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Answering Questions using Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning Domains

An educational psychologist who made extensive contributions to educational theory and pedagogy, Benjamin Samuel Bloom harnessed the positive aspects of the educational system from which he benefited and used them to shape the education system. His lasting contribution to the modern American education system has become known as Bloom’s Taxonomy (taxonomy meaning science of classification).  Basically, Bloom’s Taxonomy is meant to help teachers accurately classify goals and objectives in their classrooms by asking them to determine the goal of the lesson. By consulting the ideas of Bloom’s Taxonomy, the teacher then works toward determining the means by which the goals can be adequately accomplished.

Domains

According to a 1956 study led by Benjamin Bloom there are three domains (categories) of learning activities: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor. Knowledge of these, Bloom said, would help define educational goals. Of the three, the one most important to assisting the teacher in the act of asking questions is the cognitive domain.

As the title indicates, the cognitive domain involved the development of knowledge and intellectual skills. Through this domain, students learn by recalling facts, mastering procedural patterns, and completely understanding concepts which help develop these abilities and skills.

Remembering

According to the latest revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy, the lowest order of cognitive ability is remembering, defined in this case as the ability to recall data or information. Can the student remember specific facts? In order to master this skill, the student must be able to, among other things, define, describe, enumerate, and identify previous information. 

Understanding

After mastering the skill of remembering, the next highest order skill in Bloom’s Taxonomy is considered “understanding.” Rather than simply reciting information previously taught and memorized, the student who understands content can explain ideas and concepts. The student does not only know, for example, dates on a timeline, but what caused the events on that timeline. “Understanding” implies that the student can classify, describe, discuss, explain, etc., the content they remember.

Applying

After a student understands the content of their lessons, they must then learn to apply it. Applying is the next order of intellectual behavior on Bloom’s Taxonomy, and it requires the student to be able to not only explain ideas and concepts, but to then take these ideas and concepts and apply them in a new way. This new way is determined by the educator, but the student who can apply ideas and concepts can, according to the taxonomy, choose, demonstrate, dramatize, employ, illustrate, etc., them.

Analyzing

 A student who can analyze data has mastered the fourth order in Bloom’s Taxonomy. Analyzing data entails that the student will be able to separate material into component parts to better understand its structure. This student will also be able to distinguish between facts and inferences within the content. An example of this would be a student deconstructing the logic of a historical argument such as slavery. The student would then break down and look for fallacies within the underlying arguments (such as biblical and economic) once used to support slavery.  This student can appraise, compare, contrast, criticize, etc.. 

Evaluating

Reasoning and judgment are the hallmarks of the student who has mastered the evaluating skill in Bloom’s Taxonomy. At this second to highest order of educational behavior, the student can assign value to the information he or she receives, including information about live answering. This allows the student to determine and take into account that the call center information befits its value. More value is assigned to objective rather than subjective information, which makes this level of thinking rare because true evaluation requires a lack of biases and most people cannot sustain this cognitive level. Students thinking at this level can compare, discriminate, assess, make choices, etc.

Creating

Considered by Bloom’s Taxonomy to be the highest level of cognition, creating new ideas and generalizations based on former knowledge is extremely rare. Those students and people in general who can sustain this level of cognitive behavior cannot necessarily innovate, but it is the ability to create a new product, including voicemail, or point of view based on knowledge learned in a lesson. The student who can consistently think at this level can categorize, combine, compile, compose, create, etc.

Application of Bloom’s Taxonomy

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a challenge for teachers because it flies in the face of traditional education. It posits that getting students to recite facts or answer correctly a series of multiple choice or short answer questions is the bare minimum of what a teacher can do. Passing these kinds of traditional tests, according to the taxonomy, is the lowest order of thinking a student can be expected to do. In order to get students to the level of creation, the highest level of cognitive behavior, the teacher can exercise a variety of methods.

One of these methods is to combine and therefore elongate units. Because Bloom’s Taxonomy requires an intricate pedagogy, students are often not afforded the time to reach their highest possible cognitive level. This is not due to a lack of effort on the part of the teacher, but rather that entire curricula must be taught within a certain amount of time. Combining two units into one unit via a unifying theme (Heart of Darkness and The Jungle becoming a larger unit: Early Twentieth Century Literature) can allow for more flexibility within the unit while simultaneously ensuring the curriculum is taught. Furthermore, this format allows the teacher to move beyond tests consisting at least in part with multiple choice or true-false answers necessitated by the cramped nature of the school year. Instead, they can assign evaluations that require a higher level of cognitive behavior because not only are the students prepared for such high level thinking, but the teacher then has time as the next synthesized unit starts to grade these evaluations.

