Archive for the ‘Thinking skills.’ Category

Warming up to HOTS

Sunday, September 17th, 2017
SMK Bandar Utama Damansara (4) teacher Sunita (in blue) sharing a light moment with her students (from left) Wendy, Evelyn Rebekah Wee Chia May, Soh Ee Von, Esther and Sulaiman Redza.

SMK Bandar Utama Damansara (4) teacher Sunita (in blue) sharing a light moment with her students (from left) Wendy, Evelyn Rebekah Wee Chia May, Soh Ee Von, Esther and Sulaiman Redza.

HIGHER order thinking skills (HOTS) questions are starting to make a positive impact among Malaysian students.

HOTS questions are part of the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025, which was implemented into the school system to spark a new trend in the way young Malaysians learn and acquire knowledge.

Private companies are also putting efforts to develop necessary skills and competencies in students to enhance their future marketability.

One such company is HRCA Mega Events Sdn Bhd, a firm that emphasises on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and maths) education.

It organised a science competition for upper secondary school students in July.

Participants were required to answer 30 multiple choice HOTS questions on Physics, Biology, Chemistry, and Additional Mathematics within a time frame of 20 minutes.

Thirteen students from SMK Bandar Utama Damansara (4) (SMK BUD 4) took part in the challenge, winning the school a total of six medals – three gold and three silver. They were among 782 students from local schools who took part in the event.

The SMK BUD 4 participants, said they enjoyed the competition, which incorporated mostly HOTS questions.

“Though more challenging, HOTS questions stimulates ideas and opinions, making me think outside the box,” said Esther Chew Li-Wen.

The 16-year-old added that the competition was a good experienceas she had to prepare for it by reading up to gain more knowledge. It also exposed her to a variety of HOTS questions.

Sulaiman Redza Suhaimi said that the competition taught him something new that he had not learnt in school.

“It makes me think harder as the questions are not easy. The emphasis was more on my ability to understand and explain.

“It prepares me to face future exams that could be even more difficult than what I had just sat for.

“HOTS questions give students an opportunity to answer questions in a different manner, something you can give your own elaboration to rather than a textbook answer,” said the 16-year-old who added that the competition was an “eye opener”.

Another participant Wendy Lee Xiu Teng shared Li-Wen and Sulaiman Redza’s sentiments.

Describing HOTS questions as “interesting”, she said it involved knowledge and information that was not always taught in class. “It also expands my knowledge on the English language because there were so many words I have not come across. It is a ‘revelation’ when you find out the correct meaning and answers later on,” she added.

“The competition also tests us on how we perform under pressure. In the real world, you have to work with deadlines,” she said

The school’s Science teacher Datin Sunita Devi Om Prakash Sharma, who won HRCA’s Best Teacher Award, said she spent time in encouraging her students to join extra-curricular events.

“Out-of-school competitions and activities bring out the best in students as they have to use their own ideas creatively withoutrelying on their textbooks alone, she said. .

The school’s head of department for Maths and Science Ravinderan Veloo Nair said HOTS questions have helped students develop critical thinking skills which in turn enabled them to think out of the box.

“We always encourage students to take part in competitions as they provide good exposure and platforms for them to try out new things other than school-based education.

“It also encourages and gets them interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), which is rapidly dropping in popularity,” he added.

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A better life with critical thinking

Saturday, August 19th, 2017
Successful critical thinking involves self-directed, self-disciplined and self-corrective thinking. FILE PIc

WE all think — it’s in our nature to do so. But, left to itself, most of our thinking is inadvertently biased, uninformed, partial and often prejudiced. Our quality of life depends on the quality of our thoughts. It is, therefore, imperative to learn and cultivate excellence in thinking.

At the tender age of 2, my son discovered the all-important word “why”. There and then, I vowed to never answer him with a simple “because I said so”.

At 10, he triumphantly declared that Britney Spears was actually 56 years old, but she had a lotion that made her appear to be 21. This was a fact; he had read it on the Internet. What, on earth, had gone wrong?

The unstoppable force that is the appeal of fast facts found on the World Wide Web had clearly wiped out all my, as well as his teachers’ efforts, to instil common sense and critical thinking into his young mind.

A quick search on “Internet said” gives us the definition of critical thinking as “the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue to form a judgment”.

And, the first example of a sentence reads, “professors often find it difficult to encourage critical thinking among their students”.

