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Bloom’s Taxonomy is an effective lens through which to review a teaching curriculum because it is a model that documents the entire learning process and depth of learning outcomes, from ingesting facts to synthesizing facts to creating original work. As a result, it is a widely adopted and effective framework upon which many educators rely for planning and evaluating learning outcomes.
Before a new term begins, it’s important that educators reassess their curriculum. Have the learning objectives changed? How well do students retain the information and how do they demonstrate their knowledge? Is there a better way to teach certain content to reach the desired outcomes?
One way instructors can improve student learning outcomes, as well as assessment and teaching strategies, is to view student learning and curriculum through the lens of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Named after educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom, Bloom’s Taxonomy is a framework of cognitive levels as they relate to learning. Bloom, Englehart, First, Hill, and Krathwol developed the original Bloom’s Taxonomy in 1956. The six major categories were: 1) Knowledge; 2) Comprehension; 3) Application; 4) Analysis; 5) Synthesis; and 6) Evaluation.
In 2001, a group of cognitive psychologists, curriculum theorists, instructional researchers, and testing and assessment specialists revised Bloom’s Taxonomy to frame a more dynamic conception of classification. This framework is the one with which most educators work today.
Consisting of six levels of cognition, the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy classifies a student’s relationship to assigned learning objectives. From lowest to highest, the six levels as revised in 2001 are:
The levels follow a hierarchy, each building on the level below it. This framework can guide educators as they help students move from primary to more complex cognitive abilities and learning outcomes.
In sum, Bloom’s Taxonomy explains the process of learning:
Educators can use Bloom’s Taxonomy to encourage higher-order thinking in their students; this is achieved by building up from lower-level cognitive levels in curriculum and lesson planning. For instance, students need to (with examples of chemistry concepts):
The above learning journey, whether taking place in a teaching unit or an entire course, takes place in stages as described by Bloom’s Taxonomy. Designing a lesson plan or curriculum so that students first absorb facts before analysis and finally synthesizing their own ideas ensures that there is a logical progression.
In the case of a Language Arts lesson plan, students can first learn the definition of a thesis sentence. Then they may be put into small groups to identify thesis sentences in various writing examples. In large discussion, they share these findings and justify their choices. Breaking into small groups again, students might then read short excerpts and come up with thesis statements that they then share with the large group. In large class discussion, students can compare and contrast different thesis statements for the same excerpt and then come up with their own statements for their individual assignments.
This, of course, can be expanded over the length of a unit or entire course, but following the order of Bloom’s Taxonomy to further higher-order thinking.
Checkpoints in the form of assessments can also ensure that students reach milestones before proceeding to next steps.
Bloom’s Taxonomy is most commonly used to assess learning on a variety of cognitive levels. These assessments are checkpoints for each stage of learning so that both teachers and students are prepared for deeper conceptual understanding.
The following are tips for applying Bloom’s Taxonomy for more effective assessment:
When selecting learning goals for the semester, it’s important to remember that Bloom’s Taxonomy follows a hierarchy, with the lowest level of cognition at the bottom. Therefore, creating exam questions according to expected learning ability in relation to those levels is crucial. For example, exams given toward the beginning of the semester might consist only of questions that apply to the Remembering level of Bloom’s, followed by (as well as combined with) questions that pertain to Understanding and Applying.
Once students have mastered the learning objectives tied to the lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, educators can begin integrating questions from each of the higher levels. As the semester develops and students gain a stronger understanding of the material, instructors can place less emphasis on the lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy in favor of the higher levels.
After reviewing assessments, educators can determine which learning objectives, in relation to Bloom’s Taxonomy, may need to be revisited. ExamSoft allows educators to tag each exam item to the six levels of Bloom’s, as well as key course objectives, to measure learning accordingly. By tagging exam items to key categories, instructors will receive easily digestible reports to help identify specific areas of improvement and adjust the curriculum to keep students on the right track. Furthermore, Gradescope is helpful in upholding formative assessment.
