Developing higher order thinking skills: quick classroom approaches

Sadly all learners are not born with well-developed higher order thinking skills of analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Unfortunately some learners have these skills but do not always deploy them at appropriate points in your lessons. So it can be helpful for teachers to encourage a focus on higher order thinking within their lesson delivery.

I have been watching some teaching recently and discussing classroom methods with practitioners and these are some effective little approaches for doing this:

1. Laminate some big questions and stick them on your classroom wall or put them up on a flip chart:

What are you learning now? What are the key points for you?

How can you use this elsewhere in your course/future studies/ work or life?

How does today’ s lesson link to your assignment/assessment/ group task?

Which skills are you developing today?

What question have you got right now?

At an appropriate point in the lesson, point to the questions and get learners to reflect quietly and note ideas or discuss with a peer. You can then ask some checking questions afterwards. I saw this work very well as a mid session plenary activity, as it helped learners connect activities back to outcomes for that lesson and the wider application in their course.

2. Spinning Bloom

This is a game involving a wheel with sections corresponding to Bloom’s levels. For more information on Bloom’s Taxonomy, you can click on this link to see a 5-minute video.

In the Spinning Bloom game, learners spin the wheel and then answer a verbal recap question corresponding to that level, e.g Evaluate….If you want to make this activity more focused on higher order skills, make sure you have more sections labelled synthesis, analysis and evaluation than the lower level words. It could be played as a whole class or made into an activity at tables, with a set of question and answer cards for each table, used at the end of a module. Thanks to Sarah Magdeburg from Joseph Chamberlain College for this idea. One benefit of this game is that you could make one wheel but have many different sets of questions for different topics or courses that you teach, as this activity will work well at a range of levels.

3. Peer assessment of draft work (Gallery Walk)

When students are preparing drafts of work that can be visually displayed, you can incorporate a peer assessment slot using higher order skills. Work can be stuck on walls or laid out carousel style on tables. Peers then go round with post it notes adding evaluation comments on how well the work fits the criteria for the task. It helps to re-visit key criteria before learners walk and if possible have the key criteria displayed for reference on a handout or on the board. The students who produced the work should have the chance to respond to the feedback and evaluate its usefulness and identify their next steps.

4. Video clip on using Bloom for differentiated success criteria

This is an interesting clip of a class using Bloom’s taxonomy to help them focus on success criteria in personalized and differentiated ways.


This entry was posted in Advanced Practitioners, CPD for Teachers, FE, High grades for learners, Teaching and learning, Thinking skills and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Developing higher order thinking skills: quick classroom approaches

  1. Pingback: Approaches to developing higher order thinking skills (1) | New College Durham – TLA Talk

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