How Thinking-Based Learning Leads to Higher-Order Thinking

Thinking-Based Learning Higher Order Thinking Blog


I just returned from my fourth trip to Peru.

I learn so much each time I work with educators there and this time was no exception.  I presented at two conferences, Adecopa IV Conferencia Annual de Directores de Escuelas del Peru and Adecopa VII Conferencia Internacional de Profesores.

It was during these conferences that I met Robert Swartz from the Center for Teaching Thinking. Bob has done a lot of work with teachers in Peru and in Spain training them in a methodology he calls “Thinking-Based Learning.” The goal of this approach is to support deep learning by explicitly teaching higher-order thinking skills through curriculum content. Although this is not a groundbreaking approach…there are many researchers and educators who promote explicit teaching of thinking skills to support deep learning …Thinking-Based Learning offers some insightful approaches to strategies that are nicely transferable across curriculum areas and grade levels and that support students in deepening their understanding.

For example, as Bob explains in the introduction of his new TBL Lesson Book series, a teacher trained in Thinking-Based Learning might use the strategy of comparing and contrasting with upper primary students to learn about nutrition. The first step would involve having the students compare and contrast a Mediterranean diet with a fast food diet. The teacher would then extend the strategy by asking the students to think about the ideas which stand out as being important and the conclusions they can draw about these two diets.

By guiding the students to extract conclusions, a simple compare and contrast activity is elevated to elicit higher-order thinking and a consideration of what we often term “the big ideas” or important concepts represented in the activity. When teachers guide students in this type of analysis repeatedly, the students eventually adopt this strategy as a way of thinking about their world.

Bob trains teachers to extend a number of thinking strategies (e.g., parts/whole thinking) in a similar fashion using probing questions that nudge students into thinking about curriculum content in complex ways. He also provides some excellent graphic organizers that support students in working through these strategies.

To learn more about Thinking-Based Learning, visit

By Anita Sherwin-Hamer, M.Ed

learnography_leadership_anitahamerAnita has more than 40 years of experience in education serving the Catholic Principals’ Council of Ontario, the Ministry of Education, and the Durham Catholic District School Board. She leads CSC’s resource evaluations with integrity and commitment.

Posted in Uncategorized.