American Journal of Educational Research
ISSN (Print): 2327-6126 ISSN (Online): 2327-6150 Website: Editor-in-chief: Ratko Pavlović
Open Access
Journal Browser
American Journal of Educational Research. 2021, 9(10), 612-620
DOI: 10.12691/education-9-10-2
Open AccessArticle

The Role of Assessment Practices in Fostering Higher Order Thinking Skills: The Case of Uganda Certificate of Education

John Mary Vianney Mitana1, , Mauro Giacomazzi1 and Mónica Fontana Abad1

1Department of Education, Luigi Giussani Institute of Higher Education, Kampala, Uganda

Pub. Date: October 09, 2021

Cite this paper:
John Mary Vianney Mitana, Mauro Giacomazzi and Mónica Fontana Abad. The Role of Assessment Practices in Fostering Higher Order Thinking Skills: The Case of Uganda Certificate of Education. American Journal of Educational Research. 2021; 9(10):612-620. doi: 10.12691/education-9-10-2


The need to nurture learners’ thinking skills both in Uganda and internationally has become a focus of education. This is apparent as studies consistently show the significance of thinking skills for learners both in school and later in life. The intent of this paper is to explore the role of assessment practices and teaching methods in Uganda in fostering higher order thinking skills. The study used a descriptive analytical research method to analyse the underlying mechanisms of national examinations and how they relate to teaching and learning. Data sources and analysis included official documents from the Ministry of Education and Sports, and Government of Uganda as well as academic literature about assessment and examinations. Analysing the current assessment and examinations at the Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) level, we argue that these assessments and examinations can be one of the ways to compel teachers refocus their pedagogical practices towards learners’ thinking skills. We, however, also acknowledge that this approach can only be successful if teachers possess the technical capabilities to nurture these skills. We also highlight the significant role of a school environment that fosters a culture which encourages and rewards learners for asking questions, challenging colleagues and teachers’ points of view without fear of being punished or reprimanded for challenging authority.

assessment student evaluation examinations secondary schools higher order thinking skills Uganda

