“We still really don’t know how to assess problem-solving,” I heard a university professor of engineering say last week, and it resonated because it is so clear to me that while we all want to do more to educate our students in the work of solving complex problems and creative thinking, and we know the importance of assessment in driving this instruction, we nevertheless stumble in our clarity about what and how we ought to assess these things.
Most often the books I write about here are what might be viewed as the superstructure books– the writing about the future of learning and the most innovative practices for reinventing what and how we should be teaching.
But sometimes it is useful to return to the foundations, and firm up our terms and concepts at more basic, but critical, levels— indeed, if we don’t do so, the superstructures will be that much more unwieldy.
This 2010 title, from ASCD, is exactly that, and I hope readers will forgive the “primer” nature of this post. It would seem to me that schools which simply do the work to try to unify and make more consistent our language and practice around higher order thinking skills assessment will be well poised to then experiment, iterate, and innovate in this essential realm.
Brookhart begins by defining the core elements of what we mean by higher order thinking:
- Transfer: relating learning to other elements beyond those they were taught to associate with it.
- Critical thinking (judgment): reasonable, reflective thinking focused on what to believe or do, applying wise judgment and producing an informed critique.
- Problem solving, including creative thinking: the non-automatic strategizing required for solving an open-ended problem, involving identifying problems, creating something new as a solution.
establishing three core components of what exactly effective assessment entails:
- Specify clearly and exactly what it is you want to assess.
- Design tasks or test items that require students to demonstrate this knowledge or skill.
- Decide what you will take as evidence of the degree to which students have shown this knowledge or skill.
and elaborating with three more principles of higher order thinking assessment:
- Presenting something for students to think about, usually in the form of text, visuals, scenarios, resource material, problems.
- Using novel material–material new to students, not covered in class and not subject to recall.
- Distinguishing between level of difficult, easy versus hard, and level of thinking, lower order thinking/recall versus higher order thinking) and control for each separately. (more…)