The purpose of this article is to develop a clear understanding of what Bloom’s Taxonomy is, and how you can apply it in your own teaching and learning. Towards the end of the article, you will find some free Bloom’s resources and teaching resources, which will help get you started.
If you have been teaching for any length of time, you are extremely likely to have come across Bloom’s taxonomy at one point or another. Maybe you are very familiar with it already and use it daily to inform your teaching and assessment.
For many of us, however, our familiarity with Bloom’s taxonomy may be limited to catching a passing reference to it at a teaching conference or a staff training.
If this describes your situation, then this article is designed to take you from a limited knowledge to a functional understanding. It will help enable you to implement Bloom’s core concepts for the benefit of your students.
What is Bloom’s Taxonomy?
As it isn’t a word we use every day, let’s start by getting to grips with what we mean by the term ‘taxonomy.’ Put simply, taxonomy is the science of organizing things and classifying them according to various criteria.
In brief, Bloom’s taxonomy is a series of cognitive skills and learning objectives arranged in a hierarchical model.
Originally, Bloom’s taxonomy was designed as a way of gauging competence by placing a student’s knowledge on one of 6 levels which are often represented visually in the form of a pyramid.
Each step of the pyramid from bottom to top represents a move from a lower-order thinking skill to a higher-order one; from straightforward concrete cognition to a more abstract, conceptual understanding.
This taxonomy of educational objectives gets its name from its creator, Benjamin Bloom. Bloom was an American educational psychologist who is best remembered for his significant contributions to the theory of mastery learning, as well as this renowned and widely used taxonomy.
Back in the 1940’s, Bloom and his colleagues devised his taxonomy by categorizing a range of educational goals and arranging them into a hierarchy. Bloom believed that by classifying goals in this manner, it would make it easier for educators to more accurately assess student performance.
This work went through countless revisions and reviews before a finalized version was published in 1956 as The Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. The document described a path towards educational attainment that passed through 6 orders of learning.
While Bloom’s taxonomy can be divided into 3 domains of educational objectives cognitive, psycho motor, and effective, it is the cognitive domain where our 6 levels are focused.
The Application of Bloom’s Taxonomy
Though the original intention of the taxonomy was to serve as an assessment tool, it’s use quickly spread into other areas of teaching. It became a very effective tool to help educators identify clear learning objectives, build curricula, as well as to create purposeful learning activities in the classroom.
Despite its dry, academic-sounding title, Bloom’s taxonomy has had concrete and measurable positive impact in classrooms worldwide, from kindergarten to college and beyond.
Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy
As educators became more experienced in using the taxonomy, they utilized it with ever-increasing flexibility. It became apparent that some revision of the original tool would be beneficial. So, in 2001 a group of stakeholders collaborated to revise the original tool to make it better suited for modern demands.
The group was made up of educators, psychologists, assessment specialists, and researchers, and they achieved a number of important improvements.
They worked to make the tool more dynamic conceptually, moving away from the one dimensional levels of educational objectives. They did this primarily through a change in language.
Bloom’s Taxonomy Levels
As any good copywriter will tell you, verbs are more powerful than nouns. Those charged with revising Bloom’s Taxonomy were well aware of this fact and it is apparent in the many nouns in the old version were subsequently substituted by verbs. Nouns were replaced by much more action-oriented verbs to reflect the idea that learning is not just passive acquisition, but an engaged, active participation.
For example, where the original version talked of Knowledge, the revised Bloom’s taxonomy referred to the much more active Remember. It is helpful here to take a look at the full list of 6 levels in the above table for ease of comparison.
Why Should Teachers Use Bloom’s Taxonomy?
Bloom’s taxonomy is a great tool for helping teachers to develop higher order critical thinking abilities in students. Referring to the taxonomy’s concepts during the planning process helps teachers to focus in on appropriate objectives for groups and individuals and to plan for their progression in the short, medium, and longer term.
The taxonomy provides a clear framework or system of organization for classifying lesson objectives, as well as a coherent starting point to build lessons from.
How Can Teachers Use Bloom’s Taxonomy?
The starting point of any planning process should be the consideration of the level of the students. Luckily, Bloom’s provides a very convenient framework to begin this process.
When creating objectives, you can move from the simple to complex, the concrete to abstract, according to your students’ ability through reference to the taxonomy.
For example, knowing that Remember refers to the lowest level of cognitive rigor means you can design your objectives with this in mind.
Likewise, Create references the highest level of cognitive rigor and this will inform the objectives you create for the most sophisticated of your students.
Bloom’s Taxonomy Verbs
The knowledge above provides a good starting point, but it doesn’t mean that every objective you write for Level 1 students must begin with the word ‘remember’.
Conveniently, Bloom’s Taxonomy provides lots of related verbs that provide a helpful way for educators to plan lessons. Verb tables have been created to align with each of these levels.
