This page originally authored by Rachel Bronk (2009) This page was updated by Katherine Burden (2015)
Bloom's Taxonomy refers to a framework facilitated by Benjamin Bloom that classifies the thinking behaviours that were deemed important to the process of learning. Bloom was concerned with the organization of educational objectives into such a structure that would allow for reliable and consistent assessment by instructors at the university/college level. Bloom, along with a group of educators, psychologists and school examiners, developed the framework between 1948 and 1953. This framework became Bloom's Taxonomy and encompassed three domains - the cognitive, the affective and the psychomotor. Bloom's Taxonomy is a hierarchical structure that identifies skills from lower order skills to higher order skills with the assumption that those possessing higher order skills must have already mastered the lower level skills below them. Bloom's Taxonomy is a useful framework for educators to keep in mind while they are designing learning environments, both online and traditional classroom.
An example of how Bloom's Taxonomy could be used in a classroom is illustrated by this animation by Katherine Burden (2015): http://youtu.be/QAU1Ee3ESjw
Bloom's Taxonomy refers to three different domains of competence but is almost solely known for its framework of the cognitive domain. The cognitive domain is the most relevant in the discussion about educational design.
The affective domain is concerned with human attitudes and behaviours. Bloom's framework includes five levels that define the way in which humans process emotions, feelings, values, motivations and attitudes. These five levels are listed from most simple to most complex.
The psychomotor domain is concerned with fine motor skills the ability to manipulate objects. It is important to note that Bloom and his colleagues never articulated sub-categories for the psychomotor domain although others have attempted to create their own hierarchical structure to represent the psychomotor domain.
The cognitive domain is the widely cited representation of Bloom's Taxonomy and the one most valued by educators. Framing the levels of knowledge, the cognitive domain has six levels divided into lower order thinking skills and higher order thinking skills that must be mastered in the following order:
Lower Order Thinking Skills
|1. Knowledge||The ability to recall information.||describe, define, list, state, identify, know that, outline, recall|
|2. Comprehension||The ability to understand.||explain, distinguish, summarize, interpret, translate|
|3. Application||The ability to use an understood concept in a new situation.||solve, apply, demonstrate, show, construct|
Higher Order Thinking Skills
|4. Analysis||The ability to separate a concept into its components in order for greater understanding of how the parts affect the whole.||discriminate, differentiate, compare, contrast, break down|
|5. Synthesis||The ability to put understood parts together in order to create new meaning.||categorize, compose, generate, design, modify, create|
|6. Evaluation||The ability to make a judgment.||conclude, criticize, defend, justify, evaluate|
Revised Bloom's Taxonomy
Published in 2001, a revised Bloom's Taxonomy was revealed that intended to address the changing nature of education and a more relevant structure for the 21st century. A former student of Bloom's, Lorin Anderson, facilitated the creation of this revised taxonomy along with cognitive psychologists, curriculum theorists, instructional researchers and testing specialists. Most relevant to this entry is the revised version of the cognitive domain as follows:
Lower Order Thinking Skills
|1. Remembering||Retrieving relevant knowledge from long-term memory.|
|2. Understanding||Constructing meaning from oral, written and graphic messages.|
|3. Applying||Carrying out or using procedure in order for implementation.|
Higher Order Thinking Skills
|4. Analyzing||Breaking material down into constituent parts in order to determine the relation of said parts.|
|5. Evaluating||Making judgments based on criteria and standards.|
|6. Creating||Putting elements together in order to form a functional whole.|
In relation to the original, the revised Taxonomy holds few implications for instructional design as ultimately the lower order thinking skills and higher order thinking skills remain very close to the originals with simple changes in language.
Criticism of the Application of Bloom's Taxonomy
Bloom's Taxonomy is widely cited in K-12 teacher training programs in reference to how students learn and how to teach. However, it has been pointed out that Bloom's Taxonomy is more often than not interpreted incorrectly. Booker (2007) believes that "Bloom’s Taxonomy has been used to devalue basic skills education and has promoted “higher order thinking” at its expense" (2007, p.248). That is, lower order skills such as knowledge and comprehension are being viewed as less important or invaluable skills. Being referred to as lower order skills does not make knowledge or comprehension any less important, rather they are arguably the most important cognitive skills because knowledge of and comprehension of a subject is vital in advancing up the levels of the taxonomy. I agree with Booker's conclusion that the Taxonomy is being improperly used. Bloom never stated that any of his cognitive levels were less important, just that they followed a hierarchical structure. Booker (2007) points out that even Bloom himself recognized that the application of the taxonomy was unexpectedly happening at the K-12 level and much less so at the university/college level. Ultimately, the criticism lies with the intention behind the application of Bloom's Taxonomy and not with Bloom himself.
Application to Instructional Design
Bloom's Taxonomy's cognitive domain can be applied easily to the design of instructional environments. Educators can keep track of which levels of the Taxonomy that they are touching on by using a chart of the Taxonomy in order to tally the instances where each level is used. The caution I give with this approach is that instructional designers should ensure that they are covering all of the cognitive levels. While higher level thinking skills may make a lesson more challenging, the lower level skills of knowledge and comprehension are equally as important for any audience as they are the skills required as a foundation before proceeding any further up the Bloom's ladder.
