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Chapter 1. General Principles for Assessing Higher-Order Thinking

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❶How can we construct good multiple-choice items? The state of Kentucky uses an open-ended scoring guide for problem solving in mathematics, social studies, science, and arts and humanities.

higher order thinking essay questions

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Basic Assessment Principles
Principles for Assessing Higher-Order Thinking

The cognitive load is increased when the stem is constructed with an initial or interior blank, so this construction should be avoided. All alternatives should be plausible. The function of the incorrect alternatives is to serve as distractors,which should be selected by students who did not achieve the learning outcome but ignored by students who did achieve the learning outcome. Common student errors provide the best source of distractors.

Alternatives should be stated clearly and concisely. Alternatives should be mutually exclusive. Alternatives should be homogenous in content. Alternatives that are heterogeneous in content can provide cues to student about the correct answer. Alternatives should be free from clues about which response is correct.

Sophisticated test-takers are alert to inadvertent clues to the correct answer, such differences in grammar, length, formatting, and language choice in the alternatives. In either case, students can use partial knowledge to arrive at a correct answer. The alternatives should be presented in a logical order e. The number of alternatives can vary among items as long as all alternatives are plausible. Plausible alternatives serve as functional distractors, which are those chosen by students that have not achieved the objective but ignored by students that have achieved the objective.

There is little difference in difficulty, discrimination, and test score reliability among items containing two, three, and four distractors.

Avoid complex multiple choice items , in which some or all of the alternatives consist of different combinations of options. Keep the specific content of items independent of one another. Savvy test-takers can use information in one question to answer another question, reducing the validity of the test. Definitely, it will be the latter but at an affordable price. With our cheap essay writing service, you can not only have the essay written in economical price but also get it delivered within the given deadline.

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Another teacher might ask students to come up with their own problem situation in which finding the slope of a line is a major part of the solution, write it up as a small project, and include a class demonstration. Which teacher has evidence that the goal was met? Students are the ones who have to aim their thinking and their work toward the target. Before studying slope, most students would not know what a "multistep problem that involves identifying and calculating slope" looks like.

To really have a clear target, you need to describe the nature of the achievement clearly for students, so they can aim for it. In this case you might start with some examples of the kinds of problems that require knowing the rate of increase or decrease of some value with respect to the range of some other value. For example, suppose some physicians wanted to know whether and at what rate the expected life span for U.

What data would they need? What would the math look like? Show students a few examples and ask them to come up with other scenarios of the same type until everyone is clear what kinds of thinking they should be able to do once they learn about slope. Design performance tasks or test items that require students to use the targeted thinking and content knowledge. The next step is making sure the assessment really does call forth from students the desired knowledge and thinking skills.

This requires that individual items and tasks tap intended learning, and that together as a set, the items or tasks on the assessment represent the whole domain of desired knowledge and thinking skills in a reasonable way.

Her assessment consisted of a section of questions matching poems with their authors, a section requiring the identification of rhyme and meter schemes in selected excerpts from poems, and a section asking students to write an original poem. It is true that higher-order thinking was required. Plan the balance of content and thinking with an assessment blueprint.

Some sort of planning tool is needed to ensure that a set of assessment items or tasks represents the breadth and depth of knowledge and skills intended in your learning target or targets.

The most common tool for this is an assessment blueprint. An assessment blueprint is simply a plan that indicates the balance of content knowledge and thinking skills covered by a set of assessment items or tasks.

A blueprint allows your assessment to achieve the desired emphasis and balance among aspects of content and among levels of thinking. Explain how the governments of the colonies effectively foreshadowed and prepared colonists for the American Revolution.

Explain how colonial relations with Native Americans were influenced by land, food and resources, political events, and the French. Describe British trade and navigation acts. Describe the triangular trade, including its role in slavery. The first column Content Outline lists the major topics the assessment will cover. The outline can be as simple or as detailed as you need to describe the content domain for your learning goals.

Any other taxonomy of thinking see Chapter 2 could be used as well. The cells in the blueprint can list the specific learning targets and the points allocated for each, as this one does, or simply indicate the number of points allocated, depending on how comprehensive the content outline is. You can also use simpler blueprints, for example, a content-by-cognitive-level matrix without the learning targets listed.

The points you select for each cell should reflect your learning target and your instruction. The example in Figure 1. Each time you do your own blueprint, use the intended total points for that test as the basis for figuring percents; it will not often be exactly points.

Notice that the blueprint allows you to fully describe the composition and emphasis of the assessment as a whole, so you can interpret it accurately. You can also use the blueprint to identify places where you need to add material. It is not necessary for every cell to be filled. The important thing is that the cells that are filled reflect your learning goals. Note also that the points in each cell do not all have to be 1-point test items.

For example, the 10 points in the cell for explaining how colonial governments helped prepare citizens for participation in the American Revolution could be one point essay, two 5-point essays, or any combination that totals 10 points.

