How to Increase Higher Order Thinking (H.O.T.), Part 1


How to Increase Higher Order Thinking

Taken directly from Reading Rockets.com
By: Alice Thomas and Glenda Thorne (2009)

Parents and teachers can do a lot to encourage higher order thinking. Here are some strategies to help foster children’s complex thinking.

Higher order thinking (HOT) is thinking on a level that is higher than memorizing facts or telling something back to someone exactly the way it was told to you. HOT takes thinking to higher levels than restating the facts and requires students to do something with the facts — understand them, infer from them, connect them to other facts and concepts, categorize them, manipulate them, put them together in new or novel ways, and apply them as we seek new solutions to new problems.

Answer children’s questions in a way that promotes H.O.T.

Parents and teachers can do a lot to encourage higher order thinking, even when they are answering children’s questions. According to Robert Sternberg, answers to children’s questions can be categorized into seven levels, from low to high, in terms of encouraging higher levels of thinking. While we wouldn’t want to answer every question on level seven, we wouldn’t want to answer every question on levels one and two, either. Here are the different levels and examples of each.

Level 1: Reject the question

Example:
“Why do I have to eat my vegetables?”
“Don’t ask me any more questions.” “Because I said so.”

Level 2: Restate or almost restate the question as a response

Example:
“Why do I have to eat my vegetables?”
“Because you have to eat your vegetables.”

“Why is that man acting so crazy?”
“Because he’s insane.”

“Why is it so cold?”
“Because it’s 15° outside.”

Level 3: Admit ignorance or present information

Example:
“I don’t know, but that’s a good question.”
Or, give a factual answer to the question.

Level 4: Voice encouragement to seek response through authority

Example:
“Let’s look that up on the internet.”
“Let’s look that up in the encyclopedia.”
“Who do we know that might know the answer to that?”

Level 5: Encourage brainstorming, or consideration of alternative explanations

Example:
“Why are all the people in Holland so tall?”
“Let’s brainstorm some possible answers.”
“Maybe it’s genetics, or maybe it’s diet, or maybe everybody in Holland wears elevator shoes, or…” etc.

When brainstorming, it is important to remember all ideas are put out on the table. Which ones are “keepers” and which ones are tossed in the trashcan is decided later.

Level 6: Encourage consideration of alternative explanations and a means of evaluating them

Example:
“Now how are we going to evaluate the possible answer of genetics? Where would we find that information? Information on diet? The number of elevator shoes sold in Holland?”

Level 7: Encourage consideration of alternative explanations plus a means of evaluating them, and follow-through on evaluations

Example:
“Okay, let’s go find the information for a few days — we’ll search through the encyclopedia and the Internet, make telephone calls, conduct interviews, and other things. Then we will get back together next week and evaluate our findings.”

This method can be equally effective with schoolwork and with everyday matters such as how late an adolescent can stay out on Saturday night or who is getting to go to a concert. For example, polling several families that are randomly or mutually chosen may produce more objective results than either parent or child “skewing” the results by picking persons whose answers will support their way of thinking.

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One thought on “How to Increase Higher Order Thinking (H.O.T.), Part 1

  1. What a fantastic post! Thanks for sharing this method. Is there more on when to use what levels? Like, when is it okay to answer on a level 2 or 3? I’m looking forward to really applying this. Thanks again!

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