DEVELOPING AND ASSESSING HIGHER ORDER THINKING SKILLS IN THE SCHOOL CURRICULUM

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Standards, domains, benchmarks and criteria

The 2001 EFL Curriculum (Culture Ministry of Education State of Israel 2001:3) affirms the National needs to establish standards in order to equip students with the knowledge of English that the modern world demands. It sets standards in the four domains of language learning: social interaction; access to information; presentation and appreciation of literature, culture and language. By the end of the twelfth grade students should be able to interact effectively in English in a variety of situations, obtain and make use of information from a variety of sources, present that information in English in an organised fashion and appreciate the literature, culture and nature of language in other societies (Culture Ministry of Education State of Israel 2001:11).
A standard, in the field of education, defines a cumulative body of knowledge and set of competencies that is the basis for quality education (Culture Ministry of Education State of Israel1998:1). In other words the standards express what all students should know and be able to do; however, they do not dictate pedagogy or how teachers should teach their students to meet the benchmarks of the standards set (Dudzik 2008:80; Orland-Barak, Kemp, Ben-Or & Levi 2003:322). A standards-based curriculum no longer measures what students know, but rather what students are able to do. The teacher becomes the developer of the curriculum because the content and materials are flexible with regard to the four domains.
The reasons for setting standards in EFL have several advantages. Firstly, it expresses clear expectations of what students should be able to do with the language. Secondly, standards enable teachers to design curricula and assessments based upon what students should know. It thus helps to make both instruction and assessment consistent (Steiner 2013:1).
Standards require a change in teaching and assessment. In a traditional curriculum the content that students learn is determined and the purpose of testing is to measure whether or not the students learned it. However, several scholars (Short 2000:1; Steiner 2013:12; Inbar 2008:385; Deutsch 2007:4;
Zohar 2010:13) would agree with the move from behavioural methods to a constructivist approach to knowledge acquisition in which assessment is no longer about testing students on accumulated facts but focuses on how they are able to apply their knowledge in real situations.
Each one of the four domains has a standard, levels of progression, criteria and benchmarks. Benchmarks are indicators of progress within each domain which are cumulative and interrelated. They describe the abilities that students need to develop in order to achieve the standards for a specific domain. They are divided into three levels and each level into three stages. Each stage is approximately one school year. The benchmarks are written as performance-based tasks. For example, “Students will be able to do…” Criteria are identified for each of the four domains (Culture Ministry of Education State of Israel 2001:5).
The domain of Presentation and Access to Information refers to formal spoken and written English. It emphasises the skill of presenting information and ideas in speech and in writing. The expectation or standard is that the students will be able to present this information in an organised and planned manner on a wide range of topics in a variety of formats. By creating a specific domain for “presentation” the 2001 curriculum committee formally expresses the importance of students developing skills in writing in the English Language. Guidelines for writing rubrics were created (Gordon, Kemp, Levi & Toperoff 2002:75) and were, for the first time in the EFL Curriculum of Israel, published in the Assessment Guideline for the English Curriculum (Gordon et al 2002:18).
At the foundation level the benchmark for the domain of access to information is that students will be able to obtain and use information from short oral and written texts through various media that deal with familiar topics. Interestingly, at the foundation level students are expected to obtain information from linguistically simple texts by applying their knowledge about vocabulary, syntax, simple discourse markers, text structure and punctuation (Culture Ministry of Education State of Israel 2001:22). Applying knowledge is one of the higher order thinking skills students are expected to master in the 2012 Curriculum (section 3.7), but as several researchers (Shen 1997:258; Ghabanchi & Moghaddam 2011:14; Mok 2010:309; Jacobs & Farrell 2001:3; Beaumont 2010:18; Liaw 2007:49; Pogrow 2004:8; Sidhu, Chan & Kaur 2010:54) argue it is simply not possible, even at a foundation level, to understand a text without applying previous knowledge to access information from that text. In other words, understanding, especially in a foreign language, requires higher order thinking.

