Bloom's Taxonomy

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February 28th, 2014 1 Comment

Sometimes, learning feels like an obstacle course setting students up for failure. However, it’s the job of the teacher to drive the students to clear the hurdles and move forward. Every teacher needs a guide to helping the students accomplish objectives. It’s how the teacher perceives the process that determines what students will learn and how they’ll learn it.

A structured guide, Bloom’s Taxonomy, to achieving learning goals was first introduced in 1956 by Benjamin S. Bloom who specialized in taxonomy at the University of Chicago where he created a system for developing and determining levels of mastery of subject matter. Even earlier, in 1948, the American Psychological association held discussions about the quality of education.

At the University of Chicago, Bloom was the director of the examiner’s office where he focused his work on assessments to gauge the learning in any given course. The problem was that assessments had so many varied perspectives among educators. Many couldn’t agree on what understanding material actually meant.

Since then, educators including academics, teachers, trainers, and publishers used it to create lessons, assessments and other materials in order to plan, design and evaluate the degree with which students have learned any given subject.

Broken down into pieces, anyone can understand the basics of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Even though Bloom himself used heavy academic language to create his Taxonomy, most of it makes a lot of sense. The word taxonomy means classifications or structures. When broken into its three parts, the categories seem almost simple.

  1. First, there’s the cognitive domain made up of the intellect where knowledge is stored and thinking takes place.
  2. Then, the affective domain embodies feelings, emotions, and behaviors giving us attitudes.
  3. Finally, the psychomotor domain consists of skills or tasks people do manually.

According to Bloom, each level must be mastered before graduating to the next. So, each category contains various levels within, becoming more challenging when moving forward.

The cognitive domain comprises recalling data, understanding, applying, analyzing, and synthesizing. A student would have to first recall data and then understand it before applying it and so forth.

With this logic in mind, educators can structure everything from a short daily or weekly lesson to an entire course accordingly. That’s what makes Bloom’s Taxonomy so popular and useful when carrying out educational goals.

However, by the 1990’s, changes were made. One of Bloom’s former students, Lorin Anderson met with cognitive psychologists, curriculum theorists, instructional researchers, and assessment specialists to revise Bloom’s Taxonomy.  As of 2001, the group published several changes involving terminology, structure and emphasis.

  1. The terminology changed from
  2. Knowledge to Remembering
  3. Comprehension to Understanding
  4. Application to Applying
  5. Analysis to Analyzing
  6. Synthesis to Evaluating
  7. Evaluation to Creating

Basically, the terminology changed from nouns to verbs emphasizing that learning is an active process. However, many educators still rely on the old terminology when utilizing Bloom’s Taxonomy to create criteria for education.

Publishers and educators work the wording into every question and use it to broaden understanding and application of knowledge in textbooks as well as specific guides targeting teachers.

This guide to Bloom’s Taxonomy will help educators learn more about why revisions were made, implement all six levels into their own original lessons, and provide resources for the various levels.

Revisions to Bloom’s Taxonomy

Considering that Bloom meant for his work to guide rather than dictate what educators used as tools for the learning environment, the idea of revising such a popular pedagogy only made sense. One of Bloom’s former students understood this and did just that. Lorin Anderson, along with other partners, published A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing:  A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives.

The revisions appear as simple updates to the original by adding modern or newer ways of teaching and learning as well as a change in the levels of learning, mainly between evaluation and synthesis. Another apparent change centered on the wording of the levels or categories where the nouns changed to verbs.

Although not as obvious but just as important, the revisions took into account that the levels shouldn’t just categorize. Instead, the alterations emphasize that the categories rely on each other so much so that they should overlap and converge. Just because Remembering is lower on the “ladder” than Understanding doesn’t mean that Remembering isn’t important to Understanding. A student must remember in order to understand. But, the student must also understand to remember.

Depth of Knowledge

Adding to this insight, each category now holds more depth. For instance, Knowledge/Remembering expands it’s meaning to four subcategories:

  1. Factual””the basic knowledge of any subject such as facts and information.
  2. Conceptual””general ideas or theories about that subject.
  3. Procedural””skills or methods used to take action.
  4. Metacognitive””the awareness of a person’s own cognitive process.

However, what’s even more interesting and helpful is the added dimension to categories. Each one is now capable of stretching through the taxonomy on a level of its own. So, Factual Knowledge builds up from Remembering to Understanding, Applying, Analyzing, Evaluating, and finally Creating.

