Higher Order Thinking Skills: the way to go! – by Teoh Poh Yew


By Michael Anderson (Photographer) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Parents and teachers today across a variety of educational settings are talking about helping their kids develop Higher Order Thinking Skills. Here’s a closer look at what these skills are all about.

The concept of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) was established by Dr. Benjamin Bloom and his team in 1956 pertaining to the learning process. He categorized HOTS into 6 levels:

  • Knowledge
  • Comprehension
  • Application
  • Analysis
  • Synthesis
  • Evaluation

The first three from the bottom of the pyramid are the Lower Order Thinking Skills (LOTS), which are commonly taught in formal education today.

Bloom's Taxonomy

However, these skills will not be at all adequate in near future due to the ever-growing arena of technology and computers which has inevitably replaced human workers in situations which require LOTS. The world today and future academics needs to drive more attention to HOTS as it requires more complex problem-solving skills which promotes a more critical thinking capacity in the human brain.

LOTS vs HOTS: what’s the difference?

Simply put, LOTS do not require much cognitive ability from the learner. But this by no means imply that LOTS are inferior to HOTS as the latter builds upon the former. It simply means that the acquisition of HOTS comes through further growth beyond the fundamental LOTS.

HOTS are also not as easily measured as LOTS, which can easily gauged with conventional methods such as written examinations. A learning situation which only requires LOTS can be as simple as giving them an object/ subject to learn about and then giving them a test to demonstrate what they can remember about said object. By acquiring HOTS, the learner is challenged to consider multiple aspects when solving a problem, instead of merely searching for straightforward responses.

How HOTS changes learning

When a learner uses HOTS, the problem-solving approach changes as the learner begins to think critically. The learner solves problems by considering the relevant facts, data, research, and observational phenomenon which are tied closely to past experience.

Teaching children with elements of HOTS helps them formulate and present coherent reasoning when facing a problem or assertion where a solution is not immediately apparent, such as the rebus puzzles below.

Rebus Puzzles


HOTs and learning in the future


In this age of computers and technology, HOTS are certainly important to young students to get them up to speed as members of tomorrow’s society by feeding more innovation and advancements into this growing digital age.

It is important for parents and educators to leverage on developing HOTS among their kids to help them connect facts and concepts, categorize and manipulate, and ultimately apply them to solve complex questions in daily lives. HOTS are something that parents, teachers and students should embrace to be future-ready. There are a variety of educational mobile and web applications, with some using gamification techniques infused with HOTS or critical thinking which keeps kids engaged in thinking out of the box.

By employing all these resources, parents and teachers can work hand in hand to nurture and groom their kids to be future innovators, prepared to face the challenges of tomorrow.


Teoh Poh Yew is a dynamic and creative Math educator, International teacher trainer, author of three books and founder of Creative Wizard Sdn Bhd. Creative Wizard specializes in grooming creative thinkers. Her major interest is to transform Mathematics into a tool to develop creativity, enhance mathematical thinking and sharpen problem solving abilities. She inspires students to approach this subject with confidence and enthusiasm. She is a founder of Creative Math (a licensed programme) which is now available at the Learning Hub, in Malaysia and Synergyst in Singapore.She appears regularly on TV, radio, magazines and newspapers to share her experiences. She is also an R&D consultant at Zap Zap Math.


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