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How to go beyond superficial learning by utilising higher order thinking

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Maryellen Weimer, through her experiences with knitting, she writes about “Deep learning”

“….Surface learning is equated with memorization and rote learning as opposed to deep learning generally laid alongside understanding. Actually, I’ve been thinking that deep learning is something more.

….Deep learning means making something your own, owning it, and fitting it into the framework of your understanding so that no matter how you look at it, it makes sense. The understanding is so natural, so complete, and so obvious, it looks easy. It’s as if what made it difficult has evaporated. It not only isn’t there, but you can’t even reclaim how it looked when it was there.

Deep learning builds confidence….Deep learning brings happiness, a sense of satisfaction and great motivation.”

Of course, most educators know of this concept through Bloom’s taxonomy. Some of the more useful or innovative articles on this is Task oriented Question Construction Wheel based on Bloom’s Taxonomy (PDF) by St.Edward’s University, and Andrew Churches’ Bloom’s and ICT tools, especially his document titled “Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy” (PDF).

Uzuner, in the context of determing the quality of online conversations, talks about this by comparing educationally valuable talk with educationally less valuable talk. Uzuner’s concrete indicators (as given in table 2 and 1, respectively) and of these are worthy of watching out for. Some of the red light indicators of educationally less valuable talk are listed under the headings of affective, judgemental, experiential, and reproductional:

  • “I never liked Math either”
  • “I have been to your contry once, and I visited X, Y, and Z when I was there.”
  • “Yes, I agree with you…”
  • “I did the same thing.”
  • “I am unable to open the file.”

Although, these may seem obvious to some readers, it was an eye-opener for me when I realised how often that I still experience people, most notably amongst the youth, using the phrases from this list of educationally less valuable talking.

What makes this a constructive article is that it also lists the educational valuable indicators that we should either be on the look out for, if not actively encouraging, amongst the junior youth. They are listed under the groups of exploratory, invitational, argumentational, critical, heuristic, reflective, interpretive, analytical, informative, explanatory and implicative; some of these example indicators are:

  • “I wonder…”
  • “…  is like…”
  • “… is important to me because…”
  • “I agree, however,..
  • “After reading X’s article, I’ve learnt not to …”
  • “In my opinion,  …is a good example of why…”
  • “I want to build on your comment that…

Well worth a full read.

Other related links are Elona Hartjes’ “Use rich media to engage students’ higher order thinking processes and also to evaluate them.” and and from Marvin Marshall’s “Posting reflective questions“:

  • what are you going to do to make it happen?
  • is what you are doing helping you get what you want?

Finally, a very insightful article that certainly ecnourages the use of higher order thinking is Chris Sessums has an outstanding list of potential questions regarding Educational Technology, entitled “Applying your knowledge: potential exam questions for an Introduction to Educational Technology Course”

An example of this questions are:

  • Utilizing the your web-based search and information analysis capabilities, develop a personal working definition of 21st century skills, then describe your progress towards the attainment of these skills. What have you done in the last few years to add to your 21st century skill-set and what do envision doing in the future to continue to develop these skills?
  • Employers have increasingly begun to use Web sites like MySpace.com and Facebook.com to screen applicants and current employees. Should employers be allowed to do this? Provide a thoughtful, detailed explanation of your thinking below. Be sure to articulate possible social, moral, legal, and ethical consequences of such actions.


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