Instructional design/Generate PBL Problems/2.2 Require higher level thinking activities

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Require Higher Level Thinking Activities[edit]

Bloom’s Taxonomy and critical thinking skills[edit]


In Bloom’s Taxonomy, higher level thinking activities are on the top of the pyramid, involving cognitive activities of analysis, synthesis and evaluation. To help students develop critical thinking skills, you need to make sure that the PBL problems you generate require students to be involved in the above cognitive activities. Here we use the river pollution questions from the previous part again. The question how to effectively clean up the RiverX in X? is suitable to be a PBL problem, because students have to analyze, synthesize and evaluate the current situation, available information, others’ opinions, and all possible solutions to eventually decide a best solution. Whereas question which is the most polluted river in X? is not eligible to be a PBL problem because it only requires lower level thinking activities-- the memorization of the knowledge/fact. Generally speaking most ill-structured problems require students to be involved in higher level thinking activities and enhance their critical thinking skills. In the contrary, well-structured questions just require lower level cognitive actives, and cannot help students develop critical thinking skills.

Tips of generating PBL problems which require higher level thinking activities Ask students to do one or a few of the following things while they are solving the problem:

  • analysis:analyze, appraise, compare, contrast, criticize, differentiate, discriminate, distinguish, examine, experiment, question, test
  • Synthesis: arrange assemble, collect, combine, compose, construct, creat, design, plan, propose
  • evaluation:appraise, argue, assess, defend, evaluate, judge, measure, select, support, value


1 Which one of the following activates does not help to build critical thinking skills?


2 Which one of the following questions from an undergrad level architecture class requires higher level thinking activities?

Which architect designed the east wing of the National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.)?
Combine two architecture styles and design a square fountain for your hometown.
Use your own term to define "Bauhaus".
Illustrate the structure of a typical Gothic architecture in pencil sketches.

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