Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values
clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based
Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging
the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.
The Title I Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) Project is an alternative approach to
Title I for Grades 4-6 in which the compensatory services consist solely of systematically
designed higher order thinking activities. Traditional drill and practice activities and
content instruction are eliminated. The two years of thinking activities are designed to
generate the gains in basic skills expected from Title I programs, while also improving
thinking ability and social confidence. By learning how to learn, students are able to learn
content the first time it is taught in the classroom. The program is conducted in a computer
lab, with a detailed curriculum and a teacher trained in Socratic dialogue techniques.
Students in HOTS do better than control students on standardized tests, both in reading and
math, on Spring to Spring comparisons. In the best study, fourth grade HOTS students
gained 12.78 NCEs in reading comprehension while control students gained 2.95. Fifth
grade HOTS students gained 14.12 NCEs, while control students declined 2.24 NCEs. On
other comparisons HOTS students generally made approximately twice the gains in reading
and (with one exception) math.
HOTS students also do better in overall academic performance as measured by grade point
average (GPA). In one study HOTS students made almost a whole letter grade gain in
GPA in one year, while control students made little gain or actually declined. There are
also indications from follow-up studies that there is a high retention rate for HOTS students
and that they subsequently do well on innovative academic coursework. The cost of the
program is no more expensive than traditional Title I programs which use an experienced
Features—How the Program Operates: The program uses computers, together with specially
designed curricular materials and Socratic teaching strategies. All drill and practice activities
are replaced with the systematically designed higher order thinking activities. No workbooks
or worksheets are used. Instead, Socratic dialogues are conducted around computer-use
activities. Computers are used because of their ability to enhance motivation and to respond to
student's ideas at the rate at which students think of them.
The first half of the period consists of teacher led discussion. The discussions are specified in a
detailed curriculum. The discussions are designed to develop the thinking skills of: a)
Metacognition, b) Inference from context, c) Decontextualization, and d) Information
synthesis. These thinking skills are viewed as the key ones that underlie all learning and
successful work. Teachers probe student responses in accordance with the Socratic techniques
they are trained in.
After the discussion the students are given a challenge to work out on the computer for the rest
of the period. The feedback generated by the computer provides a continuous flow of
information for the student to process, which leads to improvements in comprehension and
problem solving. Teachers constantly probe student to articulate their ideas, and explain how
and why the computer is reacting to their strategies the way it is. Constantly pressing students
to examine and explain their strategies and results increases the sophistication of their
language use—both in terms of comprehension and articulation. This increased sophistication
of language use enhances their ability to learn all content. That is why the same activities are
able to produce substantial gains in both reading and math.
The program operates as a pullout. Students are in the program for 35 minutes a day, four days
a week, for one to two years. In the first part of the period, the teacher engages students in
sophisticated conversations. Students are then given a challenge which they go to the
computer to try and solve. Students will later discuss their findings, approaches and how they
know whether their strategy for solving the problem did, or did not, work.
The program requires a computer lab and a good teacher. A week-long workshop is provided
to train the lab teachers how to shift from traditional teaching approaches of lecturing,
refereeing and linear sequencing to the more open-ended, Socratic coaching techniques used in
this program. It is also important to have competent instruction in the regular classroom.
Students proceed through the ungraded curriculum in a sequential fashion. Teacher judgment
is used to determine the pacing. There is no management system and no grades. Success is
demonstrated by the products generated by the student, their articulation of findings, and the
results they record in their "lab notebook." These data are used by the students to determine
whether a given strategy they have used is an optimal one. The only management activities
are scheduling the pullout in accordance to recommended guidelines so as to minimize
disruption to the regular classroom. The only formal evaluations are those required in the
standard Title I reporting procedures. A number of teachers, however, have initiated an
assessment process of providing reports to parents describing their childrens' activities in the
Most importantly, this is one of the few national programs with a consistent track record of
producing gains in Title I students in grades 4-6. This program is the only thinking skills
program designed specifically for Title I students, and that is designed to produce transfer to
measurable gains in basic skills. It is also the only program nationally that treats Title I
students as Gifted and which relies strictly on activities that challenge them intellectually.
