active learning

Skills are difficult to measure

Promotes involvement and interest in learning


Supports academic success leading to future
success in life and work.

Teaching the Essentials of HOTS


Research has consistently shown that if teachers are to prepare their students for the real world, they
need to teach them the essentials of higher order thinking skills (HOTS). When teachers plan and
evaluate their instruction at high levels of thinking, student achievement is improved (Boone, et al.,
2005).
Knowledge is increasing at an astronomical rate. It is estimated that the worlds knowledge base
doubles every 18 months (Reinhold, 2004 in Boone, et al., 2005). This means that what we know now
will be twice as much after less than two years! Even this is an overestimation; the increase in the
knowledge base has dramatic consequences for teachers. Based on these data, the information
taught to a freshman student entering school will probably be obsolete by the time he/she graduates
after four years. Therefore, if teaching activities are limited to the delivery of knowledge, teachers are
simply wasting their time as well as the time of their students. Merely teaching information is simply
not enough. That information will be forgotten or will simply become irrelevant after some time.
How can you help your teachers provide a more useful and relevant service to their students? The
solution is not to teach facts and figures but to use this information to teach students how to think
critically!
Many educators believe that specific knowledge will not be as important to tomorrows workers and
citizens as the ability to learn and make sense of new information (Gough, 1991 in Boone, et al.,
2005). How can teachers tell how well they are teaching higher order thinking skills? One solution is
to evaluate all instructional objectives using a taxonomy of educational objectives developed by
Bloom and Krathwohl (1956) and later revised by Anderson and Krathwohl (2001). Evaluating
instructional objectives is necessary because research has shown that most teachers believe that they
are teaching HOTS but do so in an unsystematic or self-defined way. This is probably because they
cannot tell the difference between HOTS and non-HOTS questions and activities (Ruminski and Hanks,
1995).

Revised Blooms Taxonomy for Teaching HOTS


Blooms taxonomy has withstood the test of time for over 45 years (Mukherjee, 2004). But with the
dramatic changes in society over the last five decades, the Revised Blooms Taxonomy (RBT) provides
an even more powerful tool to fit todays teachers needs. The structure of the Revised Taxonomy
Table below provides a clear, concise visual representation (Krathwohl, 2002) of the alignment
between standards and educational goals, objectives, products, and activities. The levels of learning
objectives in increasing complexity in RBT are:
1. Remembering
2. Understanding
3. Applying
4. Analyzing
5. Evaluating
6. Creating
There is a rewording of the cognitive domains from nouns in Blooms Taxonomy to verbs in the
Revised Blooms Taxonomy. This change in terms reflected thinking as an active process. For example,
the Knowledge domain was renamed to Remembering. The reason for this is that knowledge is a

product of thinking, and not a form of thinking. Thus, Krathwohl and Anderson (2001) opted for verbs,
rather than nouns in their revision of Blooms Taxonomy.
There is also a change in emphasis reflected in the repositioning of the last two categories. In the
Revised Blooms Taxonomy, Evaluating precedes Creating as it is said that before we are able to
create something, we need to evaluate it first. Creating seems to be the most difficult cognitive
function as it requires us to put parts together in a new way, or to synthesize parts to form a new
product.

The following table provides a more detailed study of each level:


Revised Blooms Taxonomy of Educational Objectives
Category
1. Remembering:
Specific facts; ways and means of
dealing with specifics (conventions,
trends and sequences, classifications
and categories, criteria, methodology);
universals and abstractions in a field
(principles and generalizations,
theories and structures), remembering
(recalling) of appropriate, previouslylearned information

Verbs for Instructional Objectives


defines
describes
enumerates
identifies
labels
lists
names

matches
reads
records
reproduces
selects
states
views

Sample Questions
Who wrote One
Hundred Years of
Solitude?
What is the capital
of Vietnam?

This means that if the student could IDENTIFY (this is included in the list of verbs) something, he is
manifesting the first level of knowledge. If this is observed alone, however, this is not yet considered
as a form of higher order thinking. HOTS is a continuum that requires all forms or types of
questioning to be used.
2. Understanding:
Grasping the meaning of informational
materials

classifies
cites
converts
describes
discusses
estimates
explains
gives examples
generalizes

makes sense
out of
paraphrases
restates (in
own words)
summarizes
traces
understands

Interpret the
following quote
from Ralph Waldo
Emerson, What
lies behind us and
what lies before us
are small matters
compared to what
lies within us.