Another reason teachers and administrations might steer clear of the implementation of Bloom’s Taxonomy is that it does not immediately address standardized testing scores. These scores have become all-important in the American public school system, and, as far as teachers and administrators are concerned, for good reason. Their jobs depend on high test scores, so why spend time not preparing the students for these tests? The answer is, though it may not always appear to be the case, Bloom’s Taxonomy, by virtue of its requirement of high level thinking, is constantly preparing students for standardized tests. Consider this: a test of the nature most standardized tests utilize the lowest level of cognitive behavior on Bloom’s Taxonomy. 

What follows are useful resources that further the above discussion:

  1. Table of Verbs – Useful when writing lesson plans. “Students will…”

  2. The Reason for the Revised Taxonomy – Categories of cognitive thought held different titles in Bloom’s original Taxonomy. Learn why the names (and even the order) changed.

  3. Bloom’s Taxonomy Blooms Digitally – Learn how the modern technologically savvy student can benefit from Bloom’s Taxonomy.

  4. Questions – A guide to the types of questions which are based on Bloom’s Taxonomy.

  5. Surfing Bloom’s Taxonomy – Which websites represent the six orders of Bloom’s Taxonomy?

  6. Asking Questions with Bloom’s Taxonomy – Given a photograph, what questions could you ask using Bloom’s Taxonomy?

  7. Old Bloom’s vs. New Bloom’s – What are the differences between the two versions?

  8. Using Mind Maps - Study Skills and Bloom’s Taxonomy.

  9. A Model of Learning Objectives – An interactive tool for using Bloom’s Taxonomy when writing learning objectives.

  10. Classifying Objectives – How teachers can use Bloom’s Taxonomy to classify their learning objectives for each lesson and unit.

  11. More Information about Domains – This article focused on the cognitive domain. Learn more about Affective and Psychomotor here.

  12. Writer’s Web – Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to improve personal and student writing.

  13. The Various Uses of Bloom’s Taxonomy – Outside of redefining learning objectives, Bloom’s Taxonomy can be used for a variety of different educational tasks.

  14. Bloom’s Taxonomy – Expanding its Meaning – This article expands the usefulness of Bloom’s Taxonomy for the educator.

  15. Taxonomy of Technology Integration – A chart for Technology-Fostered Cognitive Objectives

  16. Assessment Use of Bloom’s Taxonomy – How to use Bloom’s Taxonomy in student assessment.

  17. Instructional Design and Bloom’s Taxonomy - How to use Bloom’s Taxonomy as a way of designing units.

  18. Climbing the Ladder to Bloom’s Taxonomy – Use Bloom’s Taxonomy to improve student writing through the constructs of Evidence and Argument.

  19. Critical Thinking and Bloom’s Taxonomy – Critical thinking is one of the main focuses in American education. Learn how Bloom applies.

  20. Bloom’s Taxonomy Chart – A visual aid for further understanding the intricacies of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

  21. Bloom’s Taxonomy and the Test Blueprint – Learn how your test blueprint can and should be influenced by Bloom’s Taxonomy

  22. Designing Rubrics for Assessing Higher Order Thinking – How to design better rubrics using Bloom’s Taxonomy.

  23. Bloom’s Taxonomy Resource – Articles for the teacher trying to utilize Bloom’s Taxonomy in the classroom.

  24. Utilizing Bloom’s Taxonomy – Use Bloom’s Taxonomy to prepare quality multiple choice questions.

  25. Why Use Bloom’s Taxonomy – Different ways of utilizing Bloom’s Taxonomy.

  26. Collaborative Learning Enhances Critical Thinking – Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to enhance collaborative learning in the classroom.

  27. A Bloom’s Taxonomy Lesson – Use this lesson plan when teaching Bloom’s Taxonomy to students.

  28. Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Increase Internet Skills – How to apply Bloom to the Internet skills classroom.

  29. Assessing Student Learning at the End of the Semester – How to determine the success of your teaching through the use of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

  30. A Critique of Thinking Categories – Where Bloom falls short, and how to build upon the basics of his work.

Written by: 
Jacob C. Herman
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