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Higher Order Thinking Skill (HOTS)

Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) is a kind of thinking where critical, logical, metacognitive and creative thinking involves. It is used to investigate the problem, to learn something you are not sure with, to learn a question and to face a dilemma. If HOTS is involved in the teaching and learning process, it assists the students’ growth and provides the ability to do self-monitoring, open-minded, and flexible attitudes.

            The word ‘critic’ derived from kriticos (Latin) means discerning judgment or thinking first before you decide. In English as ‘criterion’ means standard. One who is critical means one who analyses and judge things in a very careful way. Besides, she will also consider the advantages or merit and disadvantages of doing things. In the learning and teaching context, a question that is posed by a student can be a measurement of critical thinking. A critical student is not the one who directly asks you question, since the question itself might be a tool for that student to hide her real misunderstanding and lack of understanding toward the material being delivered by her teacher. On the contrary, a critical student is the one who criticizes, asks, and evaluates the learning experience. Or in other words, a critical thinker student will be very ‘careful, deliberate determination of whether we should accept, reject, or suspend judgment about a claim and on the degree of confidence with which we accept or reject it’ (Moore and Parker, 1995, p.4). Then, a critical thinker, pose a question based on articulately intellectual standards. He will not ask question without knowing the qualification of his own question. Related to this, a critical thinker has a skillful thinking that is conducive to good judgment because it is sensitive to context, relies on criteria, and it is self correcting (Lipman, cited in Nosich, 2001, p.46). And the last, a critical thinker shows the ability to connection between her questions and the merit of it. As McPeck (1981, p.13) argues that a critical thinker is always thinking about X, manifest itself in connection with some identifiable activity or subject area and never in isolation.

            Based on the three characters of critical thinker mentioned above, it can be said that critical thinker lies in everyone; it is not part of western culture as it was assumed so far. Emilia (2012), states that ‘everyone is a critical thinker to some extend’.  Everyone will become a critical thinker regardless where she/he is from. If scaffolding and taught explicitly on how to be a critical thinker is given, everyone will become a critical thinker.  In the teaching and learning process, teacher can teach students to be critical thinker by showing them that a critical thinker has an argument to propose. Argument is not ‘a kind of verbal battle, or disagreement between two persons (Kurfiss, 1988, Boylan, 1988, Diestler, 2001, Eemeren, et el, 2002), but a series of statement and reasons that interconnected where each of the statement and reason supported each other to make firm the speaker’s stand (Toulmin, et al, 1984, p.14).

            In the teaching process, the explicit teaching to guide students to be critical thinker can be started by informing them that their argument should provide topic, issue, reasons, fact or opinion and intellectual standards. The students who do not know the topic well, they will not be able to evaluate, talk or discuss about the issue being discussed, they will propose only commonsense. Let’s take ‘abortion’ as an example. When the students do not know much about the topic, they will directly mention that abortion is illegal and taboo to be discussed as it is violated to norm and ethics. To avoid this, teacher guides students to read from various sources on abortion and scaffolding the students to know and understand what they are reading. Then, teacher pose a question such as ‘should abortion be legalized?’ to leave the topic into the issue, where specific statement is introduced in the question form. After that, guide the students to find some for and against reasons towards the question posed. To be able to provide an array of pros and cons statement on abortions, the students have to read a lot on the topic. After readings, the students may come with the sentence like ‘I think abortion should be legalized if the fetus endangers the mother’s life’. Even though this sentence is open to critique since it is an opinion, but at least the student has started with what they know from reading, not from their commonsense. When this kind of sentence appears, teacher must assist the student to move from opinion to fact. To change the sentence form the opinion to fact it needs a critical thinker standard. The sentence must cover (1) clarity, (2) accuracy, (3) relevance, (4) precision, (5) depth, and (6) breadth. The opinion that moves into fact is based on intellectual standard of critical thinking will appear to be ‘according to Jacob (2012) in the Health magazine on December edition 2012 mentioned that died fetus inside the womb will endanger the mother’s life’.

