Probing students' higher order thinking skills using pictorial style questions

Habiddin Habiddin, Elizabeth Mary Page


The ability to use Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) plays a substantial role in determining students’ success in future studies. Therefore, it is important that students’ ability in this skill is continually refined by training and assessment. This paper explores the responses of first-year university students’ to a range of pictorial-style questions in chemical kinetics that require the use of HOTS. 80 food science and 57 chemistry students (137 in total) at The University of Reading (UoR) participated in the study. The results showed that many students demonstrated limited ability to answer HOTS questions. The implications for the teaching of chemical kinetics, particularly at the university level, are discussed.


pictorial-style questions, higher-order thinking skills (hots), chemical kinetics

Full Text:



V. F. Savec, K. S. W. Grm, Development of chemistry pre-service teachers during practical pedagogical training: self-evaluation vs. evaluation by school mentors, Acta Chim. Slov., vol. 64, no. 1, pp. 63–72 (2017).

A. L. Chandrasegaran, D. F. Treagust, B. G. Waldrip, A. Chandrasegaran, Students’ dilemmas in reaction stoichiometry problem solving: deducing the limiting reagent in chemical reactions, Chem. Educ. Res. Pract., vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 14–23 (2009). DOI: 10.1039/B901456J

K. S. Taber, Building The Structural Concepts of Chemistry: Some Considerations From Educational Research, Chem. Educ. Res. Pract., vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 123–158 (2001). DOI: 10.1039/B1RP90014E

I. Kermen, M. Méheut, Different models used to interpret chemical changes: analysis of a curriculum and its impact on French students’ reasoning, Chem. Educ. Res. Pract., vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 24–34 (2009).

DOI: 10.1039/B901457H.

A. L. Chandrasegaran, D. F. Treagust, M. Mocerino, An evaluation of a teaching intervention to promote students’ ability to use multiple levels of representation when describing and explaining chemical reactions, Res. Sci. Educ., vol. 38, no. 2, pp. 237–248 (2008).

DOI: 10.1007/s11165-007-9046-9

J. E. Upahi, U. Ramnarain, Representations of chemical phenomena in secondary school chemistry textbooks, Chem. Educ. Res. Pract., vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 146–159, 2019. DOI: 10.1039/C8RP00191J

S. M. Danczak, C. D. Thompson, T. L. Overton, Development and validation of an instrument to measure undergraduate chemistry students’ critical thinking skills, Chem. Educ. Res. Pract., vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 62–78, 2020. DOI: 10.1039/c8rp00130h

A. Phakiti, Assessing higher-order thinking skills in language learning, The TESOL Encyclopedia of English Language Teaching, pp. 1–7, 18-Jan-2018.


A. Zohar, Elements of teachers’ pedagogical knowledge regarding instruction of higher order thinking, J. Sci. Teacher Educ., vol. 15, no. 4, pp. 293–312 (2004).

DOI: 10.1023/B:JSTE.0000048332.39591.e3.

L. B. Resnick, Education and Learning to Think. Washington, National Academy Press, 1987.

A. Zohar, Y. J. Dori, Higher order thinking skills and low-achieving students: are they mutually exclusive?, J. Learn. Sci., vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 145–181 (2003).

DOI: 10.1207/S15327809JLS1202_1

D. McLoughlin, J. Mynard, An analysis of higher order thinking in online discussions, Innov. Educ. Teach. Int., vol. 46, no. 2, pp. 147–160 (2009).

V. Paideya, R. Sookrajh, Exploring the use of supple-mental instruction: Supporting deep understanding and higher-order thinking in chemistry, South African J. High. Educ., vol. 24, no. 5, pp. 758–770 (2010).

A. Lewis, D. Smith, Defining Higher Order Thinking, Theory Pract., vol. 32, no. 3, pp. 131–137 (1993).

S. Toledo, J. M. Dubas, Encouraging higher-order thinking in general chemistry by scaffolding student learning using marzano’s taxonomy, J. Chem. Educ., vol. 93, no. 1, pp. 64–69 (2016).

DOI: 10.1021/acs.jchemed.5b00184.

I. B. A. Ghani, N. H. Ibrahim, N. A. Yahaya, J. Surif, Enhancing students’ HOTS in laboratory educational activity by using concept map as an alternative assessment tool, Chem. Educ. Res. Pract., vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 849–874 (2017). DOI: 10.1039/C7RP00120G.

S. M. Brookhart, How to Assess Higher Order Thinking Skills in Your Classroom. Virginia, Alexandria, 2010.

G. Tsaparlis, U. Zoller, M. Fastow, A. Lubezky, Students’ self-assessment in chemistry examinations requiring higher- and lower-order cognitive skills, J. Chem. Educ., vol. 76, no. 1, p. 112 (1999).

DOI: 10.1021/ed076p112.

