Enhancing Higher Order Thinking in Your Students

A lot of education focuses on fact memorization, but there is much more to it than that. Good teachers try to encourage higher order thinking in their students. Higher order thinking is not just about repeating facts back but involves analyzing those facts, connecting them to other concepts, and applying them. Teachers are highly encouraged to learn more about higher order thinking and how it improves students’ mastery of a subject. It can be hard for teachers to figure out how to teach or encourage higher order thinking in their students, but here are a few techniques that can make it easier.


1. Explain Concepts Thoroughly

For some subjects, like math, explaining the concept can be complicated, leading teachers to fall back on simply demonstrating the formula over and over again. Higher order thinking, however, is about teaching the concept behind the formula, and that requires a verbal explanation. As you demonstrate how the concepts work, explain why they work as well.

2. Move Back and Forth Between Abstract and Concrete

Explaining abstract concepts with the use of concrete examples is helpful, but if students don’t grasp it, it may be necessary to do this multiple times, drawing the connections each time. Explain the abstraction, demonstrate with a concrete example, then use the example to explain the abstraction another time. The more often you draw the connections between the two, the more completely the students will understand it.

3. Connect Concepts Together

If you’re teaching two or three concepts in a unit, it is vital to show how those concepts connect to each other. You may think their relative connection to each other is obvious, but for someone learning all of this for the first time, they may not see that. One of the traits of higher order thinking is the ability to make these connections on their own, so teaching them how to link concepts together can be just as important as teaching the concepts themselves.

4. Teach Inference

Complicated concepts may rely a lot on inference and basic logic, which teachers sometimes expect students to be able to do on their own. Many students, however, need to be taught in the first place how to correctly make inferences from the information they are given. This is a skill that they will use in most subjects, so it’s well worth teaching it to them as much as you can now. Walk them through the necessary steps every time you make an inference and challenge them to do the same.

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