In the revised Taxonomy, these cognitive processes provide profundity and therefore more value then the actual categories themselves, giving educators a better handle on the importance of various material and skills.

It seems that this version acts more like a brain allowing for the categories to create connections within connections. In fact, they’re described as dimensions rather than categories.

It Works like the Brain

If the focal point of a lesson were only within the Knowledge/Remembering dimension then the educator could expand the learning criteria to include the cognitive processes of all the rest of the categories.  

For example, let’s take something as basic as spelling. The English language in particular contains bits and pieces of many other languages so it can be challenging to make connections, which are the foundation of remembering, when attempting to memorize spelling words.

However, if spelling is taught with the cognitive processes in mind, the difficulty and therefore the knowledge or remembering morphs into a two-dimensional rather than a one-dimensional lesson.

If the teacher assigns a spelling word such as auspicious then tells the student to look up the definition and part of speech, the teacher’s making sure the student has a basic knowledge of the word and the student may or may not remember it, depending on how well they can memorize or understand it.

But, if the teacher adds another dimension to the spelling lesson by having the student use it in a sentence, that exercise begins to seal the word auspicious into the mind. Even better, the teacher now tells the student to create their own sentence based on something they want to happen or has happened to them, the spelling word completes the cognitive process and settles into the student’s memory.

How to Use Bloom’s Taxonomy

The use of Bloom’s in theory or lessons may sound good but the actual delivery might not look so good once the logistics of teaching actually begin. Because Bloom’s Taxonomy lives and breathes in educational publications and any teacher with an education degree knows about Bloom’s Taxonomy, the language shows in his or her lessons. It’s also supposed to appear through the delivery in the classroom.

Using it actually makes it easier for teachers and educators to write objectives and implement the steps to achieving a goal. Now that the revisions were made, it seems that there are two directions the categories can take. Some would argue there are more. In fact, some believe that educators should begin with Creating instead of Remembering.

With all of this in mind, creating a path to a goal is simply a matter of using the language effectively in order to match and categorize the ideas forming the goal.

Let’s go back to the example of the spelling word auspicious. The objective was to have the student spell the word correctly; however, in order to do this, the student needed to do more than just memorize. The student needed to look up the definition and the part of speech then use it in a sentence. To further challenge the student to remember it, the student then needed to create their own sentence regarding something they wanted to happen in the future or something that happened in the past.

Both of the latter ideas also stem from the meaning of the word, so there’s the repetition of the word needed for memorizing the spelling then the meaning emphasized through understanding, applying, and creating. The teacher can also add editing and reading within context for evaluating and analyzing.

That’s how Bloom’s Taxonomy works on a small scale. Now move backward to preparing for such a lesson. The words in bold within the categories indicate the word choice that should be used to carry out the objective. The educator would write:

  1. Remember: Students will recall the spelling of the word auspicious. (Note: There will be several other words included, but this is meant to be simple.)
  2. Understand: Students will predict the meaning of the word based on its use in the text then clarify it’s meaning with the dictionary definition.
  3. Apply: They will implement it into a sentence showing that they actually know how it’s used.
  4. Analyze: Students will distinguish its use by seeing how it’s used as an adjective, adverb, and noun.
  5. Evaluate: Students will judge whether or not the word is used correctly within a given text.
  6. Create: Students will construct their own sentences (or paragraph or story for more words) using the word correctly in its three different forms.

This small example carries the teacher through every category as well as the cognitive processes within each category. It details the steps with which the instructor ensures that the students remain challenged and retain information that otherwise may be lost to simple memorization.

Now more dimensions can and should be added by the instructor if time allows for it. This means that other standards and criteria could apply to any given lesson. But, sometimes too much at one time might mean the process skips certain categories and this could affect the amount learned by the student.

Even so, many educators and experts in education use Bloom’s Taxonomy as a guide but often alter it or use parts of it. Some believe it should be flipped, starting with Create instead of Remember.

In particular, educator Shelley Wright believes that instead of beginning with Knowledge/Remembering, teachers should start with Synthesis/Creating. She believes that schools spend too much time boring children with the facts and information portion of the Taxonomy and not enough time with the creative portion.

The assumption that students must first accomplish the task of memorizing information in order to achieve understanding without evaluating and creating leaves little to the imagination. Perhaps that’s the whole problem. Attempting to create a common language of sorts makes for a dry and stale environment.

