Introduction to Bloom's Taxonomy:
Bloom's Taxonomy was created by Benjamin Bloom during the 1950s and is a way to categorize the levels of reasoning skills required in classroom situations. There are six levels in the taxonomy, each requiring a higher level of abstraction from the students. As a teacher, you should attempt to move students up the taxonomy as they progress in their knowledge. Tests that are written solely to assess knowledge are unfortunately very common. However, to create thinkers as opposed to students who simply recall information, we must incorporate the higher levels into lesson plans and tests.
In the knowledge level
of Bloom's Taxonomy, questions are asked solely to test whether a student has gained specific information from the lesson. For example, have they memorized the dates for a particular war or do they know the presidents that served during specific eras in American History. It also includes knowledge of the main ideas that are being taught. You are probably writing knowledge questions when you use words like tell, list, label, name, etc.
The comprehension level
of Bloom's Taxonomy has students go past simply recalling facts and instead has them understanding the information. With this level, they will be able to interpret the facts. Instead of simply being able to name the various types of clouds, for example, the students would be able to understand why each cloud has formed in that manner. You are probably writing comprehension questions when you use words like describe, contrast, discuss, predict, etc.
questions are those where students have to actually apply, or use, the knowledge they have learned. They might be asked to solve a problem with the information they have gained in class being necessary to create a viable solution. For example, a student might be asked to solve a legal question in an American Government class using the Constitution and its amendments. You are probably writing application questions when you use words like complete, solve, examine, illustrate, show, etc.
In the analysis level
, students will be required to go beyond knowledge and application and actually see patterns that they can use to analyze a problem. For example, an English teacher might ask what the motives were behind the protagonist's actions during a novel. This requires students to analyze the character and come to a conclusion based on this analysis. You are probably writing analysis questions when you use words like analyze, explain, investigate, infer, etc.
, students are required to use the given facts to create new theories or make predictions. They might have to pull in knowledge from multiple subjects and synthesize this information before coming to a conclusion. For example, if a student is asked to invent a new product or game they are being asked to synthesize. You are probably writing synthesis questions when you use words like invent, imagine, create, compose, etc.
The top level of Bloom's Taxonomy is evaluation
. Here students are expected to assess information and come to a conclusion such as its value or the bias behind it. For example, if a student is completing a DBQ (Document Based Question) for an AP US History course, they are expected to evaluate the bias behind any primary or secondary sources in order to see how that effects the points that the speaker is making. You are probably writing evaluation questions when you use words like select, judge, debate, recommend, etc.
Things to Consider While Implementing Bloom's Taxonomy:
The reason that some teachers fail to move students up the levels of Bloom's Taxonomy are many. For example, a teacher might have low expectations concerning the students' abilities. This is just sad and becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. Another reason might be that it can become difficult and time consuming for the teacher. It is a complete truth that it is much easier to grade assignments based on the lower levels than on the higher levels. In fact, as you move up Bloom's Taxonomy, you will find that rubrics
become more important to ensure fair, accurate, and quick grading.
In the end, it is supremely important that we as educators help our students become critical thinkers. Building on knowledge and helping kids begin to apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate is the key to helping them grow and prosper in school and beyond.
Citation: Bloom, B. S. (ed.). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Vol. 1: Cognitive Domain. New York: McKay, 1956.