What’s HOT?

hotHigher Order Thinking skills are!

The Common Core State Standards have been developed to be “Inclusive of rigorous content and applications of knowledge through higher-order skills, so that all students are prepared for the 21st century”.  So, is this something new that just came along with the Common Core State Standards?  Not really.  If you have studied learning taxonomies such as Bloom’s, then you have been at least exposed to ways that educators can be HOT teachers!

By applying higher-order thinking skills, the idea is that students are using more cognitive processing.  These skills include such things as:  critical, logical, reflective, metacognitive, and creative thinking; as well as analysis, evaluation and synthesis (creation of new knowledge).  Higher-order thinking skills are believed to require different learning and teaching methods than the simpler skills of remembering and understanding of facts and concepts. Teachers may help activate higher-order thinking skills by having students encounter unfamiliar problems, uncertainties, questions, or dilemmas.  HOT skills involve learning and applying critical thinking and problem solving that can be transferred into novel and/or real life situations.

Instruction on higher-order thinking skills should be clearly communicated in order to reduce ambiguity and confusion. Lesson plans should include think-alouds, examples of applied thinking, and adaptations for diverse student needs. Scaffolding (giving students support at the beginning of a lesson and gradually releasing until students can operate independently) helps all students develop the skills necessary. However, too much or too little support can hinder student growth in HOT skills. Prompt feedback providing immediate, specific, and corrective information should inform learners of their progress. Also, feedback centered on the students’ effort helps promote a growth mindset and encourages students while they take a more active role in their own learning.

Educators, who work in collaboration with their colleagues, and by really knowing their students’ skills and interests, can find a balanced approach that helps all of their students grow.  Some classrooms and schools are turning to Project Based Learning as a great way to teach higher order thinking skills.  Others are finding interesting ways to integrate technology in promoting HOT skills.

No matter what the approach, most can agree that carefully planned lessons are crucial.  Think with the end in mind.  What do we want students to know and be able to do?  How will we assess that?  What HOT skills do we think are necessary for this learning? How will we teach those skills with rigor (stepping it up a notch!)?

What are you doing to teach your students HOT skills?  Please share!!

Siobhan O’Hora
Special Education School Improvement Specialist

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