On Higher order thinking skills vs. critical thinking skills

(EXCERPTS OF) An Interview with Caroline Sheffield: About Gifted Kids and HOTS by

Michael F. Shaughnessy
Senior Columnist
EdNews.org

In your mind, why are higher-order thinking skills important for gifted kids?

I consider higher-order thinking skills to be essential for all students.The National Council for the Social Studies uses the slogan “Creating Effective Citizens” to describe the purpose of a social studies education.If this slogan is deconstructed, it becomes evident that the role of the social studies is not only to teach history, geography, civics, and the other disciplines that are encompasses in field, but also to teach students how to think and participate in an ever-changing world.We live in an increasingly complex and interrelated global community, with instant communication, and a seemingly limitless supply of information.It is critical for all students in this information-rich and interrelated world to be able to analyze and synthesize information, to see multiple perspectives, and to be able to solve problems.But for gifted children, higher-order thinking skills are especially important due to their intellectual maturity and sensibilities; the inclusion of higher-order thinking is necessary for their continued growth and development.

Is there a difference between higher-order thinking skills and critical thinking skills?

Higher-order thinking is an umbrella term that encompasses bother critical thinking and problem solving. I prefer the term higher-order thinking because critical thinking skills cannot be easily differentiated from problem solving skills; by using the umbrella term, the mire of definition specificity can be reduced.

How can really good social studies teachers incorporate higher order thinking skills into their teaching?

I advocate a constructivist learning environment the social studies; one that requires students to examine issues from multiple perspectives, gather and synthesize information, and to make and defend arguments.There are a number of ways to accomplish this.Obviously, social studies teachers should continue to utilize primary source documents when examining historical events.Luckily, in this digital age, many of the primary documents which were available only in library archives are now available at the click of a mouse.Teachers should also engage students in problem solving activities, whether situated around an historical event or a future problem.Engaging students in such activities provides them with the opportunity to use critical thinking skills and problem solving strategies.Finally, I highly suggest using available technology. The Internet is a vast resource of information that requires students to evaluate the validity and reliability of information, and to synthesize vast funds of knowledge to create understanding. Using information obtained through the web, students can then present their knowledge through a variety of formats, such as documentaries, presentations, publications, etc…

How would you say the Internet has affected the teaching/learning process?

As far as I’m concerned, the Internet has revolutionized teaching.When you think about it, everything we do as teachers has been affected by the Internet.Teachers and students now are able to gather information from sources previously inaccessible to all but a few scholars. As teachers we are also tasked with providing instruction on how to use the Internet effectively to conduct research.This includes instruction on evaluating websites, how to use search engines, and how to sift through mountains of information.But the impact of Internet is not limited to our curriculum.Email is quickly becoming the preferred method of communication within school districts and with parents.Teachers are creating websites with links to homework, class policies, and content-related websites.The classroom culture has changed dramatically over the last ten years, due largely to the pervasiveness of the Internet.

How would you say the Internet has affected higher order and critical thinking skills?

As I’ve referred to in my previous answers, the Internet has opened up a vast store of information, some of it accurate and some of it less so.To be able to utilize this resource, it is essential that one knows how to critically assess the provided information, synthesize information obtained from a number of sources, and construct one’s own understanding. All of this is higher-order thinking.

Published February 20, 2008

 

Read the whole interview here

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