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  • Writer's pictureTerence Pang

Doing Well for Primary School Science Booklet B by Developing Higher Order Thinking

It was 4 pm on a Tuesday. The weather was sunny with a hint of dark cloud. Jill (not her real name), a P5 science student who was having her first lesson with me, was feeling extremely frustrated. She had just gotten to know her mid year results only to discover she almost failed. Her issue? Definitely not with Booklet A as she got almost all the MCQs correct. It was the Booklet B open-ended questions that pulled her down - almost 80% of her answers were blank.

She stared blankly at the question in front of her which was just given by me. It was meant to be a short test to determine her underlying issues.

Minutes passed and nothing was written down.

I then probed her with a few hints and questions. She struggled through every one of them but she managed to catch hold of the cues and started to write down the answer on her own after that.

It was perfect. It answered everything the question was asking for.

There are many students like Jill, who struggles with Open-Ended questions from Booklet B. Why is that so?

The Primary School exam setting is constantly changing. Each year, there are more questions in Science Booklet B (Open-Ended) that involve keywords such as 'describe the trend', 'state the relationship', 'explain what is observed' coupled with tables and graphs which are examples of Higher Order Thinking types.

To answer Higher Order Thinking questions, students must thus, think in the higher order.

However, are students developing in it? How can parents help their children more in this area?

This will be the first of a series of articles meant to address the development in the area of Higher Order Thinking in students.

What is Higher Order Thinking?

To begin, we must first understand the idea of Higher Order Thinking.

It is a concept of education reform based on learning taxonomies (such as Bloom's taxonomy). Here is a picture of it:

In a nutshell, the words above 'Understand' are considered Higher Order Thinking based on the context of our discussion.

How does one learn Higher Order Thinking?

Students need to ask more, identify relationships, infer from observations, think out of the box, and develop approach strategies.

Let's explore one area of learning to discuss further.

Learning in School

Many generations ago, students learned in the traditional rote memorization way - 'read this, repeat it, memorize it.' Surprisingly, some students are learning in the same way today. Don't get me wrong, rote memorization is important for remembering basic concepts but students need to go beyond it.

In a typical lesson conducted by me, much of it is spent into developing Higher Order Thinking. When teaching a new concept, instead of giving students the content directly, I guide them towards it.

For example, to begin the topic on 'Heat', I will ask them to physically touch a few materials - metal, wool, cotton, and wood, and ask which feels colder;. Then I will ask why the metal felt the coldest to the touch. As they write their answers down, I will ask a few probing questions to help them determine if the answers made sense or not. If it doesn't make sense, they will have to answer again based on new information given. Soon, they will arrive to the correct answers and thus, the concept.

When going through questions, instead of telling them the solution or answer to copy down straightaway, I will guide them into learning approach strategies with questions such as "What topic is this question testing you on?" and 'What phrases from the question are important?" Getting them to think about these questions repeatedly will lead them to develop a habit of asking the same questions on their own in the exam.

Throughout the whole activity, I guide the students into developing complex thinking process, thereby in Higher Order Thinking.

What is the result of this Higher Order Thinking Training?

Remember Jill, the P5 student? After 5 months, she was answering 100% of all booklet B questions and scoring a decent 70 to 80% in her exams. These days, she looks forward to answering challenging questions from me, a huge contrast to how she was on her first day.

Generally, most students who go through Higher Order Thinking Training tend to be happier, self-driven and score better in exams.

Does this kind of Higher Order Thinking Training take up a lot of time?

Surprisingly, it doesn't. Once students get the idea of Higher Order Thinking, they understand and learn faster than before. As a result, this gives the class a lot of time to work on revision by tackling challenging top-tier questions.

How can you be sure your child is developing in Higher Order Thinking in School?

You can start by asking your child how he or she is learning in school. Flip to a certain chapter and ask more about how the child was taught.

Were there a lot of questions asked or were the answers simply given and students were instructed to memorise?

Were there a lot of interactions and discussions or simply a lecture-style setting?

If your child doesn't talk much about school, then talk to the teacher instead.

What if your child is not developing in Higher Order Thinking in School?

If you discover that somehow, your child is not developing in it, it would be best to talk to the school about it. There could be many underlying reasons. Work with the school teacher on how best to help your child.

If you wish to know more on Higher Order Thinking or you wish to enroll your child into our classes, feel free to whatsapp me at 87498157 or drop me an email at [email protected]

In our next article, we will look into how parents can help the child to develop Higher Order Thinking at home. Subscribe so you won't miss it.


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