A blueprint helps ensure that your assessment and the information about student achievement that comes from it have the emphasis you intend. In the assessment diagrammed in Figure 1. You can plan what percentage of each topic area is allocated to what level of thinking from the points and percentages within the rows. And the total at the bottom tells you the distribution of kinds of thinking across the whole assessment.

In fact, blueprints simplify the task of writing an assessment. The blueprint tells you exactly what kind of tasks and items you need. You might, when seeing a blueprint like this, decide that you would rather remove one of the higher-order thinking objectives and use a project, paper, or other performance assessment for that portion of your learning goals for the unit, and a test to cover the rest of the learning goals. You could recalculate the test emphases to reflect an point test, and combine the project score with the test score for the final grade for the unit.

Plan the balance of content and thinking for units. You can also use this blueprint approach for planning sets of assessments in a unit, for example. Cross all the content for a unit with cognitive levels, then use the cells to plan how all the assessments fit together. Information about student knowledge, skills, and thinking from both tests and performance assessments can then be balanced across the unit. Plan the balance of content and thinking for rubrics.

Decide on the balance of points you want for each criterion, taking into account the cognitive level required for each, and make sure the whole that they create does indeed reflect your intentions for teaching, learning, and assessing.

Evaluating such a rubric for balance might lead you to decide to weight the content criterion double. Or it might lead you to decide there was too much emphasis on facts and not enough on interpretation, and you might change the criteria to content completeness and accuracy , soundness of thesis and reasoning , and writing conventions.

You might then weight the first two criteria double, leading to a score that reflects 80 percent content 40 percent each for factual information and for higher-order thinking and 20 percent writing.

Decide what you will take as evidence that the student has, in fact, exhibited this kind of thinking about the appropriate content. After students have responded to your assessments, then what? You need a plan for interpreting their work as evidence of the specific learning you intended. If your assessment was formative that is, it was for learning, not for grading , then you need to know how to interpret student responses and give feedback.

The criteria you use as the basis for giving students feedback should reflect that clear learning target and vision of good work that you shared with the students. If your assessment was summative for grading , then you need to design a scheme to score student responses in such a way that the scores reflect degrees of achievement in a meaningful way. We will return to the matter of interpreting or scoring student work after we present some specific principles for assessing higher-order thinking.

It will be easier to describe how to interpret or score work once we have more completely described how to prepare the tasks that will elicit that work. Put yourself in the position of a student attempting to answer a test question or do a performance assessment task.

Asking "How would I the student have to think to answer this question or do this task? Asking "What would I the student have to think about to answer the question or do the task? As for any assessment, both should match the knowledge and skills the assessment is intended to tap.

This book focuses on the first question, the question about student thinking, but it is worth mentioning that both are important and must be considered together in assessment design.

As the beginning of this chapter foreshadowed, using three principles when you write assessment items or tasks will help ensure you assess higher-order thinking: In the next sections, each of these principles is discussed in more detail.

Using introductory material—or allowing students to use resource materials—gives students something to think about. For example, student performance on a test question about Moby Dick that does not allow students to refer to the book might say more about whether students can recall details from Moby Dick than how they can think about them. You can use introductory material with many different types of test items and performance assessment tasks.

Context-dependent multiple-choice item sets, sometimes called interpretive exercises, offer introductory material and then one or several multiple-choice items based on the material. Constructed-response essay questions with introductory material are similar, except students must write their own answers to the questions. Performance assessments —including various kinds of papers and projects—require students to make or do something more extended than answering a test question, and can assess higher-order thinking, especially if they ask students to support their choices or thesis, explain their reasoning, or show their work.

In this book, we will look at examples of each of these three assessment types. Novel material means material students have not worked with already as part of classroom instruction. Using novel material means students have to actually think, not merely recall material covered in class. For example, a seemingly higher-order-thinking essay question about how Herman Melville used the white whale as a symbol is merely recall if there was a class discussion on the question "What does the white whale symbolize in Moby Dick?

This principle about novel material can cause problems for classroom teachers in regard to higher-order thinking. Teachers who "teach to a test" by familiarizing the students with test material intended to be novel change the nature of the assessment.

However well-intentioned, this practice short-circuits the intent of the instrument to assess higher-order thinking. Teachers should avoid short-circuiting assessments that are meant to evaluate higher-order thinking by using in class the same questions or ideas that they know will be on the test.

Sometimes this is easier said than done, as students may complain—and rightly so—"we never did that before. The solution is that teachers who want their students to be able to demonstrate higher-order thinking should teach it. Dealing with novel ideas, solving problems, and thinking critically should not be something students feel they "never did before.


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I included some higher order thinking questions within the lesson to take advantage of teachable moments and foster critical and creative thinking amongst students. I focused on implementing the lesson plan and sometimes missed teachable moments and the opportunity to let students think critically and creatively.

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General Principles for Assessing Higher-Order Thinking. a seemingly higher-order-thinking essay question about how Herman Melville used the white whale as a symbol is merely recall if there was a class discussion on the question "What does the white whale symbolize in three specific principles for assessing higher-order thinking, and. We would like to show you a description here but the site won’t allow us.

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