Now, let’s take a look at these levels and some corresponding verbs.
Bloom’s Taxonomy Levels and Corresponding Verb Lists
Level 1: Remember – To recall facts and ideas
At this level, students are challenged to recall and remember the basic facts and information of the story or text.
Verb List: Cite, Define, Describe, Draw, Identify, Label, List, Match, Memorize, Name, Record, Repeat, State, Write
Level 2: Understand – To comprehend information and grasp its meaning
Level 2 gives the student a chance to show a fundamental understanding of the story or text.
Verb List: Add, Clarify, Compare, Contrast, Explain, Give, Infer, Observe, Predict, Summarize, Translate
Level 3: Apply – To use information, theories, concepts and skills to solve problems
Here, students gain an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to use the information in a new way.
Verb List: Adapt, Assign, Calculate, Construct, Employ, Express, Illustrate, Modify, Show, Solve, Use
Level 4: Analyze – To make connections; recognize patterns and deeper meanings
At this level, students can deconstruct the story into its component parts to better understand it.
Verb List: Break down, Characterize, Classify, Contrast, Distinguish, Explore, Identify, Investigate, Order, Prioritize
Level 5: Evaluate – To make and justify a judgement
This level gives students an opportunity to develop an opinion and back it up with reasoning and evidence.
Verb List: Appraise, Assess, Critique, Defend, Determine, Estimate, Explain, Grade, Justify, Rank, Rate
Level 6: Create – To combine elements of learning to create new or original work
This level affords an opportunity for students to take what they have learned and make something new from it.
Verb List: Abstract, Assemble, Combine, Compose, Construct, Correspond, Design, Develop, Generate, Integrate, Portray, Produce
Clearly, the verbs listed above do not represent a comprehensive list of all the possibilities of verbs and verbal phrases available at each level, but they certainly provide a good starting point.
You may also note that some verbs and phrases will work at more than one level, just be sure to refer to the stated aim of each level to assess what the purpose is in that particular context.
A useful way to employ verb lists such as those above is to incorporate them into your learning objectives for lessons or for longer-range planning such as term plans or writing a curriculum or scheme of work.
You can easily differentiate the learning objectives you set by moving up and down levels and by using simpler verb synonyms in those objectives. Using a thesaurus is a great way to achieve this quickly.
Level 1: Remember
● How many…?
● Who was it that…?
What happened after…?
● Can you name the person who…?
● Who said that…?
● What does this mean…?
● Why did…?
● Describe what happened when…?
● Which is true and which is false…?
● Match character names and profiles
● Arrange scrambled story scenes in sequence
● Identify most important attributes of main characters
● Create a chart / picture / diagram of the information
Level 2: Understand
● Can you write in your own words…?
● What do you think will happen next…?
● Can you provide a short outline…?
● Who was the main character…?
● Who do you think…?
● What was the main idea…?
● Can you distinguish between…?
● What were the differences between…?
● Write a summary of the main events
● Retell the story in your own words
● Explain what you think the main idea of the piece was
● Predict what could happen next in the story
Level 3: Apply
● Have you experienced anything like this in your own life…?
● What questions would you ask…?
● Could this have happened in…?
● How could you use this …?
● What would happen if…?
● Make a model to show how it works
● Rewrite the scene according to how you would react
● Transfer the main character to a different setting
● Produce examples from real life based on the central problem in the story
Level 4: Analyze
● What is the underlying theme…?
● Can you identify the main idea / character / events…?
● Can you distinguish between…?
● What other possible outcomes could work here…?
● Select the parts of the story that were the most exciting, happiest, saddest, believable, fantastic etc
● Differentiate fact from opinion in the text
● Distinguish between events in the story that are credible and fantastical
● Compare and contrast two important characters
Level 5: Evaluate
● What is your position on the text and can you defend it…?
● Determine the most important points of the text and rank them in order…?
● What would you have done…?
● How effective was…?
● Write a review of the text expressing your personal opinion on it
● Assess the value of the story
● Compare and contrast this story with another you have read
● Judge the main character and their actions from a moral or ethical point of view
Level 6: Create
● What would happen if…?
● Can compose a song about…?
● Can you see another solution to…?
● How many ways can you…?
● Compose an internal monologue for the main character during a pivotal moment
● Imagine you are one of the characters and write a diary entry
● Create a new character and explain how they would fit into the story
● Changing the setting and the characters, retell the story in your own words
A great Bloom’s Taxonomy video for teachers and Students
The great value of Bloom’s taxonomy is in its flexibility as a tool across diverse fields of learning.
Its comprehensive scope provides a useful framework to organize and plan learning experiences designed to cover a broad range of cognitive abilities without being too prescriptive.
Just as Bloom’s taxonomy ranks Create as its highest level, when approaching planning and/or assessment using this taxonomy, be creative in its use to get the most benefit from it in your classroom.