Higher order thinking is thinking on a level that is higher than memorizing facts or telling something back to someone exactly the way it was told to you. When a person memorizes and gives back the information without having to think about it, it’s called rote memory. That’s because it’s much like a robot; it does what it’s programmed to do, but it doesn’t think for itself.
Higher order thinking, takes thinking to higher levels than restating the facts. It requires that we do something with the facts. We must understand them, infer from them, connect them to other facts and concepts, categorize them, manipulate them, put them together in new or novel ways, and apply them as we seek new solutions to new problems.
Not a day goes by that a person doesn’t have to solve problems. From the moment a person gets up in the morning and decides what to eat for breakfast, he is solving problems.
Being creative, considering several strategies, and trying out multiple strategies, as a means toward reaching the solution is part of being a good problem solver. It is important in problem solving to remember that mistakes are learning opportunities because a person learns what doesn’t work. In scientific research, the goal is as often to prove a theory wrong, as it is to prove a theory right.
Thomas Edison was asked once how he kept from getting discouraged when he had made so many mistakes before he perfected his idea of the light bulb. He had tried over 2,000 ways before one worked. Edison responded that he had not made 2,000 mistakes, but rather that he had over 2,000 learning experiences that moved him closer to the answer.
Coming up with original ideas is very important in higher order thinking. But what are ideas and where do they come from?
Insights – Some ideas come from insight – a spontaneous cohesion of several thoughts. An insight is like a light bulb turning on in a person’s head. Insights are great thoughts that help a person to see or understand something, quite often something that he has not been able to figure out before.
Original Ideas – Some ideas are called original ideas. These are thoughts that a person has made up himself and has not copied from someone else.
Another way to form ideas is to use critical thinking. This involves a person using his own knowledge or point of view to decide what is right or wrong about someone else’s ideas. This is sometimes called “having a mind of your own.” It means that a person doesn’t have to believe or accept everything that someone else says or writes.