Thursday, 4 September 2014

Do you have the HOTS for science? Part 1

Do your students have the higher order thinking skills required for success in science?

What are such skills?

Do you teach these skills regularly and actively?

Do you assess these skills regularly and validly?

I am currently investigating all of these questions in an ongoing project at my school. I am trying to change what happens in terms of the teaching and learning at senior school science to allow for development of higher order thinking skills in students. I believe that they will experience more success in this way as they are able to tackle more advanced problems.

What I have found through surveying staff attitudes at my school is that teachers do not feel as though higher-order thinking skills is something that is appropriately and regularly taught at our school. In particular, they feel as though their assessments lack demanding, unfamiliar contexts; open-ended or complex tasks and instead seem to focus on basic testing of surface level understanding or knowledge. They also felt that students lacked sufficient higher-order thinking skills for success in science, but that this was something they were grappling with, or trying to achieve.


Survey questions regarding HOTs 
Does the schools approach to assessment encourage students to apply knowledge in demanding, unfamiliar situations?Does the school’s approach to assessment give students sound opportunities to complete complex, open ended, multifaceted tasks?Does the school’s approach to assessment allow students to be rewarded for demonstrating higher order thinking skills?In terms of assessing higher order thinking in science, describe how you think the school does this:In terms of assessing higher order thinking in science, describe how you think the school could do this better:Provide an example of how you recently assessed higher order thinking skills in science:Do you feel your students have sufficient higher order thinking skills?Do you feel that your explicitly teach students how to develop these thinking skills?

My ambition is to change how:

We define higher order thinking skills
We assess higher order thinking skills
We teach higher order thinking skills

In doing this, I feel that more students will find success in their science education. Lower level ability students will be able to tackle more difficult problem solving, and higher ability students will be able to be challenged by rigorous and unfamiliar content. I want my science teachers to feel that they know how to adequately plan for and teach these skills too.