There is no content remediation or worksheets. It is also the only Title I approach that views
lack of experience in linking ideas and generalizing as the major deficiency as opposed to other
programs which view a lack of content knowledge as the basic problem. In the view of HOTS,
the shortage of content knowledge at the upper elementary grade level is a direct result of the
student's lack of experience in engaging in the primary problem solving activities that the mind
uses to retain and extend new information.
The curriculum organizes the computer activities in ways that parallel how the long term
memory of the brain stores and retrieves information. The curriculum develops linkages and
associations between and among concepts the student is already familiar with, and links the use
of fundamental concepts across different software environments, contexts and symbol systems.
Students also learn to work with larger chunks of information and to think more deeply about
the information they use. Chunks of information are used to solve problems that require the
development, testing and articulation of strategies.
Developing these general problem solving skills enables students to learn content the first time
it is taught in the regular classroom, rather than always having to reteach the content in special
programs to help them learn.
The general nature of the thinking skills activities means that the program can coexist with any
textbook series, curriculum or instructional improvement technique in the classroom. Only
occasional linkage to formal classroom content is needed.
The computer-use techniques and teacher training methodologies that have evolved in this
program are state-of-the-art, and have broad implications for practice. While there are many
computer drill and practice programs designed to improve basic skills, the Title I Higher Order
Thinking Skills Project is the first to successfully use sophisticated computer tools to produce
measurable transfer to basic and other academic skills. Rather than traditional CAI approaches
to using computers, this project has resulted in a new methodology that has been termed
'Learning Dramas'. The curriculum and teaching techniques have been designed to create an
environment where students are given the opportunity and responsibility to learn through
discovery activities. A series of articles have already been published which describe the
implications of these techniques for using computers with all students and at all grade levels.
The most complete description of the techniques is in a book published in 1990 by Scholastic
Inc. Articles describing Learning Dramas have appeared in the Feb. 90 issue of Educational
Leadership, the Spring 94 issue of Journal of Learning & Evaluation, and a chapter in the
forthcoming book When Process is Content: Towards Renaissance Learning to be published
by Corwin Press.
In addition, the success of the HOTS program has resulted in some new knowledge about what
the nature of the learning problems are for Title I and LD students, and why prior efforts have
largely been unsuccessful after the third grade. Recent examples of such articles are: April 92
issue of Phi Delta Kappan, May 26, 1993 issue of Education Week, and the February 95 issue
of Educational Leadership.
Finally, this is the only Title I program that generates reading and math gains from the same set
of activities. Traditionally, separate pullouts and programs for reading and math. Indeed,
recent evidence that will be discussed later is that HOTS simultaneously provides a wide
variety of additional gains.
In summation, the Title I Higher Order Thinking Skills Project is the first program to put
together a replicable package of state-of-the-art curriculum and teaching techniques around the
use of computers that simultaneously promotes basic and advanced types of learning gains.
Indeed, the results indicate that this thinking skills program produces even greater basic skill
gains than drill and practice approaches.
Outcome-based education is a model of education that rejects the traditional focus on what the school provides to students, in favor of making students demonstrate that they "know and are able to do" whatever the required outcomes are.
OBE reforms emphasize setting clear standards for observable, measurable outcomes. Nothing about OBE demands the adoption of any specific outcome. For example, many countries write their OBE standards so that they focus strictly on mathematics, language, science, and history, without ever referring to attitudes, social skills, or moral values.
The key features which may be used to judge if a system has implemented an outcomes-based education systems are:
Creation of a curriculum framework that outlines specific, measurable outcomes. The standards included in the frameworks are usually chosen through the area's normal political process.
A commitment not only to provide an opportunity of education, but to require learning outcomes for advancement. Promotion to the next grade, a diploma, or other reward is granted upon achievement of the standards, while extra classes, repeating the year, or other consequences entail upon those who do not meet the standards.
Standards-based assessments that determines whether students have achieved the stated standard. Assessments may take any form, so long as the assessments actually measure whether the student knows the required information or can perform the required task.
A commitment that all students of all groups will ultimately reach the same minimum standards. Schools may not "give up" on unsuccessful students
Higher Order Thinking Skills do you no good if you can't do basic math or if you don't have basic writing skills. I have seen the path they have been trying to take here in CO public schools. Since my oldest was in elementary, he has had a "diversity" grade on his report card. WTF is a diversity grade?