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Leonardus Par*, Sebastianus Menggo, Tobias Gunas, & Stanislaus Guna


Program Studi Pendidikan Bahasa Inggris.


In the 21st century, critical thinking skills or higher-order thinking skills (HOTS) is
critically required in order to be successful in this modern society. Critical thinking has been
identified as one of the vital 21st century skills, apart from other skills such as creativity,
communication, and collaboration (which is usually referring to 4Cs). The ability to think
critically is crucial for a successful life as the skills are transferable to a different context.
According to Yoke et al., (2015), the aim of HOTS is to introduce school activity and an
education system that encourages the students to analyze, evaluate and create in creative ways.
Regarding the crucial role of HOTS to students, this skill has been implemented in all school
levels and all school subjects, including the English language. According to the revised
curriculum 2013, students should be enhanced with four main integrated aspects in lesson plan
comprising character building, literacy development, and 4C (creativity, critical thinking,
communication, and collaboration) skills improvement. Besides, HOTS has been integrated into
the national examination (UN) which aims at assessing the students’ ability in analyzing,
evaluating and creating the information.
In an EFL setting, success in learning or using a language requires more than the ability to
remember and recall the linguistic rules and systems of a target language. The students need to
know how to use their knowledge of language rules appropriately and successfully in a particular
context of language learning or use. The successful key to learning or using the target language
requires higher-order thinking (HOTS) cognitive process or skills. The students need to be able
to analyze and evaluate their existing or current knowledge and given tasks before attempting to
complete it. They need to be able to self-regulate the learning by planning, monitoring, and
evaluating their performance on a given task. This metacognitive process requires more than just

remembering and understanding (LOTS) skills, it requires the cognitive abilities to analyze, to
evaluate, and to create (HOTS).
This article provides valuable and critical information about higher-order thinking skills to
teachers, especially English teachers which are hoped to add and update their knowledge on their
field of teaching; and to inspire them in designing effective lesson plans and learning activities to
promote the students’ higher-order thinking skills.

What is HOTS?
The concept of HOTS (higher-order thinking skills) is often linked to the cognitive domain
in Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives which a learner may engage in. Bloom (1956)
divided the cognitive process into six categories arranging them from the lowest or simplest to
the most complex thinking behavior: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis,
synthesis, and evaluation. According to the original version of Bloom Taxonomy, the most basic
level of the taxonomy is knowledge. According to Scully (2017), at the knowledge level, a
learner can possess mere knowledge of the certain subject area and may demonstrate the ability
to recall this learned knowledge in assessment. However, they may not understand the meaning
of this knowledge. In this situation, the learners may not possess the ability to apply the
knowledge in different situations or contexts or to combine it with additional knowledge to
create new insights. The original version of the Bloom Taxonomy is figured out in Table 1.

Table 1. Bloom’s Taxonomy –Cognitive Domain (Original version)

Level Description
Knowledge Recall or recognition of learned knowledge – without necessarily having the
ability to apply this knowledge

Comprehensio Describing and explaining learned knowledge

Using learned knowledge to solve problems in novel (but structurally
Application similar) contexts

Using learned knowledge to decompose situations into components,

Analysis recognize unstated assumptions & identify motives

Combining elements of learned knowledge into new integrated wholes

Critiquing or judging the value or worth of learned knowledge


Since its inception, this original version of the Bloom Taxonomy has been formally revised
by Anderson and Krathwohl (2001) (See Table 2 for its revision). The revised taxonomy
substitutes the noun forms used to name the level with equivalent verb forms, with the aim of
drawing greater attention to the actions in which learners engage. Moreover, on this revised
version, the top two levels of the taxonomy were reversed in which create is categorized as a
higher level of thinking than evaluate. The revised version of the Bloom Taxonomy is depicted
in Table 2.

Table 2 Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy –Cognitive Domain (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001)
Level Description Verbs Associated with Levels
Remember Retrieving relevant knowledge from Recognize, Recall
long-term memory

Understand Determining the meaning of an Interpret, Exemplify, Classify,

instructional message, including oral, Summarize, Infer, Compare,
written & graphic communication Explain

