Designing Effective Projects: Thinking Skills Frameworks
Bloom’s Taxonomy: A New Look at an Old Standby
Traditional Hierarchy of Thinking Processes
In 1956, Benjamin Bloom wrote Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: Cognitive Domain, and his six-level description of thinking has been widely adapted and used in countless contexts ever since. His list of cognitive processes is organized from the most simple, the recall of knowledge, to the most complex, making judgments about the value and worth of an idea. Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (Traditional)
Understand the meaning, paraphrase a
Use the information or concept in a new
Break information or concepts into parts to
understand it more fully
Put ideas together to form something new
Make judgments about value
Identify, describe, name, label,
recognize, reproduce, follow
Summarize, convert, defend,
paraphrase, interpret, give examples
Build, make, construct, model, predict,
Compare/contrast, break down,
distinguish, select, separate
Categorize, generalize, reconstruct
Appraise, critique, judge, justify,
Today’s world is a different place, however, than the one Bloom’s Taxonomy reflected in 1956. Educators have learned a great deal more about how students learn and teachers teach and now recognize that teaching and learning encompasses more than just thinking. It also involves the feelings and beliefs of students and teachers as well as the social and cultural environment of the classroom.
Several cognitive psychologists have worked to make the basic concept of a taxonomy of thinking skills more relevant and accurate. In developing his own taxonomy of educational objectives, Marzano (2000) points out one criticism of Bloom’s Taxonomy. The very structure of the Taxonomy, moving from the simplest level of knowledge to the most difficult level of evaluation, is not supported by research. A hierarchical taxonomy implies that each higher skill is composed of the skills beneath it; comprehension requires knowledge; application requires comprehension and knowledge, and so on. This, according to Marzano, is simply not true of the cognitive processes in Bloom’s Taxonomy.
The originators of the original six thinking processes assumed that complex projects could be labeled as requiring one of the processes more than the others. A task was primarily an “analysis” or an “evaluation” task. This has been proven not to be true which may account for the difficulty that educators have classifying challenging learning activities using the Taxonomy. Anderson (2000) argues that nearly all complex learning activities require the use of several different cognitive skills.
Like any theoretical model, Bloom’s Taxonomy has its strengths and weaknesses. Its greatest strength is that it has taken the very important topic of thinking and placed a structure around it that is usable by practitioners. Those teachers who keep a list of question prompts relating to the various levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy undoubtedly do a better job of encouraging higher-order thinking in their students than those who have no such tool. On the other hand, as anyone who has worked with a group of educators to classify a group of questions and learning activities according to the Taxonomy can attest, there is little consensus about what seemingly self-evident
terms like “analysis,” or “evaluation” mean. In addition, so many worthwhile activities, such as authentic problems and projects, cannot be mapped to the Taxonomy, and trying to do that would diminish their potential as learning opportunities.
Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy
In 1999, Dr. Lorin Anderson, a fromer student of Bloom's, and his colleagues published an updated version of Bloom’s Taxonomy that takes into account a broader range of factors that have an...
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