Teaching literature according to the 2001 EFL curriculum

The standard for the Appreciation of Literature and Culture emphasises the importance of developing a sensitivity and understanding of people from different cultural backgrounds. It recognises that English literature is shared by many people from a variety of countries throughout the world who are both first and second language speakers. The Curriculum allows the teacher and the course book publishers the leeway to choose the literature that will be read and taught in the classroom. Furthermore, this standard recognises that theatre, music, film, traditions and symbols are other avenues in which students can develop sensitivity to a variety of cultures (Culture Ministry of Education State of Israel 2001:21). The study of literature as an important vehicle to learn English as a foreign language is recognised by many researchers (Sidhu et al 2010:54; Shang 2006:3; Derakhshan, Khatib &Rezaei 2011:202; Ng 2009:39; Hismanoglu 2005:57). Teaching literature as a subject is not only compatible with a focus on the development of English fluency but it can also promote higher order thinking.
From the foundation to the proficiency levels of the 2001 EFL Curriculum, there is the expectation that students will become acquainted with and relate to literary texts written in language appropriate to their age and interest. Students should become aware that their culture and language is different from other people’s language and culture (Culture Ministry of Education State of Israel 2001:23).
The emphasis is on literature being a medium to expose students’ to other cultures and the English Language; however, without acknowledging it, students are asked to compare their language and culture to others. Thus, the study of literature presupposes that Israeli students will utilise higher order thinking by analysing and comparing both the stories and the cultures from where they emanate to their own experiences. Sidhu et al (2003:55) argue that literature fosters genuine communication in the classroom and that these discussions, along with working out the multiple ambiguities of the characters and plots, develop students’ creative and critical thinking skills.

1.1 INTRODUCTION .
1.2 DEFINING HIGHER ORDER THINKING SKILLS
1.3 DEVELOPING AND ASSESSING HIGHER ORDER THINKING SKILLS IN THE SCHOOL CURRICULUM .
1.4 COMMUNICATIVE LANGUAGE TEACHING AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF HOTS
1.5 MOTIVATION FOR UNDERTAKING THE RESEARCH
1.6 FORMULATION OF THE PROBLEM
1.7 RESEARCH AIM .
1.8 RESEARCH DESIGN
1.9 RESEARCH METHODS
1.10 MEASURES FOR TRUSTWORTHINESS (VALIDITY AND RELIABILITY)
CHAPTER 2  HIGHER ORDER THINKING SKILL AND DISPOSITIONS 
2.1 INTRODUCTION
2.2 HIGHER ORDER THINKING: HISTORICAL, PHILOSOPHICAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL, PEDAGOGICAL AND SOCIETAL ORIGINS
2.3 LOWER ORDER THINKING OR SURFACE STRUCTURE UNDERSTANDING
2.4 DEFINING HIGHER ORDER THINKING OR DEEP STRUCTURE UNDERSTANDING
2.5 TRAITS AND DISPOSITIONS OF THE HIGHER ORDER THINKER .
2.7 ASPECTS WHICH INFLUENCE HIGHER ORDER THINKING
2.8 THEORETICAL APPROACHES AND METHODS FOR EMBEDDING HIGHER ORDER THINKING INTO THE SCHOOL CURRICULUM
2.9 TOOLS TO MEASURE AND ASSESS HOTS AND DISPOSITIONS
2.10 EXAMPLES OF OUTCOMES OF FOUR HIGHER ORDER TEACHING PROGRAMMES
2.11 SUMMARY
CHAPTER 3 ENGLISH FOREIGN LANGUAGE TEACHING AND HIGHER ORDER THINKING PROGRAMMES IN ISRAELI SCHOOLS 
3.1 INTRODUCTION
3.2 BACKGROUND TO THE REVISIONS OF ENGLISH FOREIGN LANGUAGE CURRICULA IN ISRAEL
3.3 THE 1977 AND 1988 EFL CURRICULA .
3.5 HIGHER ORDER THINKING PROGRAMMES AND STUDIES IN ISRAEL
3.7 TEACHERS’ PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN HIGHER ORDER THINKING SKILLS
CHAPTER 4 RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS .
4.1 INTRODUCTION
4.2 RATIONALE FOR EMPIRICAL RESEARCH
4.3 RESEARCH DESIGN
4.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
4.5 SAMPLING AND SELECTION OF PARTICIPANTS
4.6 DATA COLLECTION METHODS AND PROCESS
4.7 DATA ANALYSIS
4.8 DATA INTERPRETATION
4.9 QUALITY MEASURES
4.10 ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS
4.11 SUMMARY
CHAPTER 5 DATA ANALYSIS
CHAPTER 6 DATA INTERPRETATION

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ASSESSMENT OF HIGHER ORDER THINKING SKILLS IN A LITERATURE BASED CURRICULUM: CHALLENGES AND GUIDELINES

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