Using Bloom’s Taxonomy in assessments, as well as other aspects of learning, is an effective way to support learning improvement and develop a strong curriculum.
Because Bloom’s Taxonomy explains the process of learning, specific learning outcomes can be derived from the taxonomy. Effective learning objectives align students and teachers on the goals of the class or unit.
It’s important to acknowledge that every course doesn’t span the entire spectrum of Bloom’s Taxonomy; some classes, like introductory classes, may target the lower order of Bloom’s skills, because students are still building foundational knowledge. The outcomes may include applying or analyzing, but higher functions may be unrealistic for such introductory courses. On the other hand, an upper division or graduate level course may address more higher-order learning outcomes, and not so much remembering and understanding level outcomes (Shabatura, University of Arkansas, 2022).
When preparing a curriculum, it’s important to note how the lesson plan and assessment questions align with the six levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. By creating learning objectives using key verbs that correlate to the appropriate Bloom’s level, educators can more effectively gauge student learning and identify opportunities for improvement.
When writing objectives designed to assess the recognition of basic principles, consider words that trigger students’ ability to recall information work best. Verbs such as “define,” “list,” or “outline” fall under this category.
Ex. Students will be able to list the chambers of the heart.
Assessing the way students interpret the curriculum calls for objectives that help students present information at a deeper level. Verbs such as “explain,” “describe,” “summarize,” and “distinguish” work well at this level.
Ex. Students will be able to explain the function of the left and right ventricle.
Writing objectives at the Applying level of Bloom’s Taxonomy requires words that help students demonstrate how information is used to complete a task. Verbs such as “solve,” “demonstrate,” and “prepare” are suitable at this level.
Ex. When presented with images of ventricular hypertrophy, students will be able to prepare an order for the necessary tests associated with the diagnosis.
Objectives that help gauge how well a student distinguishes presented evidence are key when it comes to assessing at the Analyzing level of Bloom’s. Verbs that best apply to this level include “predict,” “compare,” and “manipulate.”
Ex. When presented with images depicting left ventricular hypertrophy in a set of patients over time, students will be able to compare the changes seen during a specified period.
The Evaluating level of Bloom’s requires calling on a student’s ability to make a judgment based on specific criteria. Verbs for this level might include “defend,” “justify,” and “determine.”
Ex. Students will be able to determine the best course of treatment for an initial diagnosis of left ventricular hypertrophy based on a patient’s specific medical history.
Objectives designed to measure the highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy present students with the opportunity to take what they’ve learned and make it their own. Verbs best suited for guiding them through this process include “generate,” “modify,” and “develop.”
Ex. When presented with a failed initial treatment of left ventricular hypertrophy, students will be able to develop an adapted treatment plan with possible outcomes.
With a little time and effort, you’ll become more familiar with which verbs are the best fit for the Bloom’s Taxonomy levels you wish to assess. Providing students with the right information is just a start. Properly measuring how they comprehend that information is key, and with robust learning objectives designed with Bloom’s in mind, you’re well on your way to equipping your students to achieve academic success.
The benefits of using Bloom’s in assessment are twofold: helping educators to both measure student learning and make necessary adjustments to improve student learning. While it may take a bit of extra consideration on the part of the educator, writing learning objectives for the curriculum that are tied to Bloom’s Taxonomy—and tagging assessment items to these learning outcomes—can provide the much-needed insight that leads to successful student learning.
Bloom's Taxonomy is a framework for categorizing and organizing educational objectives and skills. It was originally proposed by Benjamin Bloom and a group of educational psychologists in 1956, and it has since become widely used in educational settings. The taxonomy is hierarchical, consisting of six levels that represent increasingly complex cognitive processes. By using Bloom's Taxonomy, educators can design learning experiences and assessments that progressively develop students' thinking skills from basic knowledge recall to higher-order thinking and problem-solving abilities.