HIGHER-order thinking (HOT) has been a hot issue since the introduction of the school-based assessment.
Parents were assured that through the new assessment system students could be developed to think critically and creatively.
But the results of PT3 has proved otherwise.
One of the reasons for the poor performance, as most parents argued, was that students were not familiar with the new format of questions.
But the fact is that generally teachers were never ready to teach content knowledge along with HOT ever since these students were in Form One. Examples of HOT skills are, critical thinking and creative thinking. The two types of thinking skills sound quite familiar with many educators and even the laymen.
But to infuse thinking skills or any HOT skills into content instruction is not as simple as attending a course in critical thinking or teaching the courses.
Critical thinking can be taught in several ways. It can be taught in non-curricular context, that is without reference to any specific domain knowledge.
It can also be taught through specific domain knowledge by designing instructions so as to enhance thinking skills.
But there is another approach in teaching thinking where HOT, such as critical and creative thinking, is infused into content instructions.
One of the pedagogical approaches used is through TBL (Thinking-Based Learning), an idea initiated by Prof Robert Swarts.
TBL teaches not just the ability to know what HOT is all about, but also how those HOT skills can be infused into content knowledge.
In other words, teachers should be able to plan their lessons using subject matter knowledge to make thinking visible, both to the learners and the teachers themselves.
The learning outcomes would then be not only in terms of the students understanding of their content knowledge but also their ability to use this type of thinking skill in problem solving, visible both to the learners and the teachers.
Prof David Perkins (Harvard Graduate School of Education) insisted that visible thinking could also be developed through the language of thinking , that is, by teaching students to understand such terms as hypothesis, inductive reasoning, deductive reasoning, specialising, generalising and their applications.
Being aware of their thinking skills will enable students to better understand their thinking, reflect and evaluate on their thinking strategies used and would help to develop their metacognitive skills which is another important aspect of HOT.
Learning will then be more meaningful and exciting and students can see connections between their classroom activities to real life situations.
How do we achieve the goal of creating “thinking students”?
It is not merely giving them HOT questions. Rather, students must be taught how to make thinking visible and teachers should be taught how to infuse HOT into their content instruction.
It demands HOT approach on things like who should train the teachers and the mode and duration of training programmes.
With HOT planning and implementation, our students would then be ready for HOT questions, that is, paving the way for our Malaysian students to be ready for the PISA and TIMMS.
Zahari Othman Institute of Education International Islamic University Malaysia The Star Home News Letters 30 December 2014