A Bloom's Taxonomy wheel such as the one at the right, can also be a guide for instructional designers to use when creating questions and tasks for a given unit of study. The chart correlates each of the cognitive levels with associated verbs and tasks. For example, if a grade 4 teacher wanted to see if his/her students comprehended the concept of refraction in a science unit on light, he/she might ask the student to explain how refraction is different from reflection and represent their understanding of refraction in the form of a diagram.
Bloom's Taxonomy and Technology
Many educators have begun to apply Bloom's Taxonomy to the digital world in an effort to illustrate the diversity of educational technology. I like this application because it indicates that learning in a computer supported environment can achieve the same cognitive goals as learning in the traditional sense. The classification of specific programs and computer supported tasks into Bloom's cognitive levels allows for one to see the breadth of experiences and opportunities learners can be exposed to in the digital world. The purpose of using Bloom's Taxonomy when designing computer supported learning environment is slightly different than its purpose in the traditional sense - it focuses on the "how" to use the tools rather than the "what" to do with the information. For example, while "knowledge/remembering" may be displayed in the traditional classroom by having students list the parts of the circulatory system, "knowledge/remembering" can be displayed using technology through bookmarking a site on the circulatory system in del.icio.us or highlighting important points in a science text using Kurzweil 3000. As the tools alter, so does the way in which the Taxonomy guidelines are applied.
Below I have envisioned the Taxonomy as the cognitive levels could be applied to the world of technology (note that the language from the revised taxonomy is used here):
Lower Order Thinking Skills
|Level||Definition in Relation to Digital Technology||Examples|
|1. Remembering||Retrieving relevant knowledge or information.||using bulleted lists in MS Word, bookmarking sites in Del.icio.us, using highlighter function in Kurweil 3000, organizing information into Inspiration webs|
|2. Understanding||Constructing meaning.||using specific Google searches based on understanding to find information, blogging, using Twitter to communicate understanding, proceeding correctly through Webquests, tagging photos in Bubbleshare, writing journal entries in Clicker 5|
|3. Applying||Carrying out or using procedure in order for implementation.||playing video games, installing programs, watching a demonstration of how to use Dreamweaver on YouTube and then starting an EPortfolio|
Higher Order Thinking Skills
|Level||Definitions in Relation to Digital Technology||Examples|
|4. Analyzing||Breaking material down into organized constituent parts in order to determine the relation of said parts.||breaking down concepts into sub-concepts and sub-sub-concepts in Inspiration|
|5. Evaluating||Making judgments based on criteria and standards in collaborative environments.||posting comments on blogs or in a discussion page on PBwiki, moderating a discussion board|
|6. Creating||Putting elements together in order to construct and design a project.||creating an EPortfolio in iWeb, composing a song based on set instructions in Garageband, using HyperStudio to create a presentation, producing a Podcast|
Anderson, L. W. & Krathwohl, D. R. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives. New York: Addison Wesley Longman.
Booker, Michael J. (2007). A Roof without Walls: Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy and the Misdirection of American Education. Academic Questions, 20 (4), 347-355.
Churches, A. (2007). Educational Origami, Bloom's and ICT Tools. Retrieved February 26, 2009 from http://edorigami.wikispaces.com/Bloom%27s+and+ICT+tools.
Churches, A. (2008). Bloom's Taxonomy Blooms Digitally. Retrieved February 26, 2009 from http://www.techlearning.com/article/8670.
Clark, Don (2007). Learning Domains or Bloom's Taxonomy. Retrieved February 18, 2009 from http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/bloom.html.
Cruz, E. (2003). Bloom's revised taxonomy. In B. Hoffman (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Educational Technology. Retrieved February 22, 2009, from http://coe.sdsu.edu/eet/articles/bloomrev/start.htm
Eisner, E.W. (2002) Benjamin Bloom 1913-99, Retrieved February 18, 2009 from International Bureau of Education: UNESCO, http://www.ibe.unesco.org/International/Publications/Thinkers/ThinkersPdf/bloome.pdf
Forehand, Mary (2007). Bloom's Taxonomy. Retrieved February 18, 2009 from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Bloom%27s_Taxonomy.
Jonassen, D., Peck, K., and Wilson, B. (2000). Learning With Technology: A Constructivist Perspective. Merrill: Upper Saddle, NJ
Wikipedia. (2009) Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Retrieved February 18, 2009 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloom%27s_taxonomy
- Bloom's Taxonomy [image]. (2008). Retrieved March 1, 2009 from: http://www.thecaepepreschool.com/bloomspop.html
- Verb wheel based on Bloom's Taxonomy [image]. (2000). Retrieved February 26, 2009 from: http://cstep.csumb.edu/Obj_tutorial/bloomwheel.html
- Cruz, E. (2003). Bloom's revised taxonomy [image]. Retrieved February 26, 2009 from: http://coe.sdsu.edu/eet/articles/bloomrev/index.htm
- Churches, A. (2008). Bloom's Digital Technology Map [Image], Retrieved February 26, 2009 from: http://www.techlearning.com/article/8670