Creative CommonsThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit


[1]  Lewis, A., & Smith, D. (1993). Defining higher order thinking. Theory Into Practice: Teaching for Higher Order Thinking, 32(3), 131-137.
[2]  Mara, P. (2007). Understanding Man as a Subject and a Person: A Wojtylan Personalistic Interpretation of the Human Being. Kritike, 1(1), 87-95.
[3]  Ozmon, H., & Craver, S. (1981). Philosophical foundations of Education (2nd Ed). Columbus : Merrill Publishing Co.
[4]  Aristotle. (2011). Nicomachean Ethics. (R. C. Bartlett, & S. D. Collins, Trans.) Chicago: University of Chicago
[5]  Uwezo. (2016). Are Our Children Learning? Uwezo Uganda 6th Learning Assessment Report. Kampala: Twaweza East Africa.
[6]  Odongo, D. N. (2018). Implications for soft-skills for National Examinations in Uganda. 62nd Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) Conference. Mexico City: CIES.
[7]  Gay, L. R. (1992). Education Research Compentencies for analysis and application. London : Chalers E. Milton Keynes Philadelphia Company
[8]  Sumner, W. G. (1907). Falkways. A study of the socialogical importance of usages, manners, customs, mores and morals. Boston : Ginn and Company
[9]  Moseley, D., Baumfield, V., Elliot, J., Gregson, M., Higgins, S., Miller, J., & Newton, D. (2005). Frames of thinking in face-to-face and computer supported group learning. Interpersonal Computing Technology, 3(2), 56-77.
[10]  Dewey, J. (1910). How we think. Boston: D.C Heath & Co. Publishers.
[11]  Davies, M., & Barnett, R. (2015). The Palgrave handbook of critical thinking in higher education. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
[12]  Resnick, L. B., & Klopfer, L. E. (1989). Towards the thinking curriculum: Current cognitive research. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
[13]  Lipman, M. (2003). Thinking in Education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
[14]  National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC). (2019). Lower Secondary Curriculum: Curriculum Framework. Kampala: National Curriculum Development Centre.
[15]  Kirtwood, M. (2000). Infusing higher order thnking and learning to learn into content instruction: A case of secondary computing studies in Scotland. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 32(4), 509-535.
[16]  Swartz, R., & McGuinness, C. (2014). Developing and assessing thinking skills: The International Baccalaureate Project. The International Baccalaureate Organisation
[17]  Swartz, R., & Parks, S. (1994). Infusing the teaching of critical and creative thinking into content instruction. Pacific Grove, CA: Critical Thinking Press & Software.
[18]  Galnen, K. J. (1988). Critical thinking: Theory, research, possibilities. ASHE-ERIC.
[19]  Baron, J. (1993). Why teach thinking? An Essay. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 42(3), 191-237.
[20]  Resnick, L. B., & Klopfer, L. E. (1989). Towards the thinking curriculum: Current cognitive research. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
[21]  Newman, F. M. (1990). Higher order thinking in teaching Social Studies: A rationale for the assessment of classroom thoughfulness. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 22, 41-56.
[22]  Nickerson, R. S. (1987). Why teach thinking? In J. Baron, & R. Sternberg, Teaching Thinking Skills: Theory and Practice (pp. 27-37). New York,: Freeman and Company.
[23]  The Government White Paper. (1992). Policy Review Report: Education for National Integration and Development. Republic of Uganda . Kampala: Uganda Publications Corporation.
[24]  Fisher, A., & Scriven, M. (1997). Critical thinking: Its definition and assessment. Edgepress and Centre for Research in Critical Thinking. University of East Anglia.
[25]  National Planning Authority. (2007). Uganda Vision 2040: Accelerating Uganda's sustainable development to prosperity. Kampala: National Planning Authority, Ministry of Finance, Planing and Economic Development.
[26]  National Planning Authority. (2010). National Development Plan 2010/11-2014-15. Kampala: National Planning Authority, Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.
[27]  Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES). (2004). Education sector strategic plan 2004-2015. Kampala: Education Planning Department, Ministry of Education and Sports.
[28]  Report of Education Policy Commission (1989). The Republic of Uganda, Kampala, Uganda
[29]  National Assessment of Progress in Education (NAPE). (2015). The Achievement of Primary School Pupils in Uganda in Numeracy, and Literacy in English. Kampala: Uganda National Examinations (UNEB).
[30]  Allen R, Elks, P., Outthred, R., & Varly, P. (2016). Uganda's Assessment System: A Roadmap for Enhancing Assessment in Education. Kampala, Uganda: Unpublished Report, Uganda National Examinations Board.
[31]  Kanjee, A., & Acana, S. (2013). Developing the Enabling Context for Student Assessment in Uganda. Washington DC: World Bank.
[32]  Mitana, J., Muwagga, A., & Ssempala, C. (2018). Assessment of Higher Order Thinking Skills: A Case of Uganda primary Leaving Examinations. African Educational Research Journal, 240-249.
[33]  Biggs, J. (1996). Enhancing teaching through constructive alignement. Higher Education, 32, 364-396.
[34]  Anderson, J., & Wall, D. (1993). Examining washback: The Sri Lankan impact study. Language Testing, 10, 41-69.Department for Education, United Kingdom.
[35]  Altinyelken, H. (2015). Education for All 2000-2015. Achievements and Challenges. Washington DC: World Bank
[36]  Chapman, D., & Snyder, C. (2000). Can high stakes examinations improve instruction: Re-examining Convensional wisdom. International Journal of Educational Development, 20, 457-474.
[37]  Abosalem, Y. (2016). Assessment Techniques and Students' Higher Order Thinking Skills. International Journal of Secondary Education, 4(1), 1-11.
[38]  Chee-Cheong, C. (1999). Public Examinations in Hong Kong. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy and Practice, 6(3), 403-417.
[39]  Popherm, W. (1993). Measurement driven instruction as a “quick-fix” reform strategy. Measurement and Evaluation in Ccounselling and Development, 26, 31-34.
[40]  Applegate, A. J., & Applegate, M. D. (2004). The Peter Effect: Reading habits and attitudes of pre-service teachers. The Reading Teacher, 57(6), 554-563.
[41]  Applegate, A. J., Applegate, M. D., Mercantini, M. A., McGeehan, C. M., Cobbi, J. B., DeBoy, J. R., . . . Lewinski, K. E. (2014). The Peter Effect: Reading habits and attitudes of college students. Literacy, Research and Instruction, 53(3), 188-204.
[42]  Binks-Cantrell, E., Washburn, E. K., Joshi, M. R., & Hougen, M. (2012). Peter effect in the preparation of reading teachers. Scientific Studies of Reading, 16(6), 526-536.
[43]  Oryema, F., & Picho, E. O. (2015). Motivational teacher development and teacher effectiveness in Universal Secondary Education in Uganda. Global Journal of Commerce and Management Perspective, 4(6), 45-53.