The Challenges of Implementing Higher Order Thinking Skills in Online Distance Learning

Soo Kum Yoke, Khairon Nisa Shafeei, Hazwati Hashim


While there has been a lot of emphasis on nurturing students to become critical thinkers, it has been found that overall, Malaysian students are still lacking in this skill. The current pandemic situation has posed a problem in promoting HOTS especially when teachers and students have to adapt to online learning. This paper thus, explores the challenges faced in implementing higher order thinking skills for online distance learning. This conceptual paper focused on studies related to challenges of online learning during the pandemic, the development of HOTS and the implementation of HOTS in Malaysia. Based on the various studies related to the issue, conclusions were drawn that there is a need for suitable materials to develop thinking skills and there is also a need for change in the exam-oriented culture affecting teaching and learning. Future studies are recommended on the perceptions of teachers and students towards the implementation of HOTS for ODL.


HOTS; online learning; pandemic; thinking skills; ODL

Full Text:



Abu Hassan, F.N., Mohamad, Q.A., Ajmain, T. & Yusof Azuddin, S.K. (2020). The Implementation of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) in Malaysia Secondary School: Post PISA 2009. International Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation. Vol.24 (5).

Ahmad, S.A., Soo, K.Y., Mohamed Yunos, R. & Ahmad, J. (2019). Exploring Lecturers’ Readiness for 21st Century Education in Malaysian Higher Learning Institutions. European Journal of Teaching and Education, 1(1) pp.15-29.

Ahmad, M. K., Adnan, A. H. M., Azamri, N. M., Idris, K. B., Norafand, N. N., & Ishak, N. I. (2019). Education 4.0 technologies for English language teaching and learning in the Malaysian context. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the International Invention, Innovative & Creative (InIIC) Conference, Series.

Daud, M.Y., Rahman, M.J.A., & Ensimau, N.K. (2019). Higher Order Thinking Skills and Collaborative Learning Approach among Secondary School Students. International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, 9(11), 1520-1528.

Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) (22 June, 2015). PRESS RELEASE REPORT OF HOUSEHOLD INCOME AND BASIC AMENITIES SURVEY 2014 retrieved from

Fuller, M.T., “ISTE Standards for Students, Digital Learners, and Online Learningâ€, pp. 284–290, 2020.

Ganapathy, M., Singh, M.K.M., Kaur, S., & Liew, W.K. (2017). Promoting higher order thinking skills via teaching practices. 3L:Language, Linguistics and Literature, 23(1).

Hasan, N., & Bao, Y. (2020). Impact of ―e-Learning crack-up‖ perception on psychological distress among college students during COVID-19 pandemic: A mediating role of ―fear of academic year loss‖. Children and Youth Services Review, 118, 105355.

Hung, C.M., Hwang, G.J. & Huang, I. (2012). A Project-based Digital Storytelling Approach for Improving Students' Learning Motivation, Problem-Solving Competence and Learning Achievement. Educational Technology & Society, 15 (4), 368–379.

Kirmizi, Ö. (2015). The Influence of Learner Readiness on Student Satisfaction and Academic Achievement in an Online Program at Higher Education. Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 14(1), 133-142. Retrieved from 60578/.

Johansson, E. (2020). The assessment of higher-order thinking skills in online EFL courses: A quantitative content analysis. Nordic Journal of English Studies, 19(1), 224-256.

Malaysian Education Blueprint (MEB) 2013-2025. Retrieve 3 March 2016 from Ministry of Education official website y/en/pelan-pembangunan-pendidikan-Malaysia-2013-2025

Malay Mail (May 30, 2020). Reality for Malaysia’s University Students: Online Learning Challenges, Stress, Workload: Possible Solutions for Fully Digital Future Until December.

Matarirano, O., Gqokonqana, O., & Yeboah, A. (2021). Students’ Responses to Multi-Modal Emergency Remote Learning During COVID-19 in a South African Higher Institution. Research in Social Sciences and Technology, 6(2), 199-218.

Ministry of Education (2013). Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013 - 2025 (Preschool to Post-Secondary Education). In the Ministry of Education Malaysia.,2013.

