Higher order thinking requires the manipulation of ideas
and information in ways that derive new implications and meaning
or modify existing ones. Through such processes as combining
ideas and facts to hypothesise, generalise, synthesise, explain
and arrive at interpretations or conclusions, students can
be led to discover new meanings and solve problems. This article
briefly presents, discusses and gives examples of strategies
for developing analogous, sequential and interpersonal
thinking, three higher order thinking skills (Senge, et
al., 2000) which need to be nurtured
because they are essential to individual holistic development.1
Analogous thinking begins to develop at a young age and
involves comparisons and analogies among separate events.
Sequential thinking emerges later when patterns are discerned
between events and is commonly applied in mathematical questions
involving numbers and patterns in series. Interpersonal thinking,
the highest order of these three skills, involves individual
personal and social development.
To enhance the development of thinking skills, educators
need to provide students with a plethora of application opportunities
during lessons and assignments. Doing so not only broadens
horizons but also simultaneously helps to develop multiple
perspectives. Moreover, the crux of this learning involves
a transformation of the way in which learning occurs. In higher
education, students should be provided with opportunities
to make connections between different events and situations
in order to nurture emotional as well as cognitive capabilities.
Efforts should also be made to build the confidence needed
for effective interactions with people who have an even wider
variety of attitudes, backgrounds and opinions. In a nutshell,
students need support, motivation and tangible as well as
intangible rewards for continually increasing their abilities
to cope with and, indeed, conquer complex situations and problems
as needed. So, how is this done? More specifically, what strategies
can nurture these thinking skills?
First, the Internet can be used to help students examine
and learn from authentic, real-life situations in their content
areas. Moreover, opportunities, challenges and motivation
to choose their own research topics can also enhance learning.
For example, health-related web sites, which include patient
histories and nutrition as well as exercise sources, can be
explored. Students can then role-play as doctors or health
and fitness experts, explaining a patients condition
and prescribing wellness programmes. Similarly, in another
content area, students can explore a web site for a geographical
location of their choice and role-play as community leaders,
identifying problems and proposing beneficial solutions and
policies. These types of learning experiences will, therefore,
connect students to actual world events. Consequently, they
can actively participate, gain increased transferable knowledge
and become better prepared for their lives outside of the
classroom. Furthermore, they can become more motivated and
see themselves as valuable contributors as well as problem
solvers. This can help to increase awareness that many options
are available and that they can make a wide variety of choices
that affect themselves and their families.
Secondly, the cultivation of good questioning techniques
can help students to become critical thinkers who successfully
relate to and continually test systems around them. They need
to be able to look for themes and connections in what may
initially appear to be isolated events and situations, thus
sharpening analogous thinking abilities. This can be included
in assessments and assignments, which are specially designed
to give students an opportunity to apply specific skills.
Students can be helped to develop these techniques by using
scaffolds such as who, what, when, where and why questions
as well as templates modelling different organisational patterns,
which are used in academic writing.
Thirdly, students can be asked to do group work and present
their findings in a stock and flow diagrammatic flow chart
(Senge, et al., 2000) or mind map and a brief oral
and/or written presentation or report. By organising research
and thoughts into a visual pattern, they will learn to show
interrelationships that emerge and increase abilities to keep
track of causes and effects. Such presentations can also positively
develop writing skills as well as their abilities to map and
effectively communicate concepts, encouraging coherent thinking
while solving complex problems. In addition, group presentations
can help participants to share a vision, develop a joint sense
of purpose and raise cognitive capabilities to higher levels.
This simultaneously fosters the development of emotional as
well as cognitive and linguistic sensitivities, which is especially
needed when communicating with people from different backgrounds
Finally, to promote effective thinking skills, a learning
experience should conclude with a teacher asking mediating
questions, which assist students to reflect upon what has
actually taken place and other choices that could have been
Questions raised in this process could include:
- What were your main objectives or goals?
- What actually happened? Are you surprised by this outcome?
Why? How did your assumptions and deductions differ from
the actual outcomes? What do you think caused this discrepancy?
- Could your results have been different? How could you
do this differently to achieve outcomes similar to the actual
ones? What do you think you will try to do next in your
subsequent assignments and projects?
These questions have important implications because they
allow students to see for themselves the process of learning
which has just occurred. These active participants are also
empowered to take control of their own learning and to begin
developing a vision for projects or tasks as well as an appreciation
of the consequences of different actions, which can be taken.
Priorities can subsequently be modified to achieve reasonable
standards and to communicate findings, thus effectively using
higher order thinking in the processes of integrating analogous,
sequential and interpersonal thinking skills.
Newmann, F. and Wehlage, G.G. (1993). Five Standards
of Authentic Instruction. Educational Leadership,
50(7), pp. 812.
Senge, P., Cambron-McCabe, N., Lucas, T., Smith, B., Dutton,
J. and Kleiner, A. (2000). Practices. In T. Lucas
(Ed.). Schools that Learn: A Fifth Discipline Field Book
for Educators, Parents and Everyone Who Cares About Education (1st ed.). London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing, pp. 153166.
however, need to be aware that when using higher order thinking
skills, instructional outcomes are sometimes unpredictable
because elements of uncertainty are introduced. In contrast,
when students merely receive or recite factual information
or employ rules through repetitive routines, lower order thinking
occurs (Newmann and Wehlage, 1993).