Thinking is something you do all of the time.
Briefly write the story of your day so far reflecting carefully on the amount and types of thinking you have done.
Perhaps your day started like the following extract:
A day in the life of…
I started my day trying to decide whether to get up straight away when the alarm went off. I thought about the consequences of having a 'lay in' for an extra ten minutes. If I did this, would I have time to get my children ready and off to school in time? No I wouldn't so I got up! I chose some clean clothes and got dressed after having a wash. The letters were on the mat when I went downstairs and I sorted them and made a pile for each member of the family. I wondered whether to bother opening the letter claiming I was the lucky winner of a grand prize. After everyone had breakfast and set off for school and work I settled down to do some studying. I spent a few minutes daydreaming then started to sort my notes out and group them into related sections.
This person engaged in a lot of thinking - making decisions, considering consequences, classifying and sorting, and daydreaming. Whatever your day was like, this activity is likely to have illustrated that you can and do lots of thinking and that there are many different kinds of thinking. How did you describe the types of thinking that you did? Perhaps you included some of the words and terms in the from below? These are all important thinking skills. Thinking is an active process, and the words used to describe it are usually verbs.
Words to describe thinking
finding, deciding, solving, justifying, remembering, planning, arguing, identifying, speculating, calculating, comparing, deducing, presuming, analysing, summarising, hypothesising, evaluating, sequencing, ordering, sorting, classifying, grouping, predicting, concluding, distinguishing, creating, planning, testing, assessing
(Adapted from McGuinness, 1999)
While we can all think, it is important to recognize that the thinking skills we have looked at so far are not all required or equally valued in academic work. Common to all subjects and levels is the concept of higher and lower order thinking skills. Higher order skills are considered to be more complex than lower order skills. The triangle model provides a useful way to visualise the relationships between some of the key intellectual skills valued in education. The complexity of the skills increases from the base to the top of the triangle.
Although the skills in the triangle are arranged in a hierarchical way, they are all important. Much of the thinking we do involves a mixture of skills at different levels. We develop and use them simultaneously, for example, when we are solving problems and analysing case studies. One of the key aims of education is to extend and develop higher order thinking skills - to develop thinking at a qualitatively higher level, to move into a higher gear.
When you are studying, it can be helpful to recognise the words people use to describe thinking at these different levels.
Try making a list of verbs that might describe or demonstrate thinking at each level of the triangle
Here are some examples.
Evaluate judge, appraise, choose, rate, assess, estimate, value, measure, criticise
Synthesise formulate, teach, design, develop, re-define, propose, create
Analyse distinguish, differentiate, calculate, debate, relate, compare, experiment, contrast, examine
Apply demonstrate, schedule, operate, sketch, employ, use, practice
Comprehend restate, identify, discuss, locate, recognise, review, explain, tell, clarify
Know recall, define, state, list, repeat, name, recount, present, find
(Adapted from Latimer and Noble, 1996)
A further education course will provide many practical opportunities for developing thinking. These will be integrated into activities such as: reading texts; doing in-text activities and self-assessment questions; listening to tapes; watching videos and TV programmes; making notes; doing assignments and reflecting on assignment feedback; doing exams; participating in tutorials; attending day schools, workshops and residential schools; participating in self-help groups; talking to a tutor; planning studies.
Reflecting on the thinking of such a course involves can be useful in understanding which skills it has been designed to help you acquire and what will be looked for in assessments. As a starting point, take a look at some of the thinking skills in an assignment question or activity from your course.
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