SO much has been said about HOT or higher-order thinking. What is HOT and why is it important for our students to be equipped with HOT skills?
An example of HOT is critical, creative and mathematical thinking. These are very useful when individuals encounter unfamiliar or complex problems and uncertainties like predicting outcomes and making decisions.
The Malaysia Education Blueprint states that “Education plays a central role in any country’s pursuits of economic growth and national development. There is no better predictor of a nation’s future than what is currently happening in its classrooms”.
The question here is, are we very clear of what our teachers are supposed to do in the classrooms , that is, to produce the kind of students who can think critically and creatively in the classrooms and in real life situations?
As a keen observer of events related to the development of education in Malaysia, I suggest that teachers should be trained on the pedagogical knowledge of HOT and not just on how to develop HOT questions.
Training teachers to develop HOT questions to be used in the classrooms is no doubt worth an effort.
But this kind of assessment which will activate HOT among learners will be less effective in developing the skills unless they are taught the skills in the classroom.
A revised Bloom Taxonomy would be a suitable reference not only when developing HOT questions but also when making preparation to infuse HOT skills into content instructions.
One of the problems of our teachers, as I see it, is how to align assessment with pedagogy. For example, a students is given a word problem in mathematics which needs a HOT skill, that is, making an analysis of the problem.
Would a teacher expect a student to develop skills of analysis by simply posing such question without initially infusing the skill through proper instructional strategies?
Analysis is just one example of the many HOT skills and is the most important skill lacking among Malaysian students and one main reason why our students performed badly in PISA.
Developing HOT skills among learners through infusion of critical and creative thinking into content instruction would be a very effective way of teaching HOT.
The Education Ministry should make serious efforts to locate the experts in this particular field of pedagogical knowledge and hire them to ensure that the implementation of HOT in the classrooms would result in students who can perform HOT skillfully to solve problems.
Certainly, parents do not wish to see their children being drilled to solve HOT problems. Instead they wish to see their children being able to think critically and creatively when they encounter such problems.
As Socrates said: “The unexamined life is not worth living”.
It is not too late therefore for the Education Ministry to reflect and evaluate the existing model of training for teachers to ensure that billions of taxpayers money is spent wisely in an effort to improve the quality of thinking in our children.
As Profesor David Perkins said: “Learning is a consequent of thinking”.
Skillful thinkers cannot be developed just by giving students HOT questions.
Instead, the teachers should first infuse thinking skills into content instruction before such questions are posed to them.
Zahari Othman (Former researcher/consultant), Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Faculty of Science, University Malaya. The STAR Home News Opinion Letters to the Editors 05/02/2014