Thinking is the ability to attack a problem or task and solve it intelligently (or rationally) and provide a reasonable explanation for the solution. Good thinkers (or skillful thinkers) are good problem solvers, they can withhold making decisions before they have all (or most of) the relevant information, they are not afraid of the unknown. Also, good thinkers have strong metacognitive skills. They are able to "think about their thinking." Poor thinkers, on the other hand, limit their thinking to the obvious. For a comparison of good thinkers and poor thinkers click here and a pop-up window will appear.
Thinking skills has several divisions. Most people divide thinking skills into two parts, i.e., macro-thinking strategies and micro-thinking strategies. The macro-strategies include critical and creative thinking as well as problem solving, decision making, and information processing. The micro-strategies are used to process information within the macro-strategies, and are usually connected with a cognitive taxonomy or learning hierarchy. One such cognitive taxonomy (that of Bloom, 1956) begins with knowledge, comprehension, and application (lower-order skills) and moves to analysis, synthesis, and evaluation (higher-order skills). Another "kind of" taxonomy, which is behavioral rather than cognitive, are Gagne's (1977) "condidtions of learning." Gagne's "conditions of learning" are divided into eight levels (or conditions), including signal learning, stimulus-response (S-R) learning, chaining, verbal association (lower-order skills), which lead to rule learning and problem solving (higher-order skills).
In addition to Bloom's (1956) cognitive taxonomy and Gagne's (1977) "conditions of learning," Marzano, et al. (1988) provide a set of eight "core" thinking skills, which, like Bloom's taxonomy, are cognitive. These "core" thinking skills include focusing skills (attending to selected bits and pieces of information and ignoring others), information gathering skills (skills used to bring to consciousness the substance or content to be used for cognitive processing), remembering skills (activities or strategies that are used to store information in long-term memory and to retrieve it), organizing skills (arranging information so it can be understood or presented more effectively), analyzing skills (clarifying existing information by examining parts and relationships), generating skills (using prior knowledge to add information beyond what is given), integrating skills (putting together the relevant parts or aspects of a solution, understanding, principle, or composition. New information and prior knowledge are connected and combined.), and evaluating skills (which involve assessing the reasonableness and quality of ideas).
There are also many programs that focus at teaching for higher-leveling thinking. Among these are Instrumental Enrichment, Strategic Reasoning, Philosophy for Children, Structure of the Intellect, the Thinking/Learning (T/L) System. Each focuses at a specific purpose and has strengths and weaknesses. The first four are discussed quite thoroughly in the Developing Minds resource book edited by Arthur L. Costa. This reference can be found below and in the Resources folder. The T/L System is presented here.
It is important for anyone interested in teaching for higher-level thinking (or skillful thinking) to select a program or strategy or (if not a program or strategy) to focus their teaching at one of the cognitive taxonomies or learning hierarchies. For more information about the macro-thinking strategies (and the T/L System), thinking skills programs, or the micro-strategies select that folder.
Some excellent web sites that can provide information on thinking skills are:
Beyer, B. K. (1988). Developing a thinking skills program. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, Inc.
Bloom, B. S. (Ed.). (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives book 1: Cognitive domain. New York, NY: Longman.
Costa, A. L. (Ed.). (1985). Developing minds: A resource book for teaching thinking, 1st edition. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Gagne, R. M. (1977). The conditions of learning (3rd. ed.). New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.
Marzano, R.J., Brandt, R.S., Hughes, C.S., Jones, B.F., Pressiesen, B.Z., Rankin, S.C., & Suhor, C. (1988). Dimensions of thinking: A framework for curriculum and instruction. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.