The lack of critical thinking among students is a frightening fact. It is so on more than one level. Obviously, if anybody should make it a habit to question information, to not take any fact for granted, to push academic boundaries and thus, reach for new discoveries, it should be the intellectual elite of the future.

After all, haven’t most of history’s defining social, philosophical and scientific transformations been fuelled by passionate young thinkers, unafraid to question the status quo, and willing to envision groundbreaking paths?

If we expect future generations to skillfully identify, analyse, assess, de- and re-construct concepts for the betterment of society, it is crucial that they be given the tools to do so. Successful critical thinking involves self-directed, self-disciplined and self-corrective thinking. This sounds like a handful, and it is.

Traditional education, usually delivered as teacher-centred feeding of information, is not conducive to the aforementioned skills nor to effective communication and problem-solving abilities, which critical thinking entails.

We live in a paradoxical age. Thriving companies seek to hire candidates who can demonstrate sound self-monitored, involved, thinking skills. Higher education professionals lament the lack of such abilities in their students.

Yet, people of little merit, albeit glorified on social media, operate as poor role models for young people’s attempt at judging objectively and thereupon thrive in the very complex world they are about to inherit.

Likewise, parents, teachers and even doctors all too often impose a strict hierarchy that leads to uninvolved and passive consumption of information.

Ultimately, the sound analysis and assessment of concepts demands careful gathering of relevant evidence. The sheer magnitude of available information makes this a somewhat Herculean task, as peer-reviewed sources and those of uncertain origin happily co-exist.

The evaluation of sources and points of view needs to be assessed, not only critically in terms of their objective truth and value, but also in their problem-solving capacity.

Like any other skill however, critical thinking needs to be taught, practised and encouraged from a very young age. When nurtured and developed within an educational process aimed directly at that end, good reasoning can become second nature.

This is not to profess disrespect for one’s elders and superiors, of course. It should not be confused with being argumentative or critical of other people.


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A Quranic perspective on thinking

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017
About 750 verses of the Quran exhort its readers to study nature, history, the Quran itself and humanity. Bernama Photo

THE Quran repeatedly invites its readers to think about the signs of God in the universe and within themselves, and to understand His illustrious presence.

Thinking is a movement driven by intellect (al-Ñaql), and this can only occur when an initial image of the subject is attainable in the mind.

Thinking cannot proceed over something of which no image exists in the mind.

About 750 verses of the Quran exhort its readers to study nature, history, the Quran itself and humanity.

Quranic references to thinking and the exercise of intellect occur in conjunction with basically five major themes: belief in the Oneness and munificence of God (tawhid), reflection (tadabbur) on the Quran; man and the universe; historical precedent; and thinking itself.

Often, the Quran gives examples and narratives of other nations, and reminders that people may think and reflect over them.

Quran commentators understand thinking as a form of worship if it is done with sincerity and good purpose.

A hierarchy of five perceptive-cognitive functions is suggested through hearing, sight, thinking, remembrance, and certainty.

Another aspect of Quran’s outlook on thinking is indicated in its emphasis on wisdom and good judgment (hikmah).

Hikmah is seen to be more important than technical know-how and expertise, as it can guide expert knowledge to its proper application.

The Quran mentions hikmah 20 times, and 10 of these are immediately preceded by kitab, which is a reference to divine scripture — primarily the Quran, but also other revealed scriptures preceding the Quran (cf., Q 3:42).

The value of hikmah in the Quran is underscored in a verse: When God bestows hikmah on someone that person is indeed granted an immense source of goodness (2: 269).

In another verse, the Quran praises those who listen to the word and follow the best of it (or the best interpretation thereof) (39:18).

The Quran sees the signs of reality in the sun, the moon, the alternation of day and night, the perpetual changes of the winds, the variety of human colours and tongues for its readers to reflect on them.

Early Muslim thinkers do not seem to have grasped the Quranic emphasis on inductive reasoning and experimentation.

It was indeed a slow realisation for Muslim thinkers to note, as Muhammad Iqbal (d. 1938) pointed out “that the spirit of the Quran was essentially anti-classical”.

Putting full confidence in Greek reasoning, Muslim thinkers tried to understand the Quran in the light of Greek philosophy, which in the beginning of their careers they had studied with so much enthusiasm.

Quran’s emphasis on pondering over the ayat is also underscored by a set of guidelines to ensure correct outcomes.

