Featured Resource: Framing Higher-Order Thinking

Maggie Bruski

As I selected this month’s featured PD Market resource, Framing Higher-Order Thinking, I thought about how the end of the school year always seemed like a great time rekindle my students’ love of learning. Keeping my students engaged in meaningful work that motivated and inspired them became a top priority, and often times it was a great opportunity to try out innovative instructional strategies like project-based learning, maker spaces, and 20Time. Overall, the success of these efforts was varied- something was missing. 

It wasn’t until recently that I was able to put my finger on what these activities were lacking: a clear and meaningful frame of reference, and the opportunity for reflection on the part of my students. This month’s featured resource pairs an inspiring TEDx Talk with a thoughtful article about the value of framing and reflecting on engaging activities that encourage creativity, problem-solving and other 21st century skills. It’s not enough to provide students the opportunity to take part in learning where “there’s no right answer and there’s no wrong answer, there’s just thinking,” teachers must also front-load these activity’s purpose and value. How does it fit in with grade-level standards? To a student’s personal skills? What part does collaboration play? How can it help answer essential questions?

Along with this front-loading, the part of reflection should also be considered. Students need a good deal of support and guidance as they learn to effectively reflect on a learning experience. Even adults tend to be lost when asked to reflect without much direction, in particular when this type of thinking is not a habit. High-quality reflection requires the “ability to make connections” and metacognition, skills that need to be explicitly taught to students. Reflection should not be an afterthought- one teacher urges her peers to make the “reflection portion of the lesson as fun as the making portion.”

Providing students the opportunity to revel in the “wonder and discovery” of project-based learning or 20Time has great power. It becomes even more powerful when properly framed, and students self-evaluate their learning through guided reflection.

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With every featured resource the innovation coach team likes to provide suggestions as to how individual teachers, PLCs, and whole staffs might use this tool. As an individual, I would encourage you to watch the TEDx Talk and read the article, all the while considering the implications for your classroom practice and how you might put the highlighted strategies into play. I’d also recommend you share this resource with a peer or friend in your building - learning is much more fun when done collaboratively!

For larger groups, principals or facilitators might want to ask folks to read and watch the original resources before a meeting. As the collaborators gather together, start the conversation by watching the related resource “The Activity Trap.” This video can act as an activator to get teachers talking about the value and purpose of creative, student-centered activities, and support the discussion of the resource’s included response/reflections questions.