Bloom Taxonomy

Posted by @NatasaBrouwer on March 9, 2014, 8:31 p.m.

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The skills in the cognitive domain are divided by Bloom into six categories called Bloom's Taxonomy. Bloom's Taxonomy presupposes that the categories are organized in a structure of increasing complexity, with each succeeding category building on the previous ones. This means that when a teacher wants to work towards attaining the objectives of a certain category, there can be success only if students have already mastered the preceding categories.

The categories are:
  1. Knowledge
  2. (knowledge of facts, concepts, rules, principles, theories, and methods)
    This concerns so-called declarative knowledge. Examples of this are the names and symbols of elements, knowledge of Latin names of plants, written formulas, etc. Even problem solving fits in this category if it concerns algorithmic problems which can be solved by following a recipe or plugging numbers into a formula.

  3. Comprehension
    One speaks of understanding if a student can make connections and can indicate the principle or the background of something. Examples of this: a student can explain on which principle a titration is based, how a spectrophotometer is constructed or designed (naturally in this case the student must know the names of the parts), or can explain the main principles on which the classification of animals is based.

  4. Application
    If there is something new being done with available knowledge and understanding, then we call this application. For example, a student makes a proposal for a method to separate the components of a particular mixture (s/he knows of these methods and understands the possibilities for using the methods in a given situation). Problem solving can be called application (in Bloom’s sense) if it does not follow a standard recipe, but requires a (for the student) new combination of knowledge and understanding

  5. Analysis
    In analysis students are able to give arguments, formulate conclusions, name causes, and give interpretations and generalizations. This level is expected to be used in drawing conclusions from experiments.

  6. Synthesis
    This means that connections are made among understanding, theories, principles, and the like. This comes up especially in discussions on designing an experiment or a synthetic route, or on development of a technical product.

  7. Evaluation
    This concerns giving judgments on the basis of self-selected criteria. It concerns questions like:  
    "Give your reasons for choosing which model explains phenomenon A better."
    "Find out which person is most likely to be considered the discoverer of oxygen."

Bloom's taxonomy is often used to categorize types of test questions. Thus, we have a way to classify a question according to its level.

Bloom’s taxonomy is very useful in discussions about teaching. However, in concrete applications such as in categorization of test questions the taxonomy often fails as different people interpret and apply the categories differently and it is difficult to get agreement. Furthermore, whether a test question is application of knowledge level can also depend on the educational history of the student. If (s)he has encountered a particular problem before, it could be knowledge level. If (s)he has not, it would be application level.


Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001), model created
by R. Heer, 2009, Iowa State University.
Further reading:
Anderson & Krathwohl (2001). A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: Longman

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