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2.3: Applying higher and lower levels of thinking in writing

  • Page ID
    225897
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    Now that we have looked at the hierarchy of low level to high level thinking, you as an academic writer want to make sure that your writing includes and is lead by the higher-level skills of analyzing, evaluating and creating and does not get stuck solely in the lower levels of remembering (defining and repeating) and understanding (reporting and summarizing).

    In academic writing, you want a balance of higher and lower order thinking but be sure to LEAD the paper with higher order thinking so reporting and summarizing does not take over your paper.

    Example

    Here is a paragraph from the sample essay on Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. The higher levels of thinking are in bold and the lower levels of thinking are not:

    After secretly learning to read and write on his own, Douglass discovered that freeing his mind led to anguished torment as he was unable to free himself from the entrenched institutions of slavery, but change at least was set in motion. (Higher levels of thinking)

    Initially, being awakened to the stark realities of his condition served to plunge Douglass into despair: “As I read and contemplated the subject, behold! that very discontentment which Master Hugh had predicted would follow my learning to read had already come, to torment and sting my soul to unutterable anguish” (84). Once Douglass’s eyes were opened, he invariably suffered: “… I would at times feel that learning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing. It had given me a view of my wretched condition, without the remedy. It opened my eyes to the horrible pit, but to no ladder upon which to get out. In moments of agony, I envied my fellow-slaves for their stupidity” (84). (lower levels of thinking)

    So is ignorance bliss? The answer for us to live in a fair and decent world has to be no, never. To be ignorant allows others not only to make choices for you but to limit your choices without you even realizing it. Not knowing the factors and people who shape your life, enables those in power to act in their own self-interest and have no accountability when doing so. It also makes people unable to recognize when they are victimized by unjust situations, and if you cannot see the problem, then you can never demand change. (Higher levels of thinking)

    After Douglass understood the evils of slavery, he suffered initially and even entertained thoughts of suicide, but later he escaped to the north and became an influential leader in the abolitionist movement and spent the remainder of his life fighting for the equality and rights of blacks as well as women. (lower levels of thinking)

    Practice: Identifying Higher and Lower Levels of Thinking

    Using this paragraph from an essay written on The Autobiography of Malcolm X, underline the parts that demonstrate higher order thinking:

    The diligence and persistent effort Malcolm X showed in learning to read has become disappointingly rare. Malcolm X in his autobiography tells us that when he went to prison, he could hardly read or write. He decided the way to improve would be to copy the entire dictionary word for word by hand. He said to copy just the first page alone took an entire day. The next day he reviewed all the words he did not remember, so he slowly built his vocabulary, and at the same time he started educating himself about the larger world as he describes the dictionary as a “miniature encyclopedia” (2). Malcolm X carried on until he copied the entire dictionary cover to cover. However, the time he dedicated to his writing was not confined to this amazing achievement alone: “Between what I wrote in my tablet, and writing letters, during the rest of my time in prison I would guess I wrote a million words” (2). The dedication to his own education and how he strengthened his own intelligence and abilities through sheer force of will is impressive but unfortunately is the exception rather than the norm. In Generation Me, the author Jean Twenge addresses the present generation of people who have been taught to put themselves first and expect instant results without working hard to achieve them. Twenge states: “They are less likely to work hard today to get a reward tomorrow—an especially important skill these days, when many good jobs require graduate degrees” (157). If people are less willing today to work hard, then we are going to have increasingly uneducated, lazy people who spend more time complaining than achieving. With a lack of education, we won’t be strong critical thinkers so will be easily taken in by people who want to exploit us for profit like advertisers and corporate America. Instead of defining who we are, people who want to sell us things will continue to shape our wants, desires and perceptions of ourselves.

    Answer

    Using this paragraph from an essay on Malcolm X’s autobiography, underline the parts that demonstrate higher order thinking:

    The diligence and persistent effort Malcolm X showed in learning to read has become disappointingly rare. Malcolm X in his autobiography tells us that when he went to prison, he could hardly read or write. He decided the way to improve would be to copy the entire dictionary word for word by hand. He said to copy just the first page alone took an entire day. The next day he reviewed all the words he did not remember, so he slowly built his vocabulary, and at the same time he started educating himself about the larger world as he describes the dictionary as a “miniature encyclopedia” (2). Malcolm X carried on until he copied the entire dictionary cover to cover. However, the time he dedicated to his writing was not confined to this amazing achievement alone: “Between what I wrote in my tablet, and writing letters, during the rest of my time in prison I would guess I wrote a million words” (2). The dedication to his own education and how he strengthened his own intelligence and abilities through sheer force of will is impressive but unfortunately is the exception rather than the norm. In Generation Me, the author Jean Twenge addresses the present generation of people who have been taught to put themselves first and expect instant results without working hard to achieve them. Twenge states: “They are less likely to work hard today to get a reward tomorrow—an especially important skill these days, when many good jobs require graduate degrees” (157). If people are less willing today to work hard, then we are going to have increasingly uneducated, lazy people who spend more time complaining than achieving. With a lack of education, we won’t be strong critical thinkers so will be easily taken in by people who want to exploit us for profit like advertisers and corporate America. Instead of defining who we are, people who want to sell us things will continue to shape our wants, desires and perceptions of ourselves.


    This page titled 2.3: Applying higher and lower levels of thinking in writing is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Skyline English Department.

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