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An Accessible Primer on Higher-Order Thinking Skills

Dr. Prathik Cherian

Senior Researcher, Department of Physics, Prayoga, Bengaluru


In succinct terms, ‘How to Assess Higher-Order Thinking Skills in your Classroom’ by Dr. Susan M Brookhart is a valuable resource for any educator and especially for motivated school teachers.


In order to do anything with some true degree of conviction, we need to first clearly understand what is it that we are attempting to do."

Higher-order thinking skills are vitally important for the progress of society and in the technologically advanced 21st century society, they are more decisive than ever. Therefore, it is crucial that our students are taught to develop these skills right from the school level onwards. Teachers need to be equipped for this purpose and resources need to be identified and allocated for the same. Most often and this is certainly true of our education system, there is an insidious insistence on only assessing students’ recall and comprehension skills which are patently lower-order thinking skills. The higher-order thinking skills are ignored for a variety of reasons ranging from incompetence at best to ignorance at worst. Here, I introduce and briefly review a book that discusses higher-order thinking skills and the ways to assess

them in school classrooms.


In succinct terms, ‘How to Assess Higher-Order Thinking Skills in your Classroom’ by Dr. Susan M Brookhart is a valuable resource for any educator and especially for motivated school teachers. Dr. Brookhart is a distinguished researcher in education specializing in educational assessment, and a prolific author of 17 books spanning associated topics. The book serves as a simple yet highly effective and instructive starting point for understanding higher-order thinking skills. Dr. Brookhart strives to educate the reader about various aspects and methods of assessing higher-order thinking skills. On the one hand, we have the reader being introduced to the concept of higher-order thinking skills and on the other, as the title suggests, it delves into aspects of assessment of the same.



The book strives to impart a practical approach and places itself as a smart guide to dealing with higher-order thinking skills. Dr. Brookhart articulates how to identify the type of thinking to assess and how to design tests to assess the same, and how to interpret the results. It is also key that students know what is being assessed and that they are given the correct materials to demonstrate their thinking.


The author has been successful in breaking down higher-order thinking skills to a novice audience and she does it without becoming too specific in terms of subjects. The book caters especially well to teachers who are interested to impart higher-order thinking in their students. In order to do anything with some true degree of conviction, we need to first clearly understand what it is that we are attempting to do. Dr. Brookhart is very aware of this principle and the book has dedicated chapters on various higher-order thinking skills such as analysis, evaluation & creation, problem solving, logic & logical reasoning, creativity & creative thinking, etc. These skills are explained in terms that are easy to comprehend and devoid of jargon, before proceeding to discuss how they might be assessed in classrooms.


Due to personal biases, I found the chapter on problem solving to be the most interesting. By its very nature, it is an onerous task to elucidate on problem solving due to the inherent difficulties involved in even defining what a problem is. Specific features of a problem typically vary from subject to subject (or even from topic to topic within a given subject). However, this chapter is a very illuminating read in that it discusses what problem solving is, what the various types of problems and the relevance of rubrics in assessment and feedback - all with a grounding in school level subjects. 


In the Indian context especially, there exists a pervasive sense of confusion regarding higher-order thinking skills. Both the in-service and pre-service teachers do not seem to pay much heed to these skills either to instruct students or indeed to assess them. At a little over 150 pages in length, the book is not prohibitively time-consuming and is ideally suited for any and all interested parties to take on as a side project to enhance their own understanding of higher-order thinking skills and the methods of assessments involved therein.



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