Higher Level Thinking

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I feel strongly that higher level thinking is not just for those that are gifted and talented. I believe that any student at any age and ability level can develop their thinking to a higher level using a range of different strategies. 

In particular I am a strong advocate of the use of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  When used effectively this can help students de-code learning and understand how they can aim higher. Bloom’s is also an excellent way of differentiating and targeting challenge at gifted and talented students, whilst also helping weaker students find hidden potential. 

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Many of the training workshops I run related to teaching and learning (both D&T and non D&T courses) feature some of the strategies I have developed using Bloom’s and other higher level thinking strategies. Take a look at current courses I am running that include the use of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Email me if you are interested in a course being added to the calendar that includes these strategies. 


5 Top Tips on Using Higher Level Thinking in Your Classroom

There are lots of strategies & ideas for effectively  using higher level thinking in your classroom to maximise the learning of both your more able students, as well as others in your class. Here are 5 top tips:

  • Teach higher order thinking and make reference to it each lesson. This helps demystify it and enables students to understand what it is and how to access it, as well as helping them see how it might be relevant to them.  
  • Stress that the process involved in getting to an answer or point of learning is just as important as the answer or what has been learnt. This encourages students to value mistakes. 
  • Help students understand the difference between understanding and applying knowledge and just memorising it
  • Encourage students to explain answers they give rather than just accepting their correct answers and moving on. Also encourage students to do this with each other. 
  •  Give students frameworks to scaffold their thinking onto. There are lots of different ones you might use e.g. Bloom’s Taxonomy, De Bono’s Thinking Hats, Solo Taxonomy
  • Develop critical thinking skills which encourage students to question what they read and hear. Take a look at these common thinking biases in this blog

Bloom's Taxonomy 

This is a well established strategy that can be used to maximise higher level thinking.  Quick internet searches will give lots of information on how to use these in the classroom. 

I regularly use Bloom’s in a ladder format to illustrate how Bloom’s thinking gets incrementally more challenging. I use the more recent revised Blooms format although I have found original format to be just as useful. My ladder consists of words I have selected because they fit in with my style of teaching but there are many more that could be included. Fitting them in with my own style means I am more naturally able to use them and remember them. 

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I use the ladder to create learning objectives, to write questions and to plan lessons with. I also teach students about Bloom’s and how and why I use them, along with teaching them how to  use Bloom’s themselves. 

Click here to download a Thinking Ladder 

Click on the link below to view an article written for D&T Practice, a magazine by the D&T Association that refers to the use of Speed Designing and Bloom's Taxonomy. 

D&T Practice article 

Short video from the late Ted Wragg on questioning



De Bonos Thinking Hats

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I also use De Bonos Thinking Hats to help students decode higher level thinking. In particular they are useful for product analysis or situations where forming an argument is important, particularly in terms of not showing a bias. The Thinking Hats are very useful for helping students formulate higher level exam questions and when combined with Bloom’s the two strategies together can have a big impact on student progression. 

To make the hats idea slightly more accessible I have real caps with keywords linking to the type of thinking identified by De Bono embroidered onto them. Putting on the hat helps students literally step into that type of thinking. 

Click here to download a framework based on the thinking hats


Speed Designing

DSC02817 _SnapseedSpeed Designing is a strategy I have developed that focuses on maximising the learning of both genders. It is a strategy that develops independence, ownership and pace of work allowing individuals to discover the learning style that works for them. Although, as the name suggests, this was originally a strategy developed for designing it is a strategy that can be used in other areas of learning as well. 

More information on Speed Designing can be found in a presentation produced for the D&T Association. Many of the teaching and learning resources I produce and the workshops I run make reference to this strategy. Click on the link below for more details. 

Speed Designing


All of these higher level learning strategies are regularly a key part of the courses I run. Take a look at current courses I am running that include the use of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Email me if you are interested in a course being added to the calendar that includes these strategies. 


Recommended links & reading

Blog by @TeacherHead on teaching to the top with strategies for raising the achievement of all students

KS3 National Strategy document on questioning in D&T - this is an archived document relating to the old KS3 curriculum but it is still very relevant & includes information on the use of Bloom’s in D&T

Posters showing a variety of different formats for displaying Bloom’s (as found on www.teachthought.com)

Interactive powerpoint on Blooms by Mike Gershon on the TES website. This uses the original Bloom’s format (you will need to sign up for free membership).

Interactive powerpoint on Blooms - this is the powerpoint by Mike Gershon above but it has been adapted by nautilus31 to use the revised Bloom’s format

Bloom’s Taxonomy according to Homer Simpson - A short video with an amusing take on Bloom’s using examples from Homer Simpson

A useful handout on Bloom’s by blackfriary on the TES

Video explaining De Bono’s Thinking Hats - includes classroom examples

The original Edward De Bono website (UK website)

American website on De Bono’s Thinking Hats - although this is an America site it has some useful information and resources focusing on the use of De Bono’s in schools 

Using De Bono’s in business - developing adults & an organisation using a De Bono approach

Reading list on teaching & learning generally


Click here to see courses linked to the higher level thinking or email julie@julieboyd.co.uk to request a date to be added to the course calendar. 


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Contact:     Tel 01159 607061   Mob 07972 749240   Email julie@julieboyd.co.uk
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© Julie Boyd 2012  All  text, images & ideas on this website are the copyright of Julie Boyd & may not be copied or reproduced without permission.. All rights Reserved.