HOTS enables students to apply what they have learnt in new and different settings. It enhances their analysing, rationalising, reasoning, communicating and decision-making abilities which are all useful living skills.
The Education Ministry and all schools should rightly encourage HOTS, and students, especially those in secondary schools, must bravely take up the challenge to master it. Nevertheless, here are a few areas of concern that I hope the Education Ministry and/or Pemandu (Performance Management Delivery Unit) should address.
Firstly, HOTS entails and prerequires a thorough understanding and knowledge of the relevant subject matter. If a particular subject topic is not taught in your years of schooling up to the time you take an examination, no amount of training in thinking skills will be able to help you answer a question on that topic.
In this context, it is interesting to note that the lack of HOTS among our students has long been touted as a main cause of our students’ lackadaisical Pisa (Programme of International Students Achievements) performance. Is this a fair conclusion? I would not object to students being given “special” training in higher order thinking skills.
But, I would also think that properly conducted Science and Mathematics lessons would have many elements of HOTS already incorporated in them.
Do we still emphasise in our Science and Mathematics classes skills, such as observation, systematic data collection, tabulation and graphical presentation, interpretation, comparison, inferences, analysis, projection, induction, deduction and synthesis, among others?
A Science and Mathematics question of substance and quality, at any level, demands one or a combination of the above-mentioned skills.
So you can say, the higher order thinking skills are already in our classrooms, they just have not been fully exploited.
To bring them out requires much perseverance and sacrifice from both students and teachers.
Secondly, HOTS encapsulates critical and creative thinking. It results in creativity and innovativeness, bringing forth “creations” and innovations.
The mind has to be free and relaxed, and the environment has to be conducive to facilitate such adventures. So, is an examination setting in an enclosed hall or classroom and with limited time constraints the right avenue to exercise and test HOTS?
Real scientific discoveries, and artistic and creative works and master pieces are not done as “scheduled”.
And, when they are accomplished, they are usually welcomed with shouts of “Eureka!”, and much jubilations and celebrations.
There has to be liberty of the spirit. If answering HOTS questions are challenging, setting and designing the questions will certainly be a daunting task.
Turning the table around, can we expect teachers who are assigned to set HOTS questions to be able to write a required number of questions within the time and space constraints as encountered by students in examination?
We have heard how some CIT (Communication Information Technology) firms give much flexibility in both working hours and working environment to their professional staff just so that they can explore their creativity and innovativeness to the fullest.
Many of their final products are proofs of how the human minds work best. HOTS thrive in non-threatening environment.
Thirdly, HOTS transcend curricula that is across all syllabi and not confined to any particular subject.
We do not need specific HOTS questions in every examination subject paper.
We can have a stand-alone HOTS paper that transcends all subjects and this paper can take a longer duration than other subject papers.
Liong Kam Chong Seremban, 28 DECEMBER 2015 @ 11:01AM