Apply Carrying out or using a procedure in a Execute, Implement

given situation

Analyze Breaking material into its constituent Differentiate, Organize

parts, detecting how the parts relate to an
overall structure or purpose

Evaluate Making judgments based on criteria and Check, Critique


Create Putting elements together to form a novel Generate, Plan, Produce


Based on Bloom’s revised Taxonomy, having the ability to analyze, evaluate and to create
is associated with higher-order thinking skills (HOTS). Davit (1999) as cited by Usman and
Muslem (2019) states that HOTS includes the ability to analyze, evaluate and to create and it
requires mastery of previous levels, such as applying routine rules to familiar or novel problems.
Thus, in the educational context, the students are encouraged and trained to possess higher-order

thinking skills by analyzing, evaluating and creating information or ideas related to problems
faced in learning or in social life. Accordingly, teachers have a crucial role to stimulate and
enhance the students’ higher-order thinking abilities. Moreover, a different definition of HOTS is
provided by Brookhart, (2010) in which she defines HOTS in terms of (1) transfer, (2) critical
thinking, and (3) problem-solving. In describing transfer, Brookhart states that students not only
acquire knowledge and skills, but also the ability to apply the knowledge and skills to new
situations. This applies to real life outside of the school where thinking is considered a series of
transfer opportunities rather than a series of recalled assignments. Thus, according to Brookhart
(2010), “Being able to think” means students can apply the knowledge and skills they developed
during their learning to new contexts. “New” here means applications that the student has not
thought of before, not necessarily something universally new.
Furthermore, critical thinking is described as a sense of reasonable, reflective thinking
focused on deciding what to believe or do (Norris & Ennis, 1989). Accordingly, the students can
apply wise judgment or produce a reasoned critique. Thus, the goal of teaching here is seen as
equipping the students to be able to reason, reflect, and make sound decisions (Brookhart, 2010).
Problems solving may be defined as a skill to find a solution to a problem that cannot be
solved simply by memorizing (Collins, 2014). In an educational context, the goal of teaching is
to equip the students to be able to identify and solve problems in their academic work and in life.
In this case, possessing higher-order thinking means students can solve problems and work
Thus, higher-order thinking skills (HOTS) are related to the cognitive process which
requires the ability to transfer knowledge or skills learned to a novel situation, to think critically
and to solve problems face in academic life and real life. In encouraging and enhancing the
higher-order thinking skills of the students, the teachers need to design the creative classroom
activities by utilizing appropriate problem-based learning.

How to Teach Higher-Order Thinking Skills?

Empowering the students’ higher-order thinking skills requires hard effort and effective
teaching strategies from the teachers. Teachers have crucial roles to promote the students’
higher-order thinking skills by designing an effective teaching and learning process. Using
Bloom Taxonomy, teachers have a framework available to them that allows them to scaffold

teaching thinking skills in a structured way. Collins (2014) offers the following stages which can
be considered to promote the thinking process in the classroom.

1. Specify teaching the language and concepts of higher-order thinking

In the classroom, teachers should not only focus on teaching the language and concepts but
also tell students what they are doing and why higher-order thinking skills are necessary for
them to problem-solve at school and in life. For example, by using a common language,
students can recognize the skill they are exercising and the level of complexity of a question.
When they see words like ‘define’, ‘recognize’, ‘recall’, ‘identify’, ‘label’, ‘understand’,
‘examine’, or ‘collect’, they know they are being asked to recall facts and demonstrate their
knowledge of content. In this case, the thinking skill levels to be trained are remember and
understand which are categorized as lower-order thinking skills (LOTS). When they see
words like, ‘apply’, ‘solve’, ‘experiment’, ‘show’, or ‘predict’, they understand they are
being asked to demonstrate an application which the medium level of thinking process
(medium-order thinking skill (MOTS). And when a question begins with ‘differentiate’,
‘appraise’, ‘judge’, ‘criticize’, or ‘decide’, ‘plan’, ‘produce’, they understand that the higher-
order thinking skill (HOTS) they are practicing is analyzing, evaluating and creating.

2. Planning classroom questioning and discussion time to tap particular higher-order thinking
The important word here is ‘plan’. Teachers, on the whole, know well how to stimulate
thinking by raising questions; however, without meticulous planning, they are likely to ask
recall questions rather than questions that require higher-order thinking. It does not mean
that every question has to be pitched at higher-order thinking, a good proportion should be.
By carefully planning lessons, teachers can ensure the proportion of questions to be asked to
the students which demand both lower-order and higher-order thinking skills. In practice, it
is useful to ask a colleague to observe a class with a view to recording the percentage of
higher-order thinking skills practiced in a lesson.

