Sharpening thinking skills
9 Jun 2008, 0343 hrs IST, Sakshi Khattar for TIMES OF INDIA
Most schools agree that education is not confined to curriculum and securing marks alone, rather it is more about learning concepts that help solve real-life problems. And in the process, inculcating and exercising thinking skills plays a critical role.
Encouraged by the board results this year, CBSE now wants to introduce High Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) in classrooms and for all subjects. This is not confined to private schools as even government schools have shown a significant improvement.
HOTS, as the name suggests, focuses on thinking skills and tries to move beyond rote learning. The focus of the question paper this year was to measure students' abilities to reason, justify, analyse, process and evaluate information. It was introduced only this year in class X and XII board examinations for mathematics, science and social science, the weightage being 20%.
According to Ashok Ganguly, chairperson, CBSE, the goal for this academic session would be to transfer HOTS to classrooms so that maximum students can benefit from it. He added that after a thorough analysis, it would be decided on which subjects and how much weightage would be given to HOTS.
It's all about going beyond textbooks and widening the horizons of students, feels U N Singh, joint-commissioner (academics), Kendriya Vidyalaya. "HOTS is basically a concept wherein we are concentrating on application-based questions and discouraging rote-learning. The problem lies in the fact that neither coaching institutes nor guides focus on application. The aim of education is to ensure that students should know how to use the knowledge acquired to real-life situations," he said.
"According to Bloom's Taxonomy, education has four pillars — knowledge, understand-ing, skill and application. Our education system faulters at the last one and HOTS is an attempt to work on application skills of students. The aim is that students should be able to construct knowledge and that is what HOTS is all about," added Singh.
Shobha Singh, head, English department, Greenfield Public School, opined: "This is not a new concept for us as we prepare our question paper in such a way that at least 20% is based on comprehension skills. It helps to judge if students have had an in-depth understanding of a particular unit. It also gives an insight into a child's ability." She added that students who know concepts well will sail through easily while those who have just crammed would struggle, so this discourages rote-learning.
Echoing a similar view, Veena Dhyani, counsellor, Cambridge School, Noida, said: "The objective type questions, that we prepare, are more on experimental-basis instead of direct questions. So, in a way, we are testing their thinking skills as the objective is that students should be able to use the information correctly in their lives."
Several schools make their students take various external tests that check logical abilities of students and give them a detailed feedback. Students at the Shri Ram School, for instance, have been taking Asset tests that are more application-based than focussing on merely the curriculum. Elaborates Sonia Chib, co-ordinator, elementary classes: "Even while teaching, we try to relate concepts to what is happening around. At the end, the objective remains that students should know how to apply the knowledge gathered to real-life situations."
Critical thinking is hard, feels Vaishali Shah, communication manager, Educational Initiatives. "Although it can seem quite basic, it is actually a complicated process, and most people are not very good at it."
She further said that one of the biggest challenge in learning new skills, particularly general skills, such as critical thinking, is the problem of transfer. The problem is that an insight or skill picked up in one situation is not, or cannot be, applied to another situation.
"For example, if someone has just learned how to calculate the per-kilogramme price for packaged nuts, they should then be able to calculate the per-kilogramme price for packaged chips; if they cannot, we would say that the learning has failed to transfer from nuts to chips. So, learning should facilitate the problem of transfer," she stated.