This means that if the student could EXPLAIN something (this is included in the above list of verbs),
he/she is manifesting a more complex form of intelligence.
3. Applying:
The use of previously learned
information in situations

acts
administers
articulates
assesses
charts
collects

instructs
operationalizes
participates
predicts
prepares
preserves

Based on the
discussion, predict
the changes that
will have to be
made in the
Philippines if we

Category

Verbs for Instructional Objectives


computes
produces
constructs
projects
contributes
provide
controls
relates
determines
reports
develops
shows
discovers
solves
establishes
teaches
extends
transfers
implements
uses
informs
utilizes
The levels that follow are considered HOTS.

Sample Questions
shift to a federal
form of
government.

4. Analyzing:
The breaking down of informational
materials into their component parts,
examining (and trying to understand
the organizational structure of) such
information to develop divergent
conclusions by identifying motives or
causes, making inferences, and/or
finding evidence to support
generalizations

breaks down
correlates
diagrams
differentiates
discriminates
distinguishes
focuses
illustrates

infers
limits
outlines
points out
prioritizes
recognizes
separates
subdivides

Why does the


conflict between
the Palestinians
and the Israelis
continue to this
day? What could
be the motives of
each party?

5. Evaluating:
Judging the value of material based on
personal values/ opinions resulting in
an end product with a given purpose,
without real right or wrong answers

appraises
compares
and contrasts
concludes
criticizes
critiques
decides

defends
interprets
judges
justifies
reframes
supports

Is non-formal
education a good
alternative to
formal schooling?
Why or why not?

6. Creating:
Creatively or divergently applying
prior knowledge and skills to produce
a new or original whole; Putting parts
together to form a coherent whole;
Reorganizing elements into a new
pattern or structure through
generating, planning, or producing

adapts
anticipates
categorizes
collaborates
combines
communicates
compares
compiles
composes
contrasts
creates
designs
devises
expresses
formulates
generates
incorporates

individualizes
initiates
integrates
intervenes
models
modifies
negotiates
plans
progresses
rearranges
reconstructs
reinforces
reorganizes
revises
structures
substitutes
validates

Prepare a letter
addressed to the
editor of your
community
newspaper on
your views on the
Reproductive
Health (RH) Bill.

Higher order thinking is a continuum and requires remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing,
evaluating, and creating. The Revised Blooms Taxonomy can provide the basis for developing
curriculum and teaching strategies that meet this challenge. The taxonomy and the ability to generate
a full variety of questions are all that an intelligent teacher needs to teach critical thinking (Paul,
1985). This means that to encourage critical thinking among students, you must guide your teachers
to focus on questions or activities that involve the higher levels of the taxonomy rather than the
simple and basic recalling stage.
For teachers to prepare students for the real world requires that they know how to apply the
essentials of higher order thinking skills to their teaching. The power to think and solve problems
should be the student outcome desired by all teachers (Whittington, 1985 in Boone et al., 2005).
Give a man a fish and you have fed him for a day.
Teach a man how to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime.
~Chinese saying

This saying can be modified to describe todays students. Teach students by merely providing them
facts and figures and they will be successful for a few years. Teach students to think and learn on their
own and they will be successful for a lifetime. Do you agree with this statement?
Encourage your teachers to use the Revised Blooms Taxonomy to develop instructional activities that
require their students to develop the higher order thinking skills that will lead to a lifetime of success!
Make sure that your teachers have a copy of the taxonomy and that they refer to it when they plan
their lessons.

References
Anderson, L., & Krathwohl, D. (Eds.). (2001). A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching and Assessing: A Revision of Blooms
Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: Complete Edition. New York: Longman.
Bloom, B. & Krathwohl, D. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals, by a
Committee of College and University Examiners. Handbook 1: Cognitive Domain. New York: Longmans.
Boone, H., Boone, D. & Gartin, S. (2005). Are You Feeding or Challenging Your Students: Feeding them Knowledge or
Challenging Them to Think? The Agricultural Education Magazine, 77(4), 25-27.
Giola, D. (2005). Why Literature Matters: Good Books Help Make a Civil Society. Boston Globe, p. C12.
Mukherjee, A. (2004). Promoting Higher Order Thinking In MIS/CIS Students Using Class Exercises. Journal of Information
Systems Education, 15(2), 171- 179.
Rabkin, N. & Redmond, R. (2005). The Art of Education Success. The Washington Post, p.A.19.
Paul, R. W. (1985). Blooms Taxonomy and Critical Thinking Instruction. Educational Leadership, 42(8), 36-39.
Perfect, T. & Schwartz, B. (2002). Applied Metacognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.