Teacher Learning Community

Fall 2016 TLC: Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills - Activity 2 Resources

Course leader:

Teacher Quality Standards

  • QS III: Teachers plan and deliver effective instruction and create an environment that facilitates learning for their students.
    • Element D: Teachers establish and communicate high expectations and use processes to support the development of critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.

Lesson Planning for Higher Order Thinking

Essential Question: How do teachers support students in developing critical-thinking and problem solving skills and persisting in the application of these skills in their learning?

In this activity we begin the challenging, yet crucial task of developing lessons that promote and encourage critical thinking.  Proficient teachers in our focus teacher quality standard need to explicitly teach “higher-order thinking and problem solving skills.” But as you will read in this activity’s anchor resource, critical thinking is not a skill that can truly be taught.  Students need “background knowledge and practice” in order to think deeply and apply that knowledge. In this activity you will collect data about students’ thinking through a classroom observation, then engage in an analysis of this data with a peer. As you dive into this process, keep in mind that “Teaching students to think critically probably lies in large part in enabling them to deploy the right type of thinking at the right time.” The hope is that by the end of this activity, you will have a better understanding of how to guide your students’ to know what tools they need and when they need them in order to address complex problems and challenging learning opportunities.



The first resource is an article that defines Webb’s DOK levels and provides suggestions about ways that teachers can analyze the tasks provided in their classrooms as a way to evaluate the level of rigor.  Coupled with the article is a DOK wheel which is a good reference and visual to use depth of knowledge.  

This template provides questions that support higher order thinking skills.  

This article provides a lesson plan model for asking students to solve a relevant problem in their school.  Could be easily applied across broad contexts.


This article provides concrete ways to investigate and develop classroom culture to support problem-solving.  Though directed at mathematics specifically, the concepts could be applicable across content areas.


This article takes a deep dive into what it really means for students to think critically. Professor of Cognitive Psychology, Daniel Willingham, details the latest research in an effort support teachers as they explicitly model and scaffold critical thinking strategies with their students.

These matrices take Bloom's Revised Taxonomy and cross-reference them with Webb's Depth of Knowledge levels. Featured content areas include (each title is an active link to the individual matrix):

This article outlines the importance of metacognition in learning and examines ways to help students be more metacognitive.  The author highlights different activities or strategies that educators can use at different student ages.   

This video demonstrates cooperative learning, inquiry, and supporting students to use evidence-based reasoning during a science lesson.

In this video, teacher of the year Sarah Wessling models a lesson for 4th graders to determine the difference between a concrete detail and an abstract concept. She demonstrates methods to scaffold critical thinking for all learners.

This video shows how teacher Julia Gelormino uses open-ended questions with first grades to encourage academic thinking and conversation during a math talk.

This video shows a class discussion in which students are analyzing text and posing questions to enhance understanding. Students cite text evidence to support their answers.