Teaching Higher Levels of Thinking

Instructor: Jennifer Carnevale

Jennifer has a dual master's in English literature/teaching and is currently a high school English teacher. She teaches college classes on the side.

Higher-level thinking uses intelligence through several cognitive lenses. In this lesson, we will learn about teaching higher levels of thinking and the strategies behind those concepts.

Higher Levels of Thinking

There is not one way to think, which leads to the idea that there is not one way to learn. When we talk about how to teach students higher levels of thinking, there are many strategies, including some that may work for most students and others that may help a select few. However, each strategy can be used in combination with the others to form new thinking processes, all of which aim to boost cognitive function and thought.

Critical Thinking Platform

Reflecting & Supporting Positions

A large part of teaching students how to think on a higher level is promoting reflection, or when you think deeply and carefully about a topic. When we ask students to reflect, we are asking them to take the time to think about what a topic means to them.

Importance of Questions

For example, if you are working on the book The Things They Carried, you may be discussing heavy topics such as the Vietnam War, the draft and the Civil Rights Movement in America. The book provides a context, and as teachers, we can make strong connections to its themes by focusing on high-level thinking questions. For instance, you could ask students questions that put them in the shoes of a draftee. You could also ask their opinions about war in general, or to find some historical similarities and differences between The Things They Carried and the real-life issues Americans face today.

Importance of Self-Reflection

By providing students with a platform to write reflections and discuss thematic topics, you give them the opportunity and time to defend their ideas and find factual and evidence-based information to support their positions. Without time for internal reflection, students' positions may be unclear, so allow for self-reflection and guide them on the rest of their reading journey within the confines of the class.

Challenging Assumptions & Drawing Conclusions

Outlets inspired by writing and discussion can lead to difficult, but important, moments in the classroom. When talking about themes, students can connect their own experiences to contemporary and historical events. As a teacher, it's important to play devil's advocate, or help students see the other side of an argument. It's also important to help students find reasons for their ideas and shy away from hasty generalizations.

Role of Difficult Topics

Let's go back to our The Things They Carried example. Many students in your class may have family members that have served or are currently serving in the armed forces. A discussion about military service may cause some students to become upset. However, it is during moments like these that higher-level processing can happen, where students learn to understand and accept all sides of a story or an idea.

While this can be difficult, discussions where many sides of an argument are explored can help students become more open-minded and develop emotional intelligence. Discussions like these also help students draw conclusions after they've heard several sides of a theory, concept or topic.

Hands on Strategies

Finding Relationships & Designing Alternate Solutions

When looking for relationships, whether by looking at data, arguments or even images, it's important to give students some background about direct and indirect relationships. For example, you could have students find the relationship between math and nature by looking for basic geometric shapes in flowers, snowflakes and more.

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