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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Are We--Or Should We Be--Teaching Higher Order Thinking?

An article in today's Faculty Focus ( by our friend in distance education, Maryellen Weimer, poses the question, "Is there empirical evidence to support the frequent criticism that introductory courses are fact filled with little content that challenges higher order thinking?" Apparently someone studied 50 biology faculty and their courses and discovered that, "93% of 9,713 test questions were rated at level 1 or 2 of Bloom's taxonomy." In addition, "69% of the syllabi goals for those courses were at those same two levels."

My first reaction was, "Now wait a minute. Isn't that what those introductory courses are for?" And then I continued to read the article. Two questions in the article have me now pondering my courses: "Must students know the facts before they can think at higher levels? ". . .is knowing the facts all that's needed to think at higher levels?"

In accounting, for example, students do need to know a number of "facts" before they can successfully navigate higher-order tasks. If they don't know the definition of an asset or a liability, they cannot analyze the liquidity of a company to predict the company's ability to pay off its debts. I'm sure, however, that there are also a number of "facts" that are presented in my introductory accounting courses that student do indeed, as the article notes, forget as soon as the exam is over. . .and may never need to think about again.

I imagine that most disciplines are similar to mine: some facts do need to be presented and learned, and some could possibly never be introduced and never missed. Also, I imagine I could do more to foster higher-order thinking skills in my students instead of assuming that they just magically learned how to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information somewhere else!

Now where DID I put those flashcards?

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