If a student wrote ‘there is a great deal of violence on TV’, this sentence has clarity, it mentions that there is a great deal of violence on TV. But, it does not have accuracy, how many is ‘a great deal’, and ‘what program of TV that talks about violence”, it is not precise ‘which TV channel, when is the program appear.

            Critical thinking can also be tested to the students by posing questions. The questions to check clarity may come as:

–          Is the idea easily understood?

–          Is the information free from confusion or ambiguity or vagueness?

–          Are concrete and specific examples given/

Meanwhile for accuracy, teacher can ask:

–          Is the information free from errors, mistakes or distortion?

–          Does information have conformity with the fact or truth?

–          Do the words describe the way things actually are?

To check relevance, the questions to be used are:

–          Does the thinking focus in what is important?

–          How does the point relate to the topic at hand?

Precision can be checked by

–          Is the thinking precise?

–          Is the reasoning detailed enough?

Besides posing questions to train students’ critical thinking, students can also be trained to think actively by inviting students to use their intelligence, knowledge, and their ability to observe the situation of life by integrating the new information with their availably information. The students who think actively, they can:

–          Getting involved in potentially useful projects and activities instead of remaining disengaged.

–           Taking initiative in making decisions on their own instead of passively to be told what to think or do

–          Following through on their  commitments instead of giving of when they encounter difficulties

–           Taking responsibilities for the consequences of their decisions rather than unjustifiably blaming others or events beyond their control.

Assisting students to think critically, teacher scaffolding student to think from fact, to interpretation, synthesize, analysis, evaluation, and application. In the ‘fact’ level ask the students to describe who, when, what, where. Describing activity leads student to think critically as they must describe in detail about what they are describing.

Then, to make the students able to come to ‘interpret level’, give the students these tasks or questions

–          Retell … in your own words

–          What is the main idea of …?

–          What is the time sequence relating the following events: ..?

–          What are the steps in the process of growth or development in ..?

–          How would you compare and contrast .. and …?

–          What was the cause of … / the effect of ..?

‘Synthesize level’ can be assisted by these questions:

–          What would you predict/ infer from?

–          What ideas can you add to ..?

–          How would you create/ design a new ..?

–          What might happen if you combine … with … ?

–          What solutions/ decisions would you suggest for …?

‘Analysis level’ can be aided by giving the students:

–          What are the parts or features of ..?

–          Classify …according to …

–          Outline/ diagram/ web ….

–          What evidence can you present to support ..?

–          What are the possible alternatives for …

–          Explain the reason why you think …

‘Evaluation level’

–          How would you evaluate … and what standards would you use?

–          Do you agree with …? Why or why not ?

–          How would you decide about …?

–          What criteria would you use to assess …?

‘Application level”

–          How would you apply this rule/ principle to …?

And the last, teaching strategy to support HOTS can be carried out by:

–          Instructional communication. The teacher provides a very clear teaching instruction for every task. A clear teaching instruction must come from a clear lesson planning. In a clear lesson plan, it is stated the organization of activity, clarity of the explanation, modeling for critical skill, example on critical thinking application, feedback, and adaptability based on the students’ ability.

–          Scaffolding. The teacher provides ‘learning and thinking strategies’ through: rehearsal,  elaboration, organization (teacher designs a program specifically to train a certain critical thinking skill)

–          Direct instruction

–          Asking strategy: all students can be asked, the questions may about a dilemma, new problem, ask students to propose a question, start from easy question, provide ‘wait-time’ as not all students equip with a similar ability in answering questions

–          Feedback

–          Team activities: students discussion, peer tutoring, cooperative learning

–          Computer mediation: provide access to information and data. Computer assisted instruction can be integrated with the regular teaching so that it can improve students motivation and achievement and at the same time it develop students’ point of view toward learning process.


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