Wright encourages introducing concepts first so that students feel the need to find answers to questions they may have or that the instructor may ask. It’s a way of sparking interest then helping them find answers or just guiding them through the process.

Flipped or not, teachers use Bloom’s Taxonomy very effectively in classrooms as long as the approach to teaching relies on making sure students learn. It helps teachers balance the heavy workload and break down lessons into workable parts.

Bloom’s Taxonomy & Language Arts Lessons

So many Language Arts teachers know the difficulty of teaching students reading, let alone writing. Bloom’s establishes the value of basic knowledge, rich with phonemic awareness, sight words, fluency, grammar, and etymology.

Of course, all teaching hinges on delivery, at least in the end. So, this section of the Guide to Bloom’s helps Language Arts teachers find that delivery with a step-by-step guide to the essentials of getting the student from point one to point five.

Pick a book or a topic. Either way, the delivery finds its way to the learner in a well-organized path to building foundations and following through to something more than just a regurgitation of facts and information.

In the following lists, the categories link together. Just follow the number one in each section to finish the lesson. Then, follow the number two and so forth. These are meant to be a basic guide to using Bloom’s. Most are simplified for understanding, but teachers should elaborate on each one or create their own.

Remembering

  1. Find the definition for the vocabulary word.
  2. Name the main characters in the book.
  3. List the parts of speech.
  4. Review the six traits of writing.

Understanding

  1. Draw a picture showing the word’s meaning.
  2. What is the main idea of the story?
  3. Classify the parts of speech in the sentence given.
  4. Give examples of how this would work with a five-paragraph essay.

Applying

  1. How would you use this word to describe your day (or whatever applies to the dynamics of the word)?
  2. How do the characters affect the plot of the story?
  3. Write a sentence or two with the eight parts of speech.
  4. Use one of the traits when writing the introduction to the essay.

Analyzing

  1. Have the student compare how this word is similar or different from other words he or she knows.
  2. Why does the main character decide to change his or her original path?
  3. Find out which parts of speech are used most often.
  4. Take the time to connect why voice relies on fluency and conventions to influence the mood of the essay.

Evaluating

  1. Out of all the words discussed, have the student decide which word he or she likes best and explain. The student should justify this with concrete reasoning.
  2. Which character are you more interested in learning more about? Why?
  3. Decide which parts of speech are most valuable to creating a sentence.
  4. The student grades an anonymous or a classmate’s essay and uses a rubric for the six traits to do so.

Creating

  1. Create a one-page story using these words within context.
  2. Have the student change one aspect of the character or the story? How would this change the whole story?
  3. Create several sentences describing a family member using all of the parts of speech then take away each part of speech one by one. Replace it with different words. Which words create more dimension and insight?
  4. Write a new essay with a completely different prompt and utilize the writing traits rubric to do this.

Bloom’s Taxonomy & Math Lessons

No one would argue against building strong foundations in math, so using Bloom’s Taxonomy makes it easy to create lessons that move a student from basic arithmetic to more difficult equations.

It really doesn’t matter the order with which the teacher builds the lesson either. The teacher could “flip” Bloom’s or follow Bloom’s in order from Remembering to Creating. The idea is that there are steps to students acquiring the tools they need to feel confident when learning math.

In fact, many teachers use Bloom’s to push students into the higher order skills involving analyzing, evaluating, and creating. So, if there’s an overall established understanding of mathematic principles, students should be able to use analysis when answering a word problem. Or, students could read a word problem then try to figure out which technique or equation would best solve it. Then, creating their own word problems wouldn’t be so difficult once they’re exposed to some already.

However, the following examples will carry math teachers through Bloom’s Taxonomy from lower order thinking skills to higher ones. The idea is to categorize and gather criteria as evidence that students are learning and teachers are teaching. Before anything else, it’s a roadmap of learning to alleviate that feeling of being lost.

In the following lists, the categories link together. Just follow the number one in each section to finish the lesson. Then, follow the number two and so forth. These are meant to be a basic guide to using Bloom’s. Most are simplified for understanding, but teachers should elaborate on each one or create their own.

Remembering

  1. Recall and repeat addition and subtraction of numbers.
  2. Gather data and organize it into tables.
  3. Measure the area of a circle.
  4. Identify three-dimensional objects.

Understanding

  1. Use manipulatives to add and subtract.
  2. Graph a chosen task or items.
  3. Measure the area of various types of circles.
  4. Classify the three-dimensional objects.

