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Developing Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS

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The gifted are frequently quick to pick up knowledge and solve problems but many display,
either overtly or covertly, a frustration with the highly structured nature of school subjects.

They appear very aware of how to use their thinking and the best approach to use to learn more
effectively. They use this awareness of their thinking to maximise their learning strategies by
using a number of techniques like mnemonics relating to a sequence of text, words or numbers,
mind mapping to organise their knowledge, concept-mapping to indicate links or brainstorming
to search for plausible ideas.

Creativity is the ability to play imagination games – thought experiments. Tony Buzan observes
that breakthroughs in subject have often come about as a result of a dream, daydream, an
accident, or a chance happening that moved the dreamer to diverge from the dominant
paradigm.

In terms of creativity Lewin (1987)i makes a clear distinction between teachers who put more
emphasis on cleverness or intellect than upon wisdom or cognition; a clever situation in which
the child learns to use verbal fluency to construct answers and yet not display wisdom by the
rational use of knowledge to solve a problem or apply thinking. Lewin identifies this as the
intelligence trap:

A child knows the facts, but not how to use them in an answer.

To encourage creativity in thinking there must be a conscious effort on behalf of the school to
develop thinking skills and this requires an active inclusion of thinking into all subjects as a topic
on equal parity with literacy and numeracy. In focused teaching sessions the children will be
engaged upon the following thinking strategies:

• Focus and clarify the problem – examine and discuss the problem, being clear about
what constitutes the irrelevancies and what is the precise nature of the problem

• Speculating about the problem - examining ideas that could be applied to the problem
by hypothesising about what we know, what that means and what might happen if we
change

• Rehearsing ideas - practise solutions to gather more information about the degree of
precision and possible sources of error

• Looking wider - questioning and checking the solution. Why is it working? Are we still
on target or is there another solution?

• Am I saying what I mean? - Examining the language of answering and saying it
precisely but with interest by explaining ideas using different forms of communication

• What is this event the same as? - Looking for patterns and relationships to help
develop shortcuts in thinking about solutions to similar types of problems rather than
considering all problems to be unique. With this skill goes the ability to recognise when
a problem is unique
• Sticking to the knitting - remaining on task with the problem and learning to recognise
when the pathway is irrelevant or a tangent. This skill is about sifting the knowledge to
bring to bear that information which will help to solve the problem

• Be broad but selective - researching more than one source and being able to think
about the chain of reasoning to develop a logical progression in the solution

• Knowing one’s strengths and weakness - learning to recognise where we need to
seek some help from someone else. Learning to work in a co-operative group

• Set your target - be purposeful, know your direction, consider personal targets, link
them with those targets set by others so there is compromise and harmony, not clash
and discord

A curriculum that seeks to develop the thinking skills should consider the following relationship
between the different aspects of thinking skills. It starts with the student’s own beliefs and
attitudes related to their personal knowledge and skills. This allows the student to ask questions
of themselves about the nature of their thinking and their motivation. Thinking about these
allows the student’s metacognitive abilities to determine the best approach and to help them
frame the right question to identify the nature of the problem for them as individuals.
i Lewin, R., (1987) A Practical Problem Solver’s Handbook for Teachers and Students Royal County of Berkshire