#steamA2Z – H is for High Order Thinking

Jacqueline: H is for higher level thinking. We all have brains, and we actively use them on a daily basis. But, did you know you have to train your brain? You have to teach it how to go from just base levels of thinking into higher level thinking or deep thought.

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You would think the topic would be taught in school, but not necessarily. You have to understand, as we’ve talked about in other episodes, that schools are oftentimes teaching and are formatted in such a way that students are just memorizing things. In some ways, they’re not even having to think or use their minds.

On the other end of the spectrum, companies, businesses, and the industries where the high-paying jobs are require deep thinking and knowledge-workers. These are people that you can give information, and then they can be left to their own devices to think through how to solve a problem, how to create a solution, how to come up with an innovative idea, and how to work among people and teams to be successful. If the schools aren’t teaching young people the necessary skills to prepare them for the types of jobs that pay well and will sustain the type of lifestyle that young people often aspire for, then clearly we have a disconnect.

Let’s talk about what we mean when we talk about learning how to think and different types of thinking. Low-level thinking includes things like surface-level comprehension. If you looked at something or glanced at it, on a superficial level, you understand the gist, so to speak, memorizing or remembering things. That’s very different from understanding them and applying them. Showing someone something one time then stepping away to see if they’re able to repeat it.

A prime example I like to share is about recipes. We have a lot of great family recipes that were handed down over the years. Now, watching my mother and aunts make these family dishes are one thing. I remember the motions they went through, but did I understand them? And then when I’m not in their presence or don’t have them there to coach me, can I apply it and come up with the same results? Not necessarily. The same goes in many other instances.

I remember having a conversation with a young man. I asked him, “Do you know how to drive a car?” He said, “Sure.” I was a bit surprised. I had never heard of him practicing how to drive a car. I asked him, “Why are you so sure you know how to drive a car?” He said, “Because I’ve been watching my parents.” Watching and remembering what they did is very different from really understanding and applying it. You have to practice driving. People can tell you, “Watch for other drivers,” “Make sure you don’t get distracted,” and “You have to drive for other people as well as yourself. These are easy to remember, but understanding and applying it is very different.

That’s where the training comes in. We have to do the same in any other industry, especially as knowledge-workers. Being able to describe or summarize something is using a different type of thinking skill. Implementing something, even taking information and being able to deduce or connect the dots. Being able to retell a story, and not just say this happened then this happened, but being able to tell the elements and the plot of a story. Everything I’ve described is still considered low-level thinking.

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Let me take you to a list of high-level thinking. That’s where there’s deep comprehension. It’s where you can discern the intent, the purpose, and the underlying values; where you can do analysis, evaluate, critique, and even from the information you have, create new things and innovate. You’re able to compare things, design things, and imagine then design things that don’t even exist. Low-level thinking often is taking existing things and recreating them. High-level thinking is when you’re actively tapping into both your creative side and using current data and examples to generate new ideas, forward thinking ideas. I often have to admire any inventor or anyone who has a patent because they did something that in many cases, people said could not be done.

The other part of higher level thinking, or what we call critical thinking, is being able to question things, being able to look at things and find their flaws; not just being negative, but seeing where the dots aren’t logical. I’m notorious for picking apart movies. Sometimes I’m not fun to go to movies with; I’ll admit it, because I’m going to look at a movie, and something I might’ve seen 20 scenes earlier, I’ll question how it can happen. So many times I’ve been told, “Just go with it. Just accept it. Just assume it to be true,” but for me, facts, evidence, and prior history tell me that the sequence of events I’m seeing on the screen are not realistic.

The other thing about higher level thinking is being very self-aware; knowing yourself, knowing your intentions, being able to internalize the information you have, seeing how it applies to you. Furthermore, being able to read and understand characters, their feelings, their opinions, their reactions. Even being able to predict, being able to think two or three steps ahead based on certain sets of evidence —evidence was one of our previous words—and then making determinations and decisions. All of these are examples of higher level thinking.

I hope today’s episode made you think, and continue to stay with us as we go through #steamA2Z, learning new words, terms, and concepts around science, technology, engineering, arts and math and how it affects you everyday. Thanks for listening!

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