The text, thus, draws attention to a series of exclusions and factors that stand in the way of proper functioning of the intellect.

These are:

PURSUIT of caprice (hawa) which may consist of love, hatred, and prejudice that confound impartiality and good judgment;

PURSUIT of conjecture in the face of certitude;

BLIND imitation of others; and,

OPPRESSIVE dictatorship the like of Pharaoh and Kora and those who supported and followed them.


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Allow room for critical thinking

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

FIVE school teachers have been given show cause letters by the Education Ministry for being “excessively” critical of the Government in public forums and the like. I wish I could find out what they said; it would be nice to see what “excessive” is.

The Education Minister also said that civil servants should be loyal to the Government and any criticism should be done via the “correct channels”. But all this silencing of educators is not undemocratic, he says because it is done via the law – namely the General Orders which civil servants are bound by.

How quaint.

These are really old justifications that have been used for decades.

Firstly, one has to wonder what “proper channels” there are and whether they are effective or not. If these channels are not open to the public (and I am certain by “proper” it is meant “discreet”) then they can easily be ignored.

Secondly, just because a law exists to silence people, that does not make it right. A power provided by legislation can be just as undemocratic as an unfettered discretionary power.

These five teachers are facing the beginnings of disciplinary action for things which they did outside of the classroom. But the Youth and Sports Minister has chipped in saying that things done within the classrooms should not be used as a “political platform”.

Well, sure, it would be unseemly and inappropriate for any sort of political campaigning to be done in classrooms. Kind of pointless as well, since schoolchildren can’t vote.

But I wonder; what if a history teacher decides to point out the fact that Umno was late in joining the calls for independence and in fact the originator for that call was the Malayan Left. Would this be political?

And that is just within the context of schools. Universities offer courses and have departments whose entire purpose is to examine critically what happens in society, which includes what the Government does.

A Social Science Department that does not cover race-based policies in the country will not be doing its job. An economics department that does not explore the effect of corruption on the well-being of the country will not be doing its job. A law faculty that does not criticise unjust laws and judgments will not be doing its job.

However, recently, public universities have received a circular, once again written under the authority of legislation meant to control civil servants, where we have been told that we can’t say or do anything that could be deemed as manifesting disloyalty to King, country and government.

Well, I can tell you that makes my job as a Human Rights and Environmental Law lecturer very simple then.

I think I can just turn up to class for the rest of the semester with a guitar and sing Kumbaya with my students for an hour.

Of course I won’t do that. This is because my responsibility as a lecturer, and a teacher’s responsibility, is first and foremost to our students. Our job is to broaden their horizons and to show them not just what is, but what should be.

As long as what is being taught is backed up by good research and sound reasoning, then what is said should not be penalised.

If we do our jobs well, we produce thinking graduates and by this we serve the people and the nation. Not the Government.

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“World Thinking Day” – A Day of International Friendship and Solidarity

Monday, March 6th, 2017

Sandakan: World Thinking Day is a day of international friendship and solidarity. It is celebrated by Girl Guides throughout the world on Feb 22 each year.

This year’s theme is Grow. The Girl Guides movement believes that every girl should have the chance to grow, learn and reach her potential. It believes that more girls should be able to be part of the Girl Guide and Girl Scout movement.

February 22 was chosen for the World Thinking Day celebration because it was the birthday of Scouting and Guiding founder Lord Robert Baden-Powell and of Lady Olave Baden-Powell, his wife and World Chief Guide.

World Thinking Day is the perfect opportunity to show the world how amazing it is to be a Girl Guide or Girl Scout and to encourage more young people to get involved.

Since 1932 World Thinking Day has also been an important opportunity to raise funds to support World WAGGGS across the world.

The World Thinking Day Fund supports WAGGGS to deliver life-changing opportunities for girls around the world. Donations can help the movement to grow and reach more girls and young women. In 2017, Girl Guides invite you to donate to the fund online, through our JustGiving Page, CAF Donate button or

The Sandakan Girl Guides Local Association celebrated the occasion with a variety of activities that included seed planting, choir and dance performances, presentation of appreciation letter to long service members, carnival and bazaar.


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Sandakan Girls Guides Local Association celebrates World Thinking Day

Monday, February 27th, 2017

SANDAKAN: The Sandakan Girl Guides Local Association celebrated the World Thinking Day at the Girl Guides Headquarters here on Sunday.

