INSET: Critical thinking & Higher order thinking skills (HOTS)

Critical thinking

“I really appreciated how organic the delivery was”

Shelley Chapman, Teaching & Learning Coordinator, The Marist School

Support your pupils to think deeper about lesson content

● Do you think your pupils miss valuable opportunities to ‘dig deeper’ into the real meaning of a topic?
● How can we make critical thinking a habit that all learners take on?
● What does the research literature say about higher-order thinking?
● Why it is critical thinking such an important skill to have in the 21st century?
● How can we make sure all of our students are engaging at higher levels?

The significance of engaging pupils in higher-order thinking tasks

All educators enjoy getting their students to ‘think effectively’ and a significant part of the workshop is spent developing classroom approaches that lead to this outcome. A theme that runs throughout the workshop is making thinking visible. This fundamental principle means that we can see thinking happening and by doing so, be in a position to scaffold it. The workshop attempts to draw together strategies into meaningful sequences of learning that have universal, cross-phase applications.

This course is designed for schools who want to develop their cultures of thinking. As well as looking at classroom techniques and strategies, we also unpick how we can make this part of the DNA of our institutions. There is a clear rationale for why adopting critical thinking is imperative for our students. We start by looking at the reasons through an educational lens and also from a wider child development perspective.

Inset Outline

Overview of why critical thinking is so important for our current generation of learners

● From an educational perspective, what benefits are there for making my students think harder?
● What do other fields of research say about higher-order thinking and its importance?
● How can we make cognitive science more accessible for our colleagues?

This topic continues to receive significant attention from policy makers and recent reports from organisations like OECD and the CBI have only increased its popularity. There are clear educational advantages from focusing in this area but what does it mean for the workplace and higher education? Having a clear reason to engage in this topic will help you communicate the importance to colleagues and parents.

What constitutes as critical thinking and how do we plan for it to happen?

● Understand what stops critical thinking happening and what cognitive barriers stands in its way.
● What are the main ways we can increase the chance of ‘HOTS’ happening?
● What do the current thinking frameworks tell us about cognition?

We often talk about critical thinking as something we want to accelerate or ‘make happen’. One argument suggests that, we are all predisposed to think critically but environmental and instructional factors hinder it from happening. In this section of the workshop we look at the cognitive science behind critical thinking and how, at the very least, we need to be conscious of its implications.

What strategies are available to us to make critical thinking happen?

The bulk of the workshop will focus on practical activities that help us ‘teach for thinking’. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution and participants will be encouraged to think about how the various strategies can be woven together into engaging activities.

Strategies will include:
● Visualising thinking – Make it tangible and accessible.
● Higher Order Questioning – A fresh perspective on common classroom practice.
● Collaborative Problem Solving – Thinking with others.
● Reasoning – Critical thinking and manipulating information.
● Digital tools – Critical thinking in online spaces.

How do we know thinking is happening and what does it look like?

There is growing agreement in the research community as to what you will see from your learners if they are, indeed, thinking critically. Participants in this workshop will look at two frameworks that will help them make informed judgements in the classroom.

● What behaviours and language come with higher order thinking?
● How can we begin to move a whole school in a critical thinking direction?
● How can we encourage learners to talk about how they think?

This course is part of a suite of courses applying research from cognitive science to the classroom through highly practical strategies – for more ideas see these further courses

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