3. Providing scaffolding
Scaffolding involves giving students support at the beginning of a lesson and then gradually
turning over responsibility to the students to operate on their own (Slavin, 1995). Without
this limited temporary support, students are unlikely to develop higher-order thinking skills;
however, too much scaffolding can be bringing disadvantageous to the students themselves.
Thus, the teachers should only provide the necessary support so that the students make
progress on their own. Too much or too little support can interfere with the development of
higher-order thinking skills. Accordingly, in enhancing the students’ higher-order thinking
skills, the students should be encouraged to gradually develop it by themselves during the
class activities and outside of the class by completing the tasks. Thus, the students should be
assisted to mover from lower-order thinking to higher-level gradually.

4. Consciously teach to encourage higher-order thinking

In the classroom context, consciously teaching to enhance the students’ higher-order
thinking skills is crucial. It is implemented by emphasizing the building blocks of higher-
order thinking activities by building the students’ background knowledge, making a
hypothesis, drawing inferences and conclusions, analyzing things or information into their
components, and solving problems.

5. Teach Question-Answer Relationships (QAR)

The Question-Answer Relationships (QAR) strategy (Raphael & Pearson, 1982) is an
effective way of teaching the students to recognize or label the type of questions being asked
and then to use this information to assist them in formulating the answers. This strategy is
commonly used in teaching reading comprehension to assist the students in grasping the
content of the information in the texts. Two major categories of question-answer
relationships are taught: (1) whether the answer can be found in the text – “In the Book”
questions, or (2) whether the reader must rely on his or her own knowledge – “In My Head”
questions. In more detail, ‘In the Book” questions cover the two types of QAR, they are
Right There and Think and Search. The answer to the Right There questions are usually easy
to find; the words used to make up the questions and words used to answer are Right There
in the same sentence. In the Think and Search questions, the answer is in the text or story,

but the students need to put together different parts to find it; words for the questions and
words for the answers are not found in the same sentences, they come from different parts of
the texts. In doing so, the students should put the information together to form a whole.
In My Head questions comprises of “Author and You” and “On My Own” of QAR. In
Author and Me, the answer is not in the story or text, the students need to think about what
he/she already knows, what the author tells him/her in the text, and how it fits together.
Meanwhile, in On My Own category, the answer is not in the text or story, the students can
even answer the questions without reading the story; the students need to use his/her own
The QAR strategy helps the students become more aware of the relationship between
textual information and prior knowledge and enable them to make appropriate decisions
about which strategies to use as they seek answers to questions. This strategy has proven to
develop the students’ reading ability and thinking skills from the lower-order to higher-order
comprehensions (Par, 2011).

Thinking is the initial step of learning. As the students think at a higher level they come
across various questions and it will give them an exposure to learn new things with interest.
Teaching English as a foreign language requires thinking in English which can make learning
easy. Thus, integrating higher-order thinking skills in the EFL classroom is an obligation in order
to enhance their critical thinking and problem-solving ability. The teachers have a vital role in
assisting the students to develop their higher-order thinking by designing effective classroom
activities. The teachers may provide scaffolding which helps the students developing their
higher-order thinking skills gradually. Asking appropriate questions that stimulate thinking
process is also another technique that is believed can enhance the students’ HOTS. In doing so,
the teachers should plan classroom questioning types that are likely to ask. Without careful
planning, they are likely to frequently ask recall questions rather than questions that stimulate
higher-order thinking during classroom reading activities. This does not mean that every
question or discussion should be pitched at higher-order questions; a good proportion should be
accounted for. By carefully planning, teachers can ensure the equality of lower-order and higher-
order question types are right.

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Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York:
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Brookhart, S. (2010). How to Assess Higher Order Thinking Skills in Your Classroom.
Alexandria: ASCD.
Collins, R. (2014). Skills for the 21st Century: Teaching Higher-Order Thinking. Curriculum &
Leadership Journal, 12(14).
Norris, S., & Ennis, R. (1989). Evaluating Critical Thinking. Pacific Grove, CA: Midwest
Par, Leonardus. 2011. Improving Students’ Reading Comprehension of Expository Texts
through the Question – Answer Relationship (QAR) Strategy. Unpublished Thesis
Master. Malang: State University of Malang.
Raphael, Taffy. E., & Pearson, P. D. 1982. The Effect of Metacognitive Awareness Training on
Children’s Question-Answering Behavior. Urbana, IL: Center for the Study of
Reading, University of Illinois.
Scully, D. 2017. Constructing Multiple-Choice Items to Measure Higher Order Thinking.
Practical Assessment, Research, & Evaluation, 22 (4), 1-13.
Usman, B. & Muslem, A. 2019. Analysis of Reading Comprehension Questions by Using
Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy on Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS). English
Education Journal, 10 (1), 1-15.