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Asking questions is a key part of most teachers’ academic style, and such methods must be employed to benefit all students.

One such method is using what is known as Higher Order Thinking Questions. It is important that, in contrast to a regular question asking, all students must answer the questions. In regular lessons, the teacher typically asks a question and a limited number of students raise their hands to respond. This type of approach is ineffective when used with higher-order thinking questions.

Just how critical it is for all the students to participate in this exercise cannot be overstated. Also, they will need to elaborate on the why of their answers. This type of questioning is incredibly effective in helping to build analytic and critical thinking skills and should be a regular part of the lesson rotation. At first, the students may find the questions uncomfortable and unsure how to answer.

Please work with your students with patience and prodding questions, and allow them the time they need to grasp the purpose of the exercise.

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Let’s take a closer look at five ways that Higher Order Thinking Questions can be included in the classroom:

Critical thinking cannot be learned by observation or rote repetition.

1. Participation is key

Make sure that all students participate. This can be accomplished by having the children write down their answers and then share them with the class. They can also create partnerships and do the question-and-answer part of the lesson with each other. However you want to achieve this goal, all pupils need to be involved.

Asking the class a higher-order question and having only one or two respond will be much less effective.

2. Encourage discussion

Each student should next be asked to give the reasoning behind their answer. The exercise must be presented as one that encourages discussion rather than as a lesson seeking a firm right or wrong answer. Don’t allow the other students to mock or chastise any students who may have a different perspective than most of the class.

3. Encourage higher-order thinking

Volumes and guides such as Bloom’s Taxonomy are good references for crafting questions that encourage higher-order thinking. For example, ask Do you believe that the use of Japanese internment camps during World War II was a just action, and why? rather than Why were internment camps used, and were they effective?

4. A variety of questions

Use various question types depending on the subject matter and the overall lesson plan for that day. Gauge how effective certain questioning styles are based on the class’ response and the depth and quality of their answers.

5. Varying perspectives

Encourage the students to consider the question from varying perspectives. Using the internment camp question as an example, you could also have them consider their response if they were a Japanese citizen, a guard at the camp, or the neighbor of a Japanese-American.

The goal

Challenging the students to consider their answers through a critical lens will help them to become more thoughtful in other areas and aspects of their educational experience. The key to this teaching method is the inclusion of every student. This is not an exercise that is helpful to those just observing. Participation is key.

After the first use of higher-order thinking questions, take a few moments to ask the students to consider how these questions differed from the typical ones. Inquire about how responding to the questions made them feel and if and how they felt that they were out of their comfort zone.

Critical thinking skills can be overlooked in teaching, especially at certain grade levels, but it is an important skill that takes work to develop. Being able to approach a question with an analytical viewpoint and articulate one’s reasoning clearly and concisely will serve students well even after their formal education. These skills will help them in their careers and interpersonal relationships.

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