Sometimes we use terms such as critical thinking and creative thinking rather loosely. But if children are to be taught to think at higher levels like these, they deserve to know precisely what is meant by them. Today we will start with critical thinking.
We can go as far back as the late 1940s and 1950s to find a definition that has stood the test of time. In the United States at that time there was particular concern about the need to stretch students’ thinking and about how to measure their academic growth beyond the simple remembering of facts. Benjamin Bloom led a team of researchers that developed a ‘Taxonomy of Educational Objectives’. Actually they developed three taxonomies but in this post I will refer only to the most commonly used, namely the one that describes different levels of thinking skills (the technical term for this is the ‘cognitive domain’).
What follows is a diagram illustrating Bloom’s taxonomy of thinking skills.
The diagram shows a revised version of the taxonomy, by L.W. Anderson and D.R. Krathwohl (editors) (2001)
Teachers and parents can use the taxonomy to stretch their children’s thinking upwards through the levels. What follows is a brief description of what each of the levels means:
- http://doinkdesign.com/http:/doinkdesign.com/wp-admin/admin-ajax.php Remembering: Recalling facts or information.
- can you buy Keppra over the counter in spain Understanding: Explaining or classifying ideas or concepts.
- Primidone cheap price Applying: Using information, ideas and concepts in new situations.
- Analyzing: Making connections between ideas or concepts; comparing and contrasting these with each other.
- Evaluating: Making value judgments; critiquing ideas and concepts.
- Creating: Generating new ideas or products that have value and/or usefulness.
Before going any further, I should point out two basic misunderstandings of Bloom’s taxonomy:
1. Higher level thinking skills are not ‘better’ than lower order thinking skills. All types of thinking skills are needed. For example, Mozart studied and understood the composition skills of the great composers who came before him, before creating his own glorious music.
2. We don’t need to take ourselves or our children up and down the taxonomy like steps on a ladder. Often, we use different types of thinking at the same time or on the same topic. The levels can also be used in different orders; there does not have to be a strict sequence.
One criticism of Bloom’s taxonomy is that it does not encompass all aspects of the way we humans think. My response to this is … of course it doesn’t! Nothing could ever do this! But it is a useful tool to help teachers and parents consider how they can enhance their children’s learning by asking different levels of questions and giving different levels of tasks.
Here is an example of some questions and tasks. They are intended for middle school or younger secondary school children who are studying water conservation:
- Remembering: What are the three states of water?
- Understanding: Explain the processes of evaporation, condensation, precipitation and percolation.
- Applying: In what ways will you use your knowledge of the above processes to use in your project on water conservation?
- Analyzing: Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of three methods of water conservation we have studied.
- Evaluating: Which of the methods of water conservation we have studied – or which possible combination of methods – is most likely to be effective in one arid region of the world?
- Creating: Design an effective water recycling system for a poor rural community in a region that has low rainfall and limited access to electricity.
Questions and instructions at different levels like those above can be asked in every subject area or across different subject areas. It is true for children of all ages; please do not think that the ‘higher’ levels can only be used by older children and adults!
Please note that many of the questions above are open-ended. Apart from the first ‘remembering’ question, they do not point the child towards one ‘correct’ answer.
Now, try thinking of some questions in a subject area and age level for your own child. Perhaps you should try it on yourself first!
I started this post by introducing the topic of ‘critical thinking’. What is it? The most straightforward response I can give is it that critical thinking represents the ‘analyzing’ and ‘evaluating’ levels of thinking in Bloom’s taxonomy. Some might include the ‘applying’ level too. Using the taxonomy, we cannot only understand what critical thinking means but also understand how it relates to other types of thinking.
The thinking skills required of a courtroom judge provide a useful illustration of what I mean. The judge must remember and understand all the evidence presented to her in court. She must then apply her knowledge in making an important decision. She therefore analyzes the evidence very carefully before she evaluates it and announces her verdict. (But the judge does not create new laws – that is for others to do).
In their future world our children will need higher level thinking skills for the kinds of jobs that will be available to them. They will also have to understand and use relevant data. Without all these skills their job options will be limited. Talk with your child’s teacher about the implications of all this, and please do try taking your child and yourself through the various levels of thinking. Remember that children of all ages from a few years onwards can think at all the different levels. It is their right to be taught how to do this.
There is a huge amount available on the Internet about thinking levels – just search for ‘Bloom’s taxonomy’ and enjoy finding out more.
Next time: What is creative thinking and how can we teach our children to think creatively?