Knowledge vs Higher-Order Thinking

It is important to distinguish the difference between "knowledge" and the "higher-order thinking skills needed to apply knowledge". Core "higher-order" thinking skills developed and exercised by findingQED scenarios include the abilities to:

  • Observe with purpose
  • Identify context, elements, & issues
  • Clarify end-objectives and the plans to get there
  • Uncover relevant unknowns and the questions needing resolution
  • Analyze, interpret and evaluate information
    • Decode, clarify, define, categorize, characterize
    • Bring order, organize in a useful way
    • Find meaning
    • Uncover assumptions & biases
    • Judge ambiguities & assess uncertainties
  • Connect disparate facts into a greater whole
  • Develop and apply conceptual models
    • Recognize patterns & establish relationships
    • Apply models to create insights
  • Derive inferences
  • Create solution perspectives 
  • Support perspectives with well-reasoned fact-based arguments

When applying these core higher-order thinking skills effectively, one is "Thinking Critically". These higher-order skills can be widely applied across problems or issues that arise in any knowledge domain. That is, Critical Thinking and Creative Problem Solving are domain independent; they are effective in any context where thinking is required.  

Common-Knowledge vs. Domain-Specific Knowledge

Depending upon the intent and focus of the scenario creator, each scenario can develop and exercise these higher-order thinking skills either within a "common-knowledge" context or within a "domain-specific knowledge" context. In both situations, the learner applies their higher-order thinking skills while employing that knowledge which is required by the scenario. For example, the thinking skill of "categorizing" is just as important and useful for distinguishing red marbles from blue marbles, as it is for distinguishing between two different species of butterflies, but each of these instances of "categorizing" requires different types and levels of knowledge.  Categorizing marbles based upon color requires knowing "marble" and "color", which are "common-knowledge" concepts. However, categorizing butterflies by their species requires a good deal of biological domain knowledge that would not be considered "common-knowledge".  In this latter case, the scenario creator either assumes the learner knows the basis for butterfly species differentiation, or wishes to assess the state of the learner's knowledge. The scenario requiring the categorization of butterfly species would not be an effective way to exercise and assess the "categorizing" thinking skill if the learner had either (a) no knowledge of the domain subject matter or (b) was unable to comprehend a butterfly species background primer that may be included in the scenario. Regardless of whether the scenario incorporated marbles or butterflies, "categorizing" is the thinking skill to be developed and exercised. The important distinction about the type of "knowledge" incorporated in the scenario is that the scenario creator needs to be aware of the scenario's intended audience and to incorporate only those "knowledge requirements" that are either within the zone of development of the learner, or just beyond the zone and supplemented with an "in-scenario" background primer.

Assessing Knowledge Comprehension and Application

This highlights another powerful aspect of the platform; the ability to develop, exercise and assess the proper application of knowledge (in addition to developing, exercising, and assessing higher-order thinking skills). Since scenario creators have the ability to tag all elements that can be used by learners within a scenario, the platform can track and measure the correct application of any type of knowledge required by the scenario. As such, learners and instructors alike can assess the learner's knowledge comprehension and application when they engage with findingQED scenarios.

Critical Thinking / Problem Solving / Strategic Thinking / Scientific Thinking 

Critical Thinking and Creative Problem Solving are higher-order thinking processes that employ higher-order thinking skills. Both Critical Thinking and Creative Problem Solving are thought processes that are applicable to any situational context and knowledge domain. Simply the robust use of higher-order thinking skills qualifies as Critical Thinking. The robust use of higher-order thinking skills to solve problems qualifies as Creative Problem Solving.

However, the higher-order thinking processes of Strategic Thinking and Scientific Thinking are processes that occur within certain situational contexts. That is, they are thought processes that employ higher-order thinking skills within particular contexts. Because these thought processes are comprised of higher-order thinking skills, the findingQED platform and scenarios are a powerful and effective means for developing, exercising and assessing these higher-order thinking processes.

Strategic Thinking. Strategy, for a given context, is a purposeful configuration of all available ways and means to achieve an objective. Strategic Thinking is the thought process to conceive a strategy. Strategic Thinking requires the robust use of higher-order thinking skills, with the end-goal of identifying and configuring those ways and means that are available to successfully achieve the end-objective. A strategy could be for businesses, the military, health care institutions, governmental institutions, NGOs, educational institutions, or any other types of entities that have objectives and different possible ways and means for achieving them. The resulting strategy could be very broad in scope, or narrow. The particular context will help define the breadth of scope and the various potential ways and means.  Developing strategy is essentially a particular type of problem scenario, requiring the creative and insightful use of higher-order thinking skills. Scenarios on the findingQED platform are ideal for developing, exercising and assessing Strategic Thinking.

Scientific Thinking. Scientific thinking is the process of discovering and validating explanations of phenomena. This thought process is reliant on higher-order thinking skills, such as: observing carefully, analyzing and evaluating information, revealing relevant unknowns, asking questions, making connections, developing plans for experiments, applying models, deriving inferences, specifying potential explanatory perspectives, and constructing well-reasoned fact-based arguments supporting those perspectives. Discovering and validating explanations of phenomena is essentially a particular type of problem scenario, requiring the creative and insightful use of higher-order thinking skills. Scenarios on the findingQED platform are ideal for developing, exercising and assessing Scientific Thinking.

From the from the "Deeper Dive" menu just below, explore more about how findingQED develops, exercises, and assesses higher-order thinking skills. Feel free to contact us at to learn more about how how we can assist you and the learners in your organization.


A Deeper Dive into the Power of findingQED



How it Works


What Scenarios?


Knowledge vs Thinking


Feedback & Assessment