A thinking skill is a mental process. This process can be divided into higher and lower order thinking skills. According to Bloom the acquisition and comprehension of knowledge are lower order thinking skills. Evaluation, synthesis, application and analysis are higher order thinking skills.

To read up on these thinkining skills use the link below.

McGuinness (1999) points out that thinking skills include some of the following:
• collecting information (lower order skill)
• categorising and analysing information (higher order thinking skill)
• drawing conclusions from the information (higher order thinking skill)
• ‘brainstorming’ new ideas (higher order thinking skill)
• problem solving (higher order thinking skill)
• determining cause and effect (higher order thinking skill)
• evaluating options (higher order thinking skill)
• planning and setting goals (higher order thinking skill)
• monitoring progress (higher order thinking skill)
• decision making (higher order thinking skill)
• reflecting on one’s own progress (higher order thinking skill).


Why are thinking skills important?

According to Wilson (2000) lower order skills, such as reading and writing are taught very well at schools. These skills are used to build higher order thinking skills. Today the labour market demands people with higher order thinking skills. These skills are of vital importance because it is impossible to remember all the information we need for future use. Today information grows exponentially and therefore individuals need to learn to navigate all this information. Many educators believe that detailed knowledge will not be as significant to tomorrow's workers and citizens as the ability to learn and make sense of new information. According to Resnick (1987) all individuals, not just the elite, have the ability to become adept at thinking.

Lower order and higher order applications

“Technology alone cannot move learners to higher order thinking skills, but some applications are more suited for this task than others” (Burns, 2006). Burns classifies applications into “Lower-Order and Higher-Order Applications”.

How an application is used by an educator determines whether it is a lower or higher order application. An example of this is the use of the Internet. If used as an electronic textbook it would be a lower order application as only lower order skills are used if the learner does not validate, question, or evaluate, the information obtained. When learners engage in online collaboration they would be using higher order thinking skills and therefore the Internet would be used as a higher order application (Burns, 2006).


Lower order applications offer few opportunities for the development of higher order thinking skills. Educators should avoid using presentation software all the time. When using Powerpoint to present research the information has to be reduced to “sight bite” (Burns 2006) and the focus is on the attractiveness of the presentation. At high school level a Powerpoint presentation does not necessarily lead to deep complex learning. It is important for educators to be aware of all these pitfalls when they plan to integrate technology and computers into the curriculum.

Higher order applications are developmentally appropriate and challenging tools. These applications offer opportunities to analyse, evaluate and solve problems and therefore offer more opportunities to practice analytical and critical thinking skills. Spreadsheets and databases are two examples of such applications. Database design can help learners methodically organise, assemble and order data according to recognised criteria (Adams & Burns, 1999). Another example is Geographic Information Systems (GIS). GIS was brought into the new grade 10 Geography Curriculum with the purpose of developing higher order thinking skills. Learners can study change over time using a free GIS tool like Google Earth (Burns, 2006).


In conclusion educators should plan with care when they integrate technology into the classroom. Outcomes must be considered carefully and there should be a healthy balance between lower and higher order thinking skills. When educators start using more than just the “show-and-tell” (Burns, 2006) applications the true potential of computer integrated education will be unlocked.