Applying

  1. Formulate a final value to a list of important items.
  2. Demonstrate in the graph the time spent on various activities.
  3. Sketch different circles to create a graphic image.
  4. Draw the three-dimensional objects from different angles.

Analyzing

  1. Compare this list and value to others.
  2. Contrast the time spent on various activities between classmates.
  3. Experiment with the sizes of the image in the space given.
  4. Differentiate one object from another by giving it a face with different features.

Evaluating

  1. Suggest replacing items with more valuable or cheaper items, depending on the goal.
  2. Justify the time spent on various activities.
  3. Evaluate and select the images that enhance the space.
  4. Select the favorite object and support why it was chosen.

Creating

  1. Create a virtual or theoretical store for buying and selling the items and estimate the profits.
  2. Design a futuristic community where everyone is allowed to spend the most time with their favorite activity. How does this change life?
  3. Design several logos for real or theoretical companies from the images.
  4. Construct the favorite image out of Legos or other materials.

Bloom’s Taxonomy & Science Lessons

The perfect fit for Bloom’s Taxonomy seems to be Science. Science relies on information, acquiring new vocabulary, hypothesis, and experimentation. No child finds success in this challenging subject without building his or her knowledge first. So, moving to the next level depends on remembering that basic information.

Categorizing with graphs and charts organizes the data necessary to understand the material. Applying this information with experimentation helps with analysis.

Then evaluating the data and picking it apart to form a conclusion invariably revolves the learner around and right back to hypothesis for yet another experiment.

Whether or not Science teachers believe Bloom’s works or add it to their lessons, doesn’t matter. It’s used anyway. Organizing the way the lessons are taught and the way the students are evaluated may help bridge any gaps observed in some students.

Here are several ways to connect the dots when attempting to deliver lessons and motivate students to move to the next level.

In the following lists, the categories link together. Just follow the number one in each section to finish the lesson. Then, follow the number two and so forth. These are meant to be a basic guide to using Bloom’s. Most are simplified for understanding, but teachers should elaborate on each one or create their own.

Remembering

  1. Solar System:  List the planets in our solar system.
  2. Ecosystems:  Define the words biotic and abiotic.
  3. Sound Waves:  Have students define frequency.
  4. Energy:  List the types of alternative energy that are currently being researched for cars.

Understanding

  1. Explain the standard belief of how the planets were formed.
  2. Classify the sun according to biotic and abiotic definitions.
  3. Students describe short waves and long waves.
  4. Explain how fuel is processed in a car’s engine.

Applying

  1. Draw the planets along their orbit.
  2. Present a picture of nature (a lake with birds, any natural habitat) and have students select biotic and abiotic parts.
  3. Students stand far apart and closer together showing that more students are able to pass through with more space between them.
  4. Show the advantages and disadvantages to different types of alternative fuels.

Analyzing

  1. Compare each planet finding the characteristics that make it different from the others.
  2. Analyze other images and compare them to the first one.
  3. Students detect the difference between a short and long wave and why short means high frequency and long means low frequency.
  4. Distinguish how these advantages and disadvantages might change people’s attitudes toward using alternative fuels.

Evaluating

  1. Justify which planets are more valuable to human beings.
  2. Criticize the use of biotic and abiotic to categorize elements of nature. Pinpoint the limitations.
  3. Students conclude why more classmates were able to pass through the spaces of two feet apart as opposed to five feet apart.
  4. Decide which fuel would be the most valuable in the near future.

Creating

  1. Design a community that might survive in the future on one of the planets.
  2. Propose an alternative category with a more accurate definition that would better describe nature.
  3. Create a new pattern or space to analyze frequency.
  4. Construct a model of a car that would run on alternative fuel sources.

About 

Andrianes Pinantoan is InformED's editor and part of the marketing team behind Open Colleges. When not working, he can be found reading about two of his favourite subjects: education and psychology. You can find him on Google+ or @andreispsyched.

One Response

  1. Alan Dorado says:

    Dear Andrianes,
    Congratulations on an excellent article on Bloom’s Taxonomy. Brief enough yet deep enough to be read in one sitting. I will be sharing it with my colleagues here at ESPOL (a polytechnic university in Ecuador).
    I wanted to ask you a question: Can Bloom’s Taxonomy be misused? Can it be so over focused that objectives become unreal as teachers try to use the different verbs found in the suggested verbs list for the taxonomy?
    I hope you can give me your viewpoint.
    Again, congratulations on your excellent article.
    Alan Dorado

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