Mustapha, S., Rosli, M.S. & Saleh, N.S. (2019). Online learning environment to enhance HOTS in mathematics using Polya’s problem solving model. Journal of Physics: Conference Series. Doi:10.1088/1742-6596/1366/012081

NST (March 5, 2020). SPM 2019 results: Decline in quality of HOTS answers.

NST (July 9, 2021). Online or Offline, Teachers are determined to make PDPR Interesting.

OECD. PISA 2009 Results: What Students Know and Can Do - Student Performance in Reading, Mathematics, and Science. https://,2010.

Othman, J., Kadar, R., Umar, N., & Ahmad, N. (2020). Covid-19 Pandemic Effects In Teaching And Learning Methods During Movement Control Order (MCO). Volume 1, September 2020, 1.

Pratama, G.S., & Retnawati, H. (2018). Urgency Of Higher Order thinking skills (HOTS) content analysis in mathematics textbook. In Journal of Physics: Conference Series (Vol. 1097, no.1,p.012147). IOP Publishing.

Poppy Yaniawati, R. (2013). E-Learning to Improve Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) of Students. Journal of Education and Learning. Vol.7 (2) pp. 109-120.

Schleicher, A. (2020) The Impact of Covid-19 on Education: Insights from Education at a glance 2020. OECD Publication. Retrieved from

Schumaker, E. (22 September 2020). Timeline: How coronavirus got started – ABC News. Retrieved from ealth/timeline-coronavirus-started/story?id=69435165

Setyarini, S., & LIng, M.A. (2019). Promoting higher order thinking skills in storytelling for teaching English to young adolescents in the 21st century. Kne Social Sciences, 155-164.

Soo, Kum Yoke and Hasan, Nor Haniza and Syed Ahmad, Tuan Sarifah Aini and Ismail, Noriah and Zainon, Saunah and Abdullah, Mohammad (2021) Exploring the design of online content for e-learning. In: Proceedings of International Conference on Language, Education, Humanities & Social Sciences (i-LEdHS2021), 22 Februari 2021, UiTM Cawangan Kelantan.

Soo, K.Y., Hasan, N.H., Jangga, R. & Mat Kamal, S.N. (2015). Innovating with HOTS for the ESL Reading Class. English Language Teaching 8(8).

Sulaiman, T., Muniyan, V., Madhvan, D., Hasan, R. & Abdul Rahim, S.S. (2017). Implementation of Higher Order Thinking Skills in Teaching of Science: A Case Study in Malaysia. International Research Journal of Education and Sciences Vol.1(1).

The Star (May 31,2020). Turned off by online classes.

The Star (March 3, 2019). HOTS must start with teachers.

The Star (April 8, 2018). Key to higher-order thinking skills.

Wan Yusoff, W.M. & Embong, R. (2017). Teachers Challenges in Teaching and Learning for Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) in Primary School. International Journal of Asian Social Science Vol. 7(7), pp. 534-545.

Wang, A. Y. (2012). Exploring the relationship of creative thinking to reading and writing. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 7(1), 38–47. Retrieved from

Zakaria, E. & Iksan, Z. (2009). Promoting cooperative learning in science and mathematics education: A Malaysian perspective. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education, 3(1), 35–39. Retrieved from /eudoxus/article/viewArticle/448

Zainol, S.S., Mohd Hussin, S., Othman, M.S. & Mohd Zahari, N.H. (2021). Challenges of Online Learning Faced by the B40 Income Parents in Malaysia. International Journal of Educational and Pedagogy. Vol. 3 (2) pp. 45-52.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2022 Soo Kum Yoke, Khairon Nisa Shafeei, Hazwati Hashim

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

Proceedings of International Conference on English Language Teaching (INACELT) is published by Institut Agama Islam Negeri (IAIN) Palangka Raya Indonesia in collaboration with Journal on English as a Foreign Language.

Editor and Administration Address: 

Department of English Language Education, Faculty of Teacher Training and Education, Institut Agama Islam Negeri (IAIN) Palangka Raya Indonesia, Jalan G. Obos Komplek Islamic Centre Palangka Raya, Kalimantan Tengah, Indonesia, Postal Code 73111, Email:, Website:

Flag aCounter