The activities held included joint cake cutting by leaders to launch the celebration, seed planting, choir and dance performances, award presentation, carnival and bazaar.

Sandakan Girl Guides Local Association district commissioner, Wong Chien Ha delivered the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) 2017 World Thinking Day message to start off the celebration.

World Thinking Day is celebrated by Girl Guides across the world on Feb 22 each year. It is a day of international friendship and solidarity.

This year’s theme is Grow. We believe that every girl should have the chance to grow, learn and reach her potential. We believe that more girls should be able to be part of the Girl Guide and Girl Scout movement, Wong said.

“We want to grow our World Thinking Day celebration in 2017 and invite more girls and young women to experience what it means to be a part of our movement,” Wong added.

Wong said there are approximately 800 million girls around the world and only 10 million of them are Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. We want to reach even more girls.

World Thinking Day is the perfect opportunity to show the world how amazing it is to be a Girl Guide or Girl Scout and to encourage more young people to get involved, she continued.

“The World Thinking Day 2017 activity pack will help us think about growth in our community. It has been designed to be used throughout the year by our Girl Guide and Girl Scout to help us attract new potential members to meetings and grow our Movement,” Wong said.

Since 1932 World Thinking Day has also been an important opportunity to raise funds to support World WAGGGS across the world.

“The World Thinking Day Fund supports WAGGGS to deliver life-changing opportunities for girls around the world. Donations can help us to grow and reach more girls and young women. In 2017, we invite you to donate to the fund online, through our JustGiving Page, CAF Donate button or,” Wong said.


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Hot under the collar over HOTS Science

Saturday, December 24th, 2016

KUALA LUMPUR: Some students who obtained their Pentaksiran Tingkatan Tiga (PT3) results are hot under the collar over the difficult HOTS (higher order thinking skills) questions in Science.

Several 15-year-olds from SMK Saujana Impian felt the questions had prevented them from scoring better grades to some extent.

Roosimin Kaliappan, who obtained 7A’s, 1B and 1C, said her teachers prepared them well by providing sample questions from previous years, but the questions they eventually had in the assessment were still difficult.

“We did not expect the Science paper to be filled mostly with HOTS questions. It was just tough,” she said.

Maryam Kamiliah Rahime, who scored 10A’s and a C for Science, shared Roosimin’s sentiments.

“The HOTS questions were very tough. I didn’t think it would be that difficult,” she said.

Maryam said although she was happy with her results, she was frustrated with the C.

Suriyah Ganesan, who had put in at least six hours a day during his revision, was not happy with his results.

“I got 6A’s, 2B’s and a D for Science. I’m not satisfied with my results as the HOTS questions were really hard. I’m disappointed.”

The students are the third batch to sit for the PT3, which was introduced in 2014.

HOTS questions were introduced when PT3 was first introduced.

A Science teacher said the paper was more difficult this year.

“The Examinations Syndicate prepared a list of rules on the type of answers that can and cannot be accepted. The marking process was also stricter compared to the previous year,” she said.

She said some of the questions in the paper were based on general knowledge, rather than the textbooks, which could affect the students’ final score.

She said all schools had different sets of HOTS questions and she could not divulge the questions in the paper.

But to give an example, she said the questions were along the line of showing pictures of “a tissue box, a needle and a brush” and asking the students to draw up a conclusion on what they could do with the items.

On his Facebook page, Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid advised parents not to look merely at academic achievements, but the holistic development and potential of their children.

“PT3 is a holistic assessment of students based on continuous assessments by the school, which is responsible for the administration, marking of the examination scripts and the release of the results,” he said.


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KBAT: Right Track To Holistic Generation – MB Perlis

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

KANGAR, Dec 14 (Bernama) — Applying High-Level Thinking Skills (KBAT) in the teaching and learning process in schools is the right effort by the government to create a generate that is excellent and holistic.

Perlis Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Azlan Man said these skills needed to be introduced from the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) level to prepare the young to become strong and be able to face any challenges.

He said attention should then be drawn to the bigger picture where Malaysians are open to global competition.

“This competition is not getting any easier, but becoming harder. There are many challenges and obstacles which must be faced for our country to continue progressing, so we need to prepare the (next) generation to be able to think at a high level and transform challenges into opportunities,” he said.