H. Herunata, R. R. Amayliadevi, H. R. Widarti, Analisis Keterampilan Berpikir Kritis Pada Indikator Member¬ikan Penjelasan Lebih Lanjut Materi Hidrokarbon, J-PEK (Jurnal Pembelajaran Kim.), vol. 5, no. 5, pp. 47–58 (2020).

G. Nicoll, J. S. Francisco, An investigation of the factors influencing student performance in physical chemistry, J. Chem. Educ., vol. 78, no. 1, pp. 99–102 (2001).

DOI: 10.1021/ed078p99

N. Entwistle, Teaching for Understanding at University, Deep Approaches and Distinctive Ways of Thinking. London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

M. B. Nakhleh, Are our students conceptual thinkers or algorithmic problem solvers – identifying conceptual students in general-chemistry, J. Chem. Educ., vol. 70, no. 1, pp. 52–55 (1993).

S. Bailin, Critical Thinking and Science Education, Sci. Educ., vol. 11, no. 4, pp. 361–375 (2002).

DOI: 10.1023/A:1016042608621

U. Zoller, D. Pushkin, Matching Higher-Order Cognitive Skills (HOCS) promotion goals with problem-based laboratory practice in a freshman organic chemistry course, Chem. Educ. Res. Pract., vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 153–171 (2007).

N. S. Stephenson, N. P. Sadler-McKnight, Developing critical thinking skills using the Science Writing Heuristic in the chemistry laboratory, Chem. Educ. Res. Pract., vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 72–79 (2016).

DOI: 10.1039/C5RP00102A.

H. Habiddin, E. M. Page, Measuring Indonesian chemistry students’ Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) in solving chemical kinetics questions, in Empowering Science and Mathematics for Global Competitiveness; Proceedings of the Science and Mathematics International Conference (SMIC 2018), 2018, pp. 215–222.

C.-L. Chai, Enhancing visual literacy of students through photo elicitation, J. Vis. Lit., vol. 38, no. 1–2, pp. 120–129 (2019).

DOI: 10.1080/1051144X.2019.1567071

H. Habiddin, E. M. Page, Examining students’ ability to solve algorithmic and pictorial style questions in chemical kinetics, Int. J. Sci. Math. Educ., 2020.

DOI: 10.1007/s10763-019-10037-w.

K. W. Whitten, R. E. Davis, L. Peck, G. G. Stanley, Chemistry, 10th ed. Belmont, Brooks/Cole, 2014.

G. Tsaparlis, Higher and lower-order thinking skills: the case of chemistry revisited, J. Balt. Sci. Educ., vol. 19, no. 3, pp. 467–483, 2020.


E. O. Dincer, A. Osmanoglu, No title dealing with metric unit conversion: an examination on prospective science teachers’ knowledge of and difficulties with conversion, Sci. Educ. Int., vol. 29, no. 3, pp. 174–182, 2019.

K. Bain, M. H. Towns, A review of research on the teaching and learning of chemical kinetics, Chem. Educ. Res. Pract., vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 246–262, 2016.

K. Bain, J.-M. G. Rodriguez, M. H. Towns, Zero-order chemical kinetics as a context to investigate student understanding of catalysts and half-life, J. Chem. Educ., vol. 95, no. 5, pp. 716–725 (2018).

DOI: 10.1021/acs.jchemed.7b00974

J. K. Gilbert, On the nature of ‘context’ in chemical education, Int. J. Sci. Educ., vol. 28, no. 9, pp. 957–976 (2006). DOI: 10.1080/09500690600702470

J. Kotz, P. Treichel, J. Townsend, Chemistry and Chemical Reactivity. Cengage Learning, 2011.

R. Chang, K. A. Goldsby, Chemistry, Twelfth edition. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2016.

J. E. McMurry, R. C. Fay, J. K. Robinson, Chemistry, 7th ed. United States of America, Pearson, 2016.

T. E. Brown, B. E. Bursten, C. Murphy, P. Woodward, M. E. Stoltzfus, H. E. LeMay, Chemistry: The Central Science (13th edition). Pearson Education, Inc., United States of America, 2014.

M. Hugerat, N. Kortam, Improving higher order thinking skills among freshmen by teaching science through inquiry, Eurasia J. Math. Sci. Technol. Educ., vol. 10, no. 5, pp. 447–454 (2014).

DOI: 10.12973/eurasia.2014.1107a

J. L. Jensen, M. A. McDaniel, S. M. Woodard, T. A. Kummer, Teaching to the test…or testing to teach: exams requiring higher order thinking skills encourage greater conceptual understanding, Educ. Psychol. Rev., vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 307–329 (2014).

DOI: 10.1007/s10648-013-9248-9

K. Kim, P. Sharma, S. M. Land, K. P. Furlong, Effects of active learning on enhancing student critical thinking in an undergraduate general science course, Innov. High. Educ., vol. 38, no. 3, pp. 223–235 (2013).

DOI: 10.1007/s10755-012-9236-x.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2020 Habiddin Habiddin, Elizabeth Mary Page

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.