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Thinking tools and skills

Sunday, October 16th, 2016

IN his book “Mindware – Tools for Smart Thinking”, eminent psychologist Richard E. Nisbett expounds the merits and pitfalls of different thinking tools that include inference and interpretation (construal), making choices, categorisation and relationships, causality, logical and dialectical reasoning and good theories and simple explanations. A fuller grasp of the knowledge and understanding of these thinking tools will help us make decisions that will turn out to be wise, practical, sustainable and beneficial.

After reading the book, I am drawn to have a closer and analytical look at the implementation of thinking skills in our schools.

Firstly, the Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) was introduced a few years ago to erase the “rote learning” and “memorisation” commonly associated with our teaching-learning and examination system. In fact, a lack of HOTS among our students has long been touted as a main cause of our students’ poor Programme for International Student Achievements (PISA) performance.

The Education Ministry has embarked on a plan to gradually increase the percentage or number of HOTS questions in every relevant public examination paper.

In the recently completed primary school assessments examination (UPSR), apparently more HOTS questions were included.

HOTS encapsulate critical and creative thinking. It results in creativity and innovativeness; bringing forth “creations” and innovations. The mind has to be free and relaxed and the environment has to be conducive to facilitate this.

So, is an examination setting, that is in an enclosed hall or classroom and with limited time constraints, the right avenue to exercise and test, least encourage, HOTS?

If answering HOTS questions is challenging, setting and designing the questions will certainly be a very daunting task. Turning the table around, can we expect teachers who are assigned to set HOTS questions to be able to write a required number of questions within the time and space constraints encountered by students in an examination?

Shouldn’t HOTS questions then instead be applied and capitalised in problem-based project assignments that are part of school-based assessments now? This will allow students the freedom of time and space to really engage their thinking skills to the problems on hand. There has to be liberty of spirit for ingenuity, creativity and innovativeness to flourish.

Secondly, the next thinking skill being rolled out now to schools is the “Computational Thinking” (CT) skills. The resource materials on CT prescribe some nine operators, namely, data collection, data analysis, data representation, problem decomposition, abstraction, algorithms and procedures, automation, simulation and parellisation.

This is comprehensive. But, are they really new concepts being introduced into our curriculum? I think not.

I would think that properly conducted Science and Mathematics lessons would have many elements of CT already incorporated in them. Even non-Science subjects have employed CT elements.

Don’t we emphasise in our Science and Mathematics classes skills such as observation, systematic data collection, tabulation and graphic presentation, interpretation, comparison, inferences, analysis, projection, induction, deduction and synthesis among others?

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Are our decisions really ours?

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

ONE of the things I like to tell young people is that if they do well at school, they will have more choices in life. Having choices is one of the great privileges in a human being’s life and many of us are working to ensure the greatest number of people have the ability to make the most choices for themselves as they see best.

Hence, for example, we work so that parents have a choice of where they can send their kids to school.

If their choices are limited because of poverty, then we have to address that, by either ensuring that their few options are nevertheless good ones or that they can earn enough to be able to have a wider selection to choose from.

The days are long gone when we did not have choices in our life partners. Nowadays, for better or for worse, we make our own choices.

We choose to better our lives or sometimes we do not, but it is still our choice and we live with the consequences of either one.

We also choose every few years who gets to rule us, and we live with the consequences of that too.

Although we don’t always have to put up with bad choices, we are certainly free to let our choices know that we disapprove of what they say and do. We didn’t hand over our right to have a say once we voted them in.

So choice is really the ultimate privilege and all of us should be working towards a situation where the gap between those who have the most choices and those who have the least is as narrow as possible.

Having a just and equitable society is also a choice. Steering a nation towards such a society, or not, is also a choice for our leaders and it’s amazing how they sometimes fail to exercise that choice, usually by saying that they had no choice.

However, like many things these days, the meaning of the word “choice” can be different to different people. For most of us, it means the freedom to decide something based on an array of options.

If I decide I need to get fitter, I have many different types of exercise regimes I can try and I just have to choose the one that best suits me.

But for some people, the right choice is the one that they, and only they choose, and everyone else’s choice is wrong.

For example, in a country that prides itself on freedom and equality, France is incredibly adamant that some of its female population, specifically Muslims, may not have the choice of what to wear on the beach. And it will actually enforce this limit on choice by law.

Or even against the law, since some mayors have decided to disobey the court order to overturn the ban on burqinis.

Here is a funny situation; normally court orders give you no choice but to obey. Yet here we are with municipal authorities exercising their “choice” to